Team tackles healthcare issues from SB living room

Policy reform group one of thousands around the country

When it comes to healthcare reform, the 50th Congressional District is making sure its voice is heard in Washington, D.C.

More than 80 residents from Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Carmel Valley, La Jolla and other parts of the district packed into Solana Beach Councilman Dave Roberts' home for the first community healthcare discussion Dec. 29.

More than 9,000 such gatherings were held throughout the country in December when President Barack Obama's transition team solicited input on this critical issue from its organized grassroots network.

Since then, the nonpartisan CD50 Healthcare Policy Team has welcomed all and grown to include more than 150 citizens on its the mailing list.

The group's second meeting will be Sat., Feb. 7 to further refine the suggested solutions that will be submitted to Obama's transition health policy team.

"People are really interested in trying to figure out

common sense solutions to fix our healthcare system," Roberts, who chairs the group, said. "This administration is listening."

Solana Beach resident Mary Jane Boyd said she was surprised to see so many interested participants. Surprised, but pleased.

"The best ideas can come from the most unexpected places," Boyd said.

Participant Judy Hegenauer agreed: "If you're going to have big system changes you need top down and bottom up both."

Identifying concrete solution

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However, a large group talking about healthcare can often spiral into recounting horror stories with the broken system. The trick is focusing in on common goals and issues.

The CD50 group identified several key issues, including affordable access for all, a single-payer system, ending life directives, care for veterans, mental health and information technology.

Solutions for some of these issues will be fleshed out at the next meeting. Boyd said while the group may not be able to tackle them all, they could probably focus on "the low hanging fruit" and send ideas to Washington as soon as possible.

"We can't lollygag and sit around talking and talking and talking," Boyd said. "If we don't speak up with our ideas and suggestions, somebody else is."

Roberts on advisory panel

Chairing the discussion group is just one way Roberts is participating in the healthcare reform campaign.

The healthcare IT policy expert was also recently appointed to the national advisory panel on Medicare Education.

As the only California resident on the 20-person panel, Roberts will work with the Health and Human Services Secretary and the director of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on improving outreach to beneficiaries and providers.

He was selected for the position based on his past experience with underserved populations, and as the current vice president for governmental affairs for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Already, Roberts has facilitated collaboration between different organizations. Roberts suggested North County Transit District, where he sits on the board as a local council member, partner with CMS to provide transit directions when users search for Medicare providers in their area. Currently, the CMS Web site only provides driving directions.

For more information about the CD50 Health Policy Group or the next meeting, contact Dave Roberts at

droberts@himss.org

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