by Rachel Witkowski
Health care was the hot topic of discussion at the Rotary Club luncheon Monday with special guest speaker Dr. Edward Hill, president of the American Medical Association.
Hill addressed issues of individual health care and comprehensive school health education at the meeting in the Wyndham Hotel with members of both the Rotary and Meninak clubs.
“There are 46 million people (in the nation) with no health care,” said Hill. “There are 15-20 million people with inadequate health care.”
Hill suggested more health care markets to increase competition that would reduce the cost for individuals. His next step, he said, would be to provide people more health care choices and give them the resources to chose their own health coverage.
“We shop around for every kind of insurance out there except health insurance,” he said.
Hill said he also thinks that high-risk individuals should be subsidized through tax revenues to reduce health care costs. Hill’s other concerns are preventable behaviors such as obesity, abuse, and alcohol and drug abuse — all of which contribute to skyrocketing health care costs in the United States.
“The medical cost of obesity is $75 billion annually,” he said.
In response to what Hill labels as the “eight scrounges” of medical costs, the AMA started a project to mandate comprehensive school health education to prevent unhealthy behaviors at an early age. The classes would not only include healthy dieting and exercise, but tips on how to read an insurance policy, he said. Hill has traveled to countries such as Japan and China and said the children there seem to enjoy exercise classes more than American students.
Since the luncheon was comprised primarily of doctors and business owners, Hill discussed the importance of investing in their employees’ personal health.
“There are two things that can change behavior — money and incentive — and they’re the same thing,” he said.
Hill suggested employers start a no smoking program, relay for life or build a gym as a way to improve health care for their employees and in return, receive more respect and an improved working environment.
“If we all take action, I think we will be amazed with the outcome,” he said.
But many attendees at the luncheon expressed concern that their employers and clients prefer to spend money on entertainment rather than health care.
“It’s got to be early education,” responded Hill. “Try and engrave the habit of understanding the importance of health care.”
The AMA has also initiated a Patient Action Network that is an electronic network of more than 970,000 patients who have expressed a concern for the uninsured and public health, according to Hill.
“There are people who are worried and concerned about health care costs and they’re frustrated,” Hill said after the meeting. “And we’ve got to help them.”
Hill is a family physician from Tupelo, Miss., and is the 160th president of the AMA. He was also president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians and the Southern Medical Association. The Rotary luncheon was the second meeting this year held in conjunction with the Meninak Club.