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Rising cost of healthcare

During these hard economic times, many Americans have financial worries. A concern topping the list includes the rising cost of healthcare.

According to research, nearly one in six Americans are uninsured, making a minor medical emergency a concern in terms of getting the care needed and affording the cost.

Renee Daugherty, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension leadership development and educational methods specialist, said expenditures are rising for three reasons: an aging population, use of expensive technology and the large amounts spent on care for people in the final weeks of life.

Over the course of 2008 National Issues Forums took place in 40 states, including Oklahoma, where thousands of Americans came together to deliberate about coping with the rising cost of healthcare.

"Forum participants discussed what is wrong with America's health care system and pointed out what the public would support in terms of changes and support," Daugherty said. "Forum results show how conflicted public thinking can be and suggest how much needs to be done before America sees what a new health care system would look like."

According to the forum's report, Public Thinking About Coping the Cost of Health Care: Do We Pay for What We Need, the issue of health care is complex, but participants in many of the forums did find areas of common ground.

Daugherty said common ground was found in the following areas:

People agreed that the issue of cost and the cost of providing both health care and health insurance poses the greatest threat to the system.

They favored providing at least minimal insurance to all Americans, especially children.

Many strongly approved increasing wellness and prevention programs, particularly in schools. Participants also favored educating the public about making good personal health decisions and providing incentives for better behavior.

They agreed the nation's health-care system is in need of a complete overhaul and increasing public deliberation and dialogue is important to moving forward and reaching this goal.

"Participants at these forums may not reach common ground, but most participants tend to leave the forum with a comprehensible, more coherent sense of how they feel about this issue," said Kimberly Williams, OSU assistant Extension specialist, citizen engagement and public deliberation. "These forums allow people to address an issue and search for answers nationally and statewide for the rising cost of health care."

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