FirstHealth Group Gets to See Obama
President Obama dealt directly and clearly with health-care reform issues in a town hall-style gathering in Raleigh Wednesday.
That was the reaction of Dr. George Bussey, chief medical officer at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, who was one of three FirstHealth corporate officials who attended the event.
CEO Charles Frock, Ken Lewis, president of FirstCarolinaCare Insurance Co., and Bussey secured tickets through Congressman Howard Coble's office. Tickets were free but required because of security and traffic needs. They were among an estimated 2,200 who attended the president's speech at Broughton High School in Raleigh.
"It was a mix of campaign rally and education session," Bussey said of the experience. "It was a good, friendly crowd, a very respectful group of people."
After his address, the president took eight or 10 questions from the audience.
"It was a pretty good and healthy question-and-answer session," Bussey said. "The president responded fairly directly to the questions, some that were straightforward and some that were pretty complicated."
Bussey said FirstHealth has not adopted a specific position on health-care reform or on the president's plan. He said it would not be appropriate to express an opinion about the proposals now before Congress.
However, he said few people involved in the health-care professions would disagree with the need for reform. There is concern that the Medicare program may run out of money and concern about the overall high cost of medical care, among several issues that must be addressed.
"Our system is fairly unsustainable as it is now," Bussey said. "Everybody agrees that we need to do a better job."
As someone who works in the health-care system, Bussey said it is obvious how difficult it is to discuss such a complex issue "with so many moving parts and explain it to people who don't understand how those moving parts work."
Bussey said Obama answered some of the questions quickly but his answers became longer and more involved when he responded to the more complicated questions.
"It was hard to do," he said.
Bussey said some of the questions were clearly critical of the president's plan, but those questions were respectfully submitted, requiring longer answers.
Because of tight security, it took the FirstHealth threesome about an hour or longer to get into the meeting place. Then they waited another hour for the president's appearance. Obama spoke about an hour.
Bussey said they were lucky in finding a good parking place at the school and had no difficult leaving.
Negotiations are under way in both houses of Congress to adopt some form of health-care legislation that will make coverage available to everyone and still curtail rising costs. An initial proposal carried a price tag estimated in excess of $1 trillion, a figure regarded as unacceptable.
As of midweek, the latest plan emerging from the Senate would lower the total to less than $900 billion. Despite a wave of last-minute negotiations, it appeared unlikely that Congress would reach agreement before the August recess, a goal of the president.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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