Cover Story: Health care reform

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Congress debating an overhaul of the nation's health care system and local doctors and patients are weighing in on the plan.

Health Care Reform.  Whether you are for or against a healthcare overhaul, you need to form an opinion, because your tax dollars will be spent this.

Some say we can't sustain the cost of our current system - and it impacts everyone.  We're talking about a two-point four trillion dollar industry.

Many would agree that it's hopelessly broken.

More than 45 million Americans have no health insurance.. millions more are under insured.

The Medicare trust fund is heading toward bankruptcy.

Premiums have nearly doubled over the past decade for those with coverage.. and if you have insurance you're just one layoff away from disaster.

For the truth of what ails America's health care system.. who better to go to than the local doctor.

And rest assured.. he or she won't mince words.

"Absolutely broken. Horrendously broken. Hopefully not beyond repair."

Health care costs are spiraling out of control.  Millions must live without any coverage at all.  And if the government gets more involved-- no one's sure what it'll mean.

Ask doctors--should we fear a government-run health care system?

"I would. Do you fear the IRS? I would. I think that anytime you let something as important as health care get taken over by the government.. it's a problem."

Elizabeth Perry, M.D. with Signature Health Care.. located at SouthPark isn't optimistic over what will come out of the reforms being debated in Congress.

She believes monyed interests.. including insurance companies, drug manufacturers and trial lawyers stand to lose too much if the system is seriously overhauled and improved.

Why haven't doctors stood up and said enough is enough?

"I don't have a good answer for that. Except to say that if you ask five doctors their opinion you're going to get five different answers so it's probably really hard to even get doctors to agree on something as complicated as health care."

One thing they can agree on is.. the profession's lost its luster.

In a poll of physicians conducted by the American Medical Association.. half of those who responded say they would get out of health care if they could.

"There's no time to bond with people and sit down with them and get to know them and solve their problems. And that's what draws most people into health care. You go into because you want to help people. You don't want to do paperwork and argue with insurance companies."

If you think doctors are frustrated.. try being a patient.

A majority of people like Aubrey Hilliard aren't sure themselves how to fix the system.

He says, "Everybody wants to be compassionate and have coverage for people. The polls are like 80-percent of the people are for it. It's just who's going to manage it. And what kind of job are they going to do. Historically government hasn't been the best provider."

What needs to be addressed in an overhaul package?

According to the experts.. how to cover the tens of millions without health insurance.. bring costs down and address tort reform.

Doctors tell us fear of malpractice lawsuits helps drive up health care costs.

They order more tests and the like to avoid otherwise getting sued.  And tests are expensive.