When University President Mary Sue Coleman’s treadmill unexpectedly sped up during a recent workout session, Coleman didn’t. The accident resulted in a cracked arm, which sent her to the University Hospital for treatment. Doctors placed Coleman’s arm in a maize-and-blue sling, emblazoned with a block “M.”

Jess Cox
University President Mary Sue Coleman discusses health care in the United States in a public forum at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library yesterday. (BEN SIMON/Daily)

The availability of health care, like the treatment Coleman has received for her arm, was the topic of a forum she hosted at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library last night.

The University held the forum in conjunction with the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, which is hosting town hall meetings around the country in an attempt to take the nation’s pulse on the issue and come up with a remedy for the system’s ailments.

The group will make recommendations to Congress this fall.

The forum was broadcast to audiences at 22 universities across the country. The schools held discussions of their own. Other participants viewed it over the Internet and participated via e-mail.

Since 1960, government health care spending has skyrocketed. The United States spent $6,300 per person on health care in 2004; that figure is expected to exceed $10,000 within 10 years. Nearly 46 million Americans are currently without health insurance.

Most Americans believe the health care system is either in a state of crisis or has major problems, said School of Public Health Prof. Catherine McLaughlin, a Working Group member.

Last night, forum attendees and participants across the nation expressed their support for universal health care – an idea Coleman actively supports – but agreed on little else.

“If health care is a right, a human right, then we don’t need to talk about eliminating some people or targeting some people,” said June Rusten, a former Ann Arbor public school teacher. “It should be for all, like Social Security is for all.”

Supporters of universal health care think medical treatment should be available to all citizens, regardless of their ability to pay.

Some said the federal government should provide this care, while others argue it should be run by the states.

At present, the government only provides free health care to certain groups, such as the elderly, veterans and children.

Many Americans currently receive health insurance through their employers. Those without coverage usually pay their medical bills out-of-pocket.

Only one attendee vocally opposed universal health care.

“Government has proven that they can’t handle the simplest things,” said Seymour Kroll, an Ann Arbor resident. “Now we’re talking about universal medical coverage.”

Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn), a staunch supporter of universal health care, declared his support for a system in which the federal government is responsible for all medical costs.

“I am an unabashed and unashamed supporter of the single-payer system,” he said. “It’s the only thing that’s going to work.”

Coleman agreed.

“I absolutely believe we need to have universal coverage,” she said.

As for her arm – chalk it up to the risks of staying healthy.

“I was trying to be good,” she said. “But my treadmill went haywire.”

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