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Testimony of Dr. Alex Blum


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Testimony for Special Informal Hearing
“Costs of Broken Health Care System, Benefits of Public Option”
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
 
Alex Blum, MD
Health and Evidence Policy Fellow, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
National Field Director, Doctors for America
Representative Conyers, Representative Jackson Lee, fellow physicians -- I am honored to join
you today to discuss why I think a public option is an important component of comprehensive
health care reform.  
My name is Dr. Alex Blum. I am a Pediatrician and Health and Evidence Policy Fellow at Mt.
Sinai School of Medicine. Both physicians and our patients need health insurance reform now.
Six years ago, when I was a medical student at Howard University College of Medicine in
Washington, DC, I spent the summer doing an internship at the Centers for Disease Control in
Atlanta. I became very sick, went to the emergency room and was told I was in acute kidney
failure. The problem was that my medical school insurance only covered me if I got sick near
Washington, DC. It didn’t cover me in Atlanta; I qualified as under-insured. Aware that we could
not afford out-of-pocket payment for a renal dialysis unit as was being recommended, my father,
also a physician, drove me through the night from Atlanta, waking me every few minutes to
make sure I was responsive, until we finally reached Washington, DC the next morning. Even
those of us who chose to enter the profession of caring for others are not immune to the
dysfunction of our health care system. 
I am here today because there are 47 million uninsured and 87 million underinsured Americans
who deserve better. We all know the uninsured and underinsured. I trained in Pediatric medicine
at a County Hospital outside of Los Angeles. At this County hospital I cared for uninsured
children, and those enrolled in SCHIP and Medicaid. What I most enjoyed about working within
that system was that we provided high quality care to those who needed it the most. My patients
on Medicaid and SCHIP were able to easily see sub specialists: Dermatologist, Ophthalmologist,
and Gastro-intestinal physicians.  
My patients who had private insurance often faced health care barriers which my patients on
SCHIP and Medicaid never had to navigate. When children who had private medical insurance
visited my County Hospital Pediatric clinic, staff there had to seek pre-approval from the private
insurance company so that patient’s parents were not billed and required to pay the cost of care
out- of- pocket. 

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