CBO's wake-up call

Using every inch of his bully pulpit, President Obama forcefully framed his second-term agenda in Tuesday's State of the Union address, from combatting climate change to spending more on infrastructure to raising taxes on the rich. 

However, in a remarkable example of whistling past the graveyard, the president did little to substantively address the biggest crisis we face: the federal budget. 

The president needed only to look at last week’s report by the Congressional Budget Office to see the scale of the problem. 

In their budget and economic outlook for 2013-2023, CBO sees near trillion-dollar annual deficits, at least $7 trillion in new debt, and more spending on interest payments on the debt ($5.4 trillion) than on Medicaid ($4.3 trillion).


Improving mental health care will not happen in current partisan climate - But it must

The ghastly tragedy in Connecticut, the rising number of military and veterans suicides, and too many other stories have once again moved the spotlight onto mental illness.  Pundits and politicians, with the occasional expert to provide context, remind Americans that our country needs to improve treatment and services to disturbed individuals who might be at risk of committing such heinous acts. The words all sound good, but the likelihood of actually transforming the care of the mentally ill is extremely low if the experience over the past 10 years with the DoD and VA are indicative. Compared to other areas of medicine, mental health has improved little in the 40 years that I have been working in the field. In this, as in so many areas of life, what has happened in the treatment of brain disorders and mental illness for combat veterans can been seen as a microcosm of our society as a whole. There are more similarities than differences in this field across the military and the civilian communities.


CBO numbers tell the story

In this era of deficit debates and fiscal cliffs, Washington, D.C. is focused on large numbers and complex math. In the State of the Union address, the President discussed many numbers and there is no doubt robust debate filled with even more calculations will follow. And these numbers often lead to very differing views. There is one thing, however, most policymakers can agree on. The arbiter of Washington’s numbers is the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), whose accounting is considered the gold standard on budget issues.
While it does not recommend policies, CBO evaluations can serve as the basis for policy discussions across a range of budgetary and economic issues, from education and housing to energy and healthcare. When CBO speaks, Washington listens.


How sequestration will hurt patients

It’s the kind of miraculous story that grabs headlines. Iraq War veteran Brendan Marrocco receives a rare, innovative double arm transplant. A team of surgeons from Johns Hopkins Medicine and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center come together at Johns Hopkins, a teaching hospital, to perform this complex procedure after many rehearsals and extensive preoperative preparations to ensure the surgery is successful and as safe as possible.


FMLA 20 years on: What working families need in 2013

In the nine years we worked to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act – one of us as a legislative sponsor in Congress and the other as a grassroots activist – we heard every prediction of doom: the sky would fall, the business community wouldn’t survive another day, no employer would want to hire women. 

Today, 20 years after it was signed into law, FMLA is part of the business lexicon with no such calamity coming to pass. American families have used the law more than 100 million times. FMLA serves as a model for a successful jobs policy passed with bi-partisan support.


FMLA 20 years on: A disconnect that's hurting families

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the first bill President Bill Clinton signed into law and the first national law ever to help workers meet the dual demands of work and family.  In the two decades since that historic signing, workers in this country have taken FMLA leave more than 100 million times. That’s time that allowed them to manage medical complications during pregnancies, care for new babies, recover from heart attacks, get treatment for cancer, care for parents who had strokes or whose diabetes was out of control, and more.
Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers covered by the law could do even more than take leave when they needed it most; they could do so with confidence that their health insurance would continue and their job, or a comparable one, would be there when they returned.


The role of accreditation in a changing healthcare system

In October of this year, millions of Americans are expected to begin enrolling in health plans offered through new health insurance marketplaces. The Administration recently released proposed rules governing the design of health plans on exchange markets, including private-sector accreditation.
Private-sector accreditation will be mandatory for health plans offered on marketplaces. This signals the Administration’s strong commitment to market-based, best practices for health insurance marketplaces, including the critical consumer protections offered by private-sector accreditation.


Medicare cliff looms: Status quo isn't sustainable

President Obama just named protecting Medicare for future generations as one of his chief goals in the negotiations over the federal deficit and national

Unfortunately, by championing Medicare's structural status quo, the president is putting current seniors' care at risk -- and may still leave the entitlement program short of funds to pay for future retirees.

Take the portion of the "fiscal cliff" deal that cuts $15 billion in payments to hospitals.


Generic drug makers allowed to profit off of drug abuse

During this presidential inauguration week, our nation reflects on President Barack Obama’s first term and speculates as to how the president’s second term will be distinct. It is unthinkable that the president and vice president might have abandoned for their second term the national priority of reeling in “obscene” profits, but shockingly, this appears to be the case.
Addressing unjust profiteering prevailed as a major national theme during the Obama-Biden administration’s first four years in office. Occupy Wall Street camp-outs sought to liberate the masses from powerful, corporate greed. House Democrats proposed up to a 100 percent tax on oil company earnings above a government-dictated limit. Obama and Biden won re-election on their relentless calls to increase taxes on high incomes because, as the president stated, “at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”


For the NFL, the best defense is a good offense

With the Super Bowl this Sunday in New Orleans, the pro football faithful across the country (and around the world) are readying themselves for the big game. While much of the pre-game chatter centers on the narrative of the dueling Harbaugh brothers and Ray Lewis’ impending retirement, Congress is preparing for future hearings to question National Football League (NFL) players on human growth hormone (HGH) use. With questions about and increased congressional interest in player safety, drug testing, and labor issues, the NFL knows lobbying and campaign donations certainly can’t hurt.