Today is the first of five regional forums following up on the forum at the White House a week ago, hosted by Governors Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin. As the President explained in the announcement of the regional forums, they will be meant to foster the same kind of meaningful and open dialogue that occurred at the White House in communities across the country: "The forums will bring together diverse groups of people all over the country who have a stake in reforming our health care system and ask them to put forward their best ideas about how we bring down costs and expand coverage for American families."
You can watch the first one streamed from Michigan at HealthReform.gov at 2pm ET, and in the meantime you can submit your own ideas and questions for the forums, find dates and locations, and learn what people in your own state had to say during the community discussions that took place during the Presidential Transition
Deb Price of the Detroit News describes Joyce Shilakes, a local social worker and breast-cancer survivor, who was involved in those discussions and who will speak at the forum today:
"I deal with people on a daily basis trying to fund their health care," Shilakes said.
"They are not able to afford their treatments, their medications. They are juggling that with household bills -- heat, food," she added.
The result, she says, is that people don't comply with physician-recommended doses of medication, because they can't afford it. One of her clients refused to have a lump checked in her breast -- despite a history of breast cancer in her family -- because she had no medical insurance.
Shilakes and her husband Mark have seen the importance of good coverage.
Her cancer treatment bills -- paid for by GM -- topped $100,000. Husband Mark, a General Motors staff research technician, who has both of them on his health care plan, was also diagnosed with cancer and needed treatment.
"With the state of things in the auto industry, we don't know whether he is going to have a job. If he loses his job, which provides our health care, we'll be without coverage," she said.
Every community in the country has stories like hers, and these forums will give those stories a chance to be heard -- and even more importantly start the process of helping to fix what’s broken.