In yesterday’s post on The Health Care Blog, Bill Kramer remarks upon a key difference in the health reform discourse this go-round. Simply put, “the Obama Administration is changing the debate in a fundamental way.” As President Obama stated in his opening remarks to last week’s White House Forum on Health Reform, “[h]ealthcare reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative.”

Kramer explains that past attempts at reform suffered from political sticker shock over concerns that health reform would dramatically enlarge the federal deficit. However, this time, the Obama Administration is emphasizing that reform will not pose an additional burden to the already laden deficit. Indeed, health reform is a necessary tool to “tame” the deficit over the long term.

And framing health reform as an economic necessity is already having an effect. As Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office for Health Reform, pointed out in her Wednesday op-ed in The Boston Globe: there are no defenders of the status quo. Two happenings from yesterday, both involving key stakeholders, echo this sentiment:

Regional White House Forum on Health Reform - Dearborn Michigan
Underscoring the link between long-term economic prosperity and health reform, the White House chose Michigan, the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation, as the site for the first of five Regional White House Forum on Health Reform. In his announcement of the Regional White House Forum series, President Obama called on participants of these forums to “put forward their best ideas about how we bring down costs and expand coverage for American families."

Among the 250 attendees were doctors, patients, insurers, policy experts and health care advocates. The forum was hosted by Governors Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin. Notable politicos in attendance included Congressmen John Dingell and John Conyers, Jr., as well as White House Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes, who helped to moderate the event. Reports of the town hall-style event indicate that “guests in the room uniformly supported broad and sweeping reform focused on expanding access to the uninsured, improving medical records and emphasizing preventative care.”

The remaining four regional forums will take place in Burlington, VT (March 17th), Des Moines, IA (March 23rd), Greensboro, NC (March 31st), and Los Angeles, CA (April 6th).

Business Roundtable urges lawmakers to act quickly on health reform
Yesterday heard from another key stakeholder group, Business Roundtable. The association released a study showing that American companies were losing out to other countries with cheaper healthcare and healthier workers. As reported by Reuters, Business Roundtable “wants changes that would reduce costs through greater use of technology and other efficiencies and require everyone to obtain health coverage. The group also supports plans to provide government aid to help those who cannot afford insurance, but said they do not want to see a government insurance plan that dominates the market.”

Members of the Business Roundtable also heard from President Obama yesterday on the critical need for health reform. A transcript of the President’s speech is posted on the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog.

If yesterdays goings-on are any indication, Kramer and DeParle are right: the landscape has changed and the health form battle will be fought on different grounds. Everyone is in favor of change. The devil, of course, will be in the details.

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