Is Obama's healthcare law constitutional?

This week, the Supreme Court held a historic hearing on the president’s health care law, specifically about the law’s constitutionality. My philosophy is simple: I do not believe the government should in any way insert itself into the health care decision-making process. The physician, the patient, and their family should make health care decisions. 

Since the president’s health care bill became law two years ago, the American people see its failure to address the cost crisis in our health care system and have a better understanding of its long-lasting negative impact. Included in the president’s health care law are job-crushing mandates that are only burdening small businesses and families.

Most importantly, this debate is about the law’s constitutionality. Twenty-six states are challenging the law's legality in the Supreme Court. It is very concerning that the federal government is requiring individuals to purchase health care insurance. The Supreme Court’s decision regarding the law’s constitutionality will affect every American.


The ACA must not be thrown by the wayside

It was a long, hard road to get the American people their rightful access to the world’s best health care, but we did it. Two years ago we implemented a historic law to ensure that stories shared with me of going without life-saving medicines because they were too expensive or not having access to health care coverage because an insurance company decided someone was too sick to cover are things of the past.  

Today, because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a bill I doggedly worked to get signed into law, we live in a country where 17 million children cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. 

This week the Supreme Court hears oral arguments to determine the fate of the ACA and along with it the fate of 33 million of our citizens who will lose access to health care if the law is not upheld.  Over the course of my career I have fought tirelessly to guarantee that every man, woman and child in our nation could see the doctor of their choice and not drown in a sea of debt because of it.  And I will continue to fight for these rights and the ACA’s implementation. 


Dispelling myths about seafood consumption

When I opined about the confusion caused by the 2004 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advice to pregnant women about eating seafood in The Hill’s Congress Blog back in February (Seafood should be next up on FDA plate), I had no way of knowing that my points would be so readily illustrated in the same space little more than a year later (Pollution no match for motherly love). 

I commend Jessica Capshaw for championing a cleaner, safer world for this generation and the next. Cleaning up coal burning power plants is an important mission, and I support the clean air initiatives, but the information presented about seafood contradicts the current advice given to pregnant women by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). 

The current guidelines were adopted after a committee of scientists evaluated the safety of eating seafood during pregnancy and breastfeeding and recommended that pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers eat 8 to 12 ounces (2 servings) of a variety of fish per week, which can include up to 6 ounces of albacore (white) tuna.  


Two years later: What we learned from healthcare reform

Anton Saleh is 16 years old and is living with stage 2B cancer. Anton must take 4 prescription pills each night to keep his cancer at bay – pills that cost about $5,000 a month, totaling nearly $60,000 a year.

Before health reform, Anton’s health insurance did not cover the costs of his prescription, forcing his family to make tough choices while making sure Anton got the medication he needed. Thanks to health reform, Anton’s family was able to change insurance companies without having to worry about being turned down due to a pre-existing condition, and purchased a new plan that covers the cost of his prescription drugs, giving Anton and his family peace of mind.

Anton is just one example among thousands of how health care reform has already made an impact on countless lives. Health care reform takes crucial steps to lower health care costs and premiums for families, as well as reduce health disparities that plague our communities of color.


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.