Health Care to Take Center Stage at DNC

By Rich Daly

Sep. 4, 2012

The first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, will feature a range of appeals about the health care reform law’s benefits, the obstacles to its passage and issues surrounding its continued implementation.

The night of September 4 will feature some of the highest-profile defenders of the law, including first lady Michelle Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Convention organizers would not release the details of her speech tonight, but Mrs. Obama’s stump speech at campaign rallies and fundraisers nationwide in recent months has featured an emotional defense of various popular and controversial provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Sebelius, a former Kansas insurance commissioner, has given comparatively few public speeches about the law but is the public face of the administration’s health care policy and immersed in the myriad details of implementing the massive measure.

Emotional appeals about the benefits from the law, which continues to lag in public popularity, also will include stories from private figures. For example, Ryan Case, a college student and campaign volunteer, will speak about how the law would have helped his parents. Case took care of both his mother and father when they became ill; they died while he was a teenager.

Similarly emotional healthcare appeals may come during a video and speech tribute to the Kennedy family, since a national expansion of insurance coverage was the decades-long goal of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).

But the law also faces the promise of repeal from Republicans and their presidential candidate, so the night will highlight its political challenges. Among speakers addressing the political struggles surrounding the law will be Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel, when he was chief of staff to President Barack Obama, famously advised the president to abandon the highly contentious legislative push to enact the comprehensive healthcare law in favor of an incremental approach.

And the ongoing political fight over the law also is highlighted by the night’s inclusion of Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union. Her organization has funded and organized extensive efforts to publicize the many benefits of the law and to push back on Republican criticisms of its components.

Rich Daly writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email

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