In the 04 election, Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, raised enough money for W to earn the high roller title Pioneer. This time around, the Republican and Democratic fields are still wide open, and health carethe number one issue for the FAHs 1700 investor-owned or managed hospital membersis shaping up as pivotal. So instead of contributing to an individual candidate, its been making itself a player in the current election cycle by hosting a series called Health Care 08: Presidential Candidate Forums.
The FAH raised $1 million along with co-host organization Families USA to put on the continuing forums, which began in September. Each one is an hour long and features an individual candidate who is questioned on health care matters by journalists from the likes of ABC, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Held at the Kaiser Family Foundations Barbara Jordan Conference Center in DC, the taped forums are being produced for broadcast by McNeil-Lehrer Productions and for webcast by kaisernetwork.org. C-SPAN also covers them.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden have already taped sessions, but Barack Obama is a notable omission. On the Republican side, only John McCain has participated so far, but most of the rest have agreed to schedule them. (Hmm, after tonight might be getting a little late for some of them.)
Chip, who introduces each program, says hosting them has been a great way to promote health care reform, and that members have given positive feedback on the FAHs new approach to Presidential politics. When the election is settled, the FAH will be looking to build on the momentum to revive legislative interest in its Health Coverage Passport, a path to universal coverage that the FAH unveiled in February. Chip calls it one of the more detailed health care proposals to be offered by an association (the Business Roundtable, AARP, and Americas Health Insurance Plans are among the others that have put forward proposals).