Sen. Barack Obama listened intently as a former Ohio State student told him how, after having a baby in 2007, she was uninsured and unable to return to school because she cannot afford childcare.
"It's a catch-22," said Claire Roderick, who has three quarters left of student teaching at OSU. Roderick said that in order to get health insurance, "I've got to finish school so I can get my job so I can pay for childcare."
Obama hosted a health care roundtable at the OSU Ross Heart Hospital Saturday to have a discussion with a panel of industry professionals and Ohioans about their concerns with the health care system and discuss his plans to improve it.
"The reason that Americans don't have health care is not because someone didn't force them to buy it; it's because they can't afford it," Obama said.
Andrew Thomas, assistant medical director for the OSU Medical Center, talked about the issue of health insurance from his perspective.
"Studies show that 80 percent of those folks who are uninsured at any time during the year either work full-time or live in a household with someone who works full-time," he said.
"I think the really frustrating thing is that these aren't people who aren't trying to get ahead or are lazy," Thomas said. "People are out there working and just can't get ahead."
Before speaking to the six people on the panel, Obama outlined his health care policy.
"The number of uninsured (in Ohio) now stands at about 1.2 million people," he said. "That is unacceptable, and we can't keep letting these costs go up year after year after year... This campaign I've put forth a universal health-care plan that will cut costs and guarantee coverage to every American."
Obama's cost-cutting measures, which he said would reduce yearly insurance premiums by $2,500 for families, include an emphasis on preventative heath care, reducing the need for more-costly hospital stays and an improvement of the industry's records system.
"Our health-care system is turning into a disease-care system," Obama said. "We need preventive care so that we're not treating illnesses or conditions in the emergency room that could have been caught earlier at a routine checkup and managed with the right care."
Thomas said that at the OSU Medical Center, patients come into the emergency room because they have no other means of accessing health care.
"We have many instances of people using the emergency room (rather than seeing a primary provider), which is by far the most-expensive route to enter the system," Thomas said.
Obama's second cost-cutting measure is an update of the medical records keeping system.
"We'll also reduce waste and inefficiency by instituting new technologies ... and moving from paper records to electronic medical records," Obama said. "This plan will reduce medical errors, shorten the length of hospital stays and ensure that nurses can spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients and save billions and billions of dollars in the process."
Sitting before a banner emblazoned with the phrase "affordable health care for all," Obama emphasized his commitment to improving the system.
"Fixing this health-care system is going to be my top domestic priority," he said.
© 2008 The Lantern via U-WIRE