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Guest column | Dr. Rao Musunuru

Answer to health care crisis is clear, but not simple

If you don't have good health, you have nothing.

If you have nothing and also do not have good health, you are out of luck, for the most part.

If you work hard and manage to have something, you could lose everything if you become ill without adequate health insurance coverage.

The uninsured and underinsured are a growing problem. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 47-million Americans, nearly 16 percent of the population, are without health insurance. With the current economic turmoil and unemployment situation, these numbers are only going to escalate.

People can engage in an endless and passionate debate about whether the responsibility of adequate health care coverage should belong to the individual, the employer, the community or the government.

The answer is clear — not simple, but clear. It is a shared responsibility. The main focus has to be on personal accountability for preventive health care through healthy lifestyle changes and proper screenings.

Government, both at federal and state levels, supports health care directly through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Kid-Care, Veterans Affairs and community health centers, and indirectly through research, regulatory and communication agencies. Think of the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and your local department of health as examples.

But the ever-increasing cost of health care and ever-decreasing available budgets are eroding the government's capability to keep up with the demand. Similarly increasing health insurance premiums are affecting employers' ability to support private insurance coverage.

Florida's Legislature deserves credit for increasing the budget in 2008 for Florida Kid-Care in spite of a very tough overall budget.

In my county, Pasco, there are many charitable organizations that have medical clinics to serve the needy. But charitable organizations run on shoestring budgets with the help of volunteers. They cannot help the sick survive if members of the community capable of support do not help them to sustain. I hope that the needy will call such centers for help, and I pray that the capable will call them to help.

The chance is that nothing much is going to change significantly after all the election hype subsides. The real hope is that the community is willing to help its needy neighbors. The economy is bad and times are tough. That is when it becomes even more important to help the disadvantaged.

We should not miss out on the pure, immeasurable pleasure of giving. Pure pleasure is good for one's own health, and that is what this doctor orders.

Dr. Rao Musunuru is a cardiologist practicing at Regional Medical Center in Hudson. He serves on the boards of Good Samaritan Health Clinic and CARES.

Answer to health care crisis is clear, but not simple 11/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 1:20pm]

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