Health insurance reform has garnered a seemingly incongruous ally: the already well-insured workers of the State Employees Association of North Carolina.
The association held a forum in Haywood County last week to educate state employees on exactly what the 1,017-page health care reform bill entails. The meeting at Haywood Community College was one of several held across the state. The organization did not publicize the meeting to the masses to avoid a big turnout by protestors, but as a result the audience was small, numbering fewer than two dozen.
Will Cubbison, health care campaign director for SEANC, said his organization supported health care reform even though its members have quality health care coverage.
“Many of the spouses and children of state employees are not covered,” Cubbison said.
Speakers rattled off a barrage of statistics to win over the audience, mentioning the million-dollar profits of BlueCross BlueShield, the thousands of people who die each year because they do not have insurance, and the immense amount of time and money insurance companies spend on administration. Meanwhile, they disputed claims raised by opponents that illegal immigrants and abortions would be covered under health insurance reform.
The SEANC representatives directly admonished Rep. Health Shuler, D-Waynes-ville, who does not support H.R. 3200.
Dr. Ed Morris from Macon County, who was a guest speaker at the forum, suggested health insurance for members of Congress should be suspended until a reform bill passed, prompting the audience to break out in applause.
Morris, a family physician, added that he has seen at least two dozen doctors move away from the Franklin area because so many of their patients were unable to pay for their care. Given the lower average income of residents in the mountains, doctors here write off up to 23 percent of their patients.
“So these doctors end up going to Charlotte or Atlanta or somewhere,” Morris said.
Chuck Stone, director of North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care, said while many in the past considered the institution of Medicare as a move toward socialism, Americans now don't think twice about the government-supported health care. Stone asked members of the audience to raise their hand if they opposed Medicare, but no hands went up.
According to Stone, the cost of doing nothing is far greater than reform.
“The current system is unsustainable,” Stone said.