Health fair attendees confused about reform plan

TUPELO – As the national debate about health care continues to swirl, people attending health fairs in Tupelo this weekend offered different perspectives on the issue – at least as best they can understand it.
“I think changes are needed, but don’t understand enough about what’s being discussed to know if they’re going in the right direction or not,” said 67-year-old Charles Seamster of Plantersville. “If the oil people, doctors and drug companies would come down from needing so much money, other people could afford insurance and the other necessities.”
Like other people, including critics of the Obama health reform push, the health fair attendees are unclear about what, exactly, the proposed changes would mean.
Seamster was among the hundreds of people at Saturday’s Weston Reed Cardiovascular Conference, where he and his wife took advantage of the screenings to help gauge heart health. Such screenings can be costly when obtained at doctor’s offices, specialty facilities or hospitals.
Though she feels her own health insurance coverage is comprehensive, Juanita Owens of Saltillo, 72, agrees that some kinds of changes are needed.
“There are so many people uninsured, and it has to be costing a lot for them,” Owens said. “I’ve listened to quite a bit, and it seems what Obama is saying is getting mixed up in the reporting, but I’m not sure it would help me.”
People attending the Tupelo chapter Sisters Network Health Fair received information about risk factors and warning signs of breast cancer, as well as information from various other collaborating organizations.
Geneva Osborne of Tupelo said her job as a restaurant food preparer for the past six years offers satisfactory health insurance coverage.
“I don’t want to make any changes,” Osborne said. “I want to keep my health insurance just the way it is.”
Another attendee at the fair, however, had a different perspective.
“I don’t have any health insurance because I can’t afford it,” said one woman who asked that her name not be used. “I have recently been taking care of my father, who passed away, but before that I had been self-employed with my own business. Even then the insurance was so expensive I couldn’t afford it.”
Tupelo chapter President Norma Derring said the group provided free mammograms at the mobile mammography unit to 10 uninsured women on Saturday, and is paying for several others to receive mammograms who could not be accommodated Saturday because of staffing.
Although Revia Perrigin had a good benefit package with Blue Cross Blue Shield through her employer of 33 years, then in retirement for several years after that, the 68-year-old Columbus resident said her health insurance picture is much less clear now.
“The company dropped coverage for retirees so I didn’t have any coverage at all for two months until my Medicare kicked in,” said Perrigin, who attended the Weston Reed health fair. “Now I’ll have to pay more from now on because I didn’t take Medicare Part B when I first turned 65.”
Perrigin said she doesn’t know what’s in the government plan, but “I don’t think Obama should keep giving away the kitchen.”
Seamster said he may think the health system needs some work, but he doesn’t believe Obama is responding to the concerns people have.
“His town hall meeting have been staged with his people,” Seamster said. “They don’t let anybody in to voice an opinion against him.”
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal