Obama’s Regional Health Care Summits: Keeping The Need For Reform Front And Center

President Obama prioritized health care reform during the campaign, held a listening tour during the transition, allocated an admirable $634 billion towards reforming the health care system in his budget, hosted a White House Health Summit, and is now holding a series of regional summits all across the country.

At yesterday’s forum in Dearborn, Michigan, for instance, representatives from insurance companies, labor unions, “workers and retirees; and nursing professors, among other stakeholders in the health care overhaul debate” agreed “on the need for health care reform” and urged the president to “emphasize preventive, wellness and primary care, and to better utilize health information technology.”

Here is one account from the Detroit Free Press:

Being insured doesn’t always mean you’ll get the help you want. At 22, Adrian Campbell-Montgomery said, she learned she had cervical cancer. Seemingly covered under her family’s General Motors employee insurance, she was rushed into surgery. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan denied payment, saying the surgery was only recommended for women 26 and older. She was in graduate school, had a small child and was now $8,000 in debt. “When does it end?” she asked during the forum. “You have to stop denying people.”

Obama’s approach serves a political purpose. Public opinion polls already indicate that the public supports comprehensive health care reform. But this kind of outreach weeds out the personal stories of insurance company malfeasance and hardships of families facing rising health care costs, and ultimately provide the administration with the same kind of emotional narrative about the need for reform that the Right often finds in the waiting lines of Canada or Great Britain.

It’s political, but it’s smart. These regional summits keep the issue in the local news — long after the national media has moved on to exploring the root cause of Anna Nicole Smith’s death — familiarize the public with progressive proposals, and allow the President and Congressional Democrats to shroud themselves in the flag of public opinion once the health care debate really heats up this summer.

For more on the White House’s regional health summits, click here.