Guest column | Rao Musunuru

We must all help patch health care safety net

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 medically uninsured and underinsured are a growing problem. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 47-million Americans, or nearly 16 percent of the population, are without health insurance. In Pasco County, an estimated 71,000 adults have no health insurance. With the current economic turmoil and worsening 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 various programs like Medicare, Medicaid, KidCare, the Department of Veterans Affairs, community health centers, etc., and indirectly through research and the work of regulatory and communication agencies. Think 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 care insurance premiums are adversely affecting the employer's ability to support private insurance coverage.

Florida's Legislature deserves the credit for increasing the budget in 2008 for Florida KidCare in spite of a very tough overall budget. In east Pasco, Premier Community Healthcare (352-518-2000) has been providing a tremendous service and support to the needy for many years. There is a movement afoot, with assistance from local hospitals, to help Premier extend to west Pasco.

Dr. David Johnson, director of the Pasco County Health Department, to his credit, is encouraging more physicians to volunteer their services by offering state-sponsored Sovereign Immunity Protection.

Also in west Pasco, there are many charitable organizations that have a medical clinic to serve the needy — for example, Good Samaritan, CARES and Healing Hands. Good Samaritan Health Clinic of Pasco is in New Port Richey (727-848-7789). CARES (Community Aging and Retirement Services) Senior Health Clinic is at the Claude Pepper Senior Center in New Port Richey (727-844-3077). Healing Hands Health Center is at Scott Medical Plaza in Hudson (727-580-9996).

Charitable organizations and centers like these run on shoestring budgets with the help of volunteers. They cannot help the sick to survive if the members of the community capable of support do not help them to sustain. I hope that the needy will call these numbers for help and also I pray that the capable will call these numbers to help.

The chance is that nothing much is going to change significantly after all the election hype subsides. The real hope is the community is willing to help its needy neighbors. The economy is bad and the 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 and serves on the boards of Good Samaritan Health Clinic and CARES.

We must all help patch health care safety net 10/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:20pm]

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