WEST GOSHEN - A forum to discuss Governor Rendell's Prescription for Pennsylvania organized by state Sen. Andy Dinniman brought together a diverse panel before a packed house at the township building on Wednesday night.

The Prescription for Pennsylvania program is an attempt to streamline costs in the state's health care system and provide care to the more than 900,000 state residents who don't have access to the health care they need.

According to Dinniman, the forum is a way to create public dialogue on this very complex issue, and for Chester County get the discussion started. "This is an opportunity on the state level to take a leadership (role)," he said, adding that we live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet there are still many in our society who go without health care.

Barbara Holland, chief counsel to the Governor's Office of Health Care Reform, explained that the Prescription for Pennsylvania is like a pyramid."It's a three-pronged plan," she said. "Each side is essential to keeping the pyramid upright."

She said the Prescription for Pennsylvania consists of three parts: Affordability, access and quality.

Affordability means making health care cheaper and providing care for the uninsured, she said.

Access refers to eliminating some of the barriers that doctors and nurses face in providing care for their patients, she said.

The final part, quality, means making sure all patients get the best care, be it by preventing infections that are contracted in the hospital or providing ongoing care for those that suffer from chronic diseases, she said.

Prescription for Pennsylvania has been in the works since 2005, when a federal grant was awarded and Governor Rendell appointed 100 people from all parts of the health care industry. This group gave recommendations to Rendell in December, and he approved the plan on January 17, said Barbara Hollane.

Some of the panel voiced their criticisms. H.L. Perry Pepper, president of the Chester County Hospital, expressed his concerns about funding and whether the plan would provide financial support for hospitals.

"The governor has got the diagnosis right, but the prescription is wrong," Pepper said, adding that he is "wary of the clinical outcome" especially for hospitals that already have to make do with decreasing revenues.

The panel did agree that health care in the state is a major problem.

Mary Wirshup, vice president for medical affairs for the Community Volunteers in Medicine, a nonprofit health care group in West Chester that provides care for the uninsured, expressed her concerns with how the system currently operates."Clinics are just a Band-Aid until we get a better system," she said. "When you don't have insurance you pray you don't get sick. You live sicker and die sooner."

Other issues raised by the panel that are addressed by the governor's plan were the problems small business have due to the volatile nature of their employees health care costs, administrative costs for doctors, the inability of individuals to determine what specific care might be available to them and the declining ability for the state to attract young doctors.

The panel consisted of Dinniman, Barbara Holland, Pepper, Wirshup, Harris J. Latta, an 64-year-old resident of Caln who does not have health insurance, small businessman Rob Frees, owner of Frees Insurance in Phoenixville, Dr. Ruth Holland (No relation to Barbara), vice president of the Chester County Medical Society, and Chris Butler, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Independence Blue Cross.

More information on the Prescription for Pennsylvania can be found on the Governors Office for Health Care Reform Web site at www.ohcr.state.pa.us.

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