On Thursday, my 16-year-old son, Grant, and I stood for several hours waiting for President Obama to address a couple thousand Iowans in the old Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Iowa. While we waited, I reminisced about watching the 1980-81 Hawkeye Final Four basketball team in that very building. I explained to Grant that as a lowly freshman at UI, I had a ticket right behind a pilar on the second level. I could not even see the center of the court!
I also remembered how loud it could get in there when the crowd cheered. Perhaps that is what the most powerful man in the free world wanted for his first public rally after signing the healthcare reform bill earlier this week. The President started his speech by noting that his NCAA tournament bracket was busted by the Kansas-upsetting Northern Iowa Panthers! A cheering crowd erupted when the University of Northern Iowa President stood up holding a purple and yellow jersey. (As a proud parent of UNI daughter/student, Coco, I felt the Panther pride as well.)
In my last blog entry I mentioned how the passage of healthcare legislation this week was historic. The President came to Iowa City because it was nearly three years ago when he was in Iowa City kicking off his campaign with a major focus on healthcare as a primary goal. Coco was among a group of about 300, largely students, on hand back then caught up in the vision Barrack Obama had for universal healthcare.
I have to admit I got caught up a bit in the hoopla of the Presidential visit. It was all there: long lines, secret service officers, a throng of press, the large American flag, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, the Presidential Seal, and, of course, those words of introduction: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States!” The President, playing to the audience, introduced one of his military escorts, a past strong safety on the University of Iowa Hawkeye football team. Obama certainly knows how to rev up a crowd.
On to the speech: It was a carefully crafted sales pitch about all the many good things about the reform package. It is clear the President believes he has delivered on one of his biggest campaign promises. Whether you like the legislation or not, it was an amazing feat by President Obama and the leadership of the Democratic Party to get this legislation passed.
Although I have some concerns about the bill, I also am excited about the fact we have finally pushed through some “tweener” relief for middle-sized rural hospitals like Grinnell Regional Medical Center (as noted a couple days ago in this blog). There is also clearly the beginning of a new approach to Medicare payment, one focused on “value.”
The hoopla didn't end for me with the speech. During the event a man standing in front of Grant and me fainted. After helping him to the floor, we were relieved to see several physicians and nurses standing in all directions and happy to come to his aid. He was taken by paramedics for further treatment, but appeared to be OK much to our relief. A couple years ago, I administered CPR with a surgeon to an elderly man while standing in line at an airport. Fortunately, we revived him, and he also appeared to be OK as emergency personnel took him to the hospital. I was glad this fellow did not need that kind of help on Thursday. Although not expecting someone to need healthcare at the rally, it was poignant given that the central focus of the President’s message was healthcare.
I want to extend a special thanks to Congressman Boswell for inviting me to the speech. It was fun to have the opportunity to listen to the President talk about something dear to my heart: the delivery of high quality and affordable care to all in need. Now all we have to do is make this legislation do the trick…I am sure there will be nothing to it!