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Michelle Obama promoting new health care law to nurses. Conference call transcript

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WASHINGTON-- It was not official political business--but the conference call hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday could help Democrats in the November mid-term elections. Mrs. Obama--with Dr. Mary Wakefield, the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, briefed about 1,000 nurses on the new benefits of the health care law--six months old this week. My story on this outreach effort is here.

click below for Obama, Wakefield transcripts

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the First Lady
___________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release September 28, 2010

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
DURING CONFERENCE CALL WITH NURSES

Via teleconference


MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, thanks so much, Dr. Wakefield. Thank you for that introduction but more importantly thank you for your hard work in fighting for health care reform for so many years. She's truly been a wonderful advocate and a partner to this White House.

I also want to thank all the nurses who are joining me here today at the White House. And of course I want to thank all of you joining us on the call across the country today. We have a wonderful representation of the profession on this call.

But we're on this call today to talk about what health insurance reform means for you and for your patients, specifically the new provisions that just went into effect. But I do want to start by saying that I was looking forward to this call for a couple of reasons, not just because we're talking about important reforms, but because Barack and I have seen firsthand the crucial role that nurses play in our nation's health care system.

And just to recall a story, I will never forget the time back in Chicago, when Sasha was then a baby, she was just about four months old, and one day she just began to cry inconsolably. And up until that time, Sasha was a healthy, happy baby who rarely cried for no reason. So of course we knew something was wrong, and we immediately took her to the ER.

And as you all can imagine, when a child gets sick, you are scared, and we were certainly scared when we got to the hospital. And we were even more frightened when Sasha was diagnosed with meningitis.

But what made that difficult time so much easier to bear was really all of you. It was the nurses. And don't get me wrong, the doctors did a phenomenal job. But the nurses were the ones communicating with us every single step of the way, using their expertise not just to comfort our little baby girl, but to comfort us.

And thank God, everything turned out okay, and Sasha is healthy, as everyone knows. But it's because of that experience we will always be grateful to the nurses who helped us then and to all our nurses across the country who provide such outstanding health care each and every day.

And I know that so many Americans have their own stories to tell about the skill, the care, the compassion that nurses showed them during difficult days.

We all have these stories because in moments of need, nurses are on the front lines of America's health care system. We all have these stories because in moments of need, nurses are the ones who make things work.

And that's the reason we're talking today. You all play such a critical role in helping patients understand what's going on with their health care, giving them the information they need not just to get better, but to stay healthy.

And right now, there's some very important new information that we really need to help pass along.

Last week, we hit the six-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. That means that we're starting to see more of the reforms take effect, including new protections and benefits in the Patient's Bill of Rights.

So for example, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against kids because they have a preexisting condition. Patients can no longer be dropped by their insurance companies because they get sick. People suffering from a serious illness like breast cancer can focus on their treatment because they no longer have to worry about hitting their lifetime limit on coverage. And college kids and young adults just starting out on their own can now get coverage through their parents' plan.

Now, all this means that individuals and families have more control over their health care. But here's the important point: These reforms aren't abstract theories that just make for good talking points. These are real changes that will benefit Americans all across the country.

And some of the biggest new changes and benefits are the reforms that deal with preventative care, because we all know, everyone on this call, that the best way to keep families healthy and cut health care costs is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

And, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, that's going to be easier because many preventative services are now covered at no out-of-pocket costs. Things like mammograms, cervical screenings, colonoscopies, childhood immunizations, prenatal and new baby care, high blood pressure treatment, all of these are included in new insurance plans with no deductable, no copay, no coinsurance, nothing. These steps are crucial because they can help combat preventable conditions that can have serious health consequences later in life.

Take childhood obesity, for example, an issue that's of particular concern to me as First Lady and as a mother. It's an epidemic that's sweeping the country and it's one that I've been trying to combat through our "Let's Move" initiative. These new reforms are critical in addressing this challenge because we know that preventative care, at least certain steps if taken early in a child's life, can help reduce obesity and improve a child's prospect for a healthier future.

We know, for example, that breastfeeding can have an impact on a child's health. That's why the Affordable Care Act makes it easier for a mother to breastfeed once she's returned to work.

We know that prenatal care and early childhood screenings can have a dramatic effect on a child's chances of becoming obese later in life. So the Affordable Care Act covers screenings for an array of conditions that affect pregnant women and their babies.

We know that kids getting their BMI checked is an easy step that can help parents make better decisions about their children's health. So the Affordable Care Act covers BMI screenings.

And it's not just childhood obesity. Preventative measures like these can have a major effect on so many chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease or high blood pressure.

So those are just some of the examples of what's in the law. But in order for this law to make a real difference in people's lives, we have to make sure that people know about these reforms and that they take advantage of them. And that's why we need your help in spreading the word.

So we're asking you all get involved in this outreach effort. Talk to your patients about how these reforms can help them. Also, talk to your colleagues about the best ways to inform patients about what this new law means for them and for their families.

But in closing, just let me say this to all of you on this line. So many of you have played such an important role throughout this process. From the very beginning, it's been nurses who have sat at the table sharing your ideas, sharing your concerns and your experiences. And as a result, all of you have helped to make this law even better. So I want to thank you for that. And we needed your help then and we need your help again to spread the word.

So, again, thank you everyone for the work that you've done, thank you for the work that you're going to do and all the things that you do every single day to make this country a healthier, more secure place.

And with that, I'm going to turn it back to Mary Wakefield who will provide a few more details on some of the other reforms.

Thanks, again.

###
-----
THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the First Lady

___________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release September 28, 2010

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY

DURING CONFERENCE CALL WITH NURSES

Via teleconference

2:01 P.M. EDT

DR. WAKEFIELD: Thank you very much, operator. I want to welcome all of you, and thank you for joining the call today. I'm Dr. Mary Wakefield, and I'm the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration. That's a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And I'm also a nurse. And I am very, very excited to be joined today by the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and to be speaking with all of you about the very important role that nurses can and are playing in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law just over six months ago.

As the First Lady knows, across America nurses are on the front lines of our nation's health care system each hour of each day. Nurses know how much our nation needed real health reform. And now that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, we know what a huge difference its provisions will make to millions of Americans across the country.

But this is still a very new law, and we know that your patients have questions about what this law means for them, and that's why we so appreciate your interest and willingness to spend some time with us this afternoon to hear about what we think will be vitally important information for both you and for your patients.

So on today's call first you'll hear from our First Lady Michelle Obama, who will highlight what this law means for you and for your patients. And then you'll hear from me again about a few other components of the Affordable Care Act relevant to nurses. And then I'm going to turn it over to Jillian Roth, another nurse, who will speak about the importance of prevention, a strategy that is just integral -- it's an integral part of this new legislation. Finally we'll have just a few minutes to take your questions before wrapping up.

So now I'm honored to turn over the call to our nation's First Lady Michelle Obama.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, thanks so much, Dr. Wakefield. Thank you for that introduction but more importantly thank you for your hard work in fighting for health care reform for so many years. She's truly been a wonderful advocate and a partner to this White House.

I also want to thank all the nurses who are joining me here today at the White House. And of course I want to thank all of you joining us on the call across the country today. We have a wonderful representation of the profession on this call.

But we're on this call today to talk about what health insurance reform means for you and for your patients, specifically the new provisions that just went into effect. But I do want to start by saying that I was looking forward to this call for a couple of reasons, not just because we're talking about important reforms, but because Barack and I have seen firsthand the crucial role that nurses play in our nation's health care system.

And just to recall a story, I will never forget the time back in Chicago, when Sasha was then a baby, she was just about four months old, and one day she just began to cry inconsolably. And up until that time, Sasha was a healthy, happy baby who rarely cried for no reason. So of course we knew something was wrong, and we immediately took her to the ER.

And as you all can imagine, when a child gets sick, you are scared, and we were certainly scared when we got to the hospital. And we were even more frightened when Sasha was diagnosed with meningitis.

But what made that difficult time so much easier to bear was really all of you. It was the nurses. And don't get me wrong, the doctors did a phenomenal job. But the nurses were the ones communicating with us every single step of the way, using their expertise not just to comfort our little baby girl, but to comfort us.

And thank God, everything turned out okay, and Sasha is healthy, as everyone knows. But it's because of that experience we will always be grateful to the nurses who helped us then and to all our nurses across the country who provide such outstanding health care each and every day.

And I know that so many Americans have their own stories to tell about the skill, the care, the compassion that nurses showed them during difficult days.

We all have these stories because in moments of need, nurses are on the front lines of America's health care system. We all have these stories because in moments of need, nurses are the ones who make things work.

And that's the reason we're talking today. You all play such a critical role in helping patients understand what's going on with their health care, giving them the information they need not just to get better, but to stay healthy.

And right now, there's some very important new information that we really need to help pass along.

Last week, we hit the six-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. That means that we're starting to see more of the reforms take effect, including new protections and benefits in the Patient's Bill of Rights.

So for example, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against kids because they have a preexisting condition. Patients can no longer be dropped by their insurance companies because they get sick. People suffering from a serious illness like breast cancer can focus on their treatment because they no longer have to worry about hitting their lifetime limit on coverage. And college kids and young adults just starting out on their own can now get coverage through their parents' plan.

Now, all this means that individuals and families have more control over their health care. But here's the important point: These reforms aren't abstract theories that just make for good talking points. These are real changes that will benefit Americans all across the country.

And some of the biggest new changes and benefits are the reforms that deal with preventative care, because we all know, everyone on this call, that the best way to keep families healthy and cut health care costs is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

And, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, that's going to be easier because many preventative services are now covered at no out-of-pocket costs. Things like mammograms, cervical screenings, colonoscopies, childhood immunizations, prenatal and new baby care, high blood pressure treatment, all of these are included in new insurance plans with no deductable, no copay, no coinsurance, nothing. These steps are crucial because they can help combat preventable conditions that can have serious health consequences later in life.

Take childhood obesity, for example, an issue that's of particular concern to me as First Lady and as a mother. It's an epidemic that's sweeping the country and it's one that I've been trying to combat through our "Let's Move" initiative. These new reforms are critical in addressing this challenge because we know that preventative care, at least certain steps if taken early in a child's life, can help reduce obesity and improve a child's prospect for a healthier future.

We know, for example, that breastfeeding can have an impact on a child's health. That's why the Affordable Care Act makes it easier for a mother to breastfeed once she's returned to work.

We know that prenatal care and early childhood screenings can have a dramatic effect on a child's chances of becoming obese later in life. So the Affordable Care Act covers screenings for an array of conditions that affect pregnant women and their babies.

We know that kids getting their BMI checked is an easy step that can help parents make better decisions about their children's health. So the Affordable Care Act covers BMI screenings.

And it's not just childhood obesity. Preventative measures like these can have a major effect on so many chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease or high blood pressure.

So those are just some of the examples of what's in the law. But in order for this law to make a real difference in people's lives, we have to make sure that people know about these reforms and that they take advantage of them. And that's why we need your help in spreading the word.

So we're asking you all get involved in this outreach effort. Talk to your patients about how these reforms can help them. Also, talk to your colleagues about the best ways to inform patients about what this new law means for them and for their families.

But in closing, just let me say this to all of you on this line. So many of you have played such an important role throughout this process. From the very beginning, it's been nurses who have sat at the table sharing your ideas, sharing your concerns and your experiences. And as a result, all of you have helped to make this law even better. So I want to thank you for that. And we needed your help then and we need your help again to spread the word.

So, again, thank you everyone for the work that you've done, thank you for the work that you're going to do and all the things that you do every single day to make this country a healthier, more secure place.

And with that, I'm going to turn it back to Mary Wakefield who will provide a few more details on some of the other reforms.

Thanks, again.

DR. WAKEFIELD: Thanks, so much, Mrs. Obama. It is wonderful to hear your thoughts about the Affordable Care Act's impact on improving the health of the nation, and also to hear your support for nurses and the work that they do.

And as a nurse, from my perspective, I greatly appreciate the Obama administration's strong support for nurses. And I know my nurse colleagues across the nation do, as well.

That support is clearly evident throughout the Affordable Care Act. Earlier today, in fact, I joined HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to announce $253 million in Health Resources and Service Administration grants that were released under the Affordable Care Act's Public Health and Prevention Fund.

Bolstering our primary care workforce and included in that announcement were two sets of nursing grants. And I think they each merit mention; one of them, a $31 million allocation under the Advanced Nurse Education Expansion Program that as of today will go to 26 schools of nursing to increase full-time enrollment in primary care nurse practitioner and nurse midwife programs. We expect these funds to support 1,300 primary care nurse stipends over five years and to fully train 600 nurse practitioners and nurse midwives by 2015.

Additionally, we announced this morning $14.8 million to fund 10 nurse-managed health clinics to provide primary care. These clinics, managed by advanced practice nurses, provide primary care or wellness services to under-served, vulnerable populations. Funding is for three years and it will provide access and training -- access to primary care and training for more than 900 advanced practice nurses.

More broadly, the Affordable Care Act makes an historic investment in primary care by expanding the Health Resources and Services Administration's supported network of health centers across the country. These centers provide a range of primary care services to patients, and they treat anyone who comes through their doors.

Health centers are slated to receive an additional $11 billion over the next five years, to double by 2015 the current patient base of 19 million people. And this influx of support follows on the heels of a $2 billion investment made through the Recovery Act stimulus funds just last year that expanded health centers and the services that they deliver.

Right now, we have about 15,000 nurses that work in health centers, including hundreds of advanced practice nurses. So looking forward, you can imagine the opportunities for nurses that will emerge over the next few years as we work to expand the primary care system.

The Affordable Care Act also invests $1.5 billion in the National Health Service Corps over the next five years. That's in addition to $300 million invested in the National Health Service Corps last year under the Recovery Act to boost the number of clinicians who work in under-served areas.

Advanced practice nurses are eligible to join the National Health Service Corps. And in fact, of the 4,700 National Health Service Corps clinicians currently in the field, 15 percent are advanced practice nurses.

But we have standing vacancies for about 1,700 more health care professionals at 1,400 locations now across the country. So for advanced practice nurses looking for an opportunity to serve those who are in most need of primary care, and have the government help to pay off their student loans while they work, I'd urge them to go online on at hrsa -- that's hrsa.gov -- and visit the National Health Service Corps site. Lots more opportunities as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

And there are other Affordable Care Act provisions that are also important to highlight. If nurses are to play an expanded role in a reformed health care system, clearly then access to nursing education programs is of paramount importance.

The Affordable Care Act reauthorizes and it significantly increases funding for all seven of the Health Resources and Services Administration's nursing programs, programs that represent the primary source of federal funding for nursing education.

And faculty shortages are a leading factor in admissions backlogs at schools of nursing. At present only 13.2 percent of RNs have a graduate degree, and only 12 percent of those are employed in educational settings. While the Affordable Care Act addresses this challenge by updating the Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship and the Nurse Anesthetist Traineeship Program, prior to the Affordable Care Act the Health Resources and Services Administration was prohibited from granting more than 10 percent of those funds to doctoral students. But fortunately the Affordable Care Act eliminates this cap, and support for training and advanced educational practice is also highlighted in the Nursing Workforce Diversity Program.

Similarly, the Nurse Faculty Loan Program provides funds to schools that enable them to offer loans for Masters- or Doctoral-level nursing students that are interested in becoming teachers.

The combination of increased fiscal year 2010 appropriations and additional funding from last year's Recovery Act means that this program, the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, is significantly larger now than it has been in years.

And the Nursing Student Loan Program gives students with limited financial resources access to long-term, low-interest loans. It also provides partial loan cancellation for nurses who work in shortage areas. The Affordable Care Act increases the amount that student nurses may borrow by almost 25 percent to a maximum of $17,000. And the Affordable Care Act also expands the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program to include faculty.

The overall impact of these changes associated with the Affordable Care Act will, I think, be a continuation of the positive trends that were reflected in HRSA's most recent national sample survey of registered nurses, which found that while demand still outpaces supply, the nursing profession is growing, we're better educated than ever before, and we're becoming more diverse, more reflective of the patient populations that we serve.

Even so, though, we have gaps to fill in each of the areas, which is why these investments that I've just mentioned are so important to going forward.

To keep up with the pace of reform and to learn more about how the Affordable Care Act helps you and your family, and to direct your patients to a rich source of information, I would encourage everyone on the line to go to the website, healthcare.gov -- "healthcare," all one word, "dot-gov." This is a government website that allows users to compare the value of insurance plans available in their states, to compare the performance of nearby hospitals, for example, and to learn about ways to stay healthy.

That site, that website, is totally geared to the needs of consumers, and it is remarkably easy to navigate. In addition, it has been structured to evolve and expand as consumers use it. And comments to website administrators are much welcome so we can figure out even new ways to improve it. Remember, it's healthcare.gov.

So thank you very much for this opportunity to share a bit more information on the Affordable Care Act. And I'd like to invite Jillian Roth, a nurse, to speak to all of us.

Jillian?

MS. ROTH: Good afternoon. My name is Jillian Roth and I'm pleased to join Mrs. Obama and Dr. Wakefield for this important conference call. Let me add my greetings to the thousands of registered nurses and nursing students who are on this call, as well. As nurses, patients look to us for important information about how they can stay healthy and how they can access important health care services.

I've been a registered nurse since 2007. I currently work in a hospital in Northern Virginia in labor and delivery.

I chose nursing because it challenges my intellect and it allows me to make a difference in people's lives. I love my work and I feel privileged to be with the women and their families at such important times in their lives.

I care for women from all walks of life. And at times I see women who have experienced complications during delivery, and these complications oftentimes could have been avoided with better management of their care, or if they have had access to prenatal care.

That's one reason I got actively involved in the American Nurses Association's efforts to help pass health care reform. Recently, I cared for two women who had no prenatal care because they lacked insurance. When both of these women arrived at the hospital in labor, they had no idea how many weeks along they were. In the first case, the baby was preterm. Had we known this, we would have had a neonatologist available during her delivery. The second case was a young woman who thought she was 34 weeks along, yet it turned out she was post-dates, so we ended up having to do a C-section and delivering a very large baby.

We are fortunate in both cases that the deliveries went okay, but it's challenging when your patients arrive at the hospital and there is little to no information. It's hard to predict what kind of complications may occur, and those kinds of surprises can lead to devastating consequences. That is why access to primary and preventive care is so important.

One in eight infants born today is premature. Premature babies often require long and costly stays in the NICU, and they experience many health issues and developmental delays. High quality prenatal care can go far to reduce the number of premature births.

I also have a husband who has diabetes, so on a personal level I understand the role of disease management and controlling his diabetes and preventing complications. We know that diabetes and other chronic diseases are on the rise and that we will be seeing an increase in chronic diseases as our population ages unless we take action.

As nurses, we really understand how to prevent -- how preventive and primary care services can help avoid complications. That's why I believe the health care law is important, and I'm excited about the new benefits that will help people access insurance and many of these important health care services.

Thank you.

DR. WAKEFIELD: Thank you very much, Jillian. I think we'll turn now and take some questions. So the first question, I think, is coming from Kay Balls. Kay -- and if you'd let folks know where you're from, and then we'd delighted to hear your question.

MS. BALL: Kay Ball, and I'm Associate Professor of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. And I want to say hello to the First Lady Obama and Dr. Wakefield. And we're on the campus right now, and I'm joined on this call with many of my nursing faculty colleagues.

So as you know, nursing is the number one trusted profession in the United States. And because of this, we've been able to form a very strong bond of confidence with our patients and their families. And we also know, as you said, that there are a lot of unhealthy lifestyles existing in America today and that many diseases and conditions today are preventable. With all this in mind, how can nurses actively and collaboratively work with the White House to promote prevention and healthy lifestyles for all? And how can we as nursing faculty help our nursing students carry this message into the future so it can be sustained?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, Kay, thanks so much for your question. Thank you and your colleagues for your work. I think that it's a wonderful question. Let me just say that, first of all, you all are doing -- already doing so much to partner and support this reform and the White House. And I guess at first blush it's just keep doing what you're doing. I mean, as you said, Americans rely on nurses for advice and for guidance, and I think the best thing we can do is make sure that people understand the prevention services that are out there; continue to educate people about the importance of disease prevention early on.

All of us have members in our family who are afraid of medical care. They don't go to the doctors, they don't go to nurses. Everybody here is nodding their heads in agreement. We all have experienced that, and I think that sometimes a conversation with a physician feels a bit more intimidating. But the folks in your profession can have the conversations and to just remind people that we can stop this train, many of these disease trains, from heading down the track.

And again, we've got to just let people know about these new health insurance reforms; that if people purchase plans now that they'll receive the recommended preventative care with no out-of-pocket costs. That's really important for people to understand. That's one of the reasons why reform has tried to make these provisions easier to access.

And I would also just like to add that it's important to remind patients that next year Medicare beneficiaries will get free preventative care as well under the act. So that's another benefit that's going to come along next year.

So I think we're asking you to spread the word, to use your -- not just your professional channels, the channels that you have working with patients in a medical setting, but also your personal channels as well. Nurses are regular folks who go to church and go to the grocery store, they have kids at school, they're on boards. Use those avenues as a way to continue to educate your communities about these reforms and to continue to push preventative care, because no longer will insurance be a barrier to this kind of care.

The stories that Jillian has told can be eliminated because of these reforms. And I know that all of you who are working in labor rooms around the country know the importance, for example, of seeing mothers who have gotten good prenatal care. Now they can do that, it's easier, and we just need to -- we need your help in spreading the word.

So thank you so much for all that you're doing, and just keep it up. And we'll take the next question.

MS. BALL: Thank you.

DR. WAKEFIELD: And I think the next question is coming from Marlene Heier. Marlene, I hope I'm pronouncing your last name correctly. If you let us know where you're from, and ask your question.

MS. HEIER: Yes, thank you. First, I would like to say it's a privilege and an honor to be a participant in the forum. I am an orthopedic nurse from Ketterine Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio; have been in the orthopedic field for nine out of my 22 years in nursing.

Actually our concern on the orthopedic unit -- I understand that it seems almost that the Affordable Care Act pertains a lot to the younger populace and preventive medicine. I understand that there will be more free preventative care provided to the Medicare populace.

But our concern is will patients' reimbursement be decreased to a point where patients such as ours will be either discouraged or unable to continue to have elective joint repairs? A lot of them have reached a point of immobility and extreme pain because of the necessity for the joint repairs, and we're not talking about fractures and repairs due to trauma. The most -- I'd say 80 percent of our patients are Medicare recipients, so our reimbursement comes mostly from the Medicare populace. And so the decrease in the reimbursement, our hospital would impact our nursing staff as well, and that directly impacts patient care.

So I guess our concern is how is this going to impact Medicare and the amount of reimbursement?

DR. WAKEFIELD: Thanks so much for that question, Marlene, and it was nice to hear your referencing your practice in orthopedic nursing. I have practiced for a period of time in orthopedic nursing, as well, so I have some appreciation for what you and your colleagues face in terms of delivering care both to younger patients but also to Medicare beneficiaries that find their way to hospitals for orthopedic intervention.

And the question that you raise is a really, really important one, and I'm happy to answer to this question. It's important because there's a lot of misinformation and confusion about what Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to and how the Affordable Care Act impacts the Medicare program.

So I think I'd like to make a few comments about it. First of all, for Medicare beneficiaries and the care that they receive from you and in other parts of the health care delivery system, guaranteed Medicare benefits will not change, whether a senior citizen gets those benefits through original Medicare or through a Medicare Advantage plan. Guaranteed benefits are protected and they will be protected.

In addition to that, in addition to ensuring that guaranteed Medicare benefits do not change under the law, there are also new benefits. So senior citizens have access to new services. Some of you have perhaps heard about some of them that we've talking about most recently that has to do with the Medicare Part D program.

So, for example, if a senior citizen on Medicare enters the Part D doughnut hole this year, they will receive a one-time $250 rebate check. And as of this month, around September 20th or so, we have about $1.2 million Medicare enrollees that have already qualified for that rebate and that have already been sent that check. We know how important prescription drugs are to the health of Medicare beneficiaries. That's a very important expansion of health care services.

And on that front, I think it's probably also worth noting that looking forward, next year, seniors on Medicare will get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs when they hit the doughnut hole.

So in other words, beneficiaries who enter the doughnut hole in 2011 will save on average over about $500 on their brand-name prescription drugs. And as you continue to track the impact of the Affordable Care Act going forward, we'll see even more efforts to close the doughnut hole until it's completely closed in 2020.

And it's probably worth just reiterating the point that the First Lady made just a minute ago, and that is that senior citizens will be receiving free preventive care and a free annual wellness visit beginning next year.

So the Medicare program writ large is strengthened and the benefits for individual Medicare beneficiaries are expanded. This new law includes very important tools to help strengthen access to health care services for Medicare beneficiaries.

I really do want to thank you for that question because I think, personally, that senior citizens have gotten a lot of bad information about the new law and I hope that as nurses you'll take the opportunity to answer their questions and ensure that senior citizens have information that they need and honestly that they deserve. So thanks a lot for letting me set the record straight a little bit on that front.

And I think that we have time for one more question. I think Pennie Branden, you're next in line, if you'd like to ask your question

MS. BRANDEN: Hello, and thank you, Dr. Wakefield and Mrs. Obama, and hello to all of my nursing colleagues across the country.

I am a certified nurse midwife and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Southern Connecticut State University. And I just wanted to ask about the fact that all nurses are aware of the nursing faculty shortage, as Dr. Wakefield mentioned earlier. And in regard to that, I have two questions. Firstly, what is the future goal of the administration to reduce the shortage of nurses and nurse educators? And secondly, is the administration actively involving educators on the ground to strategically address the faculty shortage?

DR. WAKEFIELD: Great questions, and I can probably help to answer that. Pennie, thank you for them. First of all, you've heard a fair amount of conversation about strengthening the primary care workforce. That's really critical, both to have faculty that are prepared to educate that next generation of primary care nurses, and you see those provisions in the Health Resources and Services Administration strengthened specifically, and I talked a bit about those earlier.

For example, with the availability of new funding, through the Prevention and Public Health Fund that the Secretary -- Secretary Sebelius and I just announced earlier today -- those resources that will help prepare the health system to meet what we know is going to be increased demand for primary care services as many more individuals have access to primary care, in a lot of cases for the very first time.

But combined with those investments that I talked about earlier, you see the Affordable Care Act markedly expanding part of the -- different parts of the division of nursing programs that support the production of nursing faculty. We just released last week data from our every-four-year, quadrennial survey on the nursing workforce. And we can see pending shortages in nursing faculty. So they're not necessarily getting better. So it's just in time that the Affordable Care Act is expanding the major programs available through the Health Resources and Services Administration that support nursing faculty, that support nurses to choose a career in teaching the next generation of nurses.

So there are expansions in programs. We've also made recent investments that we've announced just about a month ago, and we'll be making more investments as we go forward. So yes, we've got a clear eye on the importance of ensuring access for students, access to nursing faculty. And we are expected and we certainly are working closely with nursing faculty across the country.

We also, for those of you who are on this call, we welcome your input about how we can do an even better job of deploying these new resources. So we do our work in partnership with folks across the nation. That's the expectation of this administration. And we invite and we welcome your input as we now have new resources to strengthen our primary care workforce and to strengthen our investments in faculty.

And -- please.

MRS. OBAMA: Just one other thing, and I could have mentioned this in my answer -- this is Mrs. Obama, Michelle Obama -- but, you know, I would just encourage you all, particularly in these tough economic times, as we're talking to young people and people, you know, who are looking for career changes -- and this is something that I say to young people all the time -- the health profession is the growing sector. This is where the jobs are going to be. And when I -- I met a young girl through Make A Wish Foundation just last week, I think it was, who said she wanted to be a nurse, and I told her that that was an outstanding choice because she'd probably always work in this economy.

So I would urge you all to spread the word to young people and people who are looking for a career change, people who may be out of work and need to think about where the next sort of sector of jobs is going to be: It is right here. And again, with preventive service expansion, more nurses, more RNs, more certified nursing assistants are going to be needed to fill this void, which will be great. And again, there are resources to get educated, to get your degree, to become a teacher. This is where -- this is the future of medicine in so many ways.

So we need you to help just spread that word to young people starting out, to people who are making the change, because we're going to need nurses big time in the years to come.

So just wanted to add that, and I'll turn it back over to Dr. Wakefield.

DR. WAKEFIELD: Thanks so much for those observations, Mrs. Obama. And I want to thank nurses from across the country for joining us today. That's about all the time that we have for questions.

But I do want to underscore that if there's anything from this call that you need some clarification about, or you want some additional information about the Affordable Care Act, as I mentioned earlier, please do go to that website, healthcare.gov -- "healthcare," all one word -- healthcare.gov.

And in addition to thanking the nurses who participated in the call all the across the nation, I want to extend from -- and on behalf of nurses, very, very special thanks to you, Mrs. Obama, both for your leadership in terms of the health of the nation and for joining the thousands of nurses from across the country who participated in this call today to discuss with us some of the very important provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

So thanks to you for being here with us.

MRS. OBAMA: It's an honor. Thank you, thank you, all.

END 2:37 P.M. EDT


1 Comment

Let me first say I am honored to be in this profession My name is Tonjua Sibley I have been nurse for 10 years and in ER and trauma for 6 years at Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona the Director of the Emergency Department attended the conference call I didnt but i am grateful that it was provided for me to read and i will do all that i can to teach and reach my patients my community and my colleagues on the new laws that are in affect pertaining to the affordable care act and what it means to and for all of us. I am currently in school advancing my education, just finishing up my BSN at Grand Canyon University,in Phoenix, Az. starting the MSN with an infasis on education and plan on having my FNP by 2013 my desire is to open up a nurse managed health clinic to provide primary care and wellness services to under-served, vulnerable population in Phoenix, Az. Again Thank you for the spirit de corps.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 28, 2010 3:18 PM.

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