Obama's health care summit in Iowa will happen on March 23

Earlier this month President Barack Obama hosted a health care summit at the White House and announced plans for regional health care summits in Iowa, California, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont. The governor of each state will host the regional events.

Governor Chet Culver announced yesterday that the Iowa forum will take place at the Polk County Convention Center on Monday, March 23, at 10 am. To enter the random drawing that will assign tickets to members of the public,

go to www.healthreform.gov and click on the “submit your question or idea” icon. Then click on the “Des Moines, Iowa” icon.

People can also call to request tickets from 9 a.m. Monday through noon Wednesday. The number is (800) 645-8864.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, will attend this forum and will be an influential voice in shaping Obama’s health care policies. Here’s a good background piece about her.

Some have expressed concerns about DeParle’s ties to companies with a stake in health care reform:

Since leaving the Clinton administration, Ms. DeParle has been managing director of a private equity firm, CCMP Capital, and a board member of companies like Boston Scientific, Cerner and Medco Health Solutions. White House officials said Ms. DeParle was severing ties with those companies and would recuse herself from participating in any matter that was “directly or substantially” related to former clients or employers.

“It is our view, and the view of counsel here, that the incidence of that will be very low,” an administration official said of the need for Ms. DeParle to recuse herself from decisions. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Ms. DeParle would be working mostly with federal agencies and lawmakers, and not directly with companies.

Allies of Ms. DeParle described her work in the private sector as a plus, because her familiarity with the industry would enable her to lean on companies to make tradeoffs essential in expanding access to the uninsured.

“She can call their bluff far more credibly and say, ‘Come on, guys, I’ve seen the books, I know you can do this with lower margins and higher market share, and you’ll do quite well,’ ” said Chris Jennings, who was President Bill Clinton’s top health policy adviser. “To me that’s very, very helpful.”

In general, people who come from industry to a government job don’t use that position to “lean on” companies where they have connections. But I am reserving judgment until I see what DeParle does in the coming months.  

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