'Public option' forum covers many topics

There are two forms of socialized medicine in the Western Hemisphere — the one run by Cuba and the United States Veterans Administration, a group of Republicans gathered Thursday night in Wichita was told.

"We think it's good enough for our veterans but not for the rest of us," Wichita physician Richard Skibba told the Kansas Republican Assembly.

Although it was billed as a debate on the "public option" for national health care, the meeting that drew 100 people to the Sedgwick County Courthouse covered topics ranging from abortion to socialized medicine.

Skibba said a nationalized system — where the government owns all health care facilities and employs all health care workers — would not be required if Congress adopts a public option in a new national health care policy.

Donald Bebak, a Wichita anesthesiologist, spoke in opposition to the public option. He began his presentation by noting that 80 percent of Americans today have health insurance and are happy with it. He said the cost of higher education has been rising four times as fast as the cost of health care.

Skibba noted that 62 percent of the bankruptcies in the United States can be traced to medical debt. He said public opinion polls show that 72 percent of Americans support a public option in a health care system.

Should a public option be adopted, he said, it would likely come in the form of a government-run insurance program that would compete with private insurance companies. The government plan would have a sliding premium scale. A family of three that has an annual income of $75,000 might pay the full premiums, he said.

"If you don't have squat, you don't pay squat," he said.

Bebak said such a plan would result in health care rationing and a reduction in the type of services offered to those insured by the plan.

Bebak also said unless a public option plan specifically excludes abortion, it's likely that the government will end up paying for abortions.