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UPMC, AGH Nurses Meet With Obama to Talk Health Care

UPMC, AGH Nurses Meet With Obama to Talk Health Care

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

September 14, 2009

WASHINGTON — The morning after addressing Congress, President Barack Obama seemed energized as he met a UPMC Shadyside oncology nurse whose tale he was using as part of a call for nurses’ support in the health care debate.

Theresa Brown described the president as “ebullient” as he embarked on an aggressive push yesterday to build on his speech to swing the health care reform debate and prod Congress to pass a bill to provide universal health insurance.

About 150 nurses gathered yesterday in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, including Ms. Brown and 17 nurses who drove down from Allegheny General Hospital on a day’s notice.

Mr. Obama quoted from a blog post by Ms. Brown, who wrote about a patient who spent much of his dying months worrying about how to pay for his leukemia treatments.

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“That’s why we need health care reform,” Mr. Obama said, quoting Ms. Brown.

It’s too early to tell if Mr. Obama’s prime-time speech halted the upsurge of criticism of his health reform plans. But Pittsburgh’s nursing contingent expressed support for Mr. Obama’s goals because uninsured patients strain hospitals’ finances by leaving large unpaid bills.

Several of the nurses also support Mr. Obama’s plans to bring additional Wcompetition to the insurance market through a health insurance exchange, in which the uninsured can choose from a menu of competing options.

Cathy Stoddart, a kidney transplant nurse at AGH, said that Highmark’s near-monopoly on the Western Pennsylvania insurance market makes it difficult to negotiate.

“If there’s competition, maybe our hospital won’t have to fight for decent rates” of reimbursement, she said.

Ms. Stoddart, the policy and politics chair for the National Nurse Alliance, a part of the Service Employees International Union, got a call from the White House on Wednesday inviting her to bring a group down. She brought 15 union members and two managers from the hospital — Judith Zedreck, chief nursing officer, and Angela Costa, who manages the neuro intensive care unit — to show their support for health care reform.

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