Bringing New Voices to Health Care Talk on Capitol Hill

By Chi Do
Associate Director of Engagement & Education, ITVS

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced The Waiting Room on June 18 for a screening on Capitol Hill. The documentary will air next season on Independent Lens.

This past Monday, ITVS presented a timely screening and discussion on health care and America’s uninsured featuring Peter Nick’s award-winning documentary, The Waiting Room.

The film goes behind the doors of Oakland’s Highland Hospital and provides an intimate portrait of how patients, staff, and caregivers cope with the complexity of the nation’s public health care system.

More than 200 guests including — policy makers, health care providers, and community members filled the Cannon House Office Building’s grand Caucus Room.

Christina Bellantoni of PBS NewsHour welcomed the audience to this kick-off event for the ITVS Capitol Hill Screening Series, co-presented by the Congressional Arts Caucus.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee led the introductory remarks and spoke of her longtime commitment to advancing access to healthcare for the communities she serves. Tamara Gould, Vice President of ITVS provided final opening remarks and introduced the film.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by ABC’s Lisa Stark and featured: filmmaker Peter Nicks; the CEO of Alameda County Medical Center, Wright L. Lassiter III; and the Director of the Center for Health Care Quality at The George Washington University, Dr. Jesse Pines.

Monday’s Panel (from L to R): Lisa Stark, Peter Nicks, Wright L. Lassiter III, and Dr. Jess Pines

The discussion and the audience Q&A covered much ground, including the absence of patient voices in media coverage of health care reform issues, the challenges of navigating the health care system for the uninsured and insured, and potential short and long-term solutions to improving primary care options for patients.

It was a powerful and moving evening that captivated the audience and uncovered the deeply individual yet universal human stories that are at the heart of the debate surrounding health care reform. Both the panelists and audience members contributed their own personal health care experiences as many heads nodded in recognition of how — in Peter Nicks apt words —“our common vulnerability to illness binds us together as humans.”

The Waiting Room is tentatively scheduled for its premier PBS broadcast in January of 2013 on Independent Lens. The next presentation of the ITVS Capitol Hill Screening Series will take place this September. Stay tuned for more information.

Watch a wrap report of Monday’s event in the video below: