I was honored to receive an unprecedented opportunity to hear a Senior Advisor to President Obama speak about his health care reform efforts at BlogHer 09.
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, spoke to an intimate group of bloggers at a luncheon today.
And I was 15 minutes late.
How humiliating! This was definitely not the event where one should be “fashionably late”.
Ms. Jarrett was totally cool though, and said “Come on in and tell us who you are!” Apparently I had just missed intros; the discussion was just starting.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now I’ve been pretty clear about not wanting a government run health care system, and I attended the luncheon knowing I did not have a clear grasp on the President’s proposal. (I have downloaded the Bill, have not had a chance to finish it.) I wanted to keep an open mind; I wanted to learn as opposed to opine.
The best way to learn is to keep your mouth shut and listen. That is exactly what I did.
It was not easy.
Ms. Jarrett is warm, sincere and truly passionate about the President’s efforts at health care reform; Ms. Jarrett has full faith in the ability of the President to positively reform our health care system.
Now, if I heard and understood correctly, what the President wants is a public plan as an option; a choice to obtain health care coverage through the government should you find yourself unemployed/without any health care coverage. Ms. Jarrett was adamant that the goal is not a single-payer government run plan, but there was some group questioning of (1) why the idea of a government plan is perceived as scary and (2) whether or not it would be tantamount to socialism and indeed, what would be wrong with that anyway. One blogger noted that she knew many Canadians who were happy with their health care.
These questions were more rhetorical in nature. Honestly, I don’t think time would have permitted in-depth discussion.
There was discussion on how bloggers can get out the message of health care reform and ideas on how the President can best communicate his ideas to the public. It was noted that the President is holding press conferences for which he is asking full coverage because he wants the entire story told, not just sound bytes. (Side note: I found this interesting because just recently ABC News encamped in the White House for an entire day – and the topic was health care reform.)
I actually did have a question enter my mind, as I was intrigued by the idea that the public plan was an option: I wanted to know if one could move in and out of the public plan as desired, or were you stuck in the public plan once it was chosen.
I didn’t get a chance to ask, as the discussion moved forward with two bloggers sharing stories of their personal experiences with the health care system. Very personal, heart wrenching stories. Their frustration and anguish was palpable. Ms. Jarrett listened with empathy; she truly cared about what my fellow bloggers had/were enduring.
I found out later that both bloggers left with her personal business card with her office number for them to call her directly after the conference. That was impressive.
So, some final thoughts.
I like Valerie Jarrett. It was amazing that she took time to come and speak to us, and it was informative. She speaks straight, she is sincere and she seems very passionate and compassionate regarding health care reform. I’m a bit more informed about what the President is looking for. This was the advantage shutting up and listening. I don’t necessarily agree but I’m starting to at least get a hold of the concept.
Gratuitous political commentary: I think a little too much time was spent decrying the last administration. It’s over; time to move on.
Now for my totally off-the-cuff observation. I could not help but notice this was the exact opposite of my experience in DC last week. This was a full-on Obamafest, last week seemed like an “anything BUT Obamafest”. This week the “opposition” was putting out misinformation, last week the “opposition” was trying to cram a bill through before Congress could read it.
Is there no middle ground? Does it have to be this contentious? Maybe it’s the way of politics and I’m just now realizing it.
Between the two events, I guess I have now been exposed to a “fair and balanced” view of health care reform by Washington insiders.
So….why does it still feel like I have vertigo?
This post was written from my own notes and memory. It was actually live-blogged in real time and if you would like to read the entire transcript, it is written here: Valerie Jarrett/Health Care Reform Live Blog BlogHer 09.