Elizabeth Edwards at Health Journalism 2008

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic Presidential Candidate John Edwards, gave the keynote address at the Saturday awards luncheon at Health Journalism 2008, the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Elizabeth and her husband formed the Wade Edwards Foundation after he was killed in a tragic car accident. Her personal breast cancer story made lots of news, and she says that when his campaign was active she spent lots of time criticizing her husbands’ Democratic opponents. So she spent her whole a major chunk of her speech attacking Sen. McCain, apparently on the grounds that her criticisms of Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama were “old news.” How conveeeenient.

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Health Reform Panel at Health Journalism 2008

Julie Appleby, USA Today, moderated this panel and asked each member to give a three-minute solution to health reform.

David Himmelstein, a promoter of single-payer government health insurance, is a primary care M.D. in Cambridge, Mass. He says we need to reform the insured as well as the uninsured. He says by spending what we currently spend on health care more wisely (31 percent for administration.) He says $80 billion insurance overhead would be eliminated.

Karen Davis from the Commonwealth Fund has five principles: Coverage for all, payment reform, a more organized health care system (a “medical home” that ensures access, not just coverage), narrowing the variation in quality and efficiency and bringing everyone to the highest level of quality, national leadership with the private and public sector working together.

Julie Barnes from the New America Foundation’s Health Policy Program has a mission to “preach hope and dispel fears.” She urged journalists to include solutions in their reporting. Their goals: cover all Americans, reduce costs and improve quality. She says these are inextricably linked. Covering everyone means we need to change how we pay doctors, paying not for quantity but quality. She says it can’t happen without bipartisan support, and that we need to encourage conversation.

Tom Miller from American Enterprise Institute says we need to introduce incentives that move us toward a sustainable, value-based health system. We need to encourage healthier behavior by consumers. More emphasis on primary prevention. He says he will “revise and extend his remarks” on the AEI web site.

The Davis/Commonwealth proposal sounds a lot like what the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center has been advocating. Many of the principles are similar.

Miller says the mismatch between what we spend and what we receive is the fundamental problem. We can’t tax ourselves enough to pay for a program when overall costs are increasing faster than the economy.

Miller and Himmelstein got into a discussion that was, at the very least, “spirited.” Julie Barnes got her wish for “conversation,” I guess.

Julie Appleby asked each of them to suggest story ideas for the assembled journalists. Their suggestions:

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Business Blogging Capstone Project

Yesterday was a big day blogging for me…not with SMUG, but on a work-related blog.


Tom Brokaw was the keynote speaker and moderator for the opening session of the Mayo Clinic National Symposium on Health Care Reform. I hope SMUG students will check out Mayo Clinic’s Health Policy Blog, which I’ve been using to capture the essence of the symposium proceedings and to help extend the conversation both geographically and temporally.

This is the equivalent of a capstone project, enabling me to apply for a business purpose the things I’ve been learning through my personal blogging. It’s been an interesting experience, and I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions here on ways I can improve what I’ve been doing there.

Mayo Clinic Health Reform Symposium

Waiting for the start

For the next two days, I will be live blogging the Mayo Clinic National Symposium on Health Care Reform, which is being held at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C.

If you’re interested in seeing the streaming video, you can watch it here. After the sessions, the archived video will be here. I will be having a comment thread open during each session, so you can comment on the proceedings as they are happening. Your questions for the panelists would be welcome, too. I think it would be fantastic if we could get some questions from the blog included in the live discussion.

We’ve worked really hard in our Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center to bring patient perspectives to the health reform discussion. Since all of the readers of this blog are health care consumers, I hope you’ll check out the health policy blog and chime in with your comments and questions.

Launching the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Blog

In my work for Mayo Clinic, my major responsibilities are for our Mayo Clinic Medical Edge syndicated news products and for leadership of our social media team. Last week I wrote about our Mayo Clinic fan page in Facebook, which has been successful so far. After a low-key start, we’ve seen strong growth in our number of fans, with 376 as of this writing, and have also had some gratifying wall posts. Check out our page here.

Now we’re starting our first major blogging initiative, as part of our Mayo Clinic National Symposium on Health Care Reform, which will be held next week in Leesburg, Va. You can read about it here.

I hope regular readers of this blog also will check out the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Blog, and will participate in the discussion. While we had a low-key start with the Facebook fan page, I expect the Health Policy blog to get active much more quickly. With live streaming of the general sessions, with a high-profile keynote speaker and moderator in Tom Brokaw and with the work that has gone into developing a first-rate program, hopefully the blog will have high visibility.

I’m planning to connect with bloggers who write about health policy, health reform, health insurance, health care quality and related issues. We also will be linking the blog from the symposium site starting next Monday, so people can watch the streaming live (or archived) video and share their ideas.

You can subscribe here to RSS updates from the symposium blog, or click here to sign up for e-mail updates.

What other suggestions do you have? How can we most effectively engage people in this health reform discussion, so we can begin to build the consensus for effective health reform?