Dr. Jill BidenNovember 24, 2009
11:50 AM EDT
There is nothing like the warmth of home during the holidays. In this spirit, the Vice President and I hosted an early Thanksgiving Dinner last night for servicemembers and their families at our home, the U.S. Naval Observatory. It was the Biden family’s small way of saying thank you to these heroes, and we could not have been more honored to share a table with this group. As my husband said, “Never before has this place been accorded such an honor as tonight. No individual group has walked through that door that has lent more dignity than you.”
Our guests were from the Fisher House, an organization that provides the comfort and care of a “home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers 365 days a year. The houses allow for family members to be close to their loved ones during trying times. I visited the Fisher House at the Walter Reed Medical Center earlier this spring and I was so touched by every person I met and the courage and patriotism of all the residents and families.
Our entire family knows first-hand the challenges that military families face every day. Our son Beau recently returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq and we are so grateful to have him safely home. However, there are many families who are missing a loved one who is serving abroad or who is recovering from an injury and cannot make it home for the holidays. This year, and every year, we want to thank the many servicemen and women and their families across the globe for their sacrifices.
During the holiday season, enjoy the warmth of your home and consider reaching out to all of those who have given so much for our country. Happy Thanksgiving!
Dr. Jill Biden is the Second Lady of the United States
Dan PfeifferNovember 24, 2009
11:31 AM EDT
It’s amazing that after so many months debating health insurance reform, sometimes a myth we see being spread about it can still surprise us. In October, for example, we saw a rather shocking claim that one bill being debated in the Senate "could be used to ban guns in home self-defense." Politifact appropriately dismissed that claim as false, and we thought we could all move on from bizarre claims that reform was related to the 2nd Amendment in any way whatsoever.
But apparently the Gun Owners of America, the same group that propagated that ridiculous claim, had simply gone back to the drawing board. Today they sent out an alert misleading their members again, raising the specter of some massive government database of "gun-related health data" despite the fact that there is no mention "gun-related health data" or anything like it anywhere in either the Senate or the House bills.
RHETORIC: GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA CLAIMS THAT HEALTH REFORM LEGISLATION WILL "DUMP YOUR GUN-RELATED HEALTH DATA” INTO A GOVERNMENT DATABASE WHICH CAN BE USED TO "PRECLUDE YOU FROM OWNING FIREARMS." The Gun Owners of America (GOA) claim that "the mandates in [the Senate's health reform] legislation will most likely dump your gun-related health data into a government database that was created in section 13001 of the stimulus bill. This includes any firearms-related information your doctor has gleaned... or any determination of PTSD, or something similar, that can preclude you from owning firearms." [Gun Owners of America Alert, 11/20/09]
REALITY: NOTHING IN THE SENATE BILL WOULD RESULT IN "GUN-RELATED HEALTH DATA" BEING SUBMITTED TO THE GOVERNMENT. There is no mention of "gun-related health data" anywhere in the Senate’s health reform bill and there is nothing in the bill that would result in any such data being reported to the government. The bill does provide guidelines for reporting of anonymous statistical information to help with research, but none of this would lead to gun ownership or “gun related health data” being included in reporting to the government. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]
RHETORIC: GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA CLAIMS THAT SECTION 2717 OF THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL WOULD ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT TO OFFER LOWER PREMIUMS TO EMPLOYERS IF THEIR EMPLOYEES DO NOT OWN GUNS. Gun Owners of America (GOA) claims that "Special ‘wellness and prevention’ programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles -- and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier." [Gun Owners of America Alert, 11/20/09]
REALITY: NOTHING IN THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL WOULD LEAD TO HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR GUN OWNERS OR A "DECREE" THAT GUN OWNERS ARE LESS HEALTHY THAN OTHERS. Section 2717 section creates guidelines for insurers to report on initiatives that improve quality of care and health outcomes, and it specifically lists what types of programs would be involved – such as smoking cessation, physical fitness, nutrition, heart disease prevention. There is no mention of guns, and there is no language that could result in higher premiums for gun owners or lower premiums for people who do not own guns. Section 2705 of the bill does permit employers to provide premium discounts for employee participation in health promotion and disease prevention programs, and it prohibits insurers from discriminating against individuals for specific reasons such as health status, medical history, and genetic information. It allows the Secretary to add other “health status-related” factors to the list. But again, there is no mention of guns, or any possibility that owning or not owning guns would ever be considered a "health status-related" issue. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]
Joshua DuBoisNovember 23, 2009
03:20 PM EDT
This past Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and key leaders on adoption issues marked the 10th anniversary of National Adoption Day. The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships was proud to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to organize this exciting event.
National Adoption Day is an opportunity for courts across the country to open their doors and finalize adoptions for children out of foster care. There are currently over 500,000 youth in foster care and over 125,000 legally separated from their parents and waiting to find permanent, loving families.
Secretary Sebelius participated in a ceremony to finalize the adoptions of two D.C.-area foster children, the first two adoptions of National Adoption Day in the District. Two-year-old Emma, who has a chronic inflammatory condition of her esophagus, lit up the stage as her adoption was processed and she officially joined her lovely family. Sixteen-year-old Dominique was adopted by her mom Karen, with whom she has lived since she was 11. Dominique and her mother share similar interests, even down to their favorite colors of purple and pink.
In her remarks, Secretary Sebelius sought to “draw attention to the hundreds of thousands of children around the country who don’t have permanent families.” The Secretary noted that the “evidence is clear: Children who don’t have stable, permanent homes are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to go to jail, and more likely have kids out of wedlock.” The Secretary highlighted several HHS initiatives that work to promote adoption and connect children with the families they deserve, including:
- The Adoption Incentives Program,
- A Public Service Announcement campaign with the AD Council, and
- National Child Welfare Resource Centers.
Also on stage and delivering remarks were Senator Mary Landrieu (LA); Representative Jim McDermott (WA); Joan Lombardi, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood, Administration for Children and Families; D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield; Rita Soronen, National Adoption Day Representative; and Kathleen Strottman of Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
For additional information on Administration efforts around adoption and foster care, you can visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov .
Joshua DuBois is the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
November 23, 2009
03:05 PM EDT
Today’s Know What to Do about the Flu webcast has a special focus on bloggers and their readers. The series, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was launched to deliver accurate and timely information directly to the public. This episode’s focus on bloggers recognizes the power of this new medium and demonstrates the Department’s commitment to using innovative communication channels to deliver health information.
Join the live webcast at 3:30 pm to hear the latest update on H1N1 and seasonal flu and learn about resources bloggers can use to share this information with their readers. Detailed information about influenza prevention and treatment, warning signs for parents, anti-viral medications, and vaccinations will also be included. The question and answer session provides you the opportunity to engage directly with leading communication and public health experts, including:
- Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
- Anne Schuchat, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Participants are invited to submit questions in advance and during the event using either email or Twitter (by including the hash tag #FluCast). To learn more about the event, visit Flu.gov, your one-stop resource for information on the flu.
November 23, 2009
12:16 PM EDT
Today we’re launching a “list” on the official White House account on Twitter which will make it easier for people to follow U.S. Government Twitter feeds. We’ve included a variety of accounts from Cabinet Secretaries, Agencies and Departments. If there are other U.S. government accounts you’d like us to add, please dm us @whitehouse.
UPDATE: In addition to a dm, you can also send suggestions by replying to @whitehouse.
November 23, 2009
12:10 PM EDT
President Obama today helped launch a new campaign, “Educate to Innovate,” designed to energize and excite America’s students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It builds on the President’s pledge that he would use his position to help encourage students to study and consider careers in science, engineering, technology, and innovation—fields upon which America’s future depends—and elevate those students from the middle to the top of the pack worldwide.
At today’s kick-off event, President Obama announced the launch of five major public-private partnerships that have committed to helping unleash the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and community volunteers to reach millions of students over the next four years, inspiring them to become the next generation of engineers and scientists, inventors and innovators.
The new campaign builds on the President’s Inaugural Address, which included a vow to put science “in its rightful place.” One of those rightful places, of course, is the classroom. Yet too often our schools lack support for teachers or the other resources needed to convey the practical utility and remarkable beauty of science and engineering. As a result, students become overwhelmed in their classes and ultimately disengaged. They lose, and our nation loses too.
The partnerships launched today aim to change that. They respond to a challenge made by the President in April, when he spoke at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences and asked the nation’s philanthropists, professional and educational societies, corporations, and individuals to collaborate and innovate with the goal of reinvigorating America’s STEM educational enterprise. The partnerships announced today -- dramatic commitments in the hundreds of millions of dollars, generated through novel collaborations and creative outreach activities -- are just the first wave of commitments anticipated in response to his call.
Think about how you or your organization can build on this momentum. And let’s pull together to open our children’s eyes to the countless ways in which science, engineering, and math can help America and the world find solutions to the many challenges we face.
John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and the Director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Melody C. Barnes is an Assistant to the President and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Jesse LeeNovember 23, 2009
10:27 AM EDT
At 11:40 AM EST, President Obama will launch the "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort to help reach the administration's goal of moving American students from the middle of the pack to the front in science and math achievement over the next decade. The President will announce a series of partnerships involving leading companies, universities, foundations, non-profits, and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers that will motivate and inspire young people across the country to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Afterwards, make sure to join Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren at 1:00 PM for a live chat on Facebook.
Dan PfeifferNovember 21, 2009
04:08 PM EDT
Opponents of health insurance reform have spent hours on the Senate floor today attacking the Senate's efforts to provide stability and security for those with insurance, affordable coverage for those without, and lower costs for families, small businesses and the government. To provide a little perspective on these attacks, let’s compare today's legislation with the 2003 Medicare Part D effort, which many of these same critics supported:Senate Health ReformMedicare Part DEffect on the Deficits over First 10 yearsDecreased by $130 billionIncreased by $395 billionCost from 2010-2019$848 billion$600 billionLength2,074 pages1,044 pages
Jesse LeeNovember 21, 2009
12:00 AM EDT
In an address recorded in Seoul, South Korea, the President discusses his trip to Asia. He talks about his push to stop nuclear proliferation in North Korea, Iran, and around the world. He talks about promoting America's principles for an open society in China while making progress on joint efforts to combat climate change. And talks in-depth about the primary objective of his trip: engaging in new markets that hold tremendous potential to spur job creation here at home.
Dan PfeifferNovember 20, 2009
11:30 PM EDT
Since some opponents of reform seem too obsessed with the length of the Senate health insurance reform bill to even bother looking at what's in it for American families, we thought we'd make it a little easier for them to find some key of provisions they're working so hard to kill:
- On page 78 you’ll learn that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ends discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
- On page 17, it makes preventive care completely free, with no cost-sharing. (This might be of particular interest to those who have chosen to seize on concerns about the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations on mammograms to spread baseless myths and advance their own political agenda.)
- Flipping back to page 16, you’ll find that insurance companies are prohibited from dropping your coverage or watering it down when you get sick and need it most.
- Also on page 16, you might notice that it puts an end to lifetime caps on coverage.
- Page 18 is where the bill extends family coverage eligibility for young Americans through the age of 26.
- On page 83 it requires insurance companies to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full – that means they can’t refuse to renew your coverage just because you get sick.
- Page 307 is home to tax credits for small businesses to help them afford insurance for their employees.
- And folks looking to scare our senior citizens about what reform means for them might be interested to check out page 923 and learn that it provides a 50% discount on drugs for seniors in the so-called donut hole.
November 20, 2009
06:02 PM EDT
On Friday we hosted a reception commemorating the 540th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first guru in Sikhism. It was the first time that this holiday has ever been celebrated at the White House. Members of the Sikh community from around the country were invited to celebrate the occasion with traditional hymns led by the Sikh Kirtani Chanters from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Several administration officials were in attendance, including Dr. John Holdren (Office of Science & Technology Policy), Tina Tchen (Office of Public Engagement), Michael Strautmanis (Chief of Staff to Valerie Jarrett), Adolfo Carrion (Urban Affairs), and Nancy Anne DeParle (Health Reform).
Representatives from the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, United Sikhs, and other grassroots leaders came together to recognize the important contributions of Sikhs to our national life. The first Sikhs arrived as laborers in the western United States around 1899 and gradually moved around the country. They went on to become owners of successful businesses, serve honorably in the U.S. military in both world wars and other conflicts, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and members of many other professions.
Darron P. Monteiro is the Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement
Jesse LeeNovember 20, 2009
03:55 PM EDT
In a particularly moving address to troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, South Korea, the President thanked American troops for their continued sacrifice and service, and took the opportunity to a share a short anecdote with the crowd. The story reminded troops of America's great responsibility and privilege to protect freedom and promote democracy around the world, and offered rare historical insight from a longtime ally:
I want to deliver, actually, just a quick story, go a little off script. President Lee talked to me about what it was like when he was a young child here in Korea, this country having been torn by war, and the poverty that still existed in the country. And he said, I hope the American people understand how grateful we are for what you've done, because we would not be the extraordinarily strong, prosperous nation that we are, had it not been for the sacrifices of your armed services and the continued contributions that you've made.
And I thought, when the President of a country that's become so successful says that America, and America's armed services in particular, had something to do with the extraordinary success of their country -- he said, that's something you should take great pride in. And I want all of you to know that, because you are carrying that tradition on right here at Osan.
I couldn't come to the Republic of Korea without coming to see you to deliver a simple message -- a message of thanks to you and your families. Because of all the privileges of serving as President, I have no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known. (Applause.)
Dan PfeifferNovember 20, 2009
03:03 PM EDT
When people use arguments they know are bogus, it's probably because they know they don't have any valid arguments at their disposal. So it would seem with opponents of reform in the Senate spending today obsessed with arguments about "rationing" that were debunked months ago.
Their attacks are focused on the fact that the legislation supports research into what treatments work best for patients. Before we go any further, let's just say this as plainly as possible:
Under health insurance reform, this research cannot be used to dictate coverage.
In fact, this objective medical research empowers doctors and patients and helps them fight insurance company decisions to deny treatment and ration care. Maybe this is why opponents of reform are trying so hard to keep updated medical information out of the hands of our nation's doctors.
What this patient-centered health research does specifically is provide doctors and patients with the best medical information to help them make the best decisions, and it is even written into the law that the Secretary of Health and Human Services cannot deny coverage of a treatment based solely on this research. When you consider that this research is intended only to make sure you get the most effective care, opposition seems outright bizarre, and twisting it into some "rationing" attack seems outright low.
In case anybody wants an objective source on this, the independent watchdog Politifact gave such claims an unambiguous “False” rating back in August. Yes, August:
But in this case, there actually are provisions in the bill about comparative research to make sure it is not used for rationing. Language in the House version of the health bill specifically states: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer."
And let's be clear, comparative effectiveness research has been done by the government for years and years. The Obama administration wants to greatly expand the amount of research. The economic stimulus package also included more funding for comparative effectiveness research. And the bill included a similar disclaimer that it would not mandate insurers to cover or reimburse one treatment or medication over another.
Need more? Politifact had a couple more reliable sources up their sleeve:
AARP, the leading advocate for seniors, has long been a strong supporter of such research.
"It boggles the mind" said AARP spokesman Jim Dau, how comparative effectiveness research has been portrayed by opponents of the health care plan as government rationing of care.
"It's just good common sense," Dau said of the research. "It's giving individuals and doctors better evidence-based research so that they can make better decisions."
Gail Wilensky, who ran the Medicare program under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, is another big advocate of comparative effectiveness research. She views it as lobby-free information that can be used to empower patients.
A New York Times editorial out today also touches on one of the recent news hooks opponents of reform are attempting to twist for their own purposes, the bogus links between a recent study on mammograms and health insurance reform (previously debunked here as well). They rightly boil the issue down to this:
The only part of the reform bills that could affect mammography would only make them more accessible.
This could be said of preventive care across the board as well.
Jesse LeeNovember 20, 2009
09:27 AM EDT
At 10:00 AM EST today the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services will host another Clean Energy Economy Forum. A group of stakeholders, business and community leaders will discuss clean energy and climate legislation work, and the benefits towards public health. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be answering questions, including some taken live from our Facebook chat application.
Arun ChaudharyNovember 19, 2009
08:37 PM EDT
We sat Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes down on the front couch of Air Force One to get a wrap-up of the trip before landing in Washington, DC. He may seem a little sleepy and dehydrated, but I can personally attest that he got a decent amount of rest on the way back. He was firmly in the “stay up at first, sleep later” camp for combating jet lag. Maybe we can have him attest to the success or failure of that endeavor tomorrow.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to bring you these video updates on our travels through Asia, and we hope it’s given you a new perspective on what it’s like to travel with President.
You can find more information on the President's trip and on the President's policies in Asia on our Asia page.
Arun Chaundhary is the official White House videographer
Macon PhillipsNovember 19, 2009
08:16 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Opponents of health reform appear to have run out of fresh smears against health insurance reform and have started recycling old debunked attacks. In response to those that brought up this attack that Politifact proved false months ago, we simply bring back this classic Reality Check first published on October 1, 2009.
Last night Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann questioned health insurance reform, raising the spectre of school-based "sex clinics" that would take students to "have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night":
It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving. And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what's going to go on -- comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care -- is that abortion? Does that mean that someone's 13 year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.
The absurdity of this claim earns high honors from Politifact, a non-partisan research organization: Pants on Fire!
Critics of the Democratic health care proposal have been increasingly raising concerns that the plan would provide taxpayer-subsidized abortions (a claim we address here). The Liberty Counsel, a conservative group, puts a different twist on that concern, alleging that Page 992 of the bill "will establish school-based 'health' clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!"
The claim comes from a long list of items allegedly in the bill that is posted on the group's Web site and has been widely circulated in a chain e-mail. The list looks a lot like one that we checked in July, based partly on blog postings by Peter Fleckenstein on his blog Common Sense from a Common Man . In fact, the Liberty Counsel says it adapted its memo from Fleckenstein's original work.
We spoke with Sarah Speller at the Liberty Counsel, who told us that the group had been getting a lot of calls about the memo and that everyone there was very busy as a result. However, she assured us that "as far as our office can tell, everything in the overview is accurate. That's about all I can tell you," she said. "I'm just relaying what I've been told to say."
That's not persuasive. We see no language in the three main versions of the bill that would allow school-based clinics, which have a long history of providing basic health services to underprivileged students, to provide abortions. Nor would the clinics even be new — they have been around for three decades. So we rate the claim Pants on Fire!
Dan PfeifferNovember 19, 2009
07:55 PM EDT
From the very beginning defenders of the status quo have held up the Congressional Budget Office as the gold standard for judging the impact of health reform legislation on the deficit. Indeed, as recently as two weeks ago, when alternative legislation based on insurance industry proposals was introduced, those opponents of real reform boasted of the CBO's declaration that it would cut the deficit by $68 billion over 10 years.
But that was a long time ago (two weeks ago), and now times have changed. Now that the very same CBO has declared that the Senate’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cuts $130 billion from the deficit, those same defenders of the status quo seem to be saying that the CBO estimate is meaningless.
Their argument claims that because some aspects of the legislation don’t kick in for the first few years, such as the health insurance exchange, the CBO estimate is skewed. Here are the facts:
- The suggestion that this bill pays for six years of coverage with ten years of pay-fors is simply false: Even in the six-year period when the exchange is operational (2014-2019) the CBO finds that the bill will reduce the deficit by at least $31 billion.
- The claim that early surpluses mask later deficits is also untrue: In 2019 alone, the bill reduces the deficit by $8 billion, and in the second decade the CBO finds that the bill will continue to reduce the deficit.
- Taking the time necessary to launch the health exchange is responsible policy, not a gimmick. Republicans who supported the Medicare Part D program should remember that it took three years to stand up that program.
- In the run-up to launching the exchange in 2014, the Senate plan takes several important steps to improve the quality and affordability of care, including investments in: tax credits for small businesses, a high risk pool, reinsurance, and prevention programs and our health care workforce, along with saving seniors thousands on prescription drug costs.
No matter how you try to twist or distort its analysis, the Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the Senate Health Bill is a solidly fiscally responsible approach to health reform.
Beth NoveckNovember 19, 2009
07:04 PM EDT
Cross-posted from the Office of Science and Technology's OSTP Blog.
"It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system," Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in 1932, "that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country." The Obama Administration is taking unprecedented strides toward creating the most open and accountable government in history. And in so doing, we’re learning from those states and municipalities, which are undertaking exciting experiments to bring transparency, participation, and collaboration to the way they work as well.
Inspired by the President’s call for more open government, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts launched its data catalogue, following in the footsteps of Washington, DC, San Francisco, New York, and elsewhere around the country (as well as cities in Canada and the UK), to provide public access to information by and about government. What makes this exciting is not merely having transportation information available in machine-readable formats, but that professional and amateur enthusiasts can then get together, as they did last weekend, to create new software applications and data visualizations to better enable public transit riders to track arrival times for the next subway, bus, or ferry. Publishing government information online facilitates this kind of useful collaboration between government and the public that transforms dry data into the tools that improve people’s lives. (For another great example, check out what happened when we published the Federal Register for people to use.)
Just as the federal government is using online brainstorming with government employees and the public to generate ideas for saving money or going green, state and local governments are also using new technology to tap people’s intelligence and expertise. The City of Manor, Texas (pop. 5800) has launched “Manor Labs,” an innovation marketplace for improving city services. A participant can sign up to suggest “ideas and solutions” for the police department, the municipal court, and everything in between. Each participant’s suggestion is ranked and rewarded with “innobucks.” These innobucks points can be redeemed for prizes: a million innobucks points wins “mayor for the day” while 400,000 points can be traded for a ride-along with the Chief of Police.
Manor is also one of the few cities currently using bar codes (known as QR or Quick Response Codes) to label physical locations around town. These bar codes can be scanned with a mobile phone to communicate historical and touristic information, data about the cost of a municipal service, or emergency management information. Manor is experimenting with techniques for providing different information to different audiences. If a resident scans a QR code outside a home for sale, she gets the floor plan and purchase price; whereas the building inspector gets the inspection history; and the first responder gets information about the current occupant.
As more of these innovative projects that foster open government go live and achieve results, we look forward to showcasing some of them on our blog and eventually making details available on the Open Government Innovation Gallery. Developers with new tools to offer to facilitate open government – including free social media applications -- should also check out Apps.gov and list their products (here’s how) for others to use. Openness and accountability are the responsibility of government at every level. By getting out the word about innovations that help to realize open government in practice, we can both promote new experiments and help people find and re-use the best ones.
Visit the OSTP blog to comment on this post.
Beth Noveck is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government
Secretary Tom VilsackNovember 19, 2009
01:00 PM EDT
Thanksgiving is only a week away and like millions of Americans around the country, I’m looking forward to spending time with family and reflecting on the countless blessings in my life. As all of us anxiously wait for the week to go by, I wanted to take some time and talk about the importance of having a safe start to the Holiday Season.
As part of the American tradition, millions of families across the country prepare holiday meals. Here in the USDA, we want to make sure you have the information and resources you need to cook safe and great food. You can do simple things like making sure you have a pan large enough for a Turkey and investing in a thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to the right temperature. To help you prepare safe meals, we are holding a Live Facebook Thanksgiving chat today at 3:00 pm EST with a holiday food safety expert from the Food Safety Inspection Service. This chat is a great place to have all your food safety questions answered. You can also submit questions in advance of the live chat. I hope you will take a little time to join this important conversation.
Preparing well for Thanksgiving is such an important part of having a great time with family and friends. So as I start my own countdown to Thanksgiving, I’ll continue to work with food safety experts to ensure that you have access to accurate information. Thank you for being proactive about your family’s safety and have a wonderful Holiday Season.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture
Valerie JarrettNovember 19, 2009
12:53 PM EDT
In an historic vote a week and half ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would finally make affordable health care possible for the citizens of our wonderful country. Then yesterday the Senate introduced their own legislation, "another critical milestone in the health reform effort" as the President put it.
When President Obama addressed members of Congress in September, "This is our moment to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us—even when it’s hard; especially when it’s hard. This is our moment to deliver." But of course as great a milestone as the vote was, we’ve still got a ways to go so we need everybody to stay involved.
For our part, we have been working all along to ensure the American people are engaged in the discussion on reform. That’s why I hosted a web chat recently on how health insurance reform will help to eliminate health disparities and how reform will affect underserved communities. Citizens and leaders from around the country submitted hundreds of questions beforehand and during the chat via Facebook. I wanted to post the video of that for anybody who missed it and take this opportunity to address some of the questions we didn’t have time to answer.
Question #1: We got a lot of questions from disabled Americans – I touched on some of the issues during the chat, but this was another one I wanted to address:
"How will the special needs of some people with disabilities be addressed? Examples include deaf individuals needing interpreters skilled in signing medical information, women who are partially paralyzed or use wheel chairs needing special equipment for medical examinations such as gynecological examinations. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago would be a great resource on these issues."
Health reform will lower costs for people with disabilities by rewarding quality and cutting waste, two guiding principles for this entire effort.
By expanding health insurance to all Americans and providing premium assistance to make it affordable, health insurance reform will significantly increase access to a choice of health insurance plans for individuals with disabilities. This will enable individuals who are employed to keep their jobs rather than giving up employment in order to receive Medicaid benefits.
People with disabilities are less likely to receive preventive care and are more likely to be diagnosed with screenable cancers at a later stage. By ensuring that all Americans have access to preventive care and investing in public health, health reform will work to create a system that prevents illness and disease instead of just treating it when it’s too late.
In addition, health reform will include the CLASS Act - a new voluntary, long-term care services insurance program. Under the program, individuals will pay a premium, and in exchange, the program will provide a lifetime cash benefit that offers seniors and people with disabilities some protection against the costs of paying for long-term supports and services. The program also helps individuals obtain services and supports that will enable them to remain in their homes and communities. The CLASS Act is not comprehensive long-term care reform, but it represents a helpful step that provides individuals with a viable mechanism for insuring against the risk of needing long-term services that broadens the resources for financing long-term services to lessen the reliance on Medicaid.
Question #2: This is a question that we didn’t get to, but really we just can’t answer enough because of how much misinformation has been out there about it:
"How will the health insurance reform affect costs and coverages for seniors who currently already have Medicare? Will they have to pay more taxes in the future? Many solely depend on their social security retirement income, what impact does it have on seniors?"
Health insurance reform protects Medicare benefits and reduces costs for seniors. Medicare benefits will not be cut. Period. In fact, seniors will get benefits they do not have under the current system: a reduction in prescription drug prices if they fall into the gap in coverage known as the “donut hole”; no cost-sharing for preventive care; and more coordinated care that will enable providers to track their health, treatments and prescriptions and avoid duplication and medical errors.
The President’s plan protects Medicare and improves its financial health. Not one penny of the Medicare Trust Fund will be used to help pay for reform.
By eliminating waste, such as overpayments to private insurance companies and cutting down on unnecessary hospital readmissions--- we will strengthen the Medicare trust fund – by 4 to 5 years - and be sure benefits are protected in the future.
Question #3: This one gets at a core issue in our health care system:
"Health Insurance Reform has focused on acute medical care. Why has it ignored long-term care which if unattended creates serious acute medical care problems (particularly for minority communities)? When will the White House address long-term care?"
As I mentioned above, health insurance reform adds a new, innovative program for long-term supports and services called the CLASS Act. Employed individuals pay premiums, and if they develop a disability, they receive a cash benefit of at least $50 a day that they can use to pay to for services to assist them with daily activities. This program will empower people to remain active in their communities, and take charge of their long-term care needs. It will also help people avoid needing to go into a nursing home or other nursing facility.
Beyond the CLASS Act, several proposals exist that would improve long-term care. The draft Senate Finance bill would provide additional funding to states to develop home and community based services under Medicaid. It would also provide funding to ADRCs, or Aging and Disability Resource Centers, which provide needed information for people with disabilities seeking caregiver assistance. Also, nursing homes would have increased transparency, including reporting of staffing and improved complaints processes.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
A unique view of 2012