Dr. Mongiardo sees 'crisis in health care'

September 05, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

When U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Dan Mongiardo dropped in for a quick coffee-and-donut session in Danville, he found a small but receptive crowd eager to hear his ideas on reforming the country's health care system.

Most of the 30 or so awaiting Mongiardo at Western Sizzlin Friday were old enough to have had first-hand experience and concerns with the way medical care is delivered. Mongiardo railed against inefficiencies in the system, the lack of affordable coverage for too many, high prescription costs and politicians beholden to drug makers, all from his perspective as a Hazard physician.

"There is a crisis in health care," Mongiardo said. "It costs too much, covers too few and the quality is going down."

Mongiardo, a Democrat state senator running against Republican incumbent Jim Bunning, accused his rival of cozying up to the prescription drug companies who contribute heavily to his re-election effort.


The recently adopted prescription drug plan for seniors, which Bunning pushed, is "one of the worst pieces of legislation to come out of Washington in a long time," Mongiardo said. It allowed drug companies to raise their prices before discounting them and prohibits Americans from getting their drugs from countries like Canada, where they are up to 75 percent cheaper, he said.

"It's simply absurd" that drugs made in America are available in Canada for a fraction of the cost that Americans have to pay for them, he said.

"It's the result of failed leadership," he said. Bunning "should be fired for this reason alone."

Nellie Campbell, 70, of Danville, said she is very familiar with the health care ills Mongiardo hopes to treat as a U.S. senator. Campbell said she's a retired nurse who has spent some time recently in the hospital as a patient, so knows the system inside and out.

"I think he's right on target about health care," Campbell said.

Danville resident Mattie Gray, 77, said she spends more than half of her monthly Social Security check on medication, including one prescription that costs her $135 for 30 pills. Those same pills could be bought from Canada for about $40, she said.

"Since they won't let us get it out of the country, they should be getting the cost down to where people can afford it," she said.

Death of brother set course toward medicine

Mongiardo shared his own story of growing up the grandchild of Italian immigrants who worked in the coal mines and his own parents' sacrifices to make him the first in his family to attend college. His brother, Dominic, died at a month old because of a misdiagnosis at a rural eastern Kentucky hospital, he said, setting his course to become a physician himself.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Mongiardo returned to his roots and worked his way up to chief of staff at Appalachian Regional Medical Center. Even in that position at the biggest hospital in eastern Kentucky, Mongiardo said he couldn't get politicians to return his phone calls, so he decided to run for state senate, and now take on Bunning.

"My mission in life is to improve health care," he said.

Along with health care issues, Mongiardo attacked the front-running Bunning for refusing to debate and generally ducking questions from voters and the media.

"You should have the right to have us stand side-by-side and answer questions so you can compare our answers," he said. "I will go any where, any time to debate him. If he won't do that, we should send him to the showers."

Mongiardo urged supporters to help him defeat Bunning through word-of-mouth campaigns and small donations.

"Endorse me with your shoe leather and phone calls and ask people to send in $25," he said. "And I promise that I'll be a senator you can be proud of."|

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