Republished from the Urban Pioneer
COLUMBIA — Bob Forsee steps back from the pool table, groaning to himself as his cue ball rolls awry.
His mild frustration over a missed shot is quickly forgotten as he joins a conversation with two other men in the room at Columbia Area Senior Center.
Today’s topic is the government — and, specifically, health care reform.
“I’ll bet if you study it, democratic societies eventually move in the direction of socialism,” Forsee says. “It’s just the nature of the beast because the majority of people want what’s good for the majority of the people.”
Ronnie Piper sits on a nearby bench.
“It isn’t about the practitioners, the doctors. It isn’t about the patients. It’s about making a dollar. See, there’s so much greed in my time,” Piper says.
The clack of the cue ball rings out as he complains about the cost of health care: “You never know. When you get sick and they (the bills) all come in, then you’re going to know. The best thing to do is not get sick.”
That solution is what many health care reformers in Washington hope to achieve: a focus on preventive care to reduce the need for and subsequent cost of treatment.
“Certainly by getting checkups,” said Coradina Demien, a nurse with University Physicians-Green Meadows Clinic, “just a few minutes in the doctor’s office to alert that there’s a problem that can be taken care of sooner, so it’s better than all the complications that will build up later.”
She cites strep throat as a problem that can become serious, possibly causing heart problems if not cared for. Demien said health providers have encouraged flu shots, immunizations and screenings such as colonoscopies.
These procedures, Demien said, “alert the physicians to a possible problem that can be nipped in the bud.”
If these problems are not “nipped,” the results can be costly for hospitals. During the 2008 fiscal year, University Hospital spent $44.4 million to cover the costs for patients who could not afford care.
Demien said she thinks many would-be patients end up paying with their health rather than their wallets.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of people who don’t get the care they need, and they try and take care of things at home because they can’t afford the doctor’s visit,” she said. “Some people don’t get their scripts filled because it’s way too expensive and can’t afford it.”
Eduardo Crespi, director of Centro Latino, echoes the preventive-care solution.
“The only way to save money is to prevent getting sick,” he said. “Once you’ve got sick, that’s it.”
Centro Latino offers diabetes testing, nutritional and fitness education and other health services within its 7-year-old health care initiative.
“It is the entry level of health care in terms of prevention,” Crespi said, “and if you talk about economy, it is the most effective program that can help the population at large.“
Back at the senior center’s pool hall, Piper continues to complain about what he sees as greed exhibited in the industry by rising insurance costs and malpractice lawsuits.
“It shouldn’t cost what it costs,” he says, watching the remaining balls disappear. “I’m gonna fool ’em. I’m gonna not get sick.”