Live-blogging: Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett talks to BlogHers about health care

BlogHer Original Post

Valerie B Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison, is at BlogHer 09 to talk with a group of women BlogHers about health care.

BlogHers in attendance are (links to their blogs will appear later):

Jenni Prokopy
Kerri Sparling
Loolwa Khazoom
Kim McAllister, RN
Liz Henry
Kelly Wickham
Shelia Bernus Dowd
Katie Loeb
Daphra Holder
Jaelithe Judy
Denise Tanton
Lisa Stone
Joanne Bamburger
Stefania Pomponia Butler
Erin Kotecki Vest

Ms Jarrett is moving through the room, meeting each of us individually - walking around the tables, shaking hands, listening to introductions.

She thought she was going to have a vacation but Adam (from her team) told her about us and here she is.

Lisa is speaking to Ms Jarrett about health issues in the news, asking Ms Jarrett for her thoughts.

Jarrett: It's been six months, what have we learned so far. As you know, President Obama inherited two wars - economic meltdown, health care crisis, energy crisis, education crisis.

We're traveling all over the country listening to people and learning about their experience.

Talking about the economy, we don't have a structure or a foundation that is secure. So it isn't just enough to come in and support banks to provide stability, that was short term. It's also not enough to pass largest stimulus bill - it's a short term. Teachers and Police tell her they would have lost their jobs if he had not done that.

Mayors across country (and governors) tell her they would have had to cut budgets and jobs, without stimulus.

We're still losing 700K jobs a month, which leads you to say what's wrong with the underlying structure. President believes we need a steadier framework.

"I believe the president should be able to multi-task."

All issues are related to each other - biggest problem is health care.

Part of wall street's out of control was lack of framework.

How does a stable economy help resolve health care and education?

If we really want to have an economy where our employees can compete, then we have to improve education. If we want to have workers who can compete, we need to make sure workers have access to health care.

Move slowly so government doesn't have to step in to resolve problems like this in the future.

She's telling the story about the President's mom, worrying about whether she was insured, while dying.

In this country, that shouldn't happen.

Telling a story about Ashley from SC - field worker. She asked people to introduce themselves, and she introduced her story. Her mom developed cancer when she was 8. She worked but as she became more ill, she had to quit her job - lost her insurance - had to declare bankruptcy. Ashley was 8 - so she told her mom she wanted a condiment sandwich, trying to do her piece to help save money. Ashley wanted to know why her mom was faced with the embarrassment of bankruptcy.

The President wants to bring people of all types together, to work together - get them all around the table to have a dialog.

Joanne: I was listening to news on radio - clip of Truman saying essentially what Obama is saying, how important it is to have health care... As a country, we've been trying to get to this place, how do we get there so in 60 years we aren't still just talking about it. What's different now?

Jarrett: Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes things just have to get really really bad before people realize they have to change. Change is hard. The fact that economy is so bad, more people are worrying about health care. Michigan has 15% unemployment. Everyone knows someone who has lost a job. It's closer to you.

Second, I think the process that the president put in place was a healthier process.

And, we have a different president. His popularity helps. He's stubborn. He's tenacious.

Kelly: My concern as education is the communication plan for this. I work with high poverty, the info out there is astounding but we're going to miss people who aren't going to get the info or understand the info.

Jarrett: often the people who need it the most don't speak up because they don't feel like they have a voice. Give the grass roots a voice, empower them, work together informing people within their communities. You can work to help them get their voice, get info that they don't have.

Lisa: you want us to advocate, does it mean writing to congressmen? form letter petition? what should we do.

Jarrett: everything, do everything. Benefits of blogging is that you can say it and everyone knows what you think.

Erin: let me be completely honest - I'm a big supporter of President Obama what I love and hate is that he will compromise. as a progressive that drives me nuts, but it's better than the alternative. I'm thankful but what scares me is real health care reform will be compromised just to get it through. I'm afraid for people like my dad who will only take half of his pills because he can't afford to buy. Can you assure me that those average people who really need health care aren't going to get left behind.

Jarrett: at least every other day he says to us let's remember we don't want to get just something done, our goal is to improve the quality of the health care. We have to provide the stability and the security so families don't wake up every day taking half a pill.

When you talk about compromise, true believers don't want any compromise, I think that the president is a pragmatist but he's not going to compromise fundamentals. He thinks the public plan is the right thing to do. He thinks it will prevent insurance companies from having monopoly & better serve American people.

Is it going to be ideal and perfect, no it's not. Is it going to be much much better, yes.

Jaelithe: How the administration plans to cut through all of the misinformation about what this legislation is about. I've talked to many people, including my son's occupational therapist, that believe this is universal health care. How do you get people to understand there are health care plan choices as opposed to mandatory government run health care.

Jarrett I'm open to suggestions. This is communication. The President wants to be out there talking about this, that's why we're on the road. But you have to help me figure out what the strategy should be because when he's out there telling us it's a choice and they aren't listening - what should we do?

Moosh In Indy came into the room, she's telling her story about an insurance company that won't pay for the shots she needs. She couldn't get medicaid, low income clinic forced her to prove they couldn't afford the health care while her husband was in law school.

Lisa: pointing out USA Today, Skip Gates story headline - we love Skip Gates but why isn't the health care story on the front page.

Jarrett: Emailing with a reporter and I said I don't understand on your show you led with Gates. I don't understand why you didn't give more airtime to health care. Because the answers were dry. The only thing the president said was interesting was ... (what did she say, I missed her response.)

Erin: maybe it needs to be brought back to the pop culture front, to reach the demo that would rather hear about Skip Gates and Michael Jackson.

Lisa: email our suggestions for communication plans to Ms Jarrett.

Joanne: It's too hard for media to cover, so they go with other stories.

Jaelithe: I know you're trying to keep the info basic in 30 second tv spot, but the TV I've seen focuses on the problem "if we do nothing... this happens" I think most of us know that. Most of us have gone without health insurance. I wound up with a 20K health bill when I was 20 years old. We know it's broken. I'm not sure with the politicking, I feel like the GOPS are spreading misinformation.

Loralee: A registered republican from Utah... pregnancy is a pre-existing condition, can't get health insurance. I'm from such a conservative place, I am a republican but I want health care reform. I wanted it before this happened to me. (This is the second year I've cried at BlogHer.) (room is crying along with Loralee.) "My husband is so conservative, he thinks it is socialized medicine. There is no dirtier word than 'socialism'"

My blogging check bought our groceries last month. I've lost everything I have. I will never own a home in my life. I live in Logan Utah. My American dream is to take my kids to the doctor without worrying about it.

I feel your frustration. I'm frustrated. I live in this place and my family and family just respond "socialized medicine"?

Jarrett: do you think they know what that means?

Loralee: If one of them says "well in Canada they don't even like their health care" - they are just regurgitating what they hear. They're afraid. She doesn't understand why socialism is a dirty word. They are afraid they are going to be dictated to.

Lisa: Can I ask you, Loralee, I'm very familiar with fear of red politics - do you think there's a way in which you'd use your blog to move the conversation. Are you willing to blog healthcare policy.

Loralee: yes. We lost our child to SIDS and this pregnancy is so scary. All of this effected my pregnancy, I had to be put on Xanax that could hurt my baby because of the extra stress. Paying $500 a month for me.

Lisa: Senator Hatch just withdrew his support.

Loralee: "I hate his ties." When I read that [he withdrew his support], I burst into tears.

Jarrett: It gets back to communication, we have to be really clear with people. We understand choice, but we hear " if we give them the public option, that's the first step - and then it will be socialized medicine - this is just the first step."

Jarrett: heard when the president said he wanted to cut medicaid - the people in the townhall that the seniors think we're cutting medicare, but we're not. So Obama came out and told the seniors we aren't. We aren't cutting the benefits, we're cutting the extra waste/spending.

Liz Henry: speaking about choice, I see my friends being forced into institutional living because of the way medicaid is set up. Our tax dollars go into safety net, but the money goes to institutions rather than the people who need it. The money needs to go to people, not to institutions thus forcing them into institutions.

Cheaper for the person to live at home and have an aid come in to help than it is to be institutionalized.

Jarrett: Homecare workers salaries were cut. California is in poor financial condition. I know we need a health care system that puts patient first. Maximize their chance to live a healthy life. But it's become a business.

Liz Henry: I understand compromise but I want the Obama administration to listen to everyone and look past the gorilla theater tactics used by organizations like ADAPT.

Jarrett: tactics don't bother me, I listen to them all. We didn't work this hard to get here to get something that is superficial.

Liz: what can disability community do to support.

Jarrett: we need to allow the people to have the choice to do what is best for their health which is often the least expensive. We have to figure out a way to look for healthy outcomes. It's the disability community. Today's the anniversary of Americans with disabilities act.

G. Bush issued a great supportive statement today.

Maybe this is part of the communication strategy - put the people first, not the hospital, not the infrastructure that profits... but the people.

Jenni: Health bloggers, we're just one segment of the people you want to reach, I reach many thousands of women every month - some progressive, some conservative - if I had something personal to put on my blog, from the president - here is what you can do - very clear message to share. 2 minute video I could embed, something I could share and something they would watch and it would mean a lot that they were being spoken.

Jarrett: radio addresses, can you use those? (they're on youtube)

Jenni: 40 minute press conference was too long for a lot of people. Need something short, very basic actions.

Jarrett: Obama reads 10 letters a day, every morning he tells us what he's read. Many times he makes us read the letters too. Often they are devastating stories. Lost job, lost home.

Getting a sense of what a horrible impact this system has had on their lives... those stories, personal stories, tell the President your story.

Think about that... the reporter I mentioned earlier said what the president was talking about was dry... tell your stories, they aren't dry. (Telling Loralee not to ever apologize for crying.)

Daphra: Dating someone from Canada, taking care of ourselves is viewed differently. If she doesn't feel well she waits, he is more proactive. We need to do something about that - being more proactive.

About the education package announced today... an education isn't something that should happen by chance or luck... stimulus package, What sort of systemic change and changes in the classroom and how we view education itself need to be done to help create a system where kids achieve.

Jarrett: As desperately as we want health care reform to pass, there are a lot of things we can do for prevention... Mrs Obama talked about childhood obesity. Teaching kids to value fruit over chips. Incentives to take ownership of your own body, it's not a substitute for health care reform. We need more personal ownership.

Moosh: Things are going to change and if they don't get their opinion in now, they aren't going to be happy.

Jarrett: We really do want to hear what your readers think. I don't know anyone who is really happy with the status-quo. Have them come up with a better idea. Participate in the process. Know we are going to listen. President doesn't care if it's a red state or a blue state. It doesn't matter if you're a liberal or a conservative Replubican. When you're sick you're sick - you two, (Moosh, Loralee) should not be in this position.

What are your ideas? Send ME your ideas. Tell your husband (speaking to Loralee) to call me Monday morning. Adam will give you a time.

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