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Live-Blog: Regional Forum on Health Reform, Des Moines

Rebecca Adelman of the Department of Health and Human Services gives us a play-by-play on the third of five White House Regional Forums on Health Reform, watch it streamed livefrom Des Moines, Iowa at

1:27: Governor Culver thanks the audience for their spirited participation and encourages people to continue the discussion by visiting He also thanks President Obama for his commitment to health reform. He said, on every front, the President and his team have been extremely responsive.
1:23: Nancy-Ann DeParle closes the event promising to brief her colleagues in the White House on the suggestions and concerns brought up in the forum today. She urged participants to visit to submit more suggestions, and said "I have a lot to be optimistic about as I go back to the White house." She says she heard frustration from small business, farmers, providers that premiums are out of reach. She also says she heard the desire of clinicians to be at the table, to break down the barriers that exist to providing care, and she heard intelligent advocates from all different angles today. Finally, she expressed hope that everyone will continue to provide input as we work to lower costs and cover more Americans.
1:18: Senator Harkin makes his closing remarks and talks about how members of Congress are working to make health reform happen this year. He said they are setting deadlines, and hope to have a bill on the floor in late June to debate it in July. He said his goal, and the President is pushing very hard on this, is to get this done in Congress before the August recess, and to have a bill to the President in September or October. "We are not going to kick the ball down the field," he said. "This is going to happen this year."

1:10: A gentleman with a "Livestrong" t-shirt wraps up the discussion talking about cancer. He asks for a show of hands of how many participants have been touched by cancer in their own families or personally, and nearly 100 percent of those in the room raised their hands. He said we need to continue to keep this very important issue part of the national discussion about health care. 

1:02: Responding to the question proposed by Governor Rounds about rural health, a participant brought up the importance of long-term care providers in rural communities. This participant said he came from a rural area, and many people there just want to stay in their homes and communities. He said if we pay greater attention to the importance of long-term care providers, and if we invest in them, people in rural communities will visit hospitals less frequently and fewer citizens will need to live in expensive nursing homes.
12:55: Governor Rounds takes a few minutes to speak about the challenge of attracting doctors and nurses to serve in rural communities. He said the demand for medical professionals in rural areas is so great that each provider is stretched thin, making it even more difficult to maintain a workforce of doctors and nurses. He asked the participants for suggestions on how to attract medical professionals to rural areas, and how to support them once they establish a practice. The Governor said we need a plan to bring good medical services to rural Americans. 

12:41: A participant named Tracey brought up the cost of treating chronic diseases. She suggested that the health system reform include a focus on primary and secondary prevention. She said it is crucially important to think about how to keep the well healthy, to identify the at-risk individuals, and to help the chronically ill manage their conditions to keep the costs for treating these illnesses down.
12:30: Governor Culver reads a question from Audrey Wiedemeier, a resident of Iowa City who submitted her question online at She asked, "What is being done to address the fact that many low income communities don’t have access to affordable fresh healthy food?" Governor Culver and Senator Harkin discuss at length what prevention methods we could employ that would be accessible to Americans of all income brackets. Senator Harkin argues in particular that we need to rethink what food options kids have in schools to start prevention early in life . 

12:20: A chiropractor brings up the issue of electronic medical records. He says the adoption of that technology could save $77 billion annually. Now that $19.5 billion has been put forth in the Recovery Act for Health Information technology, we must think about how to make that transition. He urges that an important question in the health reform effort is how can we use technology to drive best practices and efficiency.  

12:10: After Darlyne Neff addresses the group, Governor Culver turns the microphone over to the participants in the audience. A small businessman from Iowa speaks first, and stresses the particular difficulties that small businesses face as they strive to insure their employees when health care costs are skyrocketing. A woman who was recently laid off from her job said she is not sure how she will get insurance, but hopes her former employer will be able to provider her with health insurance with the help of money from the Recovery Act.  Later, a man named Bruce from Iowa brought up the fact that people between the ages of 50 and 64 are among the fastest growing group of uninsured Americans. Nancy-Ann DeParle said it is an issue the President is very aware of, and that solutions are being discussed.

11:55: Darlyne Neff, from Iowa City, Iowa addressed the assembled group after Nancy-Ann DeParle. Neff is a 75-year-old retired teacher living in a life-care residential community. She taught kindergarten, grade school, and speech at the junior high and community college level. She said if she could go back to teaching now she would stress with her students the importance of listening to their bodies and would try to impress upon them the importance of health and wellness. Darlyne was one of 30,000 Americans who participated in health care reform community discussions over the holidays. She said she has survived operations for breast cancer and a brain tumor, and when she heard that the President’s health care team was seeking input from Americans on how to reform the health care system, she thought, "this is something I really need to do." 
11:45: White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle addressed and thanked the participants next – she especially singled out the clinicians she met in the audience, who are on the front lines of this health care reform effort. She spoke about the first forum on health reform that brought together Democrats, Republicans, insurance executives, providers and everyday Americans at the White House to begin the discussion. These regional forums, she said, are a continuation of that discussion.
11:40: South Dakota Governor Rounds addressed the group next. He said that in South Dakota, the pressing concern is how to provide the best possible care in small, rural communities. 9 percent of South Dakotans are uninsured. Governor Rounds said, "We can do better…and we must not leave out rural areas."

11:34: Senator Harkin just addressed the group – he stressed that we urgently need to change the health care system. The Senator said, "the good news is, we have a President who gets it." He urged the incorporation of prevention measures in to the health system, so that we can transform our system from a sick-care system to a health care system.
11:25: Governor Culver welcomes the group and thanks President Obama for his commitment to tackling the "national challenge" that is health care reform. He says he hopes the discussion today can provide some useful input for the President and his health care team (since the Transition, that team has been exceptional in listening carefully and turning the input they get into serious points and data to inform policy-making). Two Iowa lawmakers - Congressman Leonard Boswell and Senator Tom Harkin, are next up to speak.

11:15: Governor Culver kicks off the forum with a video message from President Obama. The President thanks the group for participating and says he looks forward to hearing about the concerns and ideas raised at the forum today. For background, the regional forums were designed to bring everyone with a stake in the health reform debate together, not just in Washington but across the country where people deal with the realities of health care every day, not just the policy analysis and politics of it. Forums in Dearborn, Michigan and Burlington, Vermont were held over the last two weeks, and two more health reform discussions in Greensboro, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California are coming up.

11:05: The third Regional White House Forum on Health Reform just began in Des Moines, Iowa. Today’s event is coming to you live from the Polk County Convention Center (which was also home to the Iowa Caucuses in 2008) Thomas Newton, the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health just began his opening remarks to the forum, welcoming the participants. It will be moderated by Governor Chet Culver of Iowa and Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota, with Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office on Health Reform, representing the White House.