A panel of Democratic health professionals urged politically like-minded residents of Columbia County to support health care reform during a forum Thursday in Evans.
One panelist, University of Georgia law professor and medical doctor Fazal Khan, said 45,000 Americans die each year because they don't have medical insurance.
Of the 46 million uninsured people in the United States, 100,000 reside in Georgia's 10th Congressional District, said Russell Edwards, a Georgia law student who organized the forum on behalf of Pull the Plug PAC.
Pull the Plug PAC is an Athens, Ga.-based political-action group formed to oust 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, R-Watkinsville, who has been an outspoken critic of a recently passed House health care plan being debated in the Senate.
Another panelist, Athens-based emergency room doctor Neal Priest, said the mortality rate for uninsured Americans visiting emergency rooms is nearly double that of those who are insured.
Priest also said the high cost of health care could easily be reduced if hospitals were forced to cooperate with each other to establish such protocols as a universal electronic registry of patients' medical histories to prevent a duplication of services.
Recently, Priest said, he treated an uninsured man complaining of abdominal pains. He initiated a series of tests costing about $5,000, only to discover that another Athens hospital had treated the same man and run the same expensive tests just a week before.
"Every single day I go to work, I bankrupt somebody," he said. "Our medical insurance system is like a fancy umbrella that melts in the rain."
Other Democrats speaking at the forum attacked Republican resistance to reform.
Republican criticism that the health care bill would weaken health coverage for veterans is untrue, said Columbia County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Gray.
Gray said the bill would expand mental health treatment for veterans, instigate building new transition centers for wounded veterans and improve outpatient medical care.
Democrats need to continue to work "to remove the Republican smokescreen" concerning health care, he said.
Lowell Greenbaum, chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party and former director of pharmacology at the Medical College of Georgia, called the health care bill "an excellent piece of legislation."
The bill would insure 94 percent of Americans, he said.
Currently, just 50 percent of working American women receive health coverage from their employers, Greenbaum said. The health care bill would force all employers to provide coverage to women employees.
It also would better regulate nursing homes, prevent private health insurers from using many pre-existing medical conditions as an excuse not to insure, and eventually save taxpayers money.
Greenbaum also attacked Broun for not supporting the legislation.
"We've got a guy here who says, 'No, no, no.'" Greenbaum said of Broun. "We've got to confront him and say, 'Yes, yes, yes.'"
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