Local News

Health care workers rally in support of overhaul

Posted September 25, 2009 5:54 p.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2009 6:41 a.m. EDT

— The national health care debate took the spotlight in the Triangle Friday when about 70 medical professionals and patients rallied at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to support of a comprehensive overhaul.

The independent group of mostly health care workers, Health Care for All N.C., wants reform that gives health care to everyone and transfers coverage without exclusions for pre-existing conditions. It favors a public option.

Some medical professionals, however, said they would prefer a single-payer system, without private insurance companies, that would be an entirely run government health care program.

Dr. Charlie Van der Horst argued that government-run health care programs don't limit a person's choice.

"That's what happens with Medicare. Medicare doesn't tell you, 'Oh, you can only go to this doctor or that doctor.' The insurance companies do," he said. "That's the irony. It's the insurance companies that make you switch your doctor. It's the insurance company that tells your doctor, 'No, you can't order this test.'"

Opponents of a public option worry government involvement would force private insurance companies out of business and lead to a government-run system, meaning Americans will lose the right to choose their insurance company.

"The vast majority of physicians I have talked to are opposed to anything that would end up with a single-payer, or government-run, or public option," said Tom Fetzer, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.

"Can you name a single thing in America that is run cheaply and more efficiently in the government than the private sector?" he added.

Friday's event outside UNC Hospitals was organized by an independent group of health care professionals and was not sponsored or endorsed by the UNC Hospital system. The system has not offered a public stance on the matter.

Meanwhile in Washington, lawmakers continue to debate health care reform, which the Obama administration has said will expand health insurance coverage to every American.

The government option continues to enjoy support from about two-thirds of Americans, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Thursday.

The survey also found that the president's recent health care publicity blitz has failed to dispel questions about the plan. However, Americans, by 52 percent to 27 percent, say he has better ideas for revamping health care than Republicans do.