A front-page article on health care…county sports fans, at least Caswell is a track and field legend in his own right.
State Senate candidate and former representative Bruce Caswell spoke about health care and its possible reform to a group of around two dozen senior citizens at Warner’s Restaurant Thursday.
He spoke to AARP Chapter 709 of Hillsdale County about how he believes people must have choices when it comes to health care, while also understanding somebody will always be paying for it.
While Caswell admitted to knowing very little about the potential national health care plan Congress is discussing, he said his stint working with the Department of Community Health in Lansing has given him an upper hand in understanding where the state’s money goes and what health care options are available.
Without citing sources, Caswell, a self-proclaimed “research geek”, said that 70 percent of the U.S. population has health insurance through their employer, leaving approximately 48 million people without coverage. Of those 48 million, Caswell said 20 percent of the them are eligible for Medicaid and have never signed up, and another 40 percent could afford health insurance but choose not to have it.
“So based on those statistics there are around 19 million people in our country who are truly uninsured. Why don’t we fix that problem and leave everything else alone?” he asked. “The thing that government has to realize is that with massive change there are many unintended consequences, so why not just focus on the main problem area?”
Caswell said his long-term health care solutions for the state include county health plans and health savings accounts.
County health plans use money from the state’s Disproportionate Share Fund to give the “working poor” a doctor, prescription drug coverage and several outpatient visits a year at no cost. Hospitalization and long-term illnesses are not covered, but it is still a means of basic health care for those who can not afford it according to Caswell.
Last year the state had approximately $90 million in its fund, and nearly 1,500 residents in Branch, Hillsdale and St. Joseph’s counties used it.
“I’m not saying it’s a solve-all, but it certainly helps,” Caswell said. “The access we have to health care in this country — no one else compares. But we still need to get more intelligent.”
Caswell also talked about health savings accounts, which are similar to 401k and retirement accounts.
People can put up to $2,800 of untaxed money into an account each year and use it to help cover medical costs. Unused funds carry over to the next year and interest can also by earned by account holders.
Caswell said it is a tremendous investment with plenty of options, but those with chronic illnesses or high yearly costs may not agree.
People with many different opinions were on hand for the luncheon and Caswell said that he tries to work with the facts and he encourages people to call, e-mail or write the current legislature with concerns.
One attendee said she had worked in emergency rooms for many years and Medicaid often costs hospitals money and some federal laws simply need revision.
She cited patients who would come into the hospitals she worked at as many as four to six times a day for treatment, using Medicaid to pay for every hour of time and expense the hospital incurred.
Caswell said he agreed the legislation Congress passed in 1985, titled EMTALA, states that Medicaid patients must be “treated and stabilized,” should be looked at, with an understanding that there will always be someone paying for care no matter what the federal government says about “reducing costs.”
Caswell also said how many people he talks to, in Lansing or just around the county, seem to demonize nursing homes, but he thinks that people shouldn’t stereotype such facilities so fast.
“There is room for both home care and nursing homes and both should be there. You can be as much of a prisoner in your own home as you can be in a nursing home,” he said. “The state makes sure nursing homes are safe and treating patients properly through surreys. And in my time in Lansing I also had something added to the budget which says the state will record bruises, accidents and so forth for senior citizens living at home.”
Caswell represented the 58th District as a representative from 2003-08 and he taught and coached at Pittsford High School for 25 years, before taking over as district superintendent from 1997-2000.