What's Ailing Harry?

Just when you thought the debate over health care reform couldn’t get more annoying, along comes Health Care Harry.

The eight-foot tall character fashioned after the board game “Operation” stopped Tuesday in Old Town on its tour of the state.

“Harry may look like a toy but healthcare costs are no game,” Adam Gosney with CalPirg read from his script as an assistant used kitchen tongs to pull Harry’s wallet from his beach shorts to demonstrate that health care costs are rising.

“Today’s event is just another way to bring attention to the rising cost of health care,” said Bill Cegelka an aide to Congresswoman Susan Davis who didn't attend the event but sent a statement in her place.

Aaron Zaheer, a local pediatrician who has been in practice for about 10 years did attend and was authentic in his frustration with the bureaucratic mess that comes with different insurance plans and their different requirements. “Each adds to the time I have to spend away from the patients and getting patients what they need,” Zaheer said.

Zaheer and other doctors like him spend 45 minutes on paperwork for every hour they spend with a patient, according to Jennifer Kim, assistant organizing director for CalPirg, the non-profit advocacy group that sponsors Health Care Harry.

“We think that’s a lot,” she said while lamenting the rising cost of health care for an average American family. “Health care costs have doubled in the last ten years and if we don’t take strong action now they will double again in the next eight years.”

In the background of this event, quietly listening was Joan Copping, a Canadian tourist and retired nurse who just happened to be visiting Old Town. She ended up offering the most interesting comments of the morning.

“If you can make more money in the private system, the people in the public system get dumped,” she said explaining what she thinks is the key flaw in the American health care system.

As for the itemized health care bills that list the costs of bandages and medicines, “I can focus on my health and being cured,” she said. “The patient doesn’t have to be concerned with that when they’re in the hospital.”

So, for what he's worth, Health Care Harry is keeping the discussion alive here in San Diego while his handlers can't offer specifics on solutions.

When Davis' aide was asked for an update on where the negotiations stood, his response was as close to a definite answer as anyone can get from Washington, D.C. “This is the closest that Congress has come to health care reform in a long, long time, “ he said.


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