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St. Catherine University: St. Catherine lecture series exploring inequalities in access to health care

Two business leaders, Nancy Breymeier and John Kolstad, will examine the merits of employer-supported health benefits July 15 in the second of a seven-part lecture series investigating inequalities in access to health care.FROM ST.


Two business leaders will examine the merits of employer-supported health benefits July 15 in the second of a seven-part lecture series investigating inequalities in access to health care.

The seven-part series, dubbed “Hazardous to Your Health,” is being hosted by St. Catherine University and is co-sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program (PHNP), a membership organization of more than 16,000 physicians that supports a single-payer national health insurance program. Admission is free.

The speakers July 15 include Nancy Breymeier, president of Metro Independent Business Alliance, an owner of Strategic Financial Group and an advocate of single-payer health care, as she described in a speech last winter. The other speaker is John Kolstad, treasurer of the Metro Independent Business Alliance and also representing Mill City Music and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

According to a release from PHNP, the United States spends twice as much as other developed countries on health care — and yet 47 million people are uninsured. Starbucks pays more for health care than it does for coffee beans, and the inflationary costs of health care rise steeply every year.

Nearly half a million small businesses in Minnesota helped create 26 percent more jobs last year, the release says. Among the questions that the July 15 session will address:

  • How do we keep small businesses healthy?
  • How can those businesses help create better access to health care?
  • Could the insured pay to provide health care to the uninsured?
  • Does an employer-based health-care system work?
  • Does health-care reform prevent job loss?
  • If so, how might the tax system for small businesses change?

“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” the PHNP release says. “It is an issue of justice when necessary care is unavailable or denied.”

Next in the series: “Equality and Access to Health Care: The Business Perspective”
Free and open to the public

Wednesday, July 15, 7 p.m.
Jeanne D’Arc Auditorium
St. Paul campus

More information:
(651) 690-7705

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Physicians address the issue
Dr. Oliver Fein, professor at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and president of the board of PNHP, and Dr. Elizabeth Frost, a family practice doctor and co-chair of Physicians for a National Health Program–Minnesota, spoke at the first event in the series to a gathering of about 80 physicians and other health care providers, as well as the public.

Single-payer health care is “a wonky kind of term,” Dr. Fein acknowledged, and one that often is misunderstood as government “taking over” the delivery of care. “Single-payer” refers to the principle of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers being paid by a single source — as happens in Canada and Australia, for example.

Dr. Fein cited several policy issues driving the debate about access to health care in the United States, where some 45 million people currently are uninsured: mandates to buy private insurance, increased health-care regulation and how to pay for universal care. He and Dr. Frost claimed that single-payer insurance would save the nation $400 billion.

The cost of ‘no care’
According to a recently released study by researchers at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University, medical problems contributed to nearly two-thirds of all bankruptcies in 2007. The study was published online June 4 at the American Journal of Medicine website and will be in the August printed issue.

The data were collected prior to the current economic downturn and showed that between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by almost 50 percent. The authors’ previous 2001 findings have been widely cited by policy leaders.

The study also reported that three-quarters were insured at the start of the illness that led to bankruptcy, including 60 percent who had private coverage. Two-thirds were homeowners and three-fifths had attended college. In many cases, high medical bills coincided with a loss of income as illness forced breadwinners to lose time from work. Often illness led to job loss and, with it, the loss of health insurance.

Upcoming topics
Twin Cities-based Queenan Productions is producing the lecture series for viewing on local cable-access stations. Future topics in the lecture series include:

  • Rural Communities and Access, August 26;
  • Racial Disparities in Care, Sept. 16;
  • Immigrant Perspective, Oct. 14;
  • International Perspectives and Solutions, Nov. 18;
  • Economics of Health Care and Solutions, Dec. 9.

St. Catherine University established the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health in September 2007 to engage regional and national partners in helping to meet urgent challenges such as inadequate primary care, lack of access to healthcare and the need to prepare a well-educated, patient-centered healthcare workforce. For more, visit the School of Health section of the St. Catherine news site.

Contact Amy Gage and Julie Michener, (651) 690-6829