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Health Equity: Affordability with Richard E. Besser, MD & Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.)

Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) & Richard E. Besser, MD join Washington Post Lve on Thursday, Oct. 7 (Video: The Washington Post)

Healthcare delivery has changed more in the past year than during any similar period in modern history.

And it changed in a way that may help counteract the rising cost of healthcare. At the same time, health insurance coverage is still unaffordable for many Americans, as premium inflation outpaces wage increases. Washington Post Live will gather policymakers, business leaders and public health experts for conversations focused on efforts to make health care more affordable in the United States and deliver innovative, quality care to a wider swath of Americans in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) says it’s important President Biden and congressional leaders make good on their promise to deliver affordable health care. “In my conversations with President Biden and the congressional leaders that I serve with I’ve been extremely clear that we can’t build back better if Americans don’t have access to affordable health care…This is something that the American people overwhelmingly support because so many have experienced the high cost of insulin or the high cost of a prescription drug that they’re looking for relief.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) says she’s confident the Democrats can get the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed. “We’re going to pass this Build Back Better Act. We’re going to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Act, and we will have a great opportunity to make key investments to improve the lives, and the health, and wellbeing of the American people.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) said Medicaid expansion is critical to improving health outcomes for low-income Americans. She added that Medicare expansion is also a priority for the Democratic caucus. “We have an opportunity to cover low-income Americans who’ve been left behind…We have an opportunity to make tremendous gains toward affordable, equitable health care.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), who is also a registered nurse, says it’s “absolutely reasonable" to require nurses and other healthcare workers to be vaccinated against covid-19, explaining that other vaccines are also required for the job. “We have vaccines that are approved by the FDA. They’re safe and effective and they work.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Richard E. Besser, MD, says he thinks providing low-cost or free covid-19 tests to Americans could have a great impact on the country’s coronavirus response. “I do think testing could play much bigger role than it has. It should play a much bigger role than it has. You know, imagine we had low-cost or free testing available to everyone in America…that would be a very different response than we’ve seen and one that could have great impact.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Richard E. Besser, MD, says the it’s time the federal government tackle the issue of affordable health care and find a solution. “It’s time that the federal government takes this on and solves it, so that 2.2. million people can get this care. The studies have been done to show the impact of this. When you expend access to health care coverage you improve the health outcome.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Richard E. Besser, MD

Provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Richard Besser, MD, is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a position he assumed in April 2017. Besser is the former acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and ABC News’ former chief health and medical editor.

At RWJF, Besser leads the largest private foundation in the country devoted solely to improving the nation’s health. RWJF’s work is focused on building a comprehensive Culture of Health that provides everyone in America with a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Access to healthy food, clean air and water, safe housing, secure employment at a living wage, transportation, education, and the elimination of barriers from discrimination are all important contributors to health and well-being. In his role, Besser is a leading voice on the importance of health equity, advocating for racial justice, full inclusion of people with disabilities, and a COVID-19 response and recovery that prioritizes those most impacted.

In Besser’s role at ABC News, he provided medical analysis and reports for all ABC News programs and platforms. His weekly health chats on social media reached millions.

While at ABC News, Besser traveled all over the United States and around the globe to cover major medical news stories. He walked the Ebola wards in Liberia in 2014, reporting from the center of the deadly epidemic, and continued to provide extensive coverage for months. In 2011, he led ABC's global health coverage, "Be the Change: Save a Life," reporting on critical global health issues from seven different nations.

Before joining ABC News in 2009, Besser worked as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response at the CDC. In that role he was responsible for all the CDC's public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. He also served as acting director of the CDC from January to June 2009, during which time he led the CDC's response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Besser’s tenure at the CDC began in 1991 working on the epidemiology of food-borne illness. He then served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego as the pediatric residency director, while also conducting research and working for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to the CDC in 1998 as an infectious disease epidemiologist working on pneumonia, antibiotic resistance, and the control of antibiotic overuse.

The author or co-author of hundreds of presentations, abstracts, chapters, editorials and publications, Besser has earned many awards for his work in public health and for his volunteer service. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. He received the Surgeon General's Medallion for his leadership during the H1N1 response, and in 2011 he accepted the Dean's Medal for his contributions to public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His investigative reporting into umbilical cord blood banking was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011. In 2012, he received an Overseas Press Club award as part of ABC's coverage of global maternal health issues, and two Peabody Awards as part of ABC News’ coverage of Hurricane Sandy and Robin Roberts’ health journey. In 2017 and 2018, he received an Emmy award for “Outstanding Morning Program” as part of the Good Morning America team. His book, “Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions,” was published by Hyperion in 2013.

Besser received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Williams College and medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore.

He continues to practice as a volunteer pediatrician at the Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton, N.J. He and his wife Jeanne, a food writer, have two sons, Alex and Jack.

Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.)

Provided by the office of Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.)

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood serves Illinois’ 14th Congressional District and was sworn into the 116th U.S. Congress on January 3, 2019. Congresswoman Underwood is the first woman, the first person of color, and the first millennial to represent her community in Congress. She is also the youngest African American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives.

Congresswoman Underwood serves on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and the House Committee on Appropriations. Congresswoman Underwood co-founded and co-chairs the Black Maternal Health Caucus, which elevates the Black maternal health crisis within Congress and advances policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes and end disparities. She also serves on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Rep. Underwood is a member of the Future Forum, a group of young Democratic Members of Congress committed to listening to and standing up for the next generation of Americans, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the LGBT Equality Caucus. As a strong supporter of addressing the gun violence epidemic, Congresswoman Underwood is a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Prior to her election to Congress, Congresswoman Underwood worked with a Medicaid plan in Chicago to ensure that it provided high-quality, cost-efficient care. She served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), helping communities across the country prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, bioterror threats, and public health emergencies. As a career public servant at HHS, she helped implement the Affordable Care Act — broadening access for those on Medicare, improving health care quality, and reforming private insurance. Congresswoman Underwood also taught future nurse practitioners through Georgetown University’s online master’s program. Congresswoman Underwood is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University. She graduated from Neuqua Valley High School and is a lifelong Girl Scout. She resides in Naperville, Illinois.

Content from PhRMA

The following content is produced and paid for by a Washington Post Live event sponsor. The Washington Post newsroom is not involved in the production of this content.

The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the value America’s biopharmaceutical industry brings to the health care system by researching and developing vaccines and treatments against some of the most challenging diseases. But these innovations are meaningless if patients don’t have access to them. That’s why PhRMA is working hard to remove barriers that stand between patients and needed care. PhRMA’s chief operating officer Lori M. Reilly will discuss how the biopharmaceutical industry is working with all stakeholders to deliver a more resilient, affordable and equitable health care system. (Video: Washington Post Live)

Building A Better Health Care System

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the value America’s biopharmaceutical industry brings to the health care system by researching and developing vaccines and treatments against some of the most challenging diseases. But these innovations are meaningless if patients don’t have access to them. That’s why PhRMA is working hard to remove barriers that stand between patients and needed care. PhRMA’s chief operating officer Lori M. Reilly will discuss how the biopharmaceutical industry is working with all stakeholders to deliver a more resilient, affordable and equitable health care system.

Lori M. Reilly, Esq.

Provided by PhRMA.

Lori M. Reilly is chief operating officer at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), providing executive level management, leadership and strategic direction for the organization. In this role, Ms. Reilly oversees PhRMA’s advocacy activities, including its federal, state and international government affairs and alliance development work. Ms. Reilly works across PhRMA to develop and advocate for practical policy solutions that will lower costs for patients.

Ms. Reilly, named by The Hill as a top lobbyist in 2018 and 2019, has a long record of working with members of Congress on a bipartisan basis and collaborating with stakeholders across the health care industry. Ms. Reilly is a frequent presenter on industry-related issues, including testifying before Congress on multiple occasions. Ms. Reilly has nearly two decades of experience at PhRMA; prior to her current role, Ms. Reilly was the executive vice president of policy, research and membership at PhRMA, leading the development and implementation of legislative, regulatory and political strategies to advance policies that encourage patient access and medical innovation. She has also served as counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and was Counsel to a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Ms. Reilly received a B.A. in political science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she graduated with honors, and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law. She currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband and their four children.

Moderated by Elise Labott

Elise Labott is a leading journalist covering foreign US foreign policy and international issues. Elise is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and before that was CNN’s Global Affairs Correspondent. She has reported from more than 80 countries, traveled the world with seven secretaries of state and has interviewed many world leaders and newsmakers. Elise is the founder of Twopoint.o Media, a digital media platform that aims to engage, inform and inspire citizens to solve today’s most pressing global challenges, and an adjunct professor at American University’s School of International Service. She is a contributor to Politico, provides commentary for MSNBC, NPR, BBC and several other broadcast outlets and is a sought-after interviewer and moderator. Elise also serves as a global ambassador for Vital Voices, an organization that empowers female entrepreneurs around the world and is on the advisory committee of Global Kids DC, a program which introduces high school students in underserved communities to international affairs. Prior to joining CNN, Elise covered the UN for ABC News and also reported on diplomatic and foreign policy issues for Agence France-Presse and other publications. Elise is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a master’s degree from the New School for Social Research.