The White House Health Reform road show is over, after playing in several smaller venues (Iowa, Vermont, North Carolina) before ending with a big-city blowout in Los Angeles.
Reactions have ranged: Some were disappointed that there wasn’t much focus on specific solutions to the health care problems mentioned. Particular policies, from subsidies to single-payer, even the Obama plan was not really discussed.
The problems listed were many: Avonnet Peeler, who we connected with the event planners, told the first and very poignant story of her husband. They had missed an insurance payment, and he had been denied due to a “pre-existing condition” when trying to get back on. When leukemia treatments blew through his capped coverage, he had bills in excess of $800,000. When she tried to fall into our Medi-Cal program, the eligibility restrictions were so tight as to deny her because of her 25-year old car.
While many commentators referred to her heart-wrenching story, we didn’t get to policy solutions to the situation she decribed. A few did mention requiring insurers to take all comers, including those at risk of “pre-existing conditions.” But no one mentioned setting a standard for coverage that doesn’t allow people such significant medical debt. And no one mentioned the needed reforms and expansions of our existing public coverage safety-net, from removing the asset test to simplifying the application process.
Melody Barnes, the domestic policy advisor to President Obama, made a point that we may have only 100 days, in order to get health reform done this year. So we better get started getting into the tough specifics. Congressional roundtables and hearings are underway, and that’s where the real action is–on Capitol Hill.
But ultimately it is important and good to put a spotlight on the health reform issue, and to have leaders–elected, appointed, and those of key stakeholders–publicly state their commitment to health reform, and to the urgency of doing it this year. But now the work begins, on the policy and the organzing front to make President Obama’s goals a reality.