Read all posts from September 2009

  • There are millions of health insurance horror stories across the country, and while very few can be summed up in just a few minutes, the responses we’ve gotten to Vice President Biden’s call for videos on why reform matters to you have revealed a snapshot of what Americans go through every day.
    The response below hints at a fundamental matter of incentives:

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    This is actually an issue that President Obama has emphasized himself repeatedly, including in a major speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago (the whole speech is well worth watching, click through the link to see it):
    There are two main reasons for this.  The first is a system of incentives where the more tests and services are provided, the more money we pay.  And a lot of people in this room know what I'm talking about.  It's a model that rewards the quantity of care rather than the quality of care; that pushes you, the doctor, to see more and more patients even if you can't spend much time with each, and gives you every incentive to order that extra MRI or EKG, even if it's not necessary.  It's a model that has taken the pursuit of medicine from a profession -- a calling -- to a business. 
    That's not why you became doctors.  That's not why you put in all those hours in the Anatomy Suite or the O.R.  That's not what brings you back to a patient's bedside to check in, or makes you call a loved one of a patient to say it will be fine.  You didn't enter this profession to be bean-counters and paper-pushers.  You entered this profession to be healers.  (Applause.)  And that's what our health care system should let you be.  That's what this health care system should let you be.  (Applause.)
    Now, that starts with reforming the way we compensate our providers -- doctors and hospitals. We need to bundle payments so you aren't paid for every single treatment you offer a patient with a chronic condition like diabetes, but instead paid well for how you treat the overall disease. We need to create incentives for physicians to team up, because we know that when that happens, it results in a healthier patient. We need to give doctors bonuses for good health outcomes, so we're not promoting just more treatment, but better care. 

  • Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the new Broadband.gov blog.

    I had always intended for the FCC’s work on the National Broadband Plan to be transparent and open to a wide variety of stakeholders including providers, public interest groups and citizens alike. This effort is too important to leave anyone out.

    I am pleased to see that the Commission’s work on the plan is already transforming the way we at the agency communicate with the public. Fittingly, we are using the power of the Internet to boost public participation in the plan through our blog, "Blogband," which is dedicated to the National Broadband Plan. The posts have given us an informal way to keep people up-to-date and engaged in the process. Importantly, the comments back have also been a catalyst for new thinking and creative solutions.

    We’re also using the Internet to give more people greater access to our workshops here at the Commission. In addition to the over 1,100 people who’ve so far attended the workshops in person, over 5,000 people have registered to view and participate in the workshops online. The workshops represent an unparalleled level of openness and participation in the Commission’s work.

    Inside the agency, we are hard at work processing the public input we are getting from our many workshops. The hours of discussion by workshop participants, along with comments that have already been filed at the FCC, have prompted us to draft new Public Notices about the plan. Over the coming weeks, you will see several of them issued. The new comments we receive will be filed in the official record for the plan. And of course, the transcripts that are being made of each workshop will also be part of the record.

    So, thank you for your comments to date and please keep them coming in the weeks ahead!

    Julius Genachowski is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
     

  • Did you know that over 90 BILLION DOLLARS in federal prime contracts were awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses last year?  If you didn’t, you’re not alone.  As I’ve traveled around the country over the last few months talking to small business owners about contracting with the federal government, three very important thoughts have run through my head:
    1. More small businesses need to know what contracting opportunities are out there for them and how they can compete for these contracts.
    2. Every government agency needs to know about all of the small businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans that can provide the quality goods and services they need.
    3. There’s no way I can get to everybody in person…I wish there was a way to provide every business owner with the tools they need from the comfort of their own home.
     Oh right, there is!  President Obama has tasked all of us across the Federal Government with using new technologies to make government more accessible.  And when that approach helps to benefit small businesses, it’s a special priority for the President.
    That’s why this week SBA has launched a new online training program: "How to Win Federal Contracts" available at www.sba.gov/fedcontractingtraining.  It’s the latest in a series of steps we’re taking with our colleagues at the Department of Commerce on an initiative the President asked SBA Administrator Karen Mills (my boss) and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to spearhead.
    It’s called…the "Stakeholder Outreach Initiative" or "SOI".  It’s not the most glamorous name…but the idea behind the initiative is important. 
    As President Obama has said, "It is essential that we provide our Nation’s small businesses with maximum practicable opportunity to participate in Federal Government contracting."
    Over the course of the Recovery Act, roughly $60 Billion in federal contracts will be awarded.  And ensuring small businesses and firms owned by minorities, women, and veterans are involved in the Recovery is a "win-win."
    As Administrator Mills puts it: "Government contracts can play a key role in helping small businesses turn the corner in terms of expansion and job creation.  But make no mistake, the benefits the government receives are equally as impressive – working with small businesses allows the federal government to work with some of the most innovative companies in America, often with direct contact with the CEO."
    In announcing this initiative, President Obama has reiterated his Administration’s commitment to small and disadvantaged businesses.  My team and our colleagues at the Department of Commerce are working hard to deliver on this commitment.  We are working with all federal agencies to host or participate in hundreds of contracting-focused events around the country in the next few months.  We are reaching out to contracting officers at federal agencies and large prime contractors to make sure they know about all the great small and disadvantaged businesses out there who can provide the prime and subcontracting work that they need. We are developing new online training courses that businesses can use to learn how to enter this marketplace. 

    So, stop by your local SBA or MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) office.  Check out our new online Recovery Act contracting training (www.sba.gov/fedcontractingtraining).  Together, we can make the goals of small and disadvantaged business contracting a reality.

    Joseph Jordan is the Assistant Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration

  • On Monday the Vice President asked for your help in a new Reality Check – debunking the myth that health insurance reform is not needed or not important to the American people. 
    We've gotten dozens and dozens of responses so far, and as you might expect even one human face of the need for health reform can speak more profoundly than charts showing the same need from millions.
    This one just came in a couple hours ago. It’s one of the many reminders amongst the responses so far that a key issue in reform remains those who work hard, play by the rules, and simply can't afford health insurance. In this case we hear a small business owner who can't afford it for herself, much less her employees:

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    For those who do want charts with their personal stories, read the CEA Report on how reform will help small businesses, the HHS report on how Americans have been getting less care for greater cost, or another CEA report on the dire projections for the future -- 72 million without insurance by 2040 in the absence of reform, for starters.

    We're watching every submission and will continue to post some of them throughout the week.
     

  • As serious as the H1N1 flu is, sometimes the best way to get the word out about a serious issue is to use a little humor. That especially goes for the Sesame Street crowd, so enter Elmo into the latest flu PSA for kids:
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    The health and safety of the American public is the highest priority of President Obama and his administration. In preparation of the upcoming flu season, the President and his Cabinet have launched an all-hands-on-deck, H1N1 national preparedness and response strategy.  
    This strategy includes four pillars of public health: surveillance, mitigation, vaccination, and communications. The executive branch will partner with Congress, local governments, state and local health departments, and many others to make sure information and assistance are always close at hand for the American public.
    Leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies are also preparing for a voluntary H1N1 vaccination program. All American families will have access to this highly-recommended prevention tool.
    President Obama, flanked by Cabinet members
    President Barack Obama, joined by (from left) Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and CDC Director Tom Frieden, remarks on H1N1 preparedness while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House Tuesday, September 1, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    Finally, the government is calling on individuals and families to plan for the fall flu season and take steps to help prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu. President Obama explained the importance of involvement on all levels in his remarks in the Rose Garden today:
    For all that we do in the federal government, however, every American has a role to play in responding to this virus. We need state and local governments on the front lines to make antiviral medications and vaccines available, and be ready to take whatever steps are necessary to support the health care system. We need hospitals and health care providers to continue preparing for an increased patient load, and to take steps to protect health care workers. We need families and businesses to ensure that they have plans in place if a family member, a child, or a co-worker contracts the flu and needs to stay home.
    And most importantly we need everyone to get informed about individual risk factors, and we need everyone to take the common-sense steps that we know can make a difference. Stay home if you're sick. Wash your hands frequently. Cover your sneezes with your sleeve, not your hands. And take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy. I know it sounds simple, but it's important and it works.
    Read an overview of the Administration’s efforts to date here, and find flu prevention tips, guidance, and real-time updates around the clock at www.flu.gov
     
     

  • Furthering the President's commitment to taking the administration beyond the beltway and making the White House more accessible to all Americans, the Office of Public Engagement reached more than 150 organizations that made up and attended the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement Convention this past week. We participated in numerous roundtables with community leaders and visited with members of the Native Hawaiian community.
    As the President said in his August 21st Proclamation recognizing the 50th Anniversary of Hawaii's statehood, "The Aloha Spirit of Hawaii offers hope and opportunity for all Americans. Growing up in Hawaii, I learned from its diversity how different cultures blend together into one population -- proud of their personal heritage and made stronger by their shared sense of community. Our youngest State, Hawaii faces many of the same challenges other States face throughout our country, and it represents the opportunity we all have to grow and learn from each other."
    Community center mural painted by the talented youth of Papakolea
    Community center mural painted by the talented youth of Papakolea.  Photo credit: Lilia Kapuniai, CNHA
    Among the 20 groups represented at a discussion session were folks from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, The Kamehameha Schools, Native Hawaiian Bar Association, Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, Punana Leo, Native Hawaiian Educational Council, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Papa Ola Lokahi, (Native Hawaiian Health Care). Topics of conversation included a general briefing of each organization’s work in the areas of data, housing, renewable energy, business, education, and health care, as well as a discussion on ways in which the White House and community could work together as the administration moves forward with its priorities.
    The White House attended meetings and roundtables with community groups and officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Commerce/SBA, at the 8th Annual Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement convention. Remarks were delivered at an afternoon session where the White House reiterated the President’s commitment to the core policy goals of S. 1011 and H.R. 2314 (The Administration is continuing to work with the Committee and sponsors as specific language relating to the bill further evolves),and discussed clean energy, education, the recovery act, and the current priority - health reform.
    Sign at Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School
    A sign at the Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School. Photo credit: Lilia Kapuniai, CNHA
    Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 56% in Hawaii, and with nearly 8% of the population of Hawaii living with diabetes, health reform was a topic on everyone’s mind. But with the rate of diabetes among the Native Hawaiian population at twice that of non-natives (and since diabetes is one of the many conditions that insurance companies can currently use to deny coverage to individuals), this frank discussion on the dire need for health reform was a crucial part of the afternoon. Health reform includes increased access for all Americans, including Native communities, and will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on health. It will also end discrimination that charges folks more if they’re ill or female, and will reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, all of which is good news for everyone.
    A meeting with the young leaders of the Native Hawaiian community followed the convention sessions. We were also warmly welcomed by folks at the Papakolea Community Center, who briefed us on the center’s rich history and broad scope of their mission, including health and human services programs, community activities, and afterschool programs.  The students, teachers, and administrators at the Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School welcomed us to their campus, briefed us on the Native Hawaiian comprehensive and holistic approach to education, and shared the Aloha spirit with us.
    Papakolea Community Center children’s recreation area
    Papakolea Community Center children’s recreation area. Photo credit: Lilia Kapuniai, CNHA
    Like the meetings, both site visits included discussions on the perseverance of the native Hawaiian people, challenges facing the Native Hawaiian community, and ways in which the White House might work with the community to find common solutions to our common challenges.
    Kalpen Modi is an Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement

  • After several health insurance reform town halls and welcoming a new Supreme Court Justice, the President enjoyed some time in August relaxing with his family. Take a look at the new photostream drop from August.

    President Barack Obama addresses a town hall meeting on health insurance reform inside a hangar at Gallatin Field in Belgrade, Mont., on Aug. 14, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza
     
    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Justice Sonia Sotomayor prior to a reception for the new Supreme Court Justice at the White House, on Aug. 12, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
     
    Local fishing guide Dan Vermillion reacts as President Barack Obama almost hooks a trout on the East Gallatin River near Belgrade, Mont., on Aug. 14, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

  • Today marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month, an opportunity for our nation’s families and communities to discuss their plans if they were faced with an emergency. Protecting the United States from threats like terrorism, natural disasters, and infectious diseases is a shared responsibility and everyone has an important role to play.

    This effort starts in our own communities. By talking to your neighbors, friends and family about citizen preparedness – during September and beyond – we can build a culture where shared responsibility for preventing and responding to emergencies is every bit as common as planning for retirement or keeping your car and home in good repair.

    For more information about emergency planning, visit www.ready.gov or the Spanish-language site, www.listo.gov.

    Individuals can also help by learning a skill like CPR , or volunteering in their community through a local Citizen Corps council.

    We look forward to sharing additional ideas and information here, and at DHS.gov throughout the month of September to help all Americans become better prepared for – and more resilient to – emergencies of all kinds.

    Janet Napolitano is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

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