Remember those Healthcare House Parties that we reported on back in December? The ones that were organized by President Obama and former Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, to get Americans talking about healthcare?
Well, a lot has changed since then (Mr. Daschle is no longer the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services- HHS- for example), but we wanted to let folks know what ideas, thoughts and sentiments came out of those meetings- and to thank anyone who was able to participate.
(In case you were wondering, Mr. Daschle dropped out of the running for Secretary of HHS after it was reported that he owed several thousand dollars in back taxes. President Obama nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to take his place, but she has yet to be confirmed.)
The Obama administration has now posted a comprehensive summary on the house parties on its Change.gov website.
Some highlights from the report:
- Over 9,000 individuals from all 50 states and D.C. signed up to host the parties, and thousands more participated to “discuss ways to reform our healthcare system;”
- 3,276 reports were submitted in total.
What topics were covered?
- Using the guidelines distributed by the Obama administration, groups discussed everything from the problems facing our healthcare system to potential solutions for reform.
Participant thoughts on…Healthcare Costs, Accessing Care, Quality and the Health System
- Groups that discussed healthcare costs were equally worried about health insurance premiums and the overall cost of the health system;
- On the topic of accessing care, participants talked about the difficulty of obtaining private insurance due to pre-existing conditions, and brought up issues related to inadequate coverage, provider shortages, and the large numbers of uninsured Americans;
- 36% of the reports that mentioned quality talked about the overuse of services;
- 20% pointed to medical errors as being a major problem;
- 37% of surveys that talked about the overall system criticized the relationship between health insurance and employment, and 27% said the system is overly complex.
- Groups felt that the healthcare system should be
- fair (37%),
- patient-centered and choice-oriented (19%),
- simple and efficient (17%), and
- comprehensive (15%).
- Groups also debated the role of government, business, the private sector and individuals in healthcare reform, without any clear consensus on what each of these groups should be required or permitted to do.
What’s to be done?
- Survey respondents supported a range of specific reforms, including:
- Having an insurance exchange,
- Reducing prescription drug costs,
- Education on health and wellness, and
- Developing standards for research and service provision.
- Group members said they would be willing to participate in future community meetings, and encouraged the President to hold a White House Summit on Healthcare Reform (which he recently did).
The Obama administration’s effort to solicit citizen input is certainly refreshing.
And we hope that they follow through on their goal of “…health reform that is directly responsive to the problems that Americans face, the stories they share and the solutions they offer.”
Consider these examples:
- From Enid, Oklahoma: “I have worked hard all my life as a farmer and in the energy sector. I have spent my life’s savings on [health care] and now I am refused care at our local hospital because I cannot pay. I may have to file [for] bankruptcy due to this.”
- From Houston, Texas: “How can you go out on a limb and start a new business when health care is a noose around your neck?”
- From Fort Wayne, Indiana, describing a small business’s experience: “[They] had premiums jump from $385 per month for three employees to more than $2,800 in four years. They were forced to drop coverage and have lost two key employees because of it.”
- From Cambridge, Massachusetts: “[T]he biggest problem in paying bills was the fact that nobody seems to know what their health care should cost. Nobody could cite a situation where they understood their medical bill or knew whether the insurance company was providing proper coverage for rendered services.”
- From Bristol, Virginia: “Many argued that the insurance industry should be completely removed from the health care delivery system, but others saw how they acted as ‘gatekeepers’ to control costs, and to offer affordable coverage to some employers.”
- From Redondo Beach, California: “All individuals with employer-based package[s] seemed to like the idea of options to utilize [an] insurance exchange or public insurance, depending on the cost of the program(s).”
We welcome your comments on the house parties.