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GOP women hold convention

November 14, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Last year Marylanders spent $15 billion on health care, about $2 billion of which came from their own pockets, a panelist said Friday during a discussion on health issues held by the Maryland Federation of Republican Women.

The group is holding its annual convention this weekend at the Ramada Inn in Hagerstown.

About 100 members from across the state are expected to attend. Fifty members attended Friday's forum on health issues, which focused on threats to the privacy of personal medical records.

Panelists included John M. Colmers, executive director of the Health Care Access and Cost Commission, an agency that tracks individual medical records, and Dr. Christopher Unger, a family physician from Bethesda, Md., and an advocate for limiting access to personal medical information.

Colmers said the $15 billion spent every year on health care by Marylanders translates into $2,900 for every citizen. "For a family of four that's more than $10,000," he said.

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About 26 percent went to hospitals, 25 percent to physicians, 12 percent to other health care professionals and 8 percent to nursing homes, he said.

Unger said Americans are spending $1 trillion on health care each year. "In 10 years it will be $2 trillion. It's a monstrous problem," he said.

He recommends returning medicine to a "cottage industry."

He used as an example a rural patient who suffered a heart attack in his remote home. He was treated there by a doctor who had access to a portable electrocardiogram machine. "It was low-tech, but it saved the patient. All we think, do and are enamored of is high technology. We have to look at low-tech options," Unger said.

In 1996 most patients chose specialists for their first visits to a physician. In 1976, 94 percent of all first visits went to doctors practicing general medicine, Unger said.

Another problem is the increase in the number of times public and private insurance companies and HMOs are denying treatment to patients. It increased by 9 percent in the last year.

The convention resumes at 7:30 a.m. today with registration and breakfast. The annual meeting starts at 9 a.m. U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., is the featured speaker.

Ellen Sauerbrey, the Republican loser in the Maryland governor's race two weeks ago, also is expected to show up today, said Ann Horner Granados, federation president.

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