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Obama Administration Hears Health Care Concerns at White House Regional Forum

Obama Administration Hears Health Care Concerns at White House Regional Forum

March 18, 2009
Consumer Sonia Replansky

Consumer Sonia Replansky

A Health Care For All team traveled to Burlington, Vermont on Tuesday to attend the White House Regional Forum on Health Care. Hosted by the University of Vermont, the event was moderated by Vermont Governor Douglas, Governor Patrick and Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office for Health Reform. Several hundred people attended the forum and a wide range of stakeholders were represented including individuals sharing their personal health care stories, community health workers, providers, employers, the Directors of the CDC and HHS, insurers, EOHHS Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, ANF Secretary Leslie Kirwan, Mass. Hospital Association President and CEO Lynn Nicholas, AIM CEO and President Rick Lord, members of the Vermont legislature, the CEO of a hospice, the owner of a home medical equipment business, college students and advocates from various communities.

Governor Douglas highlighted creative initiatives in Vermont to improve the health of its residents by increasing the use of health IT, expanding insurance coverage and improving chronic disease management. Governor Douglas boasted that Vermont is ranked as the healthiest state in the nation. Governor Patrick highlighted the great results achieved by Massachusetts health reform and addressed challenges. Patrick described our hybrid system as an alternative to maintaining the status quo or finding a “perfect solution.” Patrick added that the broad coalition formed to design health reform and ensure its successful implementation was key to our success in Massachusetts.

DeParle explained that the Regional Health Care Forums are a critical first step in achieving health reform. DeParle stated that health reform is an economic and moral imperative. The audience also heard televised remarks from President Obama. Obama emphasized that health reform is a top priority for his Administration. According to Obama, the economic crisis has amplified the urgency for health reform, as we “can not wait another year”. Obama strives to make health reform an open, inclusive and transparent process, and hopes that stakeholders can work together to ensure that everyone has quality, affordable health care.

The audience then had the opportunity to voice frustrations with the dysfunction of our current health care system and discuss features that a more ideal health system would include. Audience members stressed the inextricable link between the economy and health care and the need to constrain health care costs while improving health care quality and outcomes. Commonwealth Care member Sonia Replansky shared her own story of how fortunate she was to have insurance coverage while preparing to attend medical school. Sonia emphasized the need for outreach specialists to help consumers navigate the complex health coverage world.

Other major points raised by the audience include:

  • Lowering prescription drug costs
  • Improving the cultural competency of providers and empowering communities
  • Achieving both delivery system and payment system reform
  • Researching comparative effectiveness
  • Increasing the focus of health care on preventive care and addressing the primary care provider shortage
  • Improving health care quality
  • Reducing system waste and increasing simplification
  • Exploring single-payor approaches
  • Ensuring fair reimbursements to providers
  • Better managing chronic diseases and strengthening public health interventions
  • Utilizing health IT
  • Including long term care and mental health in reform efforts

Reverend Hurmon Hamilton closed the forum by emphasizing the moral imperative of health reform. Rev. Hamilton shared the story of his congregation member who had no access to health care for seventeen years. Massachusetts health reform allowed her to gain coverage and treatment for a life-threatening condition. Health reform saved her life. For some of our stories on how health reform is helping Massachusetts residents, click here.
Catherine Hammons