Suzanne Repress, a legislative liaison for Children’s Health System in Birmingham, discusses the health care bill with Opelika residents: Rod Guajardo/ Photo Editor

More than 50 people attended the healthcare reform forum at Southern Union State Community College’s health science building.

The forum was Sept. 11 and was sponsored by the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.

Speakers Suzanne Repress, a legislative liaison for Children’s Health System in Birmingham, and Moore Hallmark, executive director for the southeastern region of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, gave audience members an outline of what may happen regarding healthcare bill drafting.

They also facilitated discussion on a range of questions.

“No one can really answer all the questions,” Repress said. “All of us, whether its individuals, whether its families, whether its businesses, whether its communities, want to know, what does this mean to me? And I don’t think that there is anybody who can tell you that.”

This discussion, as opposed to other recent public discussions of healthcare, did not feature any hostile attendees disputing with speakers and other attendees.

Topics included whether the government-proposed public option could be taken across state lines, current healthcare options, affordability of healthcare policies to citizens and government and means of collecting information.

Repress and Hallmark focused on getting individuals to contact their congressmen and other government officials.

Repress asked attendees to make a list of questions about how the proposed healthcare bill might affect individuals, businesses and families and then e-mail that list to congressional staff.

The Senate released framework for a draft of the bill Tuesday, Sept. 8, which involved a large amount of insurance reform.

Repress said, while the bill is well-composed, it lacks a vast number of specifics which leaves too many unknowns.

“Those are the kind of things that many of us in the healthcare field, in the mire and depths of this, are trying to figure out,” Repress said about existing flaws in the proposed healthcare bill.

The Senate framework, with respect to the public option and the proposed government managed healthcare plan, contains four packages.

The first tier is a basic package that covers essentials, the second tier contains the basic package with a few more benefits, the third tier adds dental coverage and the fourth is a comprehensive package covering dental care and eyesight.

The speakers said Alabama is one of only three states to offer the bare minimum Medicaid program.

“If you are an adult in Alabama you can’t make more than $1,400 to be eligible for Medicaid,” Repress said. “Not $1,400 a month, $1,400 a year.”

However, the speakers said they thought the new bill might change that.

“I have been working for the U.S. Chamber of a little more than 6 years and when you look at this room, 50, 70 people here, maybe,” Hallmark said. “Two years ago if you had a discussion about healthcare you might have five people. I have never seen the business community or individuals, just average citizens, getting so involved on an issue before.”

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This article was originally posted in The Auburn Plainsman on 9/17/2009.

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