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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Arguing for expanded public coverage

Christopher Lillis

Activists from Virginia are in Washington today to lobby Congress for health-care reform. The Virginia Organizing Project, one of the sponsors, wants a public health insurance plan, like Medicare, that would be available to all and would compete with private plans.

Earlier this week the group held a telephone press conference that featured, among others, Dr. Christopher Lillis, above, a Fredericksburg internist. Lillis practices at Chancellor Internal Medicine, off State Route 3 in Spotsylvania. He also writes a health-care column for The Free Lance-Star.

Lillis graduated from the Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Duke University in 2004. He told the press conference that he’s also worked at VA centers in Washington and North Carolina and volunteers regularly at the Moss Free Clinic in Fredericksburg.

Lillis offered these thoughts during the press conference:

·         “I am fully supportive of a public plan. I take care of folks who have Tricare (insurance) because they are either active military or retired military. I have worked at VA medical centers. I have a number of Medicare patients. What I know is that whenever those patients have a required diagnostic test or medication, I can get that for them, because they are covered under a robust public plan.”

·         “Private insurers construct hoops for my office just to get these tests covered. The average primary care physician’s office employs three staff members per physician just to deal with the myriad of private plans out there. There are maybe 60 or 70 plans that we deal with. Each has different rules and restrictions. It might consume several hours a day on the telephone just trying to approve a required test.”

·         “This is the private insurers protecting their profits, working as hard as they can to make it difficult for us to provide necessary care to patients. A public plan would provide the appropriate competition for private insurers to get their act straight and start looking out for patients instead of profits.”

·         “What I’m hoping to do is to impress upon folks that this is not a small-scale problem. It’s been difficult over last year to see the number of patients who are newly unemployed and lost their employer-backed health insurance. It’s just been devastating for my patients who have to choose between making rent and paying for their medications.”