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5 April 2000

Symposium Addresses How to Cover the Uninsured

Nationwide, 44 million people are without health insurance. And California has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation, said Dorothy Pechman Rice, UCSF professor emeritus and public health policy expert.

Covering the uninsured will be the topic of this year's Dorothy Pechman Rice Public Health Policy Symposium, to be Friday, April 7, 1 to 4 p.m., at UCSF Laurel Heights.

Judith Feder, PhD, Dean of Policy Studies at Georgetown University will be the keynote speaker. Feder will talk about health insurance proposals currently being debated in the political arena and what the differences and similarities among the plans are.

"It's a large problem and it keeps getting bigger and bigger," Rice said. "On a nationwide basis, 44 million people are uninsured. That is really unforgivable and it's impossible to understand, especially because we have a booming economy and low unemployment. It's a hot political issue that will be very important in the presidential campaign."

Along with Feder, Philip Lee, MD, professor of medicine and former UCSF Chancellor and director of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, will discuss the historical backdrop of health insurance coverage in the US.

Rice will talk about what is happening in California, a state that has seven million people who are without health insurance and, in 1997, saw its number of uninsured residents balloon by 575,000 people from the year before.

"We have a changing workforce in California where there are so many people on a contract basis or who work in the service industry or in small firms," she said. "In small firms, employers often feel they can't cover their employees' health insurance costs so people go without health insurance. The people who are most vulnerable are the poorest people, those with the lowest incomes."

Those without health insurance often do not get the preventive medical services they need and see a doctor only when seriously ill. Also, when the uninsured have a medical emergency and are forced to go to the hospital, the cost of their care is often passed on to taxpayers, Rice said.

Rice, who has been a professor at UCSF since 1982, is a well-recognized expert in public health policy and statistical information systems. She has done groundbreaking research in numerous areas, including the burden and cost of illness, chronic illness and the economics of aging.

In 1998, the UCSF School of Nursing established the Dorothy Pechman Rice Program in the Cost of Illness and Injury and the Economics of Health in her honor. Friday's event is the second the program has hosted. The UCSF Institute for Health and Aging and the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health are co-sponsors of the event.

The symposium will be held at Laurel Heights, Garden Room, second floor. Although the event is free, organizers request those interested in attending RSVP by calling 502-5200.

Links:

Institute for Health & Aging
The Dorothy Pechman Rice Program in the Economics of Health



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