Consumers and the promise of health insurance exchanges

Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), consumers in all but two states — Massachusetts and Utah — looking to learn about and purchase health insurance on their own, faced a difficult and complex search process. They could call multiple insurance companies directly to learn about different plan options, which is time consuming. Or, consumers could go online to a health insurance portal to obtain quotes from a variety of health plans, and then attempt to sort through and compare options that differ from one another on many parameters. In some states with fewer insurance regulations, the choices offered have significant gaps in coverage. Studies of consumer behavior find high-stakes circumstances such as these often lead individuals to make poor decisions, or to not make a decision at all. For health insurance, this means consumers can end up in health plans that do not meet their needs, or even worse, uninsured.


Innovation to fund global health

Millions of lives are saved today in developing countries because of bold, innovative financing arrangements over last 10 years. These financing mechanisms are good examples of private sector partnership with public sector for common good.

These financing initiatives have pooled large public sector funding with private sector resources, thus allowing tax payers funds to have much larger impact than would otherwise be possible. Some of the examples are given below.


Planned Parenthood's misleading monopoly on 'women's health'

In her op-ed “Protecting Women’s Health,” (The Hill, 12/18/12), Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards alleges that pro-life politicians “haven’t gotten the message” when it comes to women’s health.
Richards calls out states like Ohio and Michigan where legislators have diligently been working to pass pro-woman, pro-life legislation including laws requiring abortion clinics to be licensed (and therefore accountable for maintaining certain health & safety requirements), laws ensuring women are fully educated on the abortion procedure and its impacts before undergoing one, as well as laws to protect unborn baby girls from being aborted solely because they are the “wrong” sex.


Insurance policy against gun violence

As President Obama initiates the first attempt at gun control this century, we should note that some of the proffered solutions have been knocking around the halls of Congress since the 1960’s and that all entail government regulation. While background checks and registration make great starting points, an additional solution merits exploration.


Some steps to preventing gun violence

This month, yet another horrific gun tragedy struck a seemingly safe community in our nation and shattered the hearts of Americans everywhere. The event put a stop to our country’s detachment from the disturbing trend of gun violence and replaced it with a resolute call for change. The president, in response, established a working group on gun violence tasked with presenting real reforms. Public figures like Joe Scarbrough, an ardent supporter of gun ownership, spoke eloquently and passionately about the need to reform our gun laws. All these signs point to a real opportunity for an adult discussion about this problem. This can be achieved in three ways.


Conquering a deadly disease

Five years ago, the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act was introduced in the 110th Congress. Back then, many didn’t believe the bill would overcome the gauntlet of obstacles in Congress and become law. In the years since then, Congress has become more polarized, and when it was re-introduced in the 112th Congress, the road to passage looked bleak. 


Mental health is a national priority

The massacre at Newtown, whose victims included three children with autism and special needs and two heroic and dedicated special education teachers, was yet another wakeup call to a society that still refuses to confront in any meaningful way the gross deficiencies in our mental health system.

In addressing the nation the other day, President Obama cited the need for a multi-faceted approach in developing a plan to reduce gun violence. Importantly, the president also referenced the inaccessibility of mental health care in America. If past experience is any guide, we can expect meaningful conversation about reforming our mental health system to be drowned out in the coming days and weeks by the gun control debate, the fiscal cliff negotiations and whatever events the next news cycle may bring.


We must improve programs to help mentally ill

As the father of an eight-year-old son and the grandfather to six children under the age of 10, I am horrified by the incredible act of violence that killed 20 young students and the teachers who fought to protect them last week in Newtown, Conn.

In the wake of this tragedy, there’s no doubt that we need a serious and thoughtful national discussion about preventing this kind of senseless violence and protecting our children in their schools. I believe that should include a discussion about finding ways to spend federal dollars more wisely when it comes to treating and identifying people who are mentally ill. It should also include a conversation about ways that we can intervene before someone who is mentally ill does something that tragically impacts their lives and the lives of others.


Driving a hard bargain for healthcare

I’m wrapping up my term as Governor here in Montana, and we’ve had a great run -- eight years of record budget surpluses, huge investments in education, tax cuts for most everyone, the largest increase in college graduation rates in America, and one of the lowest jobless rates in the country. We’ve brought this about by doing the opposite of what the U.S. Congress does: thinking out of the box, challenging expenses small and large, and driving hard bargains for whatever the government must purchase.


Meningitis outbreak: Playing political football when disaster strikes

Have you noticed the pattern?  A private company cuts corners on risk control; a terrible disaster occurs; and then politicians and the public blame . . . the U.S. regulatory system.

The latest example: a Massachusetts drug compounding pharmacy that contaminated vials of steroids and caused hundreds of cases of fungal meningitis, including dozens of deaths. Even while the Food and Drug Administration was still responding to the serious public health threat, the FDA Commissioner had to answer angry questions from members of Congress. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) told Commissioner Margaret Hamburg that the meningitis outbreak “was a complete and utter failure on the part of your agency.”