White House to hold healthcare forums across U.S.
Fri Mar 6, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama's administration will organize healthcare forums across the United States in the coming weeks to involve Americans and local policy makers in a push for reform, the White House said on Friday.
Obama vowed on Thursday to break the political stalemate that has blocked past efforts and pass a comprehensive plan to cut healthcare costs and expand insurance coverage this year.
The regional meetings, which will take place in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont in March and early April, are meant to gather ideas from local communities about how to fix the system.
"The forums will bring together diverse groups of people all over the country who have a stake in reforming our health care system and ask them to put forward their best ideas about how we bring down costs and expand coverage for American families," Obama said in a statement.
"The time for reform is now and these regional forums are some of the key first steps toward breaking the stalemate we have been stuck in for far too long."
The events will be hosted by the participating states' governors and will include doctors, elected officials from the Democratic and Republican parties, and "everyday" citizens, the White House said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
Copyright © 2009 Reuters Limited
There is a conduit set up now to take your views on health care and reform.
Of course I hope it isn't lip service as the government hasn't been too trustworthy for several decades now.
Just don't overlook the change and of course you can contact The White House directly as well.
Now that daylight savings time arrives this coming weekend, perhaps more light on issues will bring better outcomes.
I see this as a very good time to push acceptance of coverage for supplements and more inclusion of natural care as a way to lower costs and raise effectiveness of acre. I am not endorsing that this be under the control of MDs, however.
Remember, you can dodge the rat-pack mass herding mentality and skip a currently circulating SEO generated petition by submitting your own comments directly via the links in this post and to your representatives at Congress.org.
Obama says U.S. can't afford to wait on healthcare
By David Alexander, Mar 5, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saying Americans cannot afford to put off an overhaul of healthcare, President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to break the political stalemate that has blocked past efforts and pass a comprehensive plan this year.
Obama formally launched a drive for healthcare reform at a White House forum, telling about 120 experts the costly and inefficient system was dragging down the ailing U.S. economy.
"Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative," Obama said. "If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of healthcare this year, in this administration."
Obama said he understood skepticism about the initiative given the failure of President Bill Clinton's plan in the 1990s, which died amid heavy opposition from insurance and drug companies.
"I know people are afraid we'll draw the same old lines in the sand and give in to the same entrenched interests and arrive back at the same stalemate that we've been stuck in for decades," he said.
"This time is different. This time, the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum -- from doctors, nurses and patients; unions and businesses; hospitals, health care providers and community groups," he said.
Obama's drive for a healthcare overhaul, a core promise of his Democratic candidacy, is another big-ticket item on a jammed White House agenda that includes programs to ease the economic crisis, rescue the financial system and cure an ailing housing market.
But Obama said the U.S. economic crisis made the healthcare task even more critical, and he reiterated his goal to pass a comprehensive healthcare measure by the end of the year.
"By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation's balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care," he said.
U.S. healthcare costs have grown to $2.5 trillion annually and the ranks of the uninsured have swollen to 46 million people. The country consistently ranks lower than other rich countries in preventing and treating many diseases such as diabetes.
MOMENTUM GROWING FOR REFORMS
Political momentum for an overhaul has grown in recent years. Obama and his Republican rival in the presidential election, Senator John McCain, both proposed extensive changes in the healthcare system during the campaign.
More than 80 percent of Americans think the U.S. health system needs fundamental change or a complete overhaul, a 2008 Harris Interactive poll found. In his budget plan, Obama proposed setting aside $634 billion to help pay for the overhaul over the next 10 years.
"Now is the time for action," said Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat and champion of healthcare reform whose appearance at the forum's closing session sparked a standing ovation.
"I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking," said Kennedy, who has brain cancer. "This time we will not fail."
The attendees at the White House session include congressional, industry, union and think tank experts including some, such as insurance and pharmaceutical industry lobby groups, which may oppose a final plan.
Healthcare stocks were down across the board on Thursday. The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor index of health insurers fell more than 9 percent, including steep drops for Humana Inc and Cigna Corp.
Obama has not presented a specific reform plan to Congress, seeking to avoid the problems that killed Clinton's effort and build support before he settles on an approach.
"It is clear there is tremendous momentum," said Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "How do we do this? The fact is this is going to be incredibly difficult."
Baucus and Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said they were aiming to put together a healthcare bill by June.
Representative Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House panel that leads on healthcare, complimented the president on getting all sides together and said "if this is a real process and we're listened to, folks like me will participate."
"I don't consider what happened in the '90s a failure," Barton said, adding he worked hard to kill the Clinton plan. "But this is a different time and a different approach."
Clinton was criticized for hatching the reform plans behind closed doors, but Obama said he would ensure the process was transparent and inclusive. The Health and Human Services Department unveiled a new website devoted to the issue at www.healthreform.gov.
(Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Maggie Fox and David Storey)
Copyright © 2009 Reuters Limited.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, is serving on the House committee writing the health care bill, contact her too.