URBANA — "Glitches" related to the launch of the federal health insurance marketplace can be attributed to a lack of adequate integration among users, inadequate testing and inadequate funding, said former Senate leader Tom Daschle while talking about the Affordable Care Act at the University of Illinois on Friday.
"Have there been glitches? Oh my goodness. We have suffered and suffered and explained and tried to understand the complications and all the problems that have been associated especially with the federal exchange over the last 21 days," Daschle said.
The former senator from South Dakota said he was pleased with President Barack Obama's announcement earlier this week calling for a "tech surge" that involves the government bringing in additional technical experts to fix problems reported with the website, healthcare.gov.
Daschle also said he has "taken solace" in talking with people who were involved in the state of Massachusetts' move toward a health insurance mandate there in 2006. During the state's launch, there were problems and people called for the program to be shut down, "but today ... I'm pleased to say ... 97 percent of people in Massachusetts have health care," Daschle said.
The former longtime member of Congress spoke at the UI College of Law as part of the Vacketta-DLA Piper lecture on the role of government and the law. Daschle's topic was "The Affordable Care Act — A New Paradigm for U.S. Health Care."
Daschle, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. House in 1978. In 1986, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served as a majority and minority leader. He lost the seat to Republican John Thune in 2004.
During Obama's first term, Daschle was nominated to be secretary of health and human services but eventually withdrew his name after admitting to errors on his tax forms.
Today Daschle is a senior policy advisor at the DLA Piper law firm and serves on several advisory boards, including the Center for American Progress.
In his talk Friday, Daschle spoke about the genesis of the Affordable Care Act, its major components and how health care delivery will change.
"I remain quite confident, frankly, that the market-based health infrastructure that the president proposed and that was enacted 31/2 years ago will endure," he said.
The main reasons for his optimism: the Supreme Court decision in 2012 upholding the Affordable Care Act, and Obama's re-election over a candidate who had a different agenda for health care.
Daschle said the Supreme Court decision dealt with the larger issues associated with the Affordable Care Act, but there are many other legal issues still pending, including cases related to contraception, the Independent Payment Advisory Board and more.
This being homecoming weekend on the UI campus, the former legislator evoked a football analogy to describe the country's progress on health care reform.
"If this were a football game, I'd put us on about the 30-yard line. We have 70 yards to go to get the goal. I guarantee you there will be a lot more fumbles. There's going to be some lost yardage, but I'm also confident we can get to the goal," Daschle said.
Getting to that goal, he said, involves building an infrastructure that moves away from volume to value-driven care, that measures outcomes in a more transparent way, that emphasizes wellness and puts a higher priority on care management and team-based approaches and incorporation of health information technology.
All those items, he said, make up "the backbone of this transformation."