Davis addresses Healthcare issues

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-During his town hall meeting in Demopolis Congressman Artur Davis took a look at several concerns regarding healthcare in the Black Belt. Among them were a lack of available healthcare and a lack of affordable healthcare.

Davis said all of the concerns were not regarding physical illness. Davis said the state was tremendously understaffed to deal with mental issues plaguing children.

“If you take out Huntsville and Birmingham and look at the rest of the state there are less than 15 child psychologists in the state,” Davis said. “Even in Jefferson County there is a smaller number than you would expect.”

Email newsletter signup

Davis said five percent of the adult population in the United States suffered from a serious mental illness, approximately 246 million people. Davis said when depression was thrown into the mix the numbers rose to 15 percent.

Many of these problems could be addressed early in people’s lives if there were proper treatment in the schools. Davis said the best way to ensure this treatment was to add qualified personnel.

“We need to get to a point where there is a mental health counselor in every school system in the state of Alabama,” Davis said. “That is very important to the schools. If we can get a school counselor in every school in the state of Alabama there full time and we can figure out a way to get that kind of professionalism into all of our systems that is an important step.”

Davis said we are sometimes quick to put children on Ritalin when they need to be treated with counseling and the addition of these counselors could help properly diagnose problems.

Teenage pregnancy has been another problem in the Black Belt. Davis brought forth some alarming numbers saying in 2003 three out of five children born in Greene County were born to girls age 15 to 17 years old. Davis said the initial effort should be one of prevention, however, they also needed a plan in place if these actions failed.

“I agree that we should be saying to 15 and 17 year old girls don’t have sex and don’t have children,” Davis said. “But here is the only problem. What happens when they do it anyway?”

One of the largest problems in the Black Belt has continued to be a lack of citizens with insurance and places to care for them. Davis said there are 44 million people in the United States and about 19 percent of the 640,000 he represented were not insured. He said this was a problem that needed much more attention in Washington.

“This is a problem that Congress has not done enough about,” Davis said. “I voted for something that a lot of people are not crazy about called the Associated Health Plan. This plan would allow small businesses to work together to get insurance coverage and the load would be easier for companies to bear.”

Davis also said there should be more tax breaks for small businesses and work on better measures of preventative care. He said if we do not take care of our citizen’s, including our workers, we all suffer.

“When we don’t address healthcare as a community it costs us,” Davis said. “It costs us dollars in terms of what Medicaid and Medicare have to cover, it costs us dollars in terms of productivity and I think it costs us something as a community.”

Davis said without serious changes the situation looks very grim.

“We are entering a zone where because of the rising cost of healthcare and the unavailability of healthcare your ability to combat sickness depends on two things,” Davis said. “Where you live and how much money you have.”

This is especially true in the Black Belt where there are no hospitals in several areas and others that find themselves in a constant struggle.

Davis ended the night by discussing the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits that would allow seniors, beginning next year. Davis said it was very important that seniors make the right choices.

“Senior’s ought to be aware that their choices have consequences,” Davis said. “If you pick the government plan you will lose your private plan. Picking the government plan thinking you will be supplementing is wrong.”

Davis also said only certain drugs would be covered by the government plan and seniors should make sure the drugs they take would be covered. He also said he didn’t feel this plan would be very helpful to many citizens.

“I don’t think most of you are going to like this plan very well,” Davis said. “Most of you, if you are paying $5,000 in coverage you are going to pay $3,700 out of your own pocket. You will have a lot of gaps. It is like having a credit card that will cover up to $1,000 stop and pick back up at $3,700.”

Davis said it was the nation’s responsibility, and one he had taken upon himself to make sure everyone was taken care of. Especially our children and elderly.

“I really care a whole lot about how we treat kids and older people,” Davis said. “You can say to a middle aged person who is struggling that maybe they didn’t make the most responsible decisions. How do you make the responsibility argument to a child? How do you make the responsibility argument to a senior who has worked hard?”