Reverend Jesse Jackson visited Montgomery Wednesday, but he will soon have a continuing presence here all the time. He's opening one of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition offices in Montgomery to focus on better health care. And, he's not alone. Jackson was joined by physicians who say this is going to be a national movement that will begin right here in Montgomery.
Long gone are the days when a physician had only a nurse and receptionist. Today, in one doctor's office there are more than a dozen people to help out. One person just handles insurance claims, and another, Cantrice Chandler, who just takes care of medicaid patients. "I make sure they keep all of their appointments, have any type of social services - food, clothing, shelter, everything that they need to ensure that they have a healthy baby."
The doctor's office, says physician Dr. Pat Elliott, has now become a complex business. "I have to have somebody who can look and see if this is a covered service. They have to check and see if we have to get pre-authorization and if we do then they have to get on the phone and call their insurance company get the OK before I can even send people for a test."
Dr. Elliott says that's difficult when they're treating patients who have some twenty-five different insurance companies. "Each one of them has their own rules. It's not the same rule across the board. This Blue Cross Blue Shield PMD may require authorization - this one may not."
That's one reason Jesse Jackson came to town. He wants to meet with insurance companies to simplify patients' coverage. He also wants there to be health care for the poor. "Montgomery for example, there is no care for the indigent. Because it is the capital city, the surrounding counties are even poorer. They come here to get medical care. It compounds the misery in Montgomery."
And, doctors like Dr. John Jernigan are worried about what's to come. "What I'm concerned about is the future of medicine. Medicine has gotten so difficult so hard, so unattractive. It's hard to get the brightest students into this field."
And, there are other problems doctors say they are facing which take away from their care of patients causing many to close their doors forever. Dr. Elliott says "If only I was trained to do something else. I don't even type anymore."