From: Paul Schaefer
Published August 12, 2007 09:44 PM

Californians Call For Health Massive Healthcare Reform; Prioritizing Prevention

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Nearly 3,500 Californians gathered in eight cities Saturday in an interactive forum on health care priorities called CaliforniaSpeaks, and 82 percent advocated major changes. The most popular suggestions called for putting people before profit, prioritizing wellness and prevention, and making health care affordable and accessible to everyone.


The real-time, nonpartisan health care discussion blended small-group dialogue with cutting-edge technology. The statewide conversation was created to enable ordinary Californians to tell state lawmakers what they think about the current health care reform proposals.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Senate President pro Tem Don Perata, Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines and other Republican and Democratic legislators attended the event. Each of the lawmakers emphasized his commitment to passing health care reform this year.


Forums were held in Sacramento, San Diego, Eureka, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Oakland-San Francisco and Riverside-San Bernardino.


Attendees focused their attention on the current health reform proposals that will be debated in the California Legislature before it adjourns in September. Participants discussed making health care more accessible, improving health care access and outcomes, controlling costs, incentives and regulations, and many other key issues.


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To achieve these goals, most attendees agreed that government, employers, insurers and individuals need to share responsibility for tackling the reform problem, provided that cost controls are put in place.


In fact the final question of the day was asked on behalf of Governor Schwarzenegger: "How willing would you be to share in the responsibility of paying for health care reform that covers all Californians?" 84 percent of attendees said that they were somewhat willing, willing or very willing to do so.


The eight sites were linked by satellite, so that participants could see and hear what other attendees said across the state. Skilled facilitators led face-to-face discussions at each location while ideas were recorded, considered and voted upon throughout the day with personal voting keypads.


CaliforniaSpeaks was a nonpartisan discussion without ties to special interest groups, and did not support or oppose any specific proposal. The program was made possible by grants from three independent foundations: The California Endowment, Blue Shield of California Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.


The project was created and led by AmericaSpeaks, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the mission of providing Americans with a greater voice in the decisions that affect their lives. To ensure that attendees spanned all different ages, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and political beliefs, participants were randomly selected to participate in the conversation.


"Today was a fantastic success and a great example of what democracy can do," said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Ph.D., president and founder of AmericaSpeaks. "Widely diverse people from all across California came together today and sent a very strong message to state lawmakers to improve the system now."


Most recently, AmericaSpeaks convened thousands of New Orleanians to create their city's recovery plan. AmericaSpeaks has engaged more than 130,000 people across the country on such topics as shaping municipal budget priorities in Washington, D.C., creating regional plans for the greater Chicago and Cleveland regions, and developing rebuilding plans for the World Trade Center site in New York City.


To learn more about who attended CaliforniaSpeaks, what their recommendations were, and how attendees voted on specific issues, please visit www.californiaspeaks.org. Video of the event is also available on the site.


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