Focus on prevention and wellness to decrease health care costs

Before getting too deep into political jockeying over the new health care law, America’s 112th Congress is due for a reminder of the fiscal wisdom and public health benefits of disease prevention. All told, preventing chronic disease forthright is the sure-fire way to bring down the long-term cost of health care.

According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, since the late 1980s, roughly two-thirds of the jump in our health care spending has been due to the increased prevalence of treated chronic disease. Chronic diseases account for about 75 percent of the roughly $2 trillion we spend annually on medical care in the United States. In fact, about half of all Americans already have one or more chronic diseases, which can be blamed, in large measure, on four modifiable behaviors: (1) physical inactivity, (2) bad eating habits, (3) tobacco, and (4) too much alcohol. 


Time to inoculate ourselves from ObamaCare

The Tea Party became the largest and fastest-growing grassroots movement in American history in large part due to the overwhelming public opposition to ObamaCare.  ObamaCare and other reckless and ineffective stimulus spending gave many Americans reason to join the tea party movement and experience their first taste of political activism. And thanks to ObamaCare, the movement is still growing.

That is why it is especially amusing to see liberal media pundits and other Democrats employing their most bizarre contortions and spin cycles to decouple the results of the November elections from ObamaCare.  Their efforts aren’t working because they aren’t based on the truth.

Their current mantra is that the vote to repeal ObamaCare is mere symbolism, a waste of Congressional time and little more than conservative grandstanding.  But this won’t work either, because it flies in the face of one fundamental truth: 

The November election was an undeniable referendum on ObamaCare, and it failed massively!


Vote 'NO' on $4 billion small business tax increase

The first vote of the new U.S. House will be to increase taxes on small businesses.   That’s right.  A $4 billion tax hike on small businesses is exactly what Representatives are supporting if they vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Last year Congress approved $4 billion for health insurance tax credits small businesses could tap into for 2010 taxes if they offered the benefit to their employees.  That figure was Congress’s best estimate of how much each year would be needed under this important ACA effort to make health insurance more affordable.  About four million businesses qualify for the tax credits because they have fewer than 25 employees with average wages below $50,000.


More FDA funding needed to ensure food safety

We’ve all heard the saying that “too many chefs spoil the soup.”
However, it took many chefs to craft the right recipe for landmark food safety legislation that was signed by the president just last week.
The legislation marks the most sweeping reform of food safety oversight in more than 70 years. Although it will greatly improve our ability to detect and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness, the new law is historic because Congress has made the prevention of food contamination the central focus of the nation’s food safety strategies. The days when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will do little more than respond to outbreaks are over.
As a result of this new law, every food manufacturer will have to constantly look for potential food safety threats, adopt appropriate measures to avoid dangers in food and document those steps in a food safety plan made available to inspectors. FDA will have the power to set safety standards for fruits and vegetables and will regularly review and revise them. Every food importer will have to ensure that their suppliers overseas have adopted U.S. food safety standards and practices. And, FDA will be inspecting food manufacturing facilities – especially overseas facilities – more than ever.


Let’s stop pretending it was a government takeover of healthcare

If the Obama healthcare bill is just a "government takeover," why are healthcare industry CEOs being rewarded with so much money?

The alleged expropriation of healthcare by big government is, of course, a major story line of the right and the new leadership of the House which is planning the useless exercise of a vote to repeal the law.

But if the private companies who actually do control our health are hurting so badly, why are they shelling out so much to their top executives?

A report from Kaiser Health News exposes lavish pay packages for some of the biggest players in the private healthcare industry. Billy Tauzin, the head of PhRMA, raked in more than $9 million last year, for example, while his counterpart Scott Serota at Blue Cross/Blue Shield earned a comparitively-miserly $7.1 million.

Other major corporate healthcare figures receiving huge executive pay packages were from the hospital, medical technology, and biotech industry.


Republicans’ proposed repeal of health reform: Taking away from us what they keep for themselves

According to the Republican congressional leadership, one of the first actions in the 112th Congress will be House passage of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In so doing, they would take away key benefits and rights needed by America’s families, unravel a law that holds insurance companies much more accountable, and add a trillion dollars to the federal deficit over the next two decades. 

Incredibly, Republican leaders plan to take away from the American people the very health benefits and rights they intend to keep for themselves — courtesy of America’s taxpayers. 

This phenomenon was on clear display when new House members received their congressional orientation. Maryland Rep.-elect Andy Harris, who campaigned to repeal the Affordable Care Act, was furious when told that his federally subsidized healthcare coverage would not go into effect until February — some four weeks after his swearing in. Yet, he remains committed to taking away, immediately, comparable benefits and rights from his constituents and the American people.

The double standard, however, is by no means limited to Rep.-elect Harris. When it comes to healthcare, Republican congressional leaders are as intent on taking from us what they plan to keep for themselves.


State Medicaid 'opt out' will undermine seniors’ care quality, threaten healthcare jobs

Governors have a unique perspective on how this historic recession has strained our budgets and challenged the ability of states to fund Medicaid -- the key safety net program for 60 million of our poorest Americans. Most states are required to balance their budgets, and with the recession drastically reducing state revenues, governors across America, myself included, have been forced to make difficult decisions. Since Medicaid is a substantial part of every state budget, the program is often a prime target for budget cuts.

Facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it is no surprise that some governors are now considering “opting out” of Medicaid completely and considering ways to provide essential services on their own. While I respect the challenging decisions faced by every governor, simply opting out of Medicaid is not the answer. In fact, it would open a Pandora’s Box of new problems.

Not only would a Medicaid opt out result in a state losing the considerable federal funding match, leaving it with far fewer resources to provide ongoing care, it would cause rampant healthcare job losses. This would be directly at odds with the top policy priority in Washington and every state capital -- creating jobs.


No more waiting when it comes to primary care

In systems as big and complex as the U.S. healthcare system, movement does not come easy. Change is hard, and institutional inertia is the norm. The default is to wait and see. Right now, the vast majority of our healthcare system doing just that. It’s seven months into waiting and seeing what healthcare reform ultimately has in store. Before that, it waited to see what healthcare reform would look like. It’s waiting to see what the insurance companies will do, what hospitals will do, what accountable care organizations will do, and so forth.

But the question that healthcare practitioners and industry watchers are increasingly asking is, do we really have time to wait? According to the most recent U.S. Census projections, as the population approaches 341 million by 2020, the demographics of those seeking healthcare will shift to an older, more ethnically diverse, and more infirm mix of consumers. Healthcare providers will face far wider gaps in education and income. By that time, our nation faces a projected shortage of around 96,000 physicians. It’s estimated that 45 percent of that shortage will be primary care doctors, often patient’s first and most frequent point of contact with the medical system. Estimates show that the nation will be short 148,000 nurses by 2020, with that shortfall set to exceed 260,000 nurses by 2025, of which we estimate 85 percent will be in primary care.


Making government and healthcare work

Even though we live in a country in which the populace is fiercely divided on so many important issues, it remains important in a vibrant democracy for citizens to have a healthy measure of confidence that their government will attempt to act in their best interests.  More specifically, that need for public confidence also extends to health reform.  If we want Americans to take part in the healthcare system, to make use of preventive care services and reduce incidences of chronic disease, then it’s necessary to establish faith that reform is indeed elevating health care quality and affordability.


Health law individual mandate is unconstitutional (Sen. Mike Enzi)

During this holiday season, millions of Americans face growing concerns about their jobs, the economy and the overall direction of our country. These concerns are prompted, in large part, by the massive expansion of the federal government over the past two years, and its related intrusions into the everyday lives of all Americans.

These concerns were recently highlighted on a sign placed on the side of an industrial plant in Worland, Wyoming, that said, “As Regulations Grow, Freedoms Die.”

This message perfectly captures the great concerns that Americans feel towards many of the new laws being enacted in Washington, and especially the new healthcare law.  This new law is chock-full of mandates that will restrict American freedoms, and place regulatory and tax burdens on struggling businesses and families.