The Fierce Urgency of (Health Care) Now

Melody Barnes, Director of Domestic Policy during the White House Forum on Health Reform (photo by Pete Souza)

Melody Barnes, Director of Domestic Policy during the White House Forum on Health Reform (photo by Pete Souza)

ARRA and You (Part I).  The “fierce urgency of now” is the concept that President Barack Obama used to explain why he would run for president. Yet it can also be used to characterize his motivation and subsequent actions in the push to reform health care.

With the new legislation, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 coverage for millions was protected or extended.

  1. Health insurance coverage for 7 million Americans was extended via insurance premium assistance for COBRA benefits.
  2. Families are no longer in jeopardy of loosing current benefits from Medicaid and CHIP due to $15 billion in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding allocated to states.

Without pause, the President continues to move forward his agenda for reform. The release of a budget blueprint, proposes a $634 billion reserve fund to extend coverage to some of the 47 million Americans who are currently uninsured. “This is the first step towards getting health care reform done this year,” White House domestic policy adviser Melody C. Barnes told allies on one conference call. “We can’t underestimate the importance of rallying around this budget. It serves as a footprint for something bigger.” In contrast, others express doubts about the prospects for overhauling health care. For example, Sen. Mike Enzi, the senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee stated, “It needs to be done up front and quickly. I’m not so sure that we haven’t already lost that, with so many other things coming in and weighing us down.” As was the case in bringing a stimulus package into law, it appears the President will remain undaunted and continue to seize the opportunities created by environment, his political capitol, his strategic leadership and timing to accomplish the essential goals of his health agenda:

  1. providing affordable, comprehensive and portable health coverage for every American;
  2. modernizing the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and improve the quality of patient care; and
  3. promoting prevention and strengthening public health, to prevent disease and protect against natural and man-made disasters.

As he so aptly noted in his address to a joint session of the Congress,

“[Health-care costs are] one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas…This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. ….Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health-care reform on hold.”

So it is no surprise that on the following Thursday, March 5 the administration convened the White House Health Reform Summit. The event sought to convene the varied stakeholders in the health care reform debate and ultimately, get buy-in. The President stated, “I want to be very clear, at the outset, that while everybody has a right to take part in this discussion, nobody has the right to take it over and dominate.” Participants included leaders from the (American Medical Association) AMA and other medical specialty societies; trade groups for drug makers, insurance companies and hospitals; CEOs of companies including Pfizer and General Mills; advocacy groups such as the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association; and unions such as SEIU and the Teamsters.

Lawmakers also met on Thursday as they have been given the task of working out the details and writing the actual legislation around several key principles set forth by the President:

  • maintaining choice of insurance and doctors,
  • ensuring affordable coverage,
  • protecting Americans’ financial health,
  • investing in prevention and wellness,
  • improving patient safety and quality of care.

If you missed the live coverage on CSPAN, you can find a summary and important document links at the White House blog and continue to follow the entire process of health care reform at the newly launched Opponents to the progress of health care reform will have take notice of “the fierce urgency of now” momentum and perhaps much more are already on the President’s side. Regional White House Forums on Health Reform are currently under way to expand upon what was gained at the White House forum.


Obama Has Big Challenges In Overhauling Health Care {Obama Has Big Challenges In Overhauling Health Care (2009, February 21) [Electronic Version]. The Washington Post} and Obama Proposes $634 Billion Fund For Health Care {Connolly, C. (2009, February 26) Obama Proposes $634 Billion Fund for Health Care [Electronic Version]. The Washington Post, A01} and Brown, CB. Obama wants Congress to Weigh In (2009, March 6) Politico, p. 3 (Volume 3: Number 24)

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