A provocative inquiry into the dollars and sense – and the morality – of health care will be served up at the next luncheon meeting of Salem City Club.  Three experts will speak; Dr. Stephanie Bernell, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Health Management and Policy programs at Oregon State University, Eric Fruits, PhD, president and chief economist at Economics International Corp., a consulting firm specializing in economics, and Michael C. Huntington, M.D., former Medical Director of the Samaritan Regional Cancer Center in Corvallis and a founder of Mad As Hell Doctors.

After two months of “Obamacare” in Oregon, the three anticipate there will be much to discuss.

“There is a running joke that Obamacare makes people buy health insurance that they don’t want, at prices they don’t want to pay,” says Fruits.  He is concerned that many of the insurance mandates in Oregon’s version of Obamacare are the result of lobbying, rather than solid thinking.

“When the Oregon Health Plan [OHP] was first implemented,” Fruits says, “treatment for substance abuse was not covered at all. Today, it is #5 on the prioritized list, meaning that the OHP treats substance abuse or dependency as more important than leukemia, [ranked at #102] or Hodgkin disease [ranked at #103.]”

Huntington, whose 32-years as a radiation oncologist showed him plenty of suffering, but who noticed, “what made me particularly sad was having patients come to us with advanced cancers after suffering symptoms but avoiding medical care for months or years because they could not afford or qualify for insurance or health care,” feels that OHP – though flawed – indicates Oregon’s “leadership” in healthcare.

OHP’s “unique system of prioritizing healthcare services,” Huntington says, “was a good start at helping us to think about how to use our finite healthcare resources wisely and sustainably.”

While Fruits asks if state policy should treat an obese adult smoker with a lifetime of poor decisions the same as a parent with a child with a rare genetic condition, Huntington objects to “treating healthcare as a commodity” and sees “tax-funded and publically-controlled universal healthcare” as an important step toward a healthy nation.”

Fruits will point to places like Singapore which has “superior health outcomes and relatively low health care expenditures, because consumers are empowered to make—and pay for—their own health care decisions.”

Huntington will indicate countries where universal healthcare protects “national interests by protecting people” from the “physical, financial and emotional hardship” of the inability to afford medical care.

Dr. Bernell will add to the mix with her own perspective on other of the unintended consequences of changes in health policy.

Attendees should expect a lively discussion with three presenters who are passionate about the best way to manage health costs and care in a changing Oregon climate.

The March 7 presentation is the final installment of Salem City Club’s 5-part series on health care this season.


Win, Place, Show:

Wagering on Health care reform

Salem City Club

Friday March 7, 2014

11:30 lunch, program noon – 1 program

Willamette Heritage Center

1313 Mill St SE, Salem