Obama Takes On Healthcare Reform

March 5, 2009 8:13:35 PM PST
President Barack Obama made good on a campaign promise Thursday as he got stake holders from all sides of the health care issue together and put their meeting on C-SPAN so the country could watch.

Obama invited more than 120 doctors, patients, business owners and insurers to participate in the healthcare summit at the white house. He began by telling the summit participants nothing is off the table except the status quo.

"Our goal is to enact comprehensive healthcare reform by the end of the year, that is our commitment, that is our goal," Obama said.

The first step was a round table discussion; as expected, republicans spoke against a government run plan.

"I just can't see a single payer system under current circumstances," Sen. Orrin Hatch said.

The American Cancer Society suggested raising the price cigarettes by $2 a pack.

The American Nurses Association wants more nurses.

"Part of it has to do with adequate staffing," Rebecca Patton said.

What everyone seemed to share was a sense of urgency. It was unlike the 1990's when President Bill Clinton's health care plan was defeated, largely at the hands of the insurance lobby, which mounted a successful Harry and Louise series of political spots.

Thursday, Rhode Island's senator summed up the shift that has taken place since then

"We're past the Harry and Louise moment, we're at the Thelma and Louise moment, we are in the car, we are headed for the cliff," Sheldon Whitehouse said.

That view that something must be done before health care costs sail out of control is shared by one of the country's leading experts on health care finance.

"And what we need are organized integrated delivery systems like Kaiser Permanente and the Palo Alto clinic," Stanford Nobel Prize winner Alain Enthoven said.

Kaiser was invited to the summit but did not send a representative.

San Francisco pediatrician Ho Tran did attend. She says the community she represents being included in the summit was a big step.

"The Asian Americans, native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, we are being included into the debate and discussion that affects all of us," Tran said.

Tran says she is optimistic that a plan can be worked out this year. So is San Francisco restaurant owner Lourie Thomas, whose been struggling with the city's health care ordinance.

"We'd like to see it done at a federal level, we think the city ordinance has created an unlevel playing field; you go to Sausalito, it's a lot cheaper to do business than it is here," Thomas said.

The summit was long on hope and optimism but short on which direction to go. One of the brightest moments was when long time health care advocate and newly knighted Sen. Edward Kennedy showed up to close out the afternoon.

"I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this under taking and this time we will not fail," Kennedy said.

Related Link:
The White House Forum on Health Reform

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