Vol. 4    No. 5
March 5, 2009 Archives

Stories & Columns

The Madison Music Collective
celebrates Mary Lou Williams:
The first woman of jazz (1),
by Jonathan Gramling

WisDOT ready to implement
Obama's stimulus package:
Loaded and ready to go (2),
by Jonathan Gramling

Nuestro Mundo begins planning
for a dual language middle
school: Keeping the kids
by Jonathan Gramling

Political resurrection and the
politics of no,
by Dr. Paul Barrows

A look at the Chicago crucible
that helped form Barack Obama:
Obama's Chicago (3),
by Jonathan Gramling

Simple Things: Click,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

Black History Month going beyond
by Jessica Pharm

Politicas de hoy: La crisis,
por Alfonso Zepeda Capistran

Asian Wisconzine
Tina Austria: My unforgettable
landlady and friend,
by Heidi M. Pascual
2009 Tax Season,
by Mei-feng Moe

Centerspread: Moonshine,
by  Jonathan Gramling

Deltas 14th Annual Heart & Soul
Scholarship Fundraiser: Queens
of Black History,
by Jonathan Gramling

Dr. Jorja Leap to speak at
Madison Civics Club March 21:
Understanding gangs,
by Jonathan Gramling

Programa de la Mujer Sana de
Wisconsin: Red del cuidado de la
por Jonathan Gramling

Sable Flames 16th Annual
Firefighters Ball: They will never
by Jonathan Gramling

UW-School of Music's Wind
Ensemble: A musical tribute to
Black History

Women in REDzine: Giving a
voice to the voiceless,
by Jessica Pharm

Overture Center seeks
prospective community artists:
Promoting community art,
by Jonathan Gramling

Lighting up energy savings,
from Wis. Div. of Energy Services

Grassroots Fest a big success,
by Bob Johnson

Too few making decision for
by I. Paulette Hill
      On March 5, President Barack Obama held the White House Forum on Health Reform.
Several dozen federal legislators, health industry representatives, businesses, labor union,
health experts and a smattering of common folks — health care consumers — came
together for a day of initial discussions about how to reform health care. While there was
representation by groups such as Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, there was no
representation by traditional African American led groups like the NAACP or National
Urban League that I saw on the list of attendees although Janet Murguia of the National
Council of La Raza and Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund were there.
      In a conference call before the forum took place, Obama’s domestic policy council
director Melody Barnes fielded questions about the nature of the health forum and what
the president hoped to achieve. There was some controversy swirling around about the last
minute invites to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), two proponents
of a single payer system. Whether it was real or manufactured by the press, there was some
concern that the White House was tilting the recommendations that will ultimately be
reported out and serve as a basis for future legislation.
    In terms of a single payer system, Barnes said ‘What the president has said is that if we
were starting from scratch, he thinks that would be an excellent way to go. But at this point,
he believes we have to build on our current employer-based system to move forward,’
    Barnes also noted that many of the same actors who were fighting healthcare reform
back in the 1990s are now sitting at the table discussing healthcare reform. “They’ll be
joined by long-term proponents of healthcare reform as well as Republicans and
Democrats, the leadership from Congress, House and Senate,” Barnes said. “I think it has
been a very long, long time — and I can’t remember the last time — when we brought that
set of people around the table and did it in a way that the American people can also
watch so it is transparent and they can see what we are talking about and how we want to
move forward on healthcare reform. The president doesn’t want to send a plan to the Hill.
He wants to set forth a set of values. “But he believes very firmly that we have to work with
Congress to draft a policy and also address the revenue set of issues.”
    A question was fielded about how health insurance costs could be reduced while
coverage is also increased when the experience of state efforts appeared to indicate it
couldn’t be done. “In order to get costs under control, we’re going to have to look at this
issue on a national level,” Barnes said. States are doing the best they can, particularly in
the wake of federal inaction. But part of getting this under control will require that we have
accessible and affordable health care for everyone so that we’re bringing more people into
the system. And as a result of bringing more people into the system, we’re also helping to
drive down costs. At the same time, there are other efficiencies that we want to put in
place. The Medicare and Medicaid fund reforms that the president proposed in the budget
also lead to cost savings and the funds that are going into the reserve fund are a part of
this. Some of the things that we did through the recovery act and the investment in
healthcare information technology are places where we will ultimately see increased
savings. Part of the problem is that the states are taking very important steps forward, which
are key, but piecemeal answers to what is an issue that needs to be resolved on a national
    Barnes also addressed the issue of disparities in access to healthcare. “One of the ways
we get costs under control is to increase accessibility and quality,” Barnes said. “We can’t
have people using emergency rooms as primary care physicians. That’s not only a burden
on them, it’s also a problem for the hospitals and it also impacts the bottom line for those
who are already in the system. It just makes their healthcare more expensive. When the
president talks about costs, he’s not excluding the fact that we have to expand accessibility
for people. Disparities are something he talked about during his campaign. It’s something
he continues to believe is important and is addressing and intends very clearly to address
the disparities with regard to gender, race and ethnicity and those living in rural areas. He
believes in strengthening our public healthcare system and by overall reform of our larger
healthcare system.”
    Healthcare is one of the largest consumers of our gross domestic product, in essence,
all of the value we produce each year, yet America lags behind many industrial nations in
many leading health indicators. We are not getting our bang for our buck. Health care
reform is coming — President Obama wants to act on it by October — but how it is
reformed depends on who is involved in making the reform happen. It is important that all
of us research this important issue and make our voices heard. The health of our nation
rests in the balance.
An Icon of Justice
Wisconsin 's Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
             Health reform begins now