Healthy Aging series continues at Temple Beth-El


Dr. John Murphy offers insights into Obamacare

John B. Murphy, M.D. /Sam ShamoonPROVIDENCE – John B. Murphy, M.D., Professor of Family Medicine and Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, gave the second address on healthy aging that was sponsored by the Lifelong Learning Collaborative and held at Temple Beth-El in Providence.  About 250 people were in attendance.

His talk covered Healthcare Reform, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care), and Medicare. Through a PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Murphy touched on three strengths of the United States health system: Highly trained workforce, access to technology and medical research. Then he went on to describe the many weaknesses in our system that include high cost, low quality, lack of access, poor alignment of incentives, coordination, and uneven distribution of the medical profession workforce, i.e., geographic and workforce composition. He noted that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is designed to address some of these weaknesses.

He showed several charts that illustrated the explosive cost of health care and its declining quality in relation to that of other western countries. For example, he showed that, in measuring infant mortality rates, the United States comes in 34th, behind Cuba.

Dr. Murphy’s most striking slides illustrated the growing obesity rates in America. Looking at average heights of 5’ 4” and obesity defined as 30 pounds overweight, the starting point in 1985 showed that obesity among 10 to 14 percent of the population was concentrated in the South and Midwest. A shaded map of the United States moved quickly each year from the 1985 base to the latest year – 2010; the obesity jumped up each year, so that by 2010, the southern states are over 30 percent obese, followed by the Midwest at 25 to 29 percent and the rest of the country at over 20 percent. Not a single state was less than 20 percent obese in 2010. This obesity rate is among the highest in the world and contributes to exploding health care costs and challenges.

In terms of the Affordable Health Care Act, he noted that it would reduce payments to hospitals for preventable readmissions, eliminate payments to hospitals for hospital-acquired conditions, reduce Medicare and Medicaid payments, award five-year demonstration grants to states to develop, implement and evaluate alternatives to current tort litigation, and simplify health insurance administration. But he also said that not all will receive health insurance; it’s still largely fee-for-service and the law will require continued tinkering.

The healthy aging series continues on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. at Temple Beth-El, 70 Orchard Ave., in Providence, the location for all future sessions. The series’ additional sponsors include Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, the Rhode Island Foundation and Temple Beth-El.

For more information or to register for this program, visit or call 270–2556.

Sam Shamoon ( is a vice president of the Lifelong Learning Collaborative.