Four panelists, including UR Provost Charles Phelps, are scheduled to discuss a wide variety of topics pertaining to the health care system at a forum on Saturday, March 3, in the Gowen Room in Wilson Commons. The panel will cover medical, economic and governmental aspects of the current system, as well as viable reforms, such as the plan implemented by Massachusetts.

The event is sponsored by the Charles Drew Pre-Health Society and the Health and Society Program, as well as the American Medical Student Association and the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the UR Medical Center. The UR medical student chapters of the American Medical Association, Student National Medical Association, the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association and the Interfaith Health Care Coalition, a community-based organization, are also sponsoring the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This is an issue that is of considerable interest to me as a student, as I will have to start worrying about the health benefits my future jobs will provide,” President of the Charles Drew Pre-Health Society and junior Jathin Bandari said. “I can only hide under the comfort of my parents’ health care plan for so long.”

Members of the various sponsoring groups have been working since December 2006 to bring the symposium to UR, and their work has paid off. The four panelists represent different fields and locales and will bring a variety of ideas to the event.

In addition to his provost position, Phelps is also a professor of economics, political science and community and preventative medicine. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the National Bureau for Economic Research. He has researched the economics of the health care system for over 30 years.

The other members of the panel include State Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, Paul Sorum, M.D. and Robert Gibbons. Morelle has been the representative for the 132nd District, which includes parts of the City of Rochester as well as Irondequoit and Brighton, for 17 years. Before his current job, he was a member of the Monroe County Legislature for seven years.

Sorum is a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Albany Medical College. In addition to being a primary care physician, he is involved in research with French and American psychologists and physicians on health-related decision making. He is also the chair of the Capital District chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Gibbons is the interim president and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, one of the organizations involved in the creation of the Massachusetts health plan. He has been a member of the MHA for over 10 years. Gibbons also served as Assistant Secretary of Public Safety, Legislative Director for former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

“We tried to pick a well-rounded group of speakers in order to hit every angle possible,” Bandari said. “Many groups have made generous donations to allow us to fly people over to our campus and provide them with the appropriate accommodations, so we owe a lot to them.”

The Massachusetts health plan, signed by Mitt Romney in 2006, required all citizens to have health insurance. Those people who are not insured by their jobs and are below the poverty line receive assistance in buying subsidized plans. Many states, including New York, are now looking into using aspects of this plan to redesign their own health insurance laws.

“Just like any other plan, there are complications to [the Massachusetts Plan],” Bandari said. “One that strikes me as immediately obvious is how HMO’s will respond and how it influences people that are covered by work-benefits. Topics such as these will be discussed at the symposium on Saturday.”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.

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