At 10:30 AM in California, 1:30 PM back here in Washington, the final White House Regional Forum on Health Reform will be hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire – watch it streamed live at HealthReform.gov, or read the live-blog here at WhiteHouse.gov.
While all of these forums together constitute only one significant step in a long process, it is hard not to look back and marvel at what an inspiring, eye-opening and sometimes heart-breaking journey it has been around the country. Starting at the White House Forum on Health Reform, which Nancy-Ann DeParle of the White House Office of Health Reform discussed later when the official report on that forum was released, there has been a different feel to this from prior efforts:
After an hour and a half of discussion, we went back to the East Room to report the results of our breakout session to the President. I held my breath when the President called on several members of the audience who had opposed health reform in the past, including Karen Ignagni of America’s Health Insurance Plans ("AHIP"). AHIP’s predecessor ran the "Harry and Louise" advertising campaign in the early 1990s, which is largely credited with rallying support against health care reform. I knew things were different this time around when Karen said, "We want to work with you, we want to work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here…We hear the American people about what’s not working…You have our commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health care reform this year."
Every regional forum in every location has held its own unique lessons. In Michigan, we heard from the wife of a GM worker whose experience showed how health care concerns can compound the anxiety of employment uncertainty to unbearable proportions. In Vermont the idea of health care as part of the social safety net was a top concern. In Iowa we heard about the needs and preferences regarding long-term care in rural communities. And in North Carolina it was a snap shot of a state hurting about as bad as anybody during this economic crisis and facing even longer term challenges of an eroding manufacturing base.
The forum in California will surely be just as interesting, and will shine a light on just as many unique issues. Don’t miss your chance to watch one live.