Health care reform debate is a matter of life and death

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25 2012 7:46 p.m. MDT

"None of us gets out of this problem alive, even if we have health insurance coverage," Dentzer said, adding that the latest census numbers reveal that nearly 412,000 Utahns are without health insurance.

In addition to increasing numbers of the uninsured, payment and incentive systems within the health care industry also contribute to the problems of rising costs and maintaining quality.

"Whether you like or don't like the Affordable Care Act, we still have these problems," Dentzer said. A recent Health Affairs survey, she said, indicates that similar numbers of Americans (28 percent) see the current system as "good," "fair" or "poor," where just 5 percent rate it "excellent" and 12 percent rate it as being "very good."

"There are a lot of people who think it could be better," she said. "If we keep an eye on the future, we could make a big difference."

Russ Wall, mayor of Taylorsville, said he often touted healthy lifestyle choices to his constituents, but none were compelled to listen as his waistline continued to grow.

"You can lead a fat guy to a treadmill, but you can't force him to walk with an Iceberg shake in one hand and an extra-large package of French fries in the other, and that was me before January," he said. Wall implemented positive changes in his own life and has since shed pounds and various medications from his daily routine.

He said there are plenty of parks, activity centers and walking paths available to people to help them make healthier choices, but to truly make a difference, "we have to convince people of the value of healthy living. We have to make it available and make it fun."

Providing enough physicians is also a piece of the health care puzzle, specifically in rural areas of the state, said Vivian Lee, senior vice president for health sciences at the University of Utah. The university has already increased the size of its medical class, and additional growth is scheduled to try and meet the population growth and demand in the state of Utah.

Private institutions are also starting up their own medical schools in the state and surrounding regions, but Lee said a private education is more expensive, which then turns graduates away from where they are needed, in primary care.

"Utah is among the most healthy of states, and the most affordable," she said, adding that access remains a problem, as well as maintaining quality care at affordable rates.

Herbert encouraged those at the health care table to "work in more collaborative ways" to solve the issues surrounding the problems at hand. He said deadlines for implementing pieces of federally mandated health care reform are looming, but he is certain the state of Utah will "find an appropriately balanced approach."

Young, who paid the $150 ticket price to get into the summit to provide a consumer voice, said she hopes a solution comes sooner rather than later.

"I don't fit into the typical Medicaid/entitlement demographic. I feel like I'm part of that strong workforce who can give back, if only I could get coverage," she said. "I just need help right now."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards

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