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Universal Health Care Discussed at Forum Dec. 8

SALISBURY — "Universal" is not only an adjective that characterizes the dream many doctors have about health care;organizers of the Salisbury Forum also think it applies to the breadth of concern Americans have about the topic in general.

The forum organizers typically select topics that will be of general interest, and this one should be no exception.

Deborah Richter, M.D., who has played a leading role in getting a comprehensive universal health-care bill passed by the Vermont Legislature, will be in town Friday, Dec. 8, to talk about "Health Care for all Americans" and what she views as the "dysfunctional" state of the industry in the U.S.

"Simply put, we do not have a health-care system," Dr. Richter said in an interview with The Journal. "There is no one in charge. No one is accountable for the unrestrained rise in costs and the poor quality that Americans receive."

Richter is a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program and is president of Vermont Health Care for All. Last year she co-authored a book, "At the Crossroads: The Future of Health Care in Vermont," with former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Cornelius Hogan and journalist Terry Doran.

"Our problem is we do not have a health-care policy that ensures coverage and cost containment," Richter added. "I am going to talk about that."

Richter said, "ultimately we need a national solution." But she added that since nationwide universal coverage isn’t coming any time soon, efforts should start at the state level.

"Many major pieces of legislation were started this way — welfare reform, women’s right to vote, etc.," explained Richter, an advocate of the public financing of health care. Germany, France and Japan have publicly financed health-care systems and their costs per capita are half those in the U.S.

"This has huge economic effects. It affects businesses’ ability to compete at the state, national and international levels."

The forum begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Walker Auditorium at The Hotchkiss School. The evening is sponsored by the Foundation for Community Health, a health-care advocacy organization founded in 2003 with the net proceeds from the sale of the nonprofit Sharon Hospital to investor-owned Essent Healthcare, Inc.

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