Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The first Obama health care victory?

This morning I posted comments to the National Journal Healthcare blog on the likelihood that the effort to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) will serve as an early Obama Administration healthcare victory. I note that "On the eve of a vote on the already dialed back SCHIP bill the Senate draft has dropped coverage for legal immigrant children and pregnant women." Read the full post here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Washington Post Calls for FDA Regulation of Tobacco

In its house editorial this morning, The Washington Post calls for the regulation of tobacco by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is an effort that we have been working on for decades; it is long overdue.

Here are some excerpts:
• It is inconceivable, then, that the most deadly product legally sold in the United States is exempt from federal regulation. (Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration oversees dog food, perfume and, yes, nicotine gum.) The new Congress should pass legislation that would give the FDA authority to regulate Big Tobacco.

• For too long, cigarette makers have decided what's safe for consumers. Their concern for the health of smokers -- or lack thereof -- has led them to disguise the dangers of their products with labels such as "light" and "low tar," and to lure young smokers by peddling candy-flavored cigarettes. The proposed legislation would eliminate such misleading labels and severely curtail Big Tobacco's ability to market to youths. The legislation would also require tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in their products and place larger warning labels on cigarette packs. Most significant, it would give the FDA the latitude to take further steps to curb addiction, such as requiring the removal of harmful additives.

• The proposed economic stimulus bill will be Congress's top priority, but legislation regulating Big Tobacco shouldn't be far behind. The threat of a filibuster by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and of a veto by President Bush, prevented the legislation from passing last year. But with Mr. Obama in the White House, and a strong Democratic majority in the Senate, there are fewer obstacles -- and no excuses. By regulating tobacco, the new Congress can secure an early, bipartisan victory that would help set the tone for the rest of the session.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Paying for our Resolutions for 2009

Now that we are in 2009 we need to find ways to pay for the health system we want.

How do we raise revenue or reduce costs? Here are seven areas to consider:

1. Increase the tax on tobacco and alcohol with proceeds going to health. (Disincentives for smoking, including citywide smoking bans, have been proven to work.)

2. Enforce clean air and clean water laws.

3. Make companies pay for health consequences of their actions.

4. Encourage widespread use of health information technology.

5. Use mobile phone/messaging systems to support consumers in managing their own health.

6. Reinvent the school nurse/clinic model.

7. Create luxury taxes with proceeds going to health.

Unfortunately, what we do now is either play a shell game with costs or reduce services and resources from the groups that squeak the least. Both of these are unacceptable. The reality is that since we want to provide more people with health care and we want better care for all, total costs will increase.

If we want more, then we will have to accept that our total costs will be more too.