Healthcare Reform: President Obama's Plea
As a member of the ADVANCE for Nurses task force on healthcare reform (I'll discuss resources we will offer nurses on this topic in my Career Beat column next month), I volunteered to cover President Obama's press conference on healthcare reform July 22, from my living room. The only advantage the journalists present had that I didn't was I couldn't ask questions.
Here are some observations and thoughts about the event:
Obama was speaking to the press but also to Congress, policymakers and the public. Over the past 2 weeks, he has been vocal and visible while advancing the need to pass healthcare reform legislation before Congress leaves for its August recess.
Many in Congress as well as the president's supporters are questioning why the deadline must be met. After all, healthcare reform legislation has been back and forth on the front and back burners of Congress's agenda since at least President Truman was in office.
Those who question the need for urgency say it's taken this long to make this much progress, so what is one more month going to matter. When questioned by a reporter at the press conference about the deadline, Obama responded if deadlines aren't set, nothing will get done again and healthcare costs will continue to skyrocket.
Prior to the news conference, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News stated the reason for urgency is with any new administration attempting to enact historic legislation, the precedent has been if it's going to get passed, it must be before Congress' summer break, or momentum can swing and the opposition usually benefits. In this case, healthcare reform could once again be shifted to the back burner.
The president acknowledged there are many uncertainties left to work through and made it clear he like everyone else "wants to get it right." He said what every American wants to know about healthcare reform is "What's in it for me?"
Backing up his "pedal to the metal" style of leadership for healthcare reform, he talked about the endless stories he heard on the campaign trail and the letters that come to the White House every day. Clearly, nurses could provide him even more heartbreaking accounts of the patients and families they care for every day.
It's hard for me to believe nurses and anyone who has dealt with the current healthcare system wouldn't support the need for change. As Obama pointed out last night, every advanced country in the world spends $6,000 less per person annually than we do in this country - and our people aren't healthier than those in countries.
Those who are fortunate to have health insurance in America know firsthand how insurance premiums and costs of care have risen in the past decade. For many of us, like me, soon to be Medicare recipient, we don't have any idea what the cost is going to be for us under a new plan. We have to trust our representatives in Congress and our president — and that's not always easy.
As someone who has advocated for universal healthcare for about 40 years and has been frustrated with this longstanding quagmire of not getting anything done, I was hopeful after the recession hit all of us so hard —many much harder than I — Congress would be committed to bipartisanship, similar to the consensus that occurred post-9/11.
The process is not without pitfalls, however. About a month ago, I was pleased to learn the energy bill sailed through the House and was hopeful it would do the same in the Senate. However, as I learned just recently, 22 amendments were attached to the bill to secure the needed votes. Right now, word out of the Senate is that bill will not pass because of the amendments.
This is just one more example of politics pure and simple, goodies for the most vocal and influential of House members so they can ensure votes from their constituents next election. This practice has to stop. You need to let your elected officials know you don't want to pay for an unneeded bridge in Walla Walla, WA.
I admit my expertise in finance and economics is nil. But like you, I hear the stories of patients who not only are physically ill but emotionally spent after losing money and energy negotiating the current system, and not getting even basic healthcare.
As nurses, I hope you are getting involved by writing letters to your elected representatives, and speaking and supporting the American Nurses Association or your specialty organizations. Meeting with ANA President Rebecca Patton and other nurses last week, Obama asked for nurses' support and pointed out how patients and families rate us as the most trusted healthcare professionals in America.
Let's live up to this recognition and work to get healthcare reform passed in 2009.