Health costs on table at talk

MILFORD – With his arms cradling a portable oxygen device, Seth Kallman brought to the community health-care discussion his own story on how the health-care system fails people.

Kallman was among the 18 people who came to the Wadleigh Memorial Library on Saturday morning to take part in President­elect Barack Obama’s health-care transition project as a first step to changing public health-care policy.

Three years ago, Kallman, who lives in Harrisville, began suffering from a disabling chronic lung disease, which doctors called a medical mystery. His health insurance carriers “decided not to spend any more money on me,” he said.

Kallman said he has since received a diagnosis and is on a fast track for a lung transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Ruth Heden, of Milford, led the two-hour Community Conversation on Health Care, starting with a general outline of the problems: health-care costs are skyrocketing, too many Americans are without health insurance, and there is too little investment in preventive care.

The group mostly agreed that insurance companies are the villains and that government programs, including Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people older than 65, were the good guys.

Medicare “is a fabulous system,” said Nan Stearns, of Amherst, who said she and her husband would have been “wiped out” after a recent accident if Medicare hadn’t been available.

Peter Braen, of Mont Vernon, mentioned the influence of lobbyists in maintaining the current “unhealthy system – the insurance industry is feeding on itself