Newsmaker luncheon discusses issue

The entertainment industry can’t solve the health care crisis, but at least it can move the national debate forward.

That was the theme Thursday at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s newsmaker luncheon, which featured panelists discussing how TV could encourage action on the issue.

Gathering featured an impassioned keynote from thesp Sally Field, a special address by Jeffrey Katzenberg and a panel led by Leeza Gibbons.

Luncheon also served to plug Divided We Fail, a nonpartisan initiative that the AARP, Entertainment Industry Foundation and Motion Picture & Television Fund are all promoting.

“You look at the health care model, and the movie business model kind of looks like a sure thing,” Katzenberg said.

“That’s a scary thought,” he continued. “As storytellers we have a responsibility to both entertain and inform, and bring awareness not only to health care problems but also the potential solutions.”

Field, the luncheon’s keynote speaker, spoke of her battle with osteoporosis and shared statistics of the 47 million Americans living without health care.

“I am profoundly struck, as I move around the country, by the women who tell me they can’t afford health care for themselves or their children,” Field said.

Panelists included producer Neal A. Baer, thesp D.L. Hughley, “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence, Nancy Leamond of the AARP and producer John Wells.

“Where we do have the power to do something is to continue to raise the conversation,” said Wells, who argued that the system is in even worse shape than it was when “ER” bowed 15 years ago. “We don’t have to preach it — it’s just a fact of health care that the system isn’t working.”

Discussion topics ranged from how health care will fare in the presidential election to the “graying” of the nation’s population and the responsibility of the entertainment industry to create awareness around the issue.

“We are all undereducated. We don’t even know what we don’t know about this issue,” said moderator Gibbons.

Producers onstage said they felt a responsibility to accurately depict health care in their shows. “Storytelling promotes social change,” Baer said.

Gibbons personalized the issue, noting that she put her mother — who passed away last week — on a morphine drip to ease her suffering only after seeing it being done for a character on “Boston Legal.”

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