Video above is from Barack Obama’s speech at Washington D.C.’s National Children’s Hospital (which was in my old neighborhood in DC, btw).

Sorry — I’m just hitting you back with what happened during the blogger call to which we were invited with Barack Obama, David Axelrod & Nancy Ann DeParle. A bizzatch gotta day job, y’know? It was exciting to be invited to a call with the President. He told us upfront that he was there to talk to us but mostly to rap to you about healthcare. Here’s audio of the entire call if you’d like to hear for yourself.

Man I admit I was kinda nervous. Fortunately I got a pep talk from Baratunde AKA Jack beforehand. I wanted to represent and make sure I got one of your questions answered.

And I did! I chose to ask a question that more than one person asked. However, when my turn came up and I was announced, my line was not unmuted by the moderator and so the President of the United States is like “hello, Cheryl, are you there?” It was as awkward and dorktastic for me, at least, as you can imagine. Still I managed to squeak out your question which was essentially “How will healthcare reform help the self-employed & small businesses and will the public option be available to them?”

Obama responded by saying that these people would be among the primary beneficiaries of healthcare reform given that the fact that they are not part of a large group that can negotiate healthcare coverage is a big part of the current problem. He said (taken from my hasty notes):

“They can sign up into the exchange, which is going to be set up especially for folks like that that aren’t part of a big group plan that drives down prices.

They can come into the exchange and shop for the best coverage and would also be eligible for other options that can serve their families’ needs the best… They would also be eligible in many cases for subsidies and tax credits.”

This is really important since nearly one third of the country’s uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with fewer than 100 people. And more than one third of small businesses have reduced benefits in recent years. Since the early 1990s, about a third of small businesses have dropped coverage for their employees altogether. Small businesses in America need help and relief if we’re going to get our economy back on track.

Anyway, the Prez actually sounds nice & normal and talks like a real person on the phone which was kind of a relief. I’m glad rollin’ VIP hasn’t turned him into a jerk just yet. He talked to us for about 25 minutes and then had to bounce because, well, a brother is busy these days.

Axelrod and DeParle graciously stuck around to answer more questions and I managed to squeeze another one in. My followup question:

“We’re a community oriented site that has been supportive of the Presidenet and I know our readers will want to know what we can do to help ensure that healthcare reform happens this year.”

Axelrod replied:

Thanks for asking that question!

A lot of the coverage focuses on the trees and not the forest. The president defined it well and laid out the parameters for success….

We’re after healthcare reform that will benefit ALL americans. Mr. Steele said that people would pay more for less but that’s EXACTLY what we are trying to address. dealing with the issue of the underinsured. Folks need some security

We want people to understand what it is we’re fighting for. Please tell your friends and family to contact their Members of congress. Spread the word about what the bill is really about. The strategy is to delay this process.

Those on the Hill want to “break Obama” through delay. But there are millions of Americans who are being broken everyday and every year. We need everyone to know what we’re fighting for and that we need reform now.

So the most important thing we can all do is spread the word about the great benefits of the proposals being put forward. There’s a lot of noise and misinformation out there. But the status quo is unacceptable. Especially for black folk. We’re going to start pushing hard here at JJP on our legislators to stop dragging their feet on healthcare. People need help out there. Frankly as a small biz owner myself — I need help. I’m betting either you or someone you know needs more help with healthcare access & better coverage.

We will need to work about as hard on this as we did to get Obama elected. We worked hard because we knew that the status quo was unacceptable. Please join me in continuing to fight for better outcomes — not just for black folks who are disproportionately hit by healthcare inequality — but for all Americans. Call your Member of Congress and demand better healthcare today.

Here are some great summaries of the call:

Crooks and Liars (John Amato)

Writes Like She Talks (Jill Miller Zimon) Live Blog

Huffington Post (Sam Stein)

MyDD (Jonathan Singer)


DailyKos (McJoan)

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