# Nancy-Ann DeParle

A few links on today's White House regional health care forum

I haven’t had a chance to watch today’s White House regional forum on health care yet (the Des Moines Register made the video available here).

According to the Des Moines Register, Senator Tom Harkin promised that health care reform will not fail this time:

“This is not something that we’re going to kick the ball down the field,” he said. “This is going to happen this year.”

The Register noted that some people at the forum favored single-payer health care reform, while others would like to see only small incremental changes. Protesters supporting a single-payer system gathered outside the forum too. I agree that single-payer makes the most sense for all kinds of reasons, but President Barack Obama will not seek that change, and Congress will not pass it. I’m willing to settle for a compromise that includes a strong public-insurance option.

Obama’s representative at today’s forum expressed optimism about finding an acceptable compromise:

Nancy-Ann DeParle, the leader of Obama’s health-reform effort, said past health-reform debates saw too many people who were wedded to specific plans. They wouldn’t compromise if they couldn’t get everything they wanted, she said. “Their fall-back position was always the status quo.”

This time, she said, people seem more willing to listen to other people’s ideas and find compromises.

Prospects for passing universal health care reform will depend on large part on whether the bill is subject to a filibuster in the U.S. Senate (meaning it would need 60 votes to pass). Obama reportedly wants to include health care reform in the budget process, so that it could pass with only 51 votes.

Chris Peterson, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, talked about health insurance for rural Americans at today’s forum:

“Rural Iowans struggle with finding affordable insurance. Even solidly middle class farmers are feeling the pinch. Nearly one in eight Iowa farmers battle outstanding health debt,” Peterson said. “I am one of them.”

Peterson, who is 53, was kicked off his private insurance plan about two years ago for what the company said was a preexisting condition. Peterson and his wife, who has no private insurance either, have accumulated $14,000 in medical debts in the past two years. “The health care system in this country is dysfunctional and burdensome,” Peterson said of the private insurance industry. “…Personally, what I’ve been through, it seems at times it’s a ponzi scheme — they’re taking your money — or (it’s) just the robber barons pulling money out of your pockets.”

On this note, I highly recommend reading this article by Steph Larsen: “For healthy food and soil, we need affordable health care for farmers.”

Getting back to today’s events, @personaltxr was at the forum and tweeted that Senator Chuck Grassley was expected but didn’t turn up. Does anybody know why? Grassley has an important role to play as the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. UPDATE: The Des Moines Register reported that Grassley stayed in Washington because of ongoing Senate business.

If you saw the health care forum, either live or on video, let us know what you thought. Everyone else can use this thread for any comments related to our health care system and prospects for reform.

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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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