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Health care leaders say more doctors, public health plan needed

By Catherine Wolf, KWMU

St. Louis, MO –

Health care leaders and some members of Congress say developing a public healthcare program could provide medical care for the U.S.'s 47 million uninsured residents. The officials discussed that and other health care concerns, like high costs and a lack of primary care doctors, at a forum at Christian Hospital in St. Louis Friday.

Republican Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson says it's too early to say what a federally subsidized health care program would look like. She says it could be an extension of the Medicare program or a new public plan.

"What I don't think we should do is treat anybody differently. We all should have access or the ability to get our healthcare coverage from the same group of policies."

Panelists say having more primary care doctors in rural communities could help lower healthcare costs. They say because people from rural communities often travel long distances to see a primary care doctor they wait until they're very sick to get treatment. Then patients incur higher medical charges than if they had received preventative care.

Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan says doctors should receive financial help from the government to open offices in underserved communities.

"We incentivize those doctors to locate to certain areas where there's a high need. Things like paying back student loans provide those incentives to get them where they're needed."

Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay says creating a public healthcare plan may be hard to do because it will have to satisfy everyone from insurance companies to the general public. He says providing healthy meals and health education in schools also would lower healthcare prices.

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