Michelle Obama presses health reform message
By Dan Eggen and Garance Franke-Ruta
First lady Michelle Obama waded into the health-care reform debate Friday with a video message aimed at women, saying that her husband's proposed overhaul of the insurance system "is about ensuring that everyone in this country can care for their families."
The appearance by the first lady is part of the White House's multifaceted push for health-care reform legislation, which is edging closer to floor debates in the House and Senate, and comes at the conclusion of a week where a broad array of administration, think tank and media leaders have sought to focus attention on the status of women. Obama's comments are notably more personal in nature than recent public remarks by her husband, which have generally focused on the broader policy goals of reform and its impact on middle-class Americans and the economy.
Speaking as part of a 5-minute pro-reform video on the iVillage website, Michelle Obama relates the story of a medical scare the Obamas had with their youngest daughter Sasha, then an infant, who was rushed to the emergency room amid concerns that she had developed meningitis. "That moment in our lives flashes through my mind when we talk about health-care reform," Obama says. "How if we hadn't had insurance, if we couldn't afford a doctor, we might have waited until it was too late."
Also posted on the White House blog, the video, "Why Health Insurance Reform Matters to Women," was released just hours before the first lady hosted a White House event marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month along with Jill Biden.
The iVillage website is soliciting questions about the video and the president's health-reform goals for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who appears in the video with Michelle Obama and will provide videotaped answers to some of the queries online next Friday.
iVillage is owned by the NBC Universal, which this week has been holding a week-long programming event on the status of women in America in conjunction with the release of "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," a study by California first lady Maria Shriver in partnership with the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C. CAP's president, John Podesta, served as co-chair of the Obama transition effort and the group is generally seen as being close to the White House. Oprah Winfrey, a close friend of Shriver's and a long-time supporter of the president's, provided an introduction for the report.
On Monday, CAP held a forum with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to focus on the worklife issues addressed by the report.
Posted at 1:15 PM ET on Oct 23, 2009
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