Griffith pushes health reform

parker griffithHELEN KELLER HOSPITAL – U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, brought the national health care debate to the Shoals on Thursday.

During a meeting with board members and administrators at Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, he spoke about the particular challenges facing the health care system in the United States and what it will mean to reform it.

“We don’t want to do any harm to the existing system,” he said. “But the (health care reform) bill, as it stands now, is poorly defined, and it tries to create competition in the health care insurance business. The hang-up appears to be the choice of the federal insurance program. That’s being pushed back by private insurance companies because they see it as providing unfair competition to them.”

The bill, when it passes, will affect the Shoals and the health care of its residents, but, before that can happen, Griffith said, some questions have to be answered, specifically who will administer any programs, where the revenue will come from and who will audit it once it’s established.

President Barack Obama has said reforming the nation’s health care system is a priority, and he has set the end of this year as the deadline for seeing that accomplished.

Griffith called the deadline “a mistake because we don’t want to rush into anything that will affect Americans 30 years from now.”

Bill Anderson, chief executive officer at Keller, said Griffith’s ideas are reasonable and clear, but the obstacles in the way of real, effective change could be too great to overcome.

“We’ve got to be cost-effective in this system without experiencing tremendous upheaval,” Anderson said. “It’s something we’ve got to do. The focus is on disease management and clinical illness, and even it’s a little fuzzy. But the question is, how do we go from a system where we’re not even close to that to one that does.”

Griffith will return to the Shoals on Monday to tour Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence and speak with administrators there about his plan for reform

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