California Speaks Up at White House Health Care Forum

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, April 6, 2009

The forum started with a pre-recorded message from President Obama.

Obama: “The crushing cost of health care is battering businesses, squeezing our states and it also directly affects the budgets of families all across this country that face premiums that have doubled in the past eight years."
Schwarzenegger: “Isn’t it nice to have a president that is passionate about health care reform? I love it.” 
That’s Governor Schwarzenegger. He and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire co-hosted the forum that included health policy makers, advocates, patients and doctors. The goal was to present a health reform wish list to the White House.

Avonnet Peeler from Alameda County shared her story. She lost her husband after he had a heart attack and was diagnosed with cancer. She says he didn’t have adequate health insurance and that meant monumental debt.

“I remember one time sending seven pounds of bills to my mom just so she could put them in order so I could send five dollars to this person and twenty five dollars to that person. And, I ended up eventually with like $800,000 worth of medical bills.” 
Other speakers called for health care for all, especially for children. Improved safety in hospitals as well as boosting electronic medical records came up too. And, one theme that ran throughout the discussion was the role of prevention – like eating healthy foods, exercising and quitting smoking. Governor Schwarzenegger led the charge on this one.

“So don’t just look at government but look at yourself, what do you do to reduce the health care costs?”

Executive director of the consumer advocacy group Health Access California, Anthony Wright, says the forum is only the beginning. He says California is positioned well in Washington because of key leaders in Congress, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“California has a uniquely strong voice in this debate and it’s important to recognize how crucial that is because California also has some very acute needs. We are one of the worst states in the nation in terms of the likelihood of our residents being uninsured.” 
Obama Administration officials say they hope to see health reform legislation in both the Senate and House by August. And the momentum isn’t only on the national front. In 2007 the governor tried to overhaul the state’s health care system and failed. Now Schwarzenegger is calling for the year of health reform…again.

Meantime some health care workers want to go a different direction. The California Nurses Association rallied outside the forum to push for a single-payer system, a plan like Medicare-for-All. But that’s something Governor Schwarzenegger has already vetoed twice.