It’s Common Sense to Come Together for Our Kids

(The Huffington Post, October 2, 2013)

By Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Bill Frist, M.D.

When we served together in the Senate, we found ourselves on different sides of a variety of issues. But when it came to common-sense measures that benefitted our country and our citizens, we pulled together.

We were proud to cosponsor the Organ Donation and Recovery Improvement Act because we knew its reforms would help save thousands of lives in America. Today, we’re pulling together to support another common sense measure — early education for all children in America.

There is little debate that education is key to a child’s future success, or that it is key to our global competitiveness as a nation. But one of the most overlooked ways to improving educational opportunities in America is reaching kids early enough.

Two out five children in America have had no preschool or kindergarten education by age 5. When these children do enter school, many are already behind their peers.

As science has clearly shown in recent years, most brain development is complete well before a child enters kindergarten. Without early learning opportunities, many children are entering school without the tools they need to stay on track and succeed.

Unfortunately, poor children in America are most likely to lose these critical opportunities. As a result, children from low-income families can easily fall 18 months developmentally behind children from middle-class families by the time they’re just 4 years old.

Let us share one anecdote from our friends at Save the Children, to show just what a difference early learning can make. The non-profit organization recently received a letter from the superintendent of an isolated, rural school district in Alpaugh, California.

Poverty, language and cultural barriers, and lack of parental engagement in the education system have long meant that children in the district enter school ill-prepared to succeed, he said.

But this year, he reported, the first group of children who had been through Save the Children’s early learning program entered the first grade. Every one of them is reading at grade level, he said, “something unheard of in past classes.”

This success is particularly significant because research is clear about the importance of reading at grade level by the time a student enters the 3rd grade.

Helping all families have access to children’s books and information on how they can support their child’s development goes a very long way. And giving more children the chance to attend high-quality preschool is the smart thing to do.

One study found that every public dollar spent on preschool returns $7 through increased productivity and savings on government assistance programs and criminal justice costs.

We all have a role to play in helping more children succeed. That can be through volunteering in our own communities, contributing to programs that make a difference, or voicing support for proposals to expand high-quality early education in America.

There is critical work taking place in our country to improve K-12 public education. However, there is more to do to ensure millions of children do not fall behind before they even reach school. Common sense tells us, investing in our children early is the right thing to do.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Save the Children, as part of the latter’s drive for universal early education, which is the focus of their gala on October 1 in New York. For more information about Save the Children, click here.

 

This article was originally featured in The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-dodd/its-common-sense-to-come-_b_4031431.html

How to Build a Better Health-Care System

(Washington Post, April 17, 2013)

By Tom Daschle, Bill Frist, Pete Domenici, and Alice Rivlin

Tom Daschle, a Democrat and former senator from South Dakota, was Senate majority leader from 2001 to 2003. Bill Frist, a Republican and former senator from Tennessee, was Senate majority leader from 2003 to 2007. Pete Domenici, a Republican and former senator from New Mexico, was chairman or ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee from 1981 to 2003. Alice Rivlin is a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. The four co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Care Cost Containment Initiative.

The four of us came together to change the conversation around how to improve health care and constrain cost growth. What we learned is that, until better care is prioritized over more care, our nation will continue to face a problem with health-care costs. The good news is that, through thoughtful policy, health-care practitioners can be encouraged through rewards to focus far more on what is best for their patients and less on the number of tests and procedures they can order. The even better news is that such a health-care vision can not only produce better care but also cost less.

With the Bipartisan Policy Center, we will release a report Thursday with more than 50 recommendations to achieve the critical goal of improving the quality and affordability of care for all Americans while containing high and rising health-care spending. This report is the culmination of nearly a year of work, including stakeholder outreach, thorough research and substantive analytics to quantify the impact of our proposed policies.

Too often we in Washington talk about health care as though it is little more than a line item on a budget table. Those of us who have experienced the best of health care know that is not how care should be delivered or policy crafted in this most personal of issues. Our country can achieve a higher-value health-care system — meaning both higher quality and greater efficiency.

Health-care cost drivers are complex and interwoven, but the most problematic ones we identified are the inefficiencies, misaligned incentives and fragmented care delivery in the current fee-for-service reimbursement system. To address these, we seek to promote coordinated and accountable systems of health-care delivery and payment, building on what has proved successful in the private and public sectors. Organized systems of care emphasize the value of care delivered over the volume of care. These systems are often better able to meet patients’ needs and desires and are able to effectively reimburse providers and practitioners for delivering high-quality care.

In all our proposals, we sought to avoid simple cost-shifting as a means to generate federal budgetary savings, instead promoting transparency and protecting patient choice. We also focused on reforms that will incite transformation across the health-care system, not limited to Medicare. We believe, however, that the power of Medicare can be leveraged to lead the way in transforming U.S. health care.

In brief, our recommendations:

●Preserve the promise of traditional Medicare while adding more choices and protections for beneficiaries, including accountable systems of care and a stronger, more competitive Medicare Advantage program.

●Strengthen and modernize the traditional Medicare benefit, including adding a catastrophic cap, rationalizing cost-sharing and premiums and expanding access to assistance programs for those with low incomes.

●Reform the tax treatment of health insurance to limit the taxfavored treatment of overly expensive insurance products.

●Empower patients by promoting transparency that is meaningful to consumers, families and businesses, and streamline quality reporting.

●Advance the nation’s understanding of potential cost savings from prevention programs, through support for research and innovation on effective strategies to address costly chronic conditions.

●Offer incentives to states to promote policies that will support a more organized, value-driven health-care delivery and payment system, such as supporting medical liability reform and strengthening their primary-care workforce.

All of these policies are designed to improve the quality and value of our nation’s health care. That is where every health-reform effort should start. The savings that we achieved — $560 billion over 10 years in debt and deficit reduction — is the outgrowth of our work, not the goal.

No single set of recommendations can fix the health-care system or the nation’s debt and deficit crisis overnight, but we hope this report can start a constructive, pragmatic dialogue among policymakers and political leaders. By presenting this report to federal, state and private-sector leaders, we hope to promote a collaborative dialogue and a shared understanding of strategies to put our nation’s health system, as well as its economic outlook, on a sounder, healthier and more sustainable path.

This article was originally published in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-build-a-better-health-care-system/2013/04/17/a44dd478-a6d1-11e2-8302-3c7e0ea97057_story.html