Several students, faculty and community activists piled into the New Pharmacy Building’s Blue Cross Blue Shield Auditorium for Florida A&M’s forum on Health Care Reform Wednesday.
Upon entering, guests were handed both a program and an informational handout on health care reform key terminology and the commonly used terms in the 2009 health care debate.
The audience heard opening remarks from university President James Ammons, and greetings from Student Government Association President Gallop Franklin and Tallahassee Mayor John Marks.
Rev. Ernest Ferrell, president of the Tallahassee Urban League said the National Urban League along with the NAACP and all other national black organizations were joining together in support of health care reform stating, “This is an issue of extreme importance.”
Opening up for a guest of panelists, Henry Lewis III, dean of the College of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences gave an overview of the health reform to help further narrow the scope of the evening’s discussion and explain the debate happening across the nation.
“The important question…is do we feel that healthcare is a fundamental right of every citizen of this country?” Lewis said. “A majority of the personal bankruptcies in America are for medical reasons. More than 100 million Americans are at risk of being denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions.”
According to Lewis, the United States spent $2.5 trillion on care in 2009 alone. Which, Lewis said is the largest expenditure of any nation in the world. He compared the amount of money the United States spends on health care per person to that of France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. All of which, Lewis noted, spend less money on health care.
He concluded saying the Congressional Budget Office, the primary congressional agency that reviews legislative budgets, stated that both the Senate and House versions of the health care reform bill would save the country more than $80 billion.
“This is the most significant piece of legislation that will happen in your lifetime,” Lewis said.
Lewis along with other speakers mentioned how pleased they were with the turnout, especially the number of students.
Rachel Porter, 24, a fourth-year pharmacy student from Tallahassee said it was important for students to attend this event.
“There are a lot of people are really unaware of they issues,” she said. “They think it’s okay that so many people are uninsured. They think it’s normal.”
As the event moved late into the evening, the audience stayed put to hear from the guest panel.
Speakers included Raymond Bellamy, a local orthopedist and co-chair for Physicians for a National Health Plan, Edward W. Holifield, a physician and consultant in private practice and Joseph Webster, a physician/owner of a Private Medical Corporation and a FAMU alumnus.
The panelists took questions from audience members and spoke candidly on their personal opinions on the healthcare debate.
“I regard the health care debate as a civil rights debate,” Bellamy said. “Medicare is a piece of civil rights legislation.”