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The hope of bipartisan and comprehensive health care legislation lives on today thanks to the vote in the Finance Committee of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill reported out of the Finance Committee is bipartisan. Not just because it received support from members of both parties, but because you can see both Republican and Democratic values in the solution.
For Republicans, the bill relies heavily on market forces and incentives, and it slows the rate of health care cost growth to the tune of reduced budget deficits. For Democrats, the bill finally provides all Americans access to quality health coverage and strengthens the Medicare program for our nation's seniors.
As Sen. Snowe and others said, this bill is not perfect. It will likely be improved along the way. But it does get serious about solving the access, quality, and cost problems in our health system. While addressing these challenges on a bipartisan basis requires tough choices, it does not require lawmakers to abandon their underlying goals. It is in her willingness to find policy solutions that will actually solve our health care crisis that Sen. Snowe outshines her colleagues on her side of the aisle on the Finance Committee.
Let the record show that the Senate Finance Committee approved bipartisan health reform legislation today, and that America took a giant step toward becoming a better country.
THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED.
The Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP), Ed Money Watch's parent initiative, provides a wealth of state and school district level data on federal funding, demographics, and achievement through its website www.edbudgetproject.org. These data can tell important stories about how federal education funding interacts with student demographics and achievement. Moreover, the data often reveal rarely-discussed idiosyncrasies in federal funding and education. From time to time, Ed Money Watch will take a close look at one aspect of the data available through FEBP to highlight the value of this information.
This week, we'll take a look at federal Title I grants to local school districts and student poverty data available through the FEBP database. Title I Part A is the largest federal K-12 education program, providing more than $14 billion annually to local education agencies (LEAs) for supplemental education services for students from low income families. Title I funding data reveal formula flaws that significantly skew the relationship between poverty and funds received. In fact, the Title I formulas are considered a relatively opaque and inaccessible process that few education stakeholders understand.
When a lobby -- like AHIP, the health insurance lobby -- pushes out a report intended to inflict last minute damage on an important bill late on a Sunday on a three-day weekend, they may score a few points in the first wave of headlines but ultimately the truth wins out. Not only did the second-day headlines (like Politico's "Insurers Face Blowback") note the questions about the AHIP report’s veracity, even the consulting company that wrote the report, PricewaterhouseCoopers, basically said it was a meaningless exercise in the application of irrelevant assumptions. In other words, AHIP got what it paid for.
The student loan industry must think we all have very short memories. As part of their effort to derail legislation that would eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, lenders have been sharing talking points with Senators and staff arguing that the “pay for play” scandals that engulfed the student loan industry in 2007 were much ado about nothing.
“After thorough investigations by Congress and various state Attorneys General, there were no findings that any employee or a lending institution or school broke any laws, nor were there any criminal penalties levied,” lenders wrote in talking points -- which
While that statement may have been technically true at the time it was first made, it’s a brazen sweeping under the rug of a scandal that outraged the American public, particularly college students and their parents. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo did charge about a dozen colleges and lenders, such as loan giants Sallie Mae and Nelnet, with violating federal and state laws, and filed lawsuits against them. But instead of fighting Cuomo, the student loan companies and schools quickly reached settlement agreements with his office that required them to change their conduct. In other words, they were not confident enough about the legality of their practices to defend them in court.
The lenders’ claim is particularly cavalier given that they were only able to avoid being penalized because of who was guarding the henhouse. Bush Administration appointees at the U.S. Department of Education with strong ties to the student loan industry simply looked the other way while lenders and college financial aid offices engaged in kickback schemes.
The gloves are off in the fight for health reform, and the insurance industry has decided that it's time to start throwing analytically indefensible punches. Two recent cases in point: (1) the headline grabbing "report" entitled the "Potential Impact of Health Reform the Cost of Private Health Insurance Coverage," by PriceWaterhouseCoopers , for AHIP (the main health insurance industry trade group); and (2) the "Blue Perspective" entitled "Age Discounts ‘A Must' to Encourage Young Adults to Purchase Insurance," by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Thankfully the Urban Institute, in work funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has recently released a thorough and devastating rebuttal to the Blue claims. So my comments below focus mostly on the AHIP paper.
When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia? Chances are, if you're a blog reader, you probably read it last week, if not more recently. Many of us could write or edit something related to health policy on Wikipedia, but probably not on astrophysics. But if we have a question on astrophysics, we know where to look. It is a collaboration, or network, of experts and learners.
The current issue of JAMA has an important commentary that describes how primary health care innovation networks can be funded, operated, and used to disseminate best practice information. As the article states:
The month of October is National Work Family Month. Families and workers are trying to succeed and survive in this challenging economy. Going into the Fall, the country is focused on health care. Everywhere we go we hear about it. The primary policy debates in Washington focus around health care reform. Throughout the country health care dominates town hall meetings.
Layered on top of this health care debate are the national preparations this month for a possible swine flu pandemic. Schools are setting up quarantine rooms. The government is preparing for the largest inoculation campaign in a generation. Public health officials are engaging in a public education campaign designed to minimize the potential impact of swine flu. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been issuing advice for how we all can reduce the likelihood of contracting swine flu. However, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that up to 40% of the U.S. workforce could be directly affected.
It's strange how partisan reactions to the Nobel Prize completely missed the common-sense rationale behind the Obama pick. According to many of my outside-the-beltway friends, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for defeating President Bush and arresting the dark spiral into which his administration had set the nation and the world. That Obama did it as an African American who first had to defeat the Democratic heir-apparent was even more remarkable. The entire campaign gave the world hope that cynicism, unchecked wealth, and fear could be overcome.
For the rest of the world--and for most of America--that is enough of an accomplishment to earn the Nobel Peace Prize. But it was not all. Obama has since led the G20 to stabilize the world economy in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He reached out to the Islamic world, with an open hand and he urged the world to reduce our collective nuclear arsenal.
So the prize is clearly deserved, for President Obama turned the United States around.
But as a leader, he has much still to do, and he knows it. The nation is still in the red--progressing, but in the red. The question is, is the President thinking as seriously and as in depth about America's new role in the world as he as been triaging the world's urgent crises or planning the strategy in South Asia.
Battleground or common ground? What is the state of the health care debate? The answer is "Yes" according Bill Galston of the Brookings Institute, who in conjunction with World Public Opinion, has released findings from an insightful new survey (watch video from the polls release after the break).
In the field from September 26 to October 5, the poll goes beyond the standard topline analysis to provide a nuanced picture of public opinion on health care.
The first part of the survey looked at Americans' views on the role of government in health care, their assessment of the current situation, and their reaction to the current debate. The poll digs deep, illustrating both areas of consensus on specific policies as well as long standing divisions on basic assumptions behind reform.
Over the past few days, the commentariat has been abuzz with advice for President Obama about how to deal with the nation's unprecedented unemployment and underemployment crisis. With the official unemployment rate now standing at 9.8%--and the effective unemployment rate nearly double that--perhaps the president needs all the help he can get.
A variety of proposals are making the rounds, with opinion divided over how best to stimulate job creation. Should government subsidize new hires through tax incentives? Is the administration pursuing a de facto "weak dollar" policy to bolster American exports and manufacturing? What about public investment and infrastructure spending?...