Coming soon to Iowa: White House forum on health care reform

President Barack Obama held a summit on health care yesterday with about 150 politicians and experts in the field. This morning the White House followed up by announcing plans to hold regional forums on health care in five states, including Iowa. From the press release:

The Regional White House Forums on Health Care Reform will be hosted by the states’ Governors and will include participants ranging from doctors to patients to providers to policy experts.  They will be open conversations with everyday Americans, local, state and federal elected officials – both Democrat and Republican — and senior Obama administration officials.  The events will begin with a video recorded by the President, a summary of the findings from the Health Care Community Discussions that took place in December, and an overview of the discussion that took place at the White House Forum on Health Reform.

The meetings in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont will take place in March and early April.  Further logistical information about the forums is forthcoming.

Presumably Iowa was chosen because both of our senators will play an important role in drafting health care legislation. Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Tom Harkin will be in charge of drafting the parts of the bill concerning disease prevention and public health.

Ezra Klein posted about an exchange between Obama and Grassley at the White House yesterday:

“Max Baucus and I have a pretty good record of working out bipartisan things,” said Grassley. “I think only two bills in eight years that haven’t been bipartisan.” (One of them, however, was the S-CHIP bill, and another was Medicare payment reform, so their record on health care is more contentious). Grassley then moved onto a more relevant sore spot: The public insurance option. “The only thing,” he pleaded, “that I would throw out for your consideration — and please don’t respond to this now, because I’m asking you just to think about it — there’s a lot of us that feel that the public option that the government is an unfair competitor and that we’re going to get an awful lot of crowd out, and we have to keep what we have now strong, and make it stronger.”

The question was no surprise: In recent Finance hearings, Grassley has clearly signaled his anxiety on this issue. What was a surprise was that Obama rejected Grassley’s plea to think it over and instead replied on the spot with a strong articulation of the case for a public plan. “The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give — keep the private sector honest, because there’s some competition out there. That’s been the thinking.”

“I recognize, though, the fear that if a public option is run through Washington, and there are incentives to try to tamp down costs and — or at least what shows up on the books, and you’ve got the ability in Washington, apparently, to print money — that private insurance plans might end up feeling overwhelmed. So I recognize that there’s that concern. I think it’s a serious one and a real one. And we’ll make sure that it gets addressed.”

I love it when conservatives like Grassley drop the free-market-warrior act. David Sirota asks the right question: if what we have works so well, why are “Republicans insisting that Americans would overwhelmingly opt to be covered by a government-run health care program, if given the choice?”

Also, why are there 48 million Americans without health insurance, with 14,000 Americans losing their health insurance every day lately? Why do the uninsured have less access to basic care and even organ transplants?

And why do so many people who do have health insurance face financial ruin following a medical crisis?

There must be a public health insurance option for people too young to qualify for Medicare and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Someone close to my family just got laid off this week and was diagnosed with diabetes within the last few months. What are his chances of finding good private health insurance coverage under the current system?

This thread is for any thoughts about the substance or the politics of health care reform. I’ll post more details about the upcoming White House regional forum when they become available.

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  • Free Market Casualty?

    I plan on writing Grassley this weekend about this very subject. In the meantime, I don’t think the GOP can rally behind the non-existent invisible hand that has been pushing people out of the health-insurance racket at an exponential rate.

    Since skyrocketing health care and insurance premiums are what iniitally drove me into political activism in 2000, I’m not too confident that Team Obama can navigate a health reform plan by year’s end. Personally, I’m still sold by a single-payer system wherein there is more buy-in to some monetary degree. With close to 50 million people not buying in now, these costs have to be subsidized somehow, and unfortunately these costs are being absorbed by those being gouged by the indsustry already. I am curious about the public plan, but realize this will be an epic battle to pass.

    Since I am at the bottom rung of those who can barely scrape enough money by each month to pay for my health insurance along with my 3 boys, I completely understand why folks have no other choice but to drop out. Last week I was informed by Welmark that they are raising my monthly premium 17 percent, which would make my monthly premium 25 percent of my take-home income. Did they know there is an economic crisis going on?

    Needless to say, I cannot afford the price hike and need to find a new policy and/or raise my deductible or find myself in the free-market casualty group.

    I quipped a little bit about this on my humor site Say Something Funny:

    Fear and Exploding in Mailboxes:  THIS IS NOT A BILL

    Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about this matter which hits too close to home, for I really do have an aversion to the mail now, especailly when anyhting comes from the Big Health industry.

  • Er, uhm, Nationalize it???

    Sounds like those in favor of Single Payer have already been dissed, though. Here’s from Friday’s edition of Democracy Now! ;

    JUAN GONZALEZ: While the President said every idea must be considered, the idea of creating a single-payer national health insurance program has already been rejected. White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said Thursday, “The President doesn’t believe that’s the best way to achieve the goal of cutting costs and increasing access.”

    Initially, no supporters of single payer were invited to the summit. After protests were called, the White House invited Democratic Congressman John Conyers and the president of the Physicians for a National Health Program.

    AMY GOODMAN: Single-payer advocates have also been largely silenced in the media. A new study being released today by FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, found the views of advocates of single payer have only been aired five times in the hundreds of major newspaper, broadcasts and cable stories about healthcare reform over the past week. No single-payer advocate has appeared on a major TV broadcast or cable network to talk about the policy during that period.