Senator Tom Daschle Visits the Ath

On Monday, September 24, the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum hosted Senator Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority and Minority leader and passionate advocate for health-care reform. Daschle's speech mainly covered healthcare, bipartisanship, and his vision for the future of the United States. With regard to health-care, Senator Daschle expresses his concerns about the reliability of coverage, in his book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, stating that "everyone is just a pink slip or a divorce away from financial disaster.” In his talk, he went on to list several other concerns he had, noting that American healthcare costs an average of $8,500 per capita per year, 50 percent more than the next most expensive system in the world.

Daschle's idea of healthcare is based mainly on the notion of “pyramid care,” or the idea that healthcare can be seen as a pyramid—with basic treatments such as general wellness and preventative care forming the base and more expensive, technologically advanced treatments forming the tip. According to Daschle, the United States is one of the only countries that spends from the top down, focusing on impressive but expensive new technologies instead of baseline consumer health. Stressing the importance of wellness and preventative medicine, Senator Daschle warned unhealthy lifestyles would adversely impact the cost of care. In speaking about the Affordable Care Act, he posited that “no one is more affected by [the ACA] than the students of CMC.” Through the Act, every student can be covered by a family plan until age 26, and afterwards, no insurance company can turn down an applicant based on a pre-existing condition.

When asked about what was most detrimental to reform, Senator Daschle answered by saying people had a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction, citing the PR war on ACA and suggesting the Democrats had done a “lousy job with healthcare.” He also said that he believed both Democrats and Republicans were working towards the same goal and that the disconnect occurred only on the matter of how much government involvement was necessary.

In his presentation, Senator Daschle tried to avoid partisan bickering and chose instead to focus on what he believed was right. He outlined what he believed the next steps would be, with an ultimate goal of near-universal coverage and outcome-based fees. While he did acknowledge potential difficulties on the road ahead, he ended eloquently, quoting Nelson Mandela and reminding us that “many things seem impossible until they’re done.”