A MC Final Project: Tracking down Obama’s healthcare and medical policy in NY

Alice Pugh

Gemma Johnson

WITH US health reform in the news, two Coventry University journalism students have just returned from a visit to New York, where they interviewed a number of top opinion-formers on the reforms which President Obama recently managed to push through Congress; writes John Lister.

Third year students Gemma-Louise Johnson and Alice Pugh went to New York with financial support from the International Experience and Mobility Service [IEMS]. They managed to skip round the volcanic ash cloud just in time to spend eight days probing opinions on the likely impact, cost and effectiveness of Obama’s Health Reform Bill and what it means for the people of New York and the USA.  Their interviews break new ground in pulling together an analysis from top policy experts, and will be written up with video clips to be edited as soon as they have finished their Final Project work for their degrees.

Obama made clear that he wanted to shape up medicine and healthcare, so that at the very least everyone has access to it.  But will it deliver what he expects?

Alice says: “We asked everyone we spoke to, ‘What does the US public think of nationalised healthcare?’ and ‘Who benefits from Obama’s new healthcare reform?’, as well as many other questions. Those we asked were extremely responsive, each with a slightly differing opinion and we thank them all for their time.”

“Firstly we met Dr Jo Ivey Boufford, the President of the New York Academy of Medicine.  Next we attended a lecture by Trudy Lieberman, a former President of the Association of Healthcare Journalists, at the Baruch College of the City University of New York, in which the Obama reforms were discussed and we also responded to some misunderstandings of our National Health Service. 

“After meeting some students studying healthcare journalism we got to meet Joe Baker of Medicare Rights, an organisation that champions the healthcare of older people, and supports one of the only healthcare systems funded by the US government.“

Gemma adds: “We went on to interview lecturer and researcher Nick Freudenberg, also of City University New York.  His impressive research includes looking into how problems of ill-health are exacerbated by corporate interests, who lack any sense of responsibility for the health impact of their products. 

“And we went on to meet Cathy Schoen, the Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Fund. As an organisation it has done extensive research into healthcare systems, analysing what works and what doesn’t; they had high hopes for the reform, seeing it as a base for them and others to work from.”

To get an alternative view, Gemma and Alice also interviewed Trudy Lieberman to hear her own analysis of the reforms, and then spoke to Dr Len Rodberg, also from CUNY. Len is president of the radical campaigning organisation Physicians for a National Health Programme, which is critical of the Obama reforms, and has pressed for many years for a “single payer” system of universal health insurance.  This policy was rejected in advance by Obama, and is bitterly opposed by US health insurers and all those making big money from private provision of health care.

“This day was one of the most insightful, being the last of our interviews. We had learnt a lot by this point, but what these two people had to tell us gave a very different view.” 

Of course the students also had spare time to spend in New York, and they took full advantage, visiting the Rockefeller Tower, Grand Central Station, Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Times Square, the Yankees Stadium, Bowery street, China Town, Little Italy, Soho, Fifth Avenue … and not to mention dunkin’ doughnuts, nearly everyday!

Gemma says: “This trip was jam packed with experience, knowledge, and a lot to go home with.  We look forward to writing up what we have found, editing all the footage we collected, and reporting back to all those we spoke to.  The skills and confidence we have gained in just one week are invaluable and we give a huge thanks to all those who made this possible including Dr John Lister  and the International Experience and Mobility Service of Coventry University.”

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