Welcome to the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress – the most diverse in history – was sworn in earlier this month. There are a record number of women in Congress, totaling 101 in the House and the Senate, and for the first time in three decades, the proportion of women in the Senate is greater than that in the House. Racial and religious minorities are also more widely represented, with four new African-American representatives, 10 new Latinos, five new Asian Americans, the first two Hindu legislators, the first Buddhist senator and the first non-theist. In fact, the House Democratic Caucus became the first caucus in congressional history not to comprise a majority of white men.

In addition to welcoming the 113th Congress, Washington will also be hosting President Obama’s second inauguration on January 21.  So while there is much to commemorate and celebrate in January, a number of challenging issues face the president and Congress, most notably deficit reduction and the role of entitlement reform.

There is general agreement among many economists and public policy makers that we cannot begin to get a handle on the growing budget deficit without addressing entitlement reform, with a particular emphasis on Medicare reform.  But exactly how to do that – and how to achieve meaningful, long-term savings – remains elusive.

Given that the recent agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff did not include any kind of pathway to a larger budget deficit reduction deal – a so-called “grand bargain” – the road to an agreement on any kind of entitlement reform is unclear.  But the urgency remains: Medicare’s emphasis on fee-for-service, which pays for volume rather than outcomes and quality, is simply not sustainable.

We deserve a better health care system. And while there are promising programs in place, such as the quality incentive payments in Medicare Advantage, we have a long way to go before we are paying for better health and getting true value for what we spend. We at ACHP represent the best health care plans America has to offer, and stand ready to work with Congress to make health care in this country the high quality, affordable and innovative system that I know it can be.

Patricia Smith
President and CEO, ACHP

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)