Panelists Discuss Finances of Healthcare

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Kate C. Xie

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While revisions to America’s healthcare system are currently being debated on the floor of Congress, four legal experts tackled the issue in a panel discussion at the Law School yesterday.

The panel, entitled “When Medical Care Compromises Financial Health: Causes and Possible Solutions,” focused on the under-reported issue of insurance often not protecting against financial troubles brought on by high healthcare costs.

“The rising cost of medical care in the United States is driving up premiums, and what’s been going on under premiums is an erosion of benefits,” said panelist Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of The Commonwealth Fund.

The panel also included Christopher T. Robertson, a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School, Melissa B. Jacoby, a law professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Matt Selig, the acting director of the Health Law Advocates.

Robertson stressed that many individuals with health insurance still end up in debt due to medical costs.

“Approximately two-thirds of people who [experienced] home foreclosure had medical insurance,” he said.

Selig discussed the conflict between the interests of the health insurance industry and the financial well-being of the average American.

“Healthcare doesn’t follow neat ideologies,” Robertson said, noting that he participated in the panel because he feels that some aspects of the debate are being ignored.

Organized by The Petrie-Flom Center at HLS, which is dedicated to interdisciplinary research on health law, bioethics, and biotechnology, the open panel was meant to be accessible to both the Harvard and Cambridge communities.

The event was mainly attended by HLS academic fellows and professors employed by the University.

Among their slew of proposed reforms, the panelists emphasized increased coverage for more Americans to protect them from bankruptcy via medical expense.

The goal, Schoen said, is to avoid a system in which individuals are “offered coverage, but have everything that’s wrong with you excluded [from your plan].”