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DISCUSSION — Panelists, from left, Jason Edson of Americans for Prosperity, Dr. Bernard Bubanich of Integrated Source One direct health care and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, listen to a question from an audience member Tuesday. — Nancy Johnson

MARIETTA — A massive proposal to improve America’s health care system came to Marietta on Tuesday, coordinated by the Ohio chapter of Americans for Prosperity and supported by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta.

About a dozen people involved in Marietta’s community and business affairs attended a panel presentation and question-and-answer session on the topic billed as a health care policy roundtable with Congressman Bill Johnson.

The session in the Galley was not intended to find out what complaints and difficulties people have while dealing with the many aspects of the United States health care system. Instead, the nonprofit pushed back against the issues with specific proposals contained in its personal options legislative agenda. The purpose of Personal Option, they say, is to free patients from the confusing, restrictive mix of federal and state regulations that have been on the books to “help” the health system.

“We need to remove barriers, give patients more choices, lower costs and put Americans in control of their care.” Ezra Escudero, director of Ohio Coalitions, told AFP.

“This is the beginning,” Escudero said of the small group before him Tuesday. “We want you to want to learn more, share more, talk to friends and neighbors. This is how mass development begins.”

There have already been similar AFP sessions in other parts of Ohio, and the meeting in Marietta was the second AFP session with Johnson as one of the panelists, he said.

“The plan is to include elected officials, business and community leaders, and members of the health profession,” Escudero said. “And we hope to host a nurse-physician summit as soon as this fall.”

Johnson emphasized his support for the personal options proposals.

“In American health care right now, people are paying for things they don’t use or need. There should be options. When you have options, you get competitiveness, not a captive audience. And competitiveness and the free market have made us the greatest country in the world.” Johnson said.

Panel members included Dr. Bernard Bubanich, a North Canton-area physician who runs a direct care health practice, Integrated Source One, and Jason Edson, AFP’s deputy director of education and a former emergency physician.

Personal Option’s four key points focus on quality and affordable insurance; better access to trusted doctors; price transparency; and prescription drugs at lower prices. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, Escudero said of the plan his group has created. Some of the points of the proposal:

— Expand the availability of short-term, renewable health insurance plans offered for 30, 60 or 90 days or up to six months.

— Legalizing association health plans where, for example, 10 small businesses with fewer employees can band together and have some leverage in purchasing company-provided health insurance.

— Expand health savings accounts where pre-tax dollars can be deposited. There are some companies that can match these employee contributions.

— Promotion of telehealth and telemedicine, which gained wide application and acceptance during the onset of COVID and proved beneficial.

— Repeal the proof-of-need laws and let hospitals and medical facilities offer more services.

— Let nurses provide care for which they are trained.

— Let doctors and nurses practice across state lines.

— Reform the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process so that new drugs and treatments come to market in a more timely manner.

— Empowerment of direct primary care.

When asked how area residents could help grow local efforts into a strong presence to effect change, Escudero reiterated his earlier advice: “Learn more. Share knowledge. Discuss things with friends and neighbors. Get involved.”

Among the information resources available, residents can check AmericansforProsperity.org, the group’s national site, for information and action items. There is a feature on the national site to allow access to state sites. There are chapters of Americans for Prosperity throughout the tri-state area. There is more specific information on the legislative agenda at PersonalOption.com. Escudero can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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