Complex health care issue deserves closer scrutiny


POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2009

As the senior public health official in the state of Hawaii, I must take exception to your editorial last week about budget cuts in Medicare (”;End Medicare Myths,”; Star-Bulletin, Aug. 12). You incorrectly accused Gov. Linda Lingle of making “;unfounded allegations.”;

The governor has expressed the concerns and misgivings of many seniors and other citizens in our state and across our nation who are indeed scared about possible changes to their health care benefits.

The governor pointed out that the plans pending in Washington, D.C., would result in “;hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to spending on Medicare.”; Your own editorial reaffirms this by stating that the bills pending in Congress would “;trim Medicare's anticipated growth over the next ten years by $563 billion.”;

Your editorial said that federal health care legislation will “;affect providers, not beneficiaries.”; Reducing payments to providers can have a substantial effect on beneficiaries, especially when insufficient revenues result in the closing or out-of-state relocation of a medical practice.

Our neighbor island communities know all too well the end result of a significant disparity between revenues and the cost of doing business — insurance coverage but no physician to go to.

For years your newspaper has written that citizens are not sufficiently engaged in civic matters and are not paying attention to what is going on in government and voicing their concerns.

Now we have an example of that civic engagement as seniors and community-minded people across America make an effort to ensure their Congress member knows they are concerned by speaking up at town hall meetings and other forums. We applaud this civic engagement.

Health care is a complex issue that deserves thoughtful, careful analysis. I remain hopeful the policymakers in Washington will take the time to examine the many parts of our health care delivery system before enacting federal legislation.

Dr. Chiyome Fukino is the state health director. (The full editorial ran Aug. 12.)