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Public symposium to address state’s health care crisis
Written by David Oscar   
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 09:41

With a new President in the White House, and a yearning for change across the nation, this is our golden opportunity to create viable solutions for the 30-year-old health care dilemma that is now careening toward a crisis.

In New Jersey, where 15 percent of the public lacks even basic health insurance, there is a desperate need to make health insurance more accessible and affordable. Dialogue amongst the leaders in government and industry must continue and intensify.

David Oscar

To that end, the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters (NJAHU) is facilitating a one-of-a-kind health care forum that is free and open to the public. The “State of the State” Healthcare Symposium, convening at 10 a.m. on February 19 at the Trenton Marriott, will tackle the issues surrounding one of the most challenging problems facing our state and nation.

Moderated by Michael Aron of NJN, the 90-minute town hall meeting is free and open to the public. The panelists include elected and appointed government officials, leaders of healthcare and insurance companies and other health policy experts. This distinguished group will do their best to address the difficult questions.

We all can agree there is no silver-bullet solution to this issue. Our state spends nearly $750 million each year on reimbursements to hospitals for the charity care they provide to the uninsured. One in 10 of our children are without coverage. And each year businesses are forced to either pay steep increases to provide coverage for their workers or cut back on the coverage they offer.

While modern science is constantly advancing the technology of medicine, 1.4 million New Jerseyans lack access to even the most basic health insurance, at a cost to the state of $2.9 billion, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Decision makers must take into account the anemic budgets of the state and federal government, the need to reign in high costs and, most importantly, recognize that this is about people, not budgets.
The government does have a role to play in making sure the system works and in providing programs for those who need help. In 2007, NJ FamilyCare, a state- and federally-funded insurance program enrolled more than 60,000 new parents, which translated into $71 million in charity care savings.

But with a budget crisis and an economic downturn pelting our state, maintaining as much employer-based coverage as possible is a necessity.
While we often focus on the uninsured and the problems with our system, it should be recognized that the state does have a strong foundation to work from. Nearly 70 percent of New Jerseyans are insured through their employer, though that figure has dropped five percent since 2001.

At this important symposium, representatives from all facets of the health care industry will come together to address the issues – together – and create the important dialogue we need to move us toward a solution.

The symposium is the ideal forum to learn if the problems of affordability and accessibility have answers we can all agree with. We hope you will join us for a very informative morning.

David Oscar, of Montclair, is President-Elect of the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters and a health insurance broker at Altigro Benefits Service in Fairfield. He can be reached at 973-439-0200.


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