In December, then President-elect Obama called on the American people to host Health Care Community Discussions to assess the seriousness of the problems and identify solutions. In the last eight years, health insurance premiums have grown four times faster than wages and one million more Americans have lost their health insurance each year. Health care costs have forced small businesses to close their doors and compelled corporations to ship jobs overseas.
Over 9,000 people signed up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to host a discussion, and thousands more participated in these gatherings. After each Health Care Community Discussion, guests and hosts were asked to fill out a Participant Survey and submit a group report to the Presidential Transition Team’s Web site summarizing the group’s concerns and suggestions. Group reports from 3,276 Health Care Community Discussions as well as Participant Surveys from 30,603 participants were collected, analyzed, and are summarized in the report.
The cost of health care services and health insurance was the top concern about the health care system for 55 percent of discussion participants. Participants also cited lack of emphasis on prevention, pre-existing conditions limiting insurance access, and the quality of care as key concerns. A qualitative analysis found that the Health Care Community Discussions focused on concerns about a “broken” health system, access to health insurance and services, rising premiums and drug costs, medical mistakes and the system not being “for them.”
Health Care Community Discussion group participants agreed on the values and direction that should guide reform. They called for a system that is fair, patient-centered and choice-oriented, simple and efficient, and comprehensive. Participants also offered a wide range of specific solutions, including making health insurance more accessible through an insurance “exchange” or a public plan option, creating scorecards on quality and cost, improving the nutritional content of school lunches, implementing electronic medical records and creating an AmeriCorps for health workers.
Today’s report also includes a series of personal testimonials from Health Care Community Discussion participants who expressed their concern about the state of health care in America. A farmer from Enid, Okla., explained, “I have spent my life’s savings on [health care], and now I am refused care at our local hospital because I cannot pay. I may have to file bankruptcy due to this.” A report from Missoula, Mont., commenting on policies that allow insurers to deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions said, “No mother should have to say her daughter is ‘uninsurable.'”