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White House Forum on Health Reform Attracts Varied Voices

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Last week the fifth and final White House Regional Forum on Health Reform took place at the California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles. Speakers included California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes, Childrens Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, and the event was moderated by Dr Mehmet Oz who appears regularly on the Oprah show. A preselected audience shared personal stories, and some questions were chosen from those submitted at the Obama administration's Health Reform site.

California seemed an appropriate site for the event, as more than 12 million Californians lacked health insurance at some point in 2007 or 2008, according to a Families USA report.

Inside the White House Regional Forum, Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California utilized Twitter (@healthaccess) to text some thoughts before the event began. A sampling:

WH Health Reform Forum to have Dr. Oz as moderator, many same participants as Gov's HC summit in 06. Like HS reunion... It seems as long ago.

Appropriate that event is in Los Angeles-ground zero for health crisis in US. CA has one of the worst uninsured rates-worse if just SoCal...

Good size of single payer rally, closing street outside Endowment.
Mr. Wright was referring to a rally of over one thousand people gathered outside the event, in support of
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HR 676, a "single-payer" bill currently in Congress. HR 676 guarantees that health insurance is covered by the government (single-payer = one-payer of health insurance costs), health care is delivered privately, like in Medicare, the health care plan for Americans over 65. Rally participants were also protesting the Obama administration's lack of consideration of a single-payer system. Groups present included the California Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program, the California School Employees Association, OneCareNow and other organizations. Of note, the Obama administration is proposing a health care system in which a robust public health insurance option is offered to all Americans in addition to the current private health insurance system. Groups including the broad based Health Care for America Now (HCAN) Coalition leafletted outside the event in support of the President's proposed plan.

In related news, the California Universal Health Care Act (Senator Leno, SB810) -- a single-payer bill that promises every state resident medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits, as well as a focus on primary care and prevention -- passed out of the California Senate Health Committee this week and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Two years ago the same bill (then SB840, introduced by Senator Kuehl), passed the California legislature and was twice vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.