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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2007

Health-care affordability, access subject of hearings

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Anne Giha has survived two types of cancer in the last 25 years, and the Toledo woman cannot get health insurance without exclusions for pre-existing conditions coupled with high premiums and deductibles.

Meanwhile, Lori Greener has to make sure doctor visits, testing, and other care she needs for multiple sclerosis are covered by her insurance.

The 25-year-old Perrysburg graphic artist has to figure out how to budget for insurance co-payments, and she has little room for additional expenses after meeting monthly bills.

I don t go on vacations or shopping sprees because I can t afford it, Ms. Greener told more than a dozen state senators and representatives gathered in Toledo yesterday.

She added: I am doing my part, but the cost of medication is dragging me down.

The women gave public testimony at the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, during a field hearing on health-care access and affordability.

The hearing was organized by the Ohio House Healthcare Access and Affordability Committee and the Ohio Senate Health, Human Services, and Aging Committee.

Toledo was the second of five planned stops on a mission to hear testimony outside Columbus.

The committees are gathering information about proposals for viable health-care reform, health-care trends in regions of the state, how medical needs change with age, and how the system can adapt to such changes.

About 130 people attended the hearing, with more than 20 patients, doctors, and other health-care professionals providing sometimes emotional testimony. Some called for universal health-care coverage, either from the government or through it forming a partnership with businesses.

Ms. Greener, for example, said health-care premiums and expenses should be subsidized in a private-public partnership. In addition, employers need to pay more premium costs and provide better coverage, she said.

I m paying a lot for my health care, but it seems like I m not getting a lot out of it, Ms. Greener said.

Ms. Giha, a 61-tear-old survivor of breast and colorectal cancers, said she can t get either affordable or adequate coverage.

Her insurance plan rarely covers preventive services, including physicals, claiming exclusions for cancer and respiratory diseases, she said.

Some who spoke praised Toledo/Lucas County CareNet, which provides health care on a sliding-fee scale to low-income residents at participating hospitals, the health department, and other medical partners. They said it shows how government should partner with others.

Gareth Warrington, of Toledo, said CareNet helped him get medications and other health care he needed after having a heart attack and being diagnosed with diabetes.

Cheryl Wilson said she was able to get surgery for what turned out to be a noncancerous tumor through the public-private partnership.

There are so many Ohioans without health-care coverage, the Toledo woman told the legislators. Hopefully, you can find a way to help them the way CareNet has helped me.

Inappropriate advertising and sponsorships by nonprofit hospitals, low Medicaid reimbursements to doctors, and lack of insurance coverage for psychiatric patients were some other topics people discussed at the hearing.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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