Speaking Truth to Power

Yesterday was an exciting day for Appleseed’s Health Care Access Program. We participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill about health care reform and rural communities. The event brought the voices of rural people to Congress and brought attention to rural health care issues which have often been absent from the national debate or used as an excuse to oppose health reform. The goal of the briefing was to highlight the specific challenges rural communities face accessing health care and contest the perception (promoted largely by members of Congress) that rural people do not want reform. Because in fact, the experiences, views, and polling show that rural people are heavily in support of reform and a public health insurance plan.

The event was attended by Members of Congress and their staff, moderated by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, and covered by national media outlets (including The Nation, Congress Daily, and the Bureau of National Affairs). If you love policy (i.e., you don’t consider “wonky” to be an insult and treat other policy analysts are quasi-celebrities), you would have thought this was a great experience.

I was there to talk about the economic consequences that result for both families and the community at large when people do not have access to health care.

But the most important and poignant moments came from those who spoke about their own experiences as rural people facing health care challenges, including one of our very own Nebraskans. Angel Romero Kiester, a small business owner and mother, has done a remarkable job sharing her story over these last several months and advocating for reform. Other amazing advocates from North Dakota, Maine, Wisconsin, and Virginia participated as well.

I’m grateful that I could be a part of it.

The briefing was organized by the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) and the Center for Community Change. As part of the event, they released a report “Sweet the Bitter Drought”, authored by the fantastic Jon Bailey of CFRA, that discusses the challenges in rural areas that make health care reform all the more critical.

For press coverage of the event see:

http://www.omaha.com/article/20091002/AP09/710029912
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2009/10/problems_in_rural_health_care.html
http://talkradionews.com/2009/10/congressional-democrats-call-for-improved-health-care-for-rural-americans/

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