BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter
CHICAGO--Vice President Joseph Biden came to Chicago's West Side, where government-funded health care is already the reality, to pitch his administration's health-care plan and announce $1.2 billion to help computerize medical records.
"Sixty percent of Mount Sinai's patients are on Medicaid," said Alan Channing, the hospital CEO.
"We provide about 50 percent of the health care already," Biden said, referring to Medicaid and Medicare.
He made clear early on that he didn't want to discuss the contentious issue of whether to create a government-funded "public option" to cover the country's 48 million uninsured who don't qualify for existing government programs.
"We're not here to discuss the debate between a public option, and a non-public option," Biden said.
Biden and Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius came to Mount Sinai to share the "good news" about the money the administration will begin funneling to states to help doctors and hospitals start computerizing patient records.
"Electronic medical record systems really save lives," said June McKoy, a Northwestern Memorial Hospital geriatrician. She told stories about knowing which medicines not to prescribe for patients based on information she found in their medical records.
McKoy was among six doctors and others at Biden's round table. More than 100 white-smocked doctors and other health-care professionals listened in the audience and nodded their heads when panelists talked about the frustrations of trying to diagnose patients' problems without adequate records.
Dr. David Blumenthal, information technology director for Sebelius, said this was brought home to him as he prepared to order a CT scan of a patient's kidneys. His computer told him that a CT scan of the kidneys had already been done and was available.
"We're trying to modernize," Biden said. "This is not about government control, or 'socialized medicine.' It's simple: Modernize."
Biden and his entourage passed a handful of protesters standing in the rain outside Mount Sinai warning against "socialized" medicine. Protesters on the other side urged the administration not to back off the "public option."