Wednesday, April 1, 2009

White House Forum on Health Care Reform

Hey all!

You might have noticed I wasn't anchoring last night. I spent the day in Greensboro covering President Obama's White House forum on health care reform. North Carolina was one of five locations nationwide to host it. The president wants America's feedback and hopes to sign a reform bill by the end of the year. Ambitious right?

Anyway, I was there to do some interviews we aired last night and I taped my entire show for this weekend on location. It was really interesting and you should check it out on Political Connections this Friday at 6pm and Sunday 11am on News 14 Carolina. Okay with the shameless plug out of the way here's a brief rundown of what was said by those I interviewed.

The event was hosted by Gov. Perdue and White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle. I had a chance to interview Ms. DeParle afterward.

She said the goal of these forums is to hear problems that exist and suggested solutions from real Americans, how to lower cost, and insure more people. She said she's heard some of the best and some of the worst stories here in North Carolina. This was the fourth of five forums. DeParle says she heard from more uninsured people in North Carolina than other states (a recent study shows we have the fastest growth in the country in the last two years). She also heard more from small businesses than other states.

On the cost front, she said it's a priority to help small businesses get affordable coverage and help people with pre-existing conditions get affordable coverage through insurance pools. She said some of the other popular proposals include creating incentives in payment systems and subsidies for those who can't afford insurance.

She also believes this time reform will happen. I know, I know. You've heard it before, right? She says both sides of the political aisle are on board with change. That's true, but the path to that change and what that change entails will likely look very different depending on the preference of elephants or donkeys.

I also had the chance to talk with Dr. Bill Roper. He's currently the Dean of the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine and headed up the CDC at one point. He said something that I know will catch the ears of many people. He believes there's plenty of money in the health care system already. He thinks it just needs to be spent more wisely. He is also confident something will get done because he's hearing, for the first time, that people are willing to concede some on certain aspects from both sides.

Dr. Roper believes it's up to the politicians to get everyone on board and past finger pointing that often accompanies big time issues. He thinks "wasted" money should be used to help the uninsured and underinsured get insured.

What he said next is staggering. He said there is a tidal wave of people going to UNC Health Care because they have no other option without insurance. He thinks uncompensated care costs will run $100 million more this year than last year!

I also talked to Rhonda Holliday from a small textile company in Asheboro. The company was on the verge of having to cut health benefits but decided to take a different route. They put employees on a wellness program. Each employee who participates agrees to take a health risk assessment, a yearly physical, and work with nurses if there's a chronic health problem found. Each employee who does that has a much smaller premium. In the seven years since it started the program, premiums have gone up only 6% for employees. What does it do for the company? It has stayed well below double digit increases many companies seen during renewals with the insurance company.

This is just a sample of what you will hear and see if you check out the show this weekend!

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