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Carolinas missing from White House health care forum

http://66.225.205.104/JR20090305a.mp3

Joining President Obama at the White House today for his health care reform meeting are more than 50 members of Congress. But no one from the Carolinas was invited. 

The President is touting today's forum as kick-off to shape the health reform debate in the coming year. A list of attendees released by the White House shows dozens of health, medical and advocacy group leaders at the meeting, along with members of Congress. Representatives of several Carolina lawmakers say they're disappointed not to have been invited, but are hopeful there will be opportunities to participate later on.

North Carolina Health Access Coalition Director Adam Searing says part of the problem is the state lacks seniority on congressional committees that deal with health care: "We have some senior members up there like Representative Price and Representative Miller, but we don't have anybody who has taken on health care as a major issue, so I'm not entirely surprised, " says Searing. "I do think we will be ultimately represented in the debate."

Searing says the Carolinas bring an important perspective to the reform debate: Both have relatively high unemployment rates, and North Carolina has one of the fastest rates of people losing their employer-based health insurance. In a nod to the Southeast, President Obama is expected to announce today that he will hold one of several regional health care forums in North Carolina on March 31st.