[COMM-ORG] Community Organizers at the White House Forum on Health Reform
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Fri Mar 6 11:48:45 CST 2009
[ed: I pass this along as just one example of the extraordinary
potential we are witnessing with this administration.]
From: Scott Reed <sreed at piconetwork.org>
Yesterday I had a remarkable opportunity to represent the PICO network
at the White House Forum on Health Reform and to speak at one of the
five breakout sessions that included Members of Congress from both
parties, along with executives from employer, labor, insurance, and
advocacy organizations involved in health reform.
President Obama opened the forum by stating clearly that "our goal will
be to enact comprehensive health reform by the end of this year." He
talked about a broad consensus within Congress and among health
providers, drug companies, insurers and business that now is the time
for health care reform. He emphasized that this time the call for reform
is coming from the bottom up. To illustrate this point, Travis Ulrerick,
an EMT from Dublin, IN told his story of organizing a community
discussion that demonstrated the need to fix the health care system. We
then split up into breakout sessions to discuss issues of cost, quality
As a participant on a panel moderated by Valerie Jarrett, Sr. Advisor to
the President and Zeke Emanuel, White House Health Care Policy Advisory,
I had a chance to talk about PICO's commitment to helping bring about
comprehensive reform that covers everyone, is truly affordable for
families and financially sustainable for the nation.
I said that beyond practical concerns, our network of faith communities
holds to a moral vision of health care, that we understand sacred text
to tell us that a society that truly cares about human life can never
allow access to health care to depend on how much a family earns or
where they live. I also spoke about the urgency of the moment – prompted
by stories from our congregations – and reminded people that the cost of
inaction is very high. Since we failed to act 15 years ago, 250,000
people have lost their lives unnecessarily because they could not get
care. The communities in the PICO network elect Republicans and we elect
Democrats – and that frankly, we care little about ideology but care
deeply that we arrive at solutions.
The panel I was on had 13 Members of Congress, including Senators Debbie
Stabenow (MI), Robert Bennett (UT), Chris Dodd (CT) and Bernie Sanders
(VT). The group also included the Presidents of the National Association
of Manufactures and the Federation of American Hospitals.
After the breakout sessions President Obama convened the participants in
the East Room and introduced Senator Ted Kennedy, who received a long
standing ovation. Next steps include regional gatherings throughout the
country to promote ownership and understanding of health care reform.
They hope to write a bill by June, and a central part of the strategy is
that if there is money put in the budget, Congress will act on
comprehensive reform this year.
I was especially struck by the President's willingness to think
long-term, to make the case that getting everyone covered and promoting
better preventative care and reducing obesity could reduce health care
costs over the next 20 years by trillions of dollars.
Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes made a point of telling me how
important PICO's voice is. The President told me that our work is very
important and to keep up the hard, but important work.
Next week 300 PICO clergy and families will travel to Washington, DC for
a Faith and Families Summit on Economic Recovery to help deliver a clear
message that faith communities across the country want Congress to pass
a budget that will fulfill the promise of comprehensive health reform.
It seems like our timing could not be better!
More information about the participants is at
PICO National Network
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