Nancy Pelosi: Healthcare Reform Leader, Lightning Rod

Joe Cantlupe, December 2, 2010

 "I knew this fight was important…Working together, we proved the cynics wrong."

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is Nancy Pelosi's story.

She's 70 years old, wears impeccable Armani suits and white pearls, is a grandmother of six, and steered healthcare legislation that she says was as momentous as the passage of Social Security or Medicare. And when healthcare reform was finally adopted, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a call from the President of the United States, who said he was more overjoyed about that legislative victory than when he won the nation's highest office.

In effect, Pelosi told Barack Obama: Don't be silly.

"After the final votes were cast, I received a call from President Obama, who told me he was happier at that moment than the night he was elected," Pelosi tells HealthLeaders Media. "My response: I was happy as well, but not as happy as when the President won the election. Because without that election, we wouldn't have made it this far."

If history books say that healthcare reform came about under President Obama's watch, it certainly came about in great measure because of Pelosi, for better or worse.

The longtime San Francisco Democrat became an unbridled force, pressuring yet sweet-talking her way toward making healthcare reform a reality.

She is often a lightening rod for criticism from opponents because of her mostly assertive and sharp-edged liberal style, making her one of the most disliked of politicians who oppose her. But her supporters say she has an uncanny ability of marshalling the forces within her party; and that she did, to get passage of healthcare reform. While others historically have failed dramatically over the years in trying to piece together a comprehensive healthcare package, Pelosi was a key driver of the administration's plan, and even though its passage was not inevitable, and despite the disappearance of some prized elements during the unwieldy debate process, it reached a destination.

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter
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