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What health care reform means to students

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Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, listens to Inna Azov

Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, listens to public health student Inna Azov at a panel on health care reform Wednesday.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Young adults need health insurance — and thanks to health care reform, 2.3 million have coverage who didn’t before, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, told a UIC audience Wednesday.

“Young adults are almost two times as likely to be uninsured,” Sebelius told the crowd in the School of Public Health auditorium.

“They use the emergency room more than any other group under age 75, and more than one third reported problems paying medical bills.”

Sebelius came to campus to talk with students about the Affordable Care Act, which allows those under 26 to be covered by their parents’ health insurance.

Sebelius said that “as the mom of two 20-somethings,” neither headed toward a job that provides health insurance, she especially appreciated the legislation.

Sebelius also touted the recent doubling of the National Health Service Corps, which repays student loans to health professionals working in underserved areas.

“It’s sort of a health care Peace Corps,” she said.

Sebelius also praised her department’s  “first-ever disparity action plan,” which she said is providing 34 million additional Americans with health care coverage.

She plugged the movement to shift from paper to electronic medical files.

In 2009 only 10 percent of hospitals and 20 percent of doctors used electronic filing.

“Think of any other industry depending on paper files,” Sebelius said.

She compared it to the old practice of visiting a bank teller to withdraw cash in the days before ATMs.

The number of medical professionals using electronic filing has doubled in the past year, she said.

“In the next couple of years, I hope the outliers will be the ones using paper,” she said.

Sebelius shared the stage with Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, university vice president for health affairs, and four students: Tokoya Williams, medicine, Inna Azov, public health, and Jan'nea Sumo, nursing, all of UIC, and University of Chicago undergrad Tomi Obikunle.

Williams, a medical student and former president of the American Medical Association’s UIC chapter, said a recent poll of 2,200 medical students found 94 percent realized the need for health care reform, but 30 percent were not aware of the details.

In a question and answer session with Sebelius, one physician asked about the controversy over proposed Medicare reimbursement for end-of-life counseling, which opponents said would lead to “death panels” encouraging critically ill people to forego treatment.

Sebelius called the controversy “a huge disservice to doctors.”

“The ability to reimburse doctors around end-of-life issues caused such a furor that it was taken out [of legislation],” she said.

“Those conversations will continue, but doctors won’t be paid for it.”


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