Carlos Reynes, a River Forest doctor whose practice is on Madison Street, can point to three primary problems with how medicine is practiced in the U.S. Insurance companies, drug manufacturers and poorly managed chronic illnesses are some of the biggest blights on this country’s health, he said. What Reynes is less sure of is how to fix those problems.

“I’m not real happy with how Medicare is run, either,” Reynes said during a recent informal debate on health care reform. “I wish France would come over here and run it for us.”

Reynes was one of about two dozen participants in a loosely framed discussion that began with a screening of Michael Moore’s Sicko, a 2007 movie that made waves with its depiction of this country’s health care industry – focusing primarily on insurance companies. The Oct. 1 event was organized by John Milan, a longtime Forest Park resident, and held in a basement room at the Forest Park Public Library.

Milan made no overtures to organize his audience in support of a particular cause, and said afterward he isn’t sure where the local discussion goes from here. His goal for the evening, he said, was simply to encourage people to think about their role in the national debate on health care reforms. Milan is a self-employed music instructor and pays for his own health insurance.

“Needless to say, when you buy your own insurance it’s very expensive if you want the sort of perks people have when they’re insured through their workplace,” Milan said.

Comments from those who attended the screening landed on all sides of the issues, though a general consensus that the status quo isn’t working did emerge.

After watching the film, several members of the audience chided what they saw as an overly rosy depiction of health care services in England and France. One attendee suggested that “airheads” are behind grassroots campaigns for reform here in the U.S. He later apologized for his comments.

Clifford Virador, a registered nurse and Forest Park resident, agreed with the film’s critical message regarding health insurance companies. As long as the collective mindset is on profits, genuine reform would be difficult to achieve, he said.

“Nobody should be denied medical care because of their income or social status,” Virador said.

Maryann Hildebrandt and her husband, Bernie, are friends of Milan and made the drive from Palatine to attend the discussion. Though she’s retired now, Hildebrandt worked for years as an administrator in clinical settings. The overhead for doctors in private practice is enormous, said Hildebrandt, and the health care system is riddled with inefficiencies, she said.

“Doctors can’t be doctors anymore,” Hildebrandt said.

Health Care Reform 101

With all the talk about health care reform, such terms as “single-payer” and “socialized medicine” start to get jumbled. Here’s clarity on a few terms frequently seen in the news but not always defined.

SINGLE-PAYER SYSTEM:

Government pays for all health care with taxpayer dollars. Not socialized medicine because the single-payer isn’t necessarily the national government. Sometimes referred to as a near-universal model.

PUBLIC OPTION:

President Barack Obama considers this plan the light at the end of the health care tunnel. His description of it: “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor too.” According to Obama, the only changes people will see are falling health care costs and the ability for the uninsured to get proper health care by purchasing public or private insurance. It would hypothetically reduce insurance costs, as there would be competition between private and public insurance companies. Many fear they would lose their already-decent insurance coverage under this plan and be subjected to long waiting-lines in hospitals and doctor offices.

SOCIALIZED MEDICINE:

A publicly funded program where the government provides all heath care services. This means all medical caregivers are government employees. Although many are frightened by the term “socialized,” Medicare can technically be referred to as a socialized-medicine plan; so can the Veterans Health Administration.

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE COVERAGE:

This model is a combination of public and private coverage. A sole provider, but not necessarily the government, would fund it. Many consider it a form of a single-payer system. If the government does fund all of the coverage through taxes, it’s called a “national model.”

MEDICARE:

A government funded program that provides insurance coverage to people 65 and older. It’s a paid for out of a payroll tax – from Medicare taxes while employers also contribute an equal amount. It is the largest insurance program in the U.S.

MEDICAID:

A government-funded program paid for through taxes. Unlike Medicare, you must qualify to get Medicaid benefits. Usually, it pertains to low-income people and resident aliens.