LCSN: Domenici Conference: Daschle focuses on health care debate

September 1, 2011. Retrieved online September 1, 2011 from Diana M. Alba, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – While there’s plenty to disagree about in the debate over health-care reform, there’s also plenty to agree about, said former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, who took center stage Wednesday in Las Cruces.

Also, Gov. Susana Martinez followed the former South Dakota lawmaker at the fourth annual Domenici Public Policy Conference.

“There is a substantial consensus today that we spend way too much on health – $8,500 for every man, woman and child in the country,” Daschle, a Democrat, said. “Two-and-a-half trillion dollars today. Thirty-five trillion dollars in the next 10 years alone.”

And the percentage of health-care expenses relative to the nation’s economic production only continues to creep upward, becoming a “cost crisis,” said Daschle.

“When I was born, health was 4 percent of domestic product,” he said. “Now, experts tell us that, if we do nothing, health care as a percent of gross domestic product will be 32 percent, if I’m lucky enough to have great-grandchildren.”

A central point of debate, however, is how government should be involved in the system, Daschle said. The federal Affordable Care Act is a starting point in addressing the complex problem, but legislation is not the only answer, he contended.

“It’s emotional,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult. It is extremely challenging. So it’s no secret why it’s taken so long to get our arms around it.”

Continued Daschle: “What we do know is that we can’t afford to fail to fix the problems, because at the current rate it is unsustainable.”

The health-care industry requires more transparency, efficiency and coordination of treatment for chronic illnesses, he said.

Domenici, accompanying Daschle on stage at the conclusion, said he noticed that the audience’s applause seemed greater as Daschle’s talk progressed.

“I sensed some of you might have thought he thought different about health care than what you heard him speak,” he told conference-goers. “You have to listen more and get more information before you make your minds up.”

Bumper attendance

More people registered than the 800 who had been signed up through Tuesday, officials said. A cushion left on the sign-up roster by New Mexico State University allowed extra students to enter the conference on a walk-in basis, according to Sara Patricolo, program manager with the Domenici Institute. That took the total to about 900 people. About 460 of them were from NMSU and another two dozen were from Western New Mexico University, New Mexico Tech and the University of New Mexico.

Attendance was the most ever for the conference, officials have said.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.


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