Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update First

Dingell: Health care reform needed now

The stars are aligning like no other time in history to reform our health care system, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, said Monday at the University.

Congressman John Dingell tells a packed house the time is now to reform health care. (Photos by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

“With our economy under strain, our patients, businesses and states suffering, it is apparent that we need to act now to reform the health care system that hemorrhages money to stabilize our economy,” he said.

Dingell, who represents Michigan’s 15th District including Ann Arbor and is the longest serving House member, participated in “A Discussion on Health Care Reform in the 111th Congress” with two panelists at the School of Public Health (SPH).

Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, talked about “Setting the Stage for Meaningful Reform.” Christopher Jennings, former White House senior health care adviser to President Clinton, 1993-2001, spoke on lessons learned during the Clinton administration.

Audience members packed the school’s auditorium and overflow rooms during the event, moderated by Paula Lantz, who chairs the Department of Health Management & Policy at SPH.

The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system and because of this Dingell said people are suffering. They are choosing between feeding their families, paying their bills or filling their prescriptions. Co-pays and other fees are so high that even people with health insurance are opting not to see a physician.

“There is no question that the time is right for the most developed country in the world to catch up with our competitors around the world,” said Dingell, who introduced HR 15, a bill that would provide universal access to health care, every Congress since his first year in office.

Compounding the problem for many people nationwide and in Michigan is lack of health coverage due to job losses, Udow-Phillips said. Premiums and co-pays also have climbed in Michigan from 2000-06. The annual family premium cost $11,452 in 2006, up 68 percent from 2000.

Christopher Jennings, former White House senior health care adviser to President Clinton, 1993-2001, shares lessons learned during the Clinton administration.

“There’s no question about this data,” she said, “that this picture must change.”
Dingell has fought to get health care coverage for all Americans for decades. He authored two pieces of legislation: HR 15, The National Health Insurance Act, and HR 2034, The Medicare for All Act, to provide every American with health insurance.

“It’s not just a matter of humanitarianism, but economic necessity," he said.
Jennings agreed that people want affordable health care, and it’s important for them to convey this individually and collectively to elected officials. Like Dingell, Jennings said he’s also optimistic about the Obama administration’s implementing universal health care despite opposition scare tactics similar to ones in the past.

For example, in 1994 opponents scared people into thinking that the government would force them away from their current doctor or health plan, which was not true then or now, Dingell said.

“That’s one thing I’ve learned about health care — fear beats hope,” Jennings said.
Before the panel discussion, President Mary Sue Coleman extended congratulations and a gift to Dingell for his recent milestone of serving more than 50 years in the U.S. House, longer than any other member.

To view the panel discussion, go to