Panel offers health care reform opinions

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

Local health care experts offered their take on health care reform Thursday and no one offered any easy or simple answers.

Roosevelt General Hospital Administrator James D’Agostino, La Casa Health Center CEO Seferino Montano, ENMU economics professor Michael Snipes and Chris Simons, an insurance executive from Artesia, offered their views on a myriad of proposals that have surfaced in Washington, D.C., over the last few weeks.

D’Agostino used a power-point presentation to illustrate what he believes are five current viewpoints on health care reform, ranging from President Obama’s plan to one drawn up in the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions.

The forum was held at ENMU.

While D’Agostino looked positively on the potential to pick health insurance carriers outside of one’s own state of residency, he thought the possibility of government-run insurance might be a problem.

“I look at Medicare as a program that has been mismanaged by the government, simple as that,” D’Agostino said.

Snipes told an audience of about 50 people at the School of Business’s Becky Sharp Auditorium Obama’s plan would “offer a public health insurance option to provide to the uninsured” and went on to list several perceived pluses and minuses to the proposal.

Montano said Obama’s so-called Public Option insurance plan is expected to help control costs. He used an example from his own business, saying La Casa’s insurance for its employees was set to increase 29 percent from the previous year.

The Portales health center decided to switch carriers.

“Health reform is needed across the board. I think we can all agree on that,” said Simons, who did have reservations about options that crossed over state lines. “The state will lose revenue stream because insurance companies currently pay a state tax on premiums.”

Audience members didn’t ask the panelists questions directly. Instead, they wrote queries on cards read by a moderator.

Nicholas Cole, 29, said he was satisfied he came away more informed about the current state of health care debate.

“I heard a little about it, but hadn’t heard much details. I’m just kind of waiting for it to all happen, so I can know what’s going on,” Cole said.

The ENMU art major said his age was forcing him to become more interested in topics such as health insurance.

“I’m not too sure if I have an opinion on it. Right now, I don’t have insurance and I’d like it. At 22 or 23, when you’re a college student, you can ride on your parents, but I’m past that point now,” Cole said.

“I’d like to have it, but it’s just one of those things where going to school full-time, all of the money out of my pocket goes to loans and I can’t afford it,” he added. “I’d like to see some options say if you’re a student.”