I recently returned from Health Action 2014, Families USA’s annual conference, in my usual condition – exhausted yet inspired! It was a good year for Michigan: Dizzy Warren, of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, was awarded one of the three Advocate of the Year awards, and Michigan blogger Amy Lynn Smith won the painting created onsite by Regina Holliday!
The conference opened with a cancer survivor sharing her story of having her COBRA coverage end on Dec. 31, 2013 during her cancer treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she was able to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1 and continue her treatments uninterrupted.
She introduced Vice President Joe Biden who shared his relief that we will no longer debate whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. With implementation of the ACA, it’s a right.
He stressed the importance of healthcare coverage, sharing his own story, and spoke of the peace of mind those who gain coverage will experience.
A few highlights:
- Ezra Klein shared thoughtful comments about the need to implement the law, learn from experience, and modify it as needed. The ACA is a real law, and because of it, real people are able to go to the doctor!
- Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear embraced the Affordable Care Act as a great opportunity for historic transformation in his state. “It is the morally right thing to do,” he said. Through an executive order, he established a state-operated marketplace, and through executive authority he was able to expand Medicaid eligibility. He expressed disappointment that more states are not setting politics aside and doing what is right and best for the people.
- Dr. Harold Freeman described his patient navigator programs which coordinate care and remove barriers to needed services by piecing together the fragmented healthcare system for individual people. He described it as a ‘relay races in which the patient is the baton and the hand-offs must be well done.’
- George Halverson shared a number of stunning statistics on brain development and the need for interventions and upstream efforts similar to those used in the medical system to prevent heart attacks or strokes. The No.1 predictor of who will go to jail can be linked to the number of words in a child’s vocabulary upon kindergarten entry! Furthermore, 70% of people in jail can’t read or read poorly. The first three years of brain development are critical and current science can predict with high accuracy who will be able to read and who won’t. It was a most sobering presentation.
- Regina Holliday, an inspiring presenter, talked about using art in patient advocacy efforts. She used art to sustain her in her grief after her 39 year-old husband died. She painted during the conference; Amy Lynn Smith won the painting.
The conference was chocked full of great presentations and workshops. I presented on Michigan’s Bumpy Journey to passing the Medicaid expansion legislation. I was thrilled to be able to say that Michigan has done the right thing. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories from the states where policymakers are refusing to accept the federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility.
There is still much to be done to make the promise real. Time to get to work!
– Jan Hudson