Saturday, August 11, 2007

California Speaks NOW

I'm at the California Speaks event in San Diego today, where participants are discussing the healthcare reform legislation that's currently under consideration in the state of California.

The process by which this conversation is being held is interesting in itself. Forums are being held in eight locations throughout the state today, and they're all hooked up by satellite and computer links. There are around 600 participants in San Diego, and about 3,000 total throughout California, and they are representative of the population as a whole, with some slight variation (because it depended on who showed up out of that representative sample). They're broken up into groups of ten, and each group has a facilitator with a laptop who is communicating their table discussion to a "theme team" who is compiling the most common topics, comments and remarks for the entire state.

As the discussion progresses and common themes emerge, participants use individual keypads to document their votes on a variety of opinions. At the end of the day, the statistical data and discussions will be compiled into a preliminary report which will be handed out to everyone as they leave. Eventually a final report will be written utilizing today's data, and that will be presented to Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature, who have agreed to consider the opinions of Californian's as they move forward in enacting healthcare reform legislation.

Pretty cool, eh? This is big geeky fun for big geeky me.

Both the Governor and Assembly Soeaker Fabian Nunez provided opening remarks via satelitte link, the MC of the event is in Los Angeles, and I am completely digging the whole democracy via technology thing here today.

In a cruel twist, an elderly gentleman became ill early in the day during the registration. The paramedics had to be called, and I watched as the paramedics took 25 minutes to convince him that he should allow them to transport him to the ER. He was afraid of how much it was going to cost, and kept saying he couldn't afford it. Eventually, he agreed.

I helped with registration this morning, then had the opportunity to observe for a bit before moving on to the next task at hand.

The moderators were in LA, and they first educated the group a little bit about what's currently under active consideration in CA. They didn't go very much into the ideas put forward by Villines because there's no active legislation. They did talk about the concepts behind SB 238 (Runner), but since it won't go forward this year, it wasn't a major focus. The primary goal create some discussion that would enable the presentation of suggestions to the Governor and the Legislature by August 21, so they can be considered when they discuss healthcare reform before the September recess.

Assuming that happens, with the budget situation.

The greatest focus was on SB 840 (Kuehl), AB 8 (Nunez/Perata), and the Governor's Plan.

The discussion began with participants talking about the values they believe should guide deliberations. The common values that emerged were:

1. Healthcare should be affordable.
2. Everyone should have access.
3. Put people before profit.
4. Make wellness and prevention a priority.

The way they guided the following discussion was interesting. One by one, they broke it down into the roles and responsibility of the healthcare providers, individuals, government, insurers, and employers.

I thought it was telling that there were a suprising number of voices for single payer in the crowd, but at the same time another very dominant theme was that people don't trust the government to run it well. Whether it be true or not, the suggestion came up repeatedly that the government shouldn't be trusted to run anything "more complicated than a lemonade stand"...but at the same time only 7% of the crowd said they wouldn't support single payer under any circumstances.


Additionally 18% said they would not under any condition support the changes proposed by the Governor requiring employers to spend a minimum amount on employee healthcare. However 48% would support it if there were also cost caps on healthcare, and 54% would support it if we also addressed insurance coverage for part-time, seasonal and the self employed.

As you can see, a whole lot of statistical data was compiled today. If you're interested in more, the preliminary report is now available online, and the final report should be at the CaliforniaSpeaks website within a few days.



Blogger Abby H. Arnold said...

I was disappointed that there was no coverage of the event, or the single payer rally, in today's LA Times. I fear that they will cover this as a business story. At least they didn't cover it as a politician story (Gov. Schwarzenegger said this, Sen. Perata said that). The significance of this event was that the participants were chosen randomly from throughout the state, rather than by "stakeholder" group representatives. The opportunity to get authentic analysis from "the people" was unique in my long experience as an advocate and policy wonk in California. It was a very interesting strategy, and its ability to effect health care reform this month (!) will be closely watched by some of us who work for change.

Abby H. Arnold

8/12/2007 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Terry said...

I was really disappointed that there was virtually no media coverage of the event, because as you mentioned, it's pretty significant to have a discussion of that magnitude that represents a true cross-section of the public.

I didn't see any media other than the California Channel people, and one cameraman/reporter team that showed up as it was ending.

I guess we need to find a way to bring sexy back into democracy if we want to get any media attention. ;-)

8/12/2007 11:30:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home