Obesity: the economic case for action

A half century ago, well under 15 percent of Americans were obese or extremely obese; these days, more than a third of us fall into these categories. That astounding statistic tells all of us – parents, community leaders, educators, businesspeople and policy makers – to stop merely talking about how to address obesity at home and across America, and instead take action.
Between 1980 and 2000, obesity among children in the United States more than doubled, leaving more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds who want to serve our country in the military too overweight to join. The health consequences of obesity are so great that many epidemiologists predict that for the first time in U.S. history, our children’s generation will live shorter lives than their parents. This epidemic is taking an enormous toll on our nation’s fiscal health too:  Obesity is one of the leading contributors to rising health care expenses in America, costing an additional $168 billion each year.
This week, a new study commissioned by the Campaign to End Obesity and authored by two highly respected conservative economists, Michael O’Grady and James Capretta, warns that, without targeted efforts to prevent the rise in obesity-related health care costs, the budgetary burden of obesity could overwhelm federal spending in the not-too-distant future. Under even the most optimistic scenario, the Congressional Budget Office tells us that spending on adult obesity will increase another 60 percent by 2020. That is why, as the study makes clear, we must look to programs that generate the highest returns on our investment to help reverse the tide.


The Achilles' heel of the Affordable Care Act

In the previous administration, I served as an advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on health care reform, specifically assisting him in developing a proposal to cover the medically uninsured, relying on market-oriented principles and incentives and private insurance.

It’s no secret that then-Secretary Mike Leavitt was at that time intrigued by the plan introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah), the so-called Health Americans Act, even entering into discussions with the authors to see what changes they might be willing to make in exchange for his support. But, among others, there was one issue in particular included in the bill that was a show-stopper for a Republican Administration -- and arguably a leading cause of the latter Senator’s loss of his very seat: "The Mandate."


Tea Party Patriots to Supreme Court: Please save America

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionally of ObamaCare. The arguments presented to the court will be complex and the questions posed by the jurists will be dissected and analyzed. However, the question posed by most Americans will be simple -- will the court radically change our government and redefine our status as citizens? Millions of Tea Party Patriots believe it will, and we are begging the court to reject this law and save America.
This is not a case of political hyperbole. ObamaCare is quickly becoming a complex labyrinth of bureaus, boards, councils, committees, taxes and control agents -- each designed to entrap every American in a cycle of health care dependency and hopelessness.   The Soviet Union collapsed in part from its reliance on government central planning; but for some reason, President Obama believes he can do it better. The tea party does not share his unsupportable optimism.


Saving, protecting and preserving Medicare

The demand for Medicare services is expanding at a very high rate, making future costs unaffordable, and putting our health care security at risk. As a physician and a lawmaker, I believe our common goal should be to save, protect and preserve Medicare.

Instead of dramatically cutting Medicare dollars, which will lead to decreased quality and access to care, we should be looking at ways to save the program and improve the quality of care we are providing our seniors.

That is why I introduced the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act – legislation that will protect Medicare from harmful cuts by repealing one of the most dangerous aspects created by the Affordable Care Act – the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB directly inserts the government into seniors’ health care decision-making process, and it will limit access to care. Made up of 15 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats appointed by the president, the IPAB is tasked with meeting a budget and making cuts to Medicare.


New study confirms PSA screening saves lives

For the past two decades (the PSA screening era), we have seen a nearly 40 percent decrease in deaths from prostate cancer although there has been no increase in incidence during this interval. This month, a follow-up of the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It confirmed what urologists and other health care providers have known for years: PSA screening is a valuable life-saving tool. The study, “Prostate-Cancer Mortality at 11 Years of Follow-up,” showed that the statistical significance of prostate screening for all age groups has improved, with an overall survival advantage of 21 percent. More importantly, for patients followed for more than 10 years, this advantage increased to 38 percent.


New hope for our toughest diseases

As the saying goes, there is good news and there is bad news.

Here is the bad news: Right now, there are an estimated 5.4 million Americans  suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,  one million suffering from Parkinson’s, over five million who have a disease related to a traumatic brain injury, 265,000 with spinal cord injuries, 30,000 who have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease),   and 129,000 who have brain cancer. Over 25 million Americans also suffer from diabetes – about 8.3% of the population – and the problem is growing.

After that, it’s hard to believe there is good news, but here it is: R & D breakthroughs are happening in science and biotechnology at a remarkable pace to deal with these diseases. Biotech companies are on the front lines to find cures for life-threatening diseases. There are currently 800 new treatments being developed for cancer by biotech companies, 300 for heart disease, 200 for diabetes and 100 for Alzheimer’s, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Some companies, such as the one I represent, Neuralstem, Inc., are using state-of-the-art stem cell research to attack diseases such as ALS, brain and spinal cord injuries, and down the road, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.


ObamaCare case is a 'win-win' for the Tea Party

On March 26, the Supreme Court will begin three days of historic oral arguments on the president’s controversial healthcare law.

No matter what the court decides, it’s likely to galvanize the law’s opponents, identified with the Tea Party movement, more than its supporters.

Here’s why:

Elections are won and lost based on differential turnout, which is a fancy word for what happens when Team A, although tied with Team B in the polls, shows up in greater numbers at the polls -- and thus cleans Team B’s clock.


Congress must reauthorize VAWA now

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark in the movement to end violence against women and girls, is up for re-authorization. Authored by then-Senator Joseph Biden and signed into law in 1994, VAWA revolutionized the way violent crimes against women are prosecuted and prevented, and the way communities respond to survivors.

The act created the first federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes. VAWA created the first federal funding stream to support rape crisis centers across the country. It provided federal resources to encourage community-coordinated responses to combating violence. And it provided $1.6 billion in its first five years to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women.

Subsequent reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005, with widespread support in both houses, created a legal assistance program for victims, broadened the definition of violence against women to include dating violence and stalking, implemented culturally- and linguistically-specific services for communities and broadened VAWA service provisions to include children and teenagers.

VAWA has improved, protected, restored and saved lives. The time has come once again to move this crucial legislation forward.


Empowering women empowers us all

International Women’s Day was established more than 100 years ago to honor the strides and sacrifices made by women worldwide. As we honor the enormous impact women have on their families and communities worldwide, we also call on lawmakers to do more for global maternal and newborn health.
Politically, the two of us are viewed as worlds apart. When we look at Washington today, more issues divide our parties than unite us. But we have come together as Democrats and Republicans in recent years to work toward the common global health goal of saving lives, building communities and strengthening our own national security in the process. When we reach out with simple interventions to promote health and save women’s lives, we build international allies for life.


Not all women are in favor of contraception mandate

Do the women of America really want to force Christian schools, religious ministries to the poor, and other believers into participating against their conscience in a pro-abortion and sexual-liberation agenda? Laura MacCleery of the abortion industry’s legal arm, the Center for Reproductive Rights, would have us believe so. But it’s not true.

What CRR doesn’t want you to realize is that many women are deeply religious. Women are, in fact, the backbone of Christian service and work in society. More women call themselves “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”

American women are not as heartless or as anti-religious as activists like MacCleery make it seem. They don’t share CRR’s view that abortion trumps every other value. Whether or not women use contraception, women in America do not want to force their religious neighbors, friends, and churches to pay for other people’s abortion-inducing drugs and other activities that violate their sincerely held beliefs.

Most health plans cover contraception, and federal and state governments already subsidize it heavily. Only extremists would insist that our government must also coerce religious Americans to cover it themselves or be seriously penalized.