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William Corr returned to the Department of Health and Human Services this year as deputy secretary following several years as executive director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But he knows the agency well, having served as HHS chief of staff during the Clinton administration, working under then-Secretary Donna Shalala.
A lot is on the line for seniors in the current health care debate. President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders are making the programs that seniors rely on — Medicare and Medicaid — a focal point for their attempts to reform the nations health care system, as efforts to expand coverage and ensure the long-term viability of these programs comes front and center.
We all agree that reforming our health care system is a necessity, and that we cannot afford to wait another 10 or 20 years until health care costs have become uncontrollable. Even waiting a year to tackle health reform would be devastating, when the politics of an election year could prevent us from getting anything done. However, as urgent as the issue is, we must approach every aspect of health reform thoughtfully.
Even though seniors already have access to health insurance through the Medicare program, its important for them to carefully watch as Congress attempts to reform the health care system. There is little doubt that the final bill will include provisions that will have a large impact on the Medicare program and our nations seniors.
Americans born in 1900 lived on average to be 47 years old. Life expectancy for those born in 2005 is 78 years. In a little more than 100 years, the life span of Americans has increased by more than 30 years. At the same time, mortality rates for once fatal conditions such as heart disease and strokes have declined and survival rates for cancer have increased. These are significant achievements resulting from advances in medical care, breakthroughs in treatment, new drugs, better nutrition, improved lifestyle and even safety standards.
Reaching agreement in Washington, D.C., can be difficult, but one thing we all agree on is that our health care system is broken and must be fixed. We need to cut health care costs while improving the quality of available care. There are a lot of ideas regarding what we need to do to achieve this goal. Some are complex and will require much examination and debate, but others are straightforward, common-sense solutions that we can enact quickly to address some of our most costly health care problems.
It may come as a surprise to many readers that the No. 1 killer of American women is a disease most associated with men — cardiovascular disease. And while all women face the threat of heart disease, the danger is much greater as women age. In fact, twice as many women in their 60s and 70s have cardiovascular disease compared to women in their 40s and 50s. Its estimated that by 2012, 10,000 Americans will turn 65 years old every day, which will lead to a huge increase in health expenses related to cardiovascular disease.