Niagara Gazette

Niagara Living

August 19, 2008

COVER STORY: Healing Niagara's health care crisis

The average citizen doesn’t need a medical degree to know the nation’s health care system is fat, sluggish and battling a host of challenges that threaten not only its life but everyone else’s.

Some who have health insurance watch helplessly while premiums and co-pays rise at levels never before seen.

Many uninsured workers can only hope they won’t have to face that one family health crisis that can bring them to financial ruin.

Those who understand the complex layers of this nation’s health care seem to agree on one thing. Somebody has to fix this mess, because everyone loses when citizens cannot afford health care. Illness can spread quickly when children don’t get immunized. Economies are weakened by consumers defaulting on the medical bills they incur.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center provided nearly $7 million in uncovered, uncompensated health care last year, a figure that did some damage to an already struggling hospital system, according to one spokesperson. The good news is that the Falls hospital recently engaged in a new state program designed to locate those who don’t have health care and find ways to get them insured.

That is one solution that chips away at the gargantuan health crisis as it confronts the Niagara region. There are many more facets in the health care challenge.

Niagara Living recently interviewed a handful of area health care providers and experts to find out, in simple language, how they would cure health care if they could.

Dr. Edward A. Stehlik

Chairman of Internal Medicine

Kenmore Mercy Hospital

“We’re on the verge of the death of primary care,” he said. “We need to fix it, and we need to fix it now.”

Stehlik said that the way medicine is structured now, young doctors don’t want to go into primary care. Currently, primary care is structured in a way designed by health care maintenance organizations that limits the ability of general care physicians to treat their patients.

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