A community discussion on health reform

I have just returned from a large town hall meeting today in Greensboro, on the campus of NC A&T State University.

It was hosted by Governor Bev Perdue and my friend, Nancy-Ann DeParle, the head of the White House Office for Health Reform, and counselor to President Barack Obama. This regional health reform forum was attended by several hundred people, and was well covered by the news media.

I think it served a very useful purpose to tell in compelling fashion what the problems are with our too flawed health care system in America.

A number of real citizens told their stories of the challenges they have had to find and keep health insurance, and their difficulties in navigating our much too complex system.

Nancy-Ann called on me, and I was able to tell the other side of this story what it looks like to try to run a large safety net institution when unemployment is surging and uninsurance is causing a tidal wave of indigent patients to come our way. I cited the figures from a recent NC-IOM study that showed that with each one percent rise in NC's unemployment rate, we lose $14.4 million dollars. Since the rate has gone from the 4+ range to the 10+ range the impact on us is nearly $100 million!

I also said that it is my belief that we have plenty of money in America's health care system we just are not spending it very wisely. And I went on to say that we each will have to be willing to make changes and make sacrifices for the common good.

Finally, I said that I am more hopeful than I have been in many years that we are about to do major health reform and I urged us all to work together to make that happen.

Afterward several of us were able to have a small group meeting with Nancy-Ann DeParle and to talk in more detail with her. I urged her to be bold and to press ahead with this most important effort. I told her that unless each of us are a bit uncomfortable they are not pushing us hard enough.

All in all a very encouraging day. Read more about the event from WRAL-TV, Raleigh here and WUNC radio, Chapel Hill here.

View more of my comments here.

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