Detroit Free Press, March 24, 2008: Health care costs a nagging worry for Detroiters

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Likemany metro Detroiters, Dyan Lacey digs a little deeper each year to paymedical bills that her insurance plan no longer covers.

“Ourco-pays are going up and some of the coverages are taken away,” Lacey,35, a worker at General Motors’ Pontiac Assembly plant, said last week.

Sheunderstands that as a UAW member, she enjoys first-rate health care.But with three children and retired in-laws for whom she helps pay formedication, Lacey is more worried than she used to be.

“I’m OKwith paying a higher co-pay rather than not having insurance at all,”the Detroit resident said. “At the same time, I’m a little nervous withthe changes.”

Nervous describes the attitude of a majority ofmetro Detroiters as they consider the cost and quality of their healthcare. A new poll reveals that solid majorities rank cost andavailability of health insurance as big concerns.

The nonprofitCouncil for Excellence in Government, which conducted the poll, is tohost a town hall meeting Wednesday on the future of health care. Themeeting at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History inDetroit is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

PatriciaMcGinnis, president of the Washington, D.C.-based council, said thepoll and town hall meeting are part of a nationwide effort to make thepublic’s voice heard in the national health care debate.

“Inhealth care, you can see very clearly that we can’t have it all,”McGinnis said. “Some choices have to be made. Rather than having thatdiscussion take place top-down, we would like to have that discussiontake place bottom-up.”

The poll, which was conducted for thecouncil by the Gallup organization, revealed that in many ways thestate of health care coverage in metro Detroit is good. Some 85% ofpoll respondents reported being covered by health insurance, whichreflects the strong employer-paid plans and Detroit’s relatively highpercentage of union households.

Moreover, some 72% of people in the poll rated the quality of their own health care as excellent or good.

Whenasked how satisfied they were with their own health insurance plan, 31%reported being extremely satisfied while only 6% reported being notsatisfied at all.

Yet cost and coverage issues create naggingworries for many metro Detroiters. Some 76% rated the cost of healthcare as “only fair” or “poor.” Some 49% rated cost as more importantthan the choice of doctors, compared with 36% who opted the other way.

Andin choosing a primary care doctor, whether the doctor is covered bytheir health plan trumped most other issues, including the doctor’sbedside manner, the convenience of the doctor’s location, and whether afriend or prior physician had recommended the new doctor.

Among other concerns, difficulty in understanding the details of their plan also raised worries for many people.

Apanel of local health care experts will be on hand at Wednesday’s townhall meeting, but McGinnis said the session will focus on audienceconcerns.

“We will have all the poll results so we can do a quicksnapshot, but from that starting point we will first go to theaudience,” she said. “It’s really about the audience, ‘Why are youhere? Tell us your top concerns,’ and then we take off from thoseconcerns to get reactions from the panel.”

Greg Parston, directorof the consulting firm Accenture’s Institute for Public Service Value,which joined with the council to create the poll and host the meeting,said it’s no surprise that concern is rising over the cost of healthcare.

“We have very good health care for those who can get it,”he said. “A lot of people’s health care coverage is associated withwork, and if you’re out of work even temporarily, you better stayhealthy.”

Founded in 1983, the Council for Excellence inGovernment is a nonpartisan organization that works to improvegovernment performance and citizen participation. For information, goto



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