Public Agenda
On the Agenda The Public Agenda Blog

01.16 Tough Choices on Health Care – Ready or Not, Here They Come

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 | Jean Johnson


How many experts view rising health care costs.
(Via IMDB, Copyright 1981 - Lucasfilm, Ltd.)

Remember Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, running away from an enormous boulder, glancing over his shoulder, racing to avoid being crushed? For the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), health care is the boulder that could devastate the federal budget if we can’t figure out better ways to contain rising costs. Many experts see this issue as one of, if not the, most urgent budgetary threats we face.

The federal government spent roughly a trillion dollars on health care in 2013, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. With an aging population, more of us will be on Medicare. Due to The Affordable Care Act (ACA), more people are being covered by Medicaid and receiving government subsidies to buy their own insurance. According to the CBO, rising health care costs will "pose a challenge not only for the federal government’s two major health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid, but also for state and local governments, businesses, and households."

There has been some good news lately -- health care costs haven’t been rising as quickly as in the past, and there’s vigorous debate among policy wonks over why this is happening and whether costs could start rising more quickly again. The White House Council of Economic Advisors, for one, believes that some reforms in the ACA are helping slow the growth in costs.

But health care costs are still rising -- by 3.7 percent in 2012.

Polls repeatedly show broad support for "reducing health care costs," and on the face of it, people do seem to grasp that the U.S. spends an awful lot of money on health care.


Click to read more | Comment

01.15 On Health Care, We Need More and Better Information and Deliberation

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 | Thomas Workman, Ph.D.

This commentary offers reflection on the findings and implications from "Curbing Health Care Costs: Are Citizens Ready to Wrestle with Tough Choices?" Thomas Workman is the Principal Communication Researcher and Evaluator in the Health Program at the American Institutes for Research, where he leads its Center for Patient and Consumer Engagement.


As is evident in "Curbing Health Care Costs: Are Citizens Ready to Wrestle with Tough Choices?", there are disconcerting contradictions and inconsistencies in Americans’ views on health care that indicate the need for continued public information and deliberation. Several of these contradictions are worth noting, as they may hold a key for developing successful approaches to engaging the public in policies and practices that enable quality care and controlled cost.

Disconcerting contradictions and inconsistencies in Americans’ views on health care indicate the need for continued public information and deliberation.

As the report notes in its introduction, the current cost crisis is certainly not new, yet public consciousness and a sense of urgency have begun emerging only in the past five years. The reasons are many: unlike all other consumer services, the majority of health-care costs are indirect, handled through a third-party payer. Out-of-pocket costs were historically an issue only for the poor, uninsured and underinsured. The rest of the nation remained fairly protected and blissfully unaware. But those days have passed.


Click to read more | Comment

12.26 Deborah Wadsworth, Former President of Public Agenda, Has Passed Away

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 | Public Agenda

We are saddened to report that Public Agenda’s Deborah Wadsworth, who led our organization between 1986 and 2003 and served on our board after her retirement, died on December 24, 2013.

As many of you know, Deborah was a woman of astonishing warmth, intelligence, integrity, and commitment. In fact, her contributions to our work began even before she joined Public Agenda. As a program officer at the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation in the 1990s, Deborah introduced Public Agenda founder Daniel Yankelovich to Kettering Foundation President David Mathews, setting in motion an institutional partnership that has endured for decades, bolstering our common mission of engaging citizens in addressing national and local challenges.


Click to read more | Comment

12.12 Is Progress Possible? Bill Bradley on Changing the Future

Thursday, December 12th, 2013 | Allison Rizzolo

What is your vision for a future in which our national political leaders collaborate, in spite of their differences, and do the work their people want and need them to do? Can you even imagine it?

For former Senator Bill Bradley, a Democrat who represented the people of New Jersey for 18 years, there are a few variations of such a future.

Senator Bradley joined us this week for the latest installment of our Policy Breakfast series. On a snowy, messy New York morning, Bradley addressed a full room at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, our partner in the series.

Adam Davidson, of NPR's Planet Money and The New York Times Magazine, spoke with the former Senator about the past, present and future of American politics.

Senator Bradley fondly recalled a time of personal relationships among members of Congress. "It was a time when there were personal relationships among members of Congress… People lived in Washington and socialized with each other. It made a big difference," he said.


Click to read more | Comment

12.03 Welcome to Beyond the Polls

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Jean Johnson

Welcome to Beyond the Polls, our regular commentary on what Americans are thinking about pivotal issues our country and communities face. Each month, we offer a second look — a deeper look — at public opinion. We try to put survey results in context and enrich them by drawing on our extensive experience listening to citizens in both research and community settings over the years.

Our aim is to explore and understand the hopes, values, concerns, and priorities people bring to today’s issues — the public questions and controversies we think about every day. Just as important, we want to juxtapose the views that polling typically captures with what happens to those views when citizens have a chance to absorb and weigh different options for addressing issues and hear what other citizens have to say about them.

So what led us to develop Beyond the Polls? Here is some of what’s behind the series:


Click to read more | Comment

12.03 Is There Really a Generation Gap on Social Security?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Jean Johnson

It’s reasonably clear that younger and older Americans think differently about tattoos. And maybe there’s a divide over e-mail versus texting. But now that Congress and the President are resuming talks about long-term federal budget issues, proposals to reform Social Security to stabilize its costs are back on the table.

In contrast, opinion leaders like Paul Krugman and Senator Elizabeth Warren say we should expand Social Security, arguing that current retirement policies will leave too many Americans living in poverty in their later years.

So that raises a question: Are the views and preferences of younger and older Americans really at odds when it comes to Social Security? What do polls show, and what happens when Americans of all ages have a chance to talk together about this issue?

The answers to these questions will be important for us to explore as we and our elected officials discuss and negotiate solutions to the issue of Social Security.

A quick glance at some recent polling does seem to show some wide gaps among the generations:


Click to read more | Comment

11.13 3 Ways the White House’s College Scorecard Can Better Serve Adult Prospective College Students

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 | Christopher DiStasi

When the White House released a new ‘College Scorecard’ earlier this year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote, “Too often, students and their families don’t have the right tools to help them sort through the information they need to decide which college or university is right for them.” The White House’s scorecard aims to fill this gap by providing, in an easily digestible format, information like graduation rates, average costs and loan default rates. Policy makers say such data are important to judging the quality and performance of our schools. But the College Scorecard may not be reaching the students who need it most.

Earlier this year, we sat down with adults who are considering going or returning to college. It had been years since these individuals had seen a high school guidance counselor or a college prep class. For them, a tool like the College Scorecard could be immensely useful. But, in our focus groups, we found that the White House’s strategy does not line up with the habits of adult prospective students. In order to reach this group, which sorely needs unbiased college information and advice, the White House must better align the scorecard with their college search practices and priorities.

The following are three simple ways that the College Scorecard could be improved, based on our research.


Click to read more | Comment

11.11 How to FAIL at Engaging Faculty and Staff in Student Success Efforts

Monday, November 11th, 2013 | Isaac Rowlett

This post was originally published on the Completion by Design blog. Completion by Design is a national initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that works with community colleges to significantly increase completion and graduation rates. Read more about our work with Completion by Design.

You’ve been there before: grading papers, wrapping up a student advising appointment, and trying to muster the energy to make it through another committee meeting. You glance at your screen - a new email from your president announcing a new initiative that will boost student success rates. Details are scarce, but you’re promised that specific information is forthcoming.

What exactly, you wonder, is this student-success initiative? Didn’t we try something like this already? Do we even have time for this?How will it impact me?

At Public Agenda we spend a lot of time helping college leaders to engage their colleagues in student success efforts. We’ve encountered the above scenario time and time again, and over the past decade we’ve learned a thing or two about the do’s and don’ts of fostering meaningful and collaborative change toward improved student outcomes.

But instead of simply listing what we’ve learned, we’ve had some fun creating an “anti” how-to guide. In other words, if your goal were to fail miserably, how would you carry out a student success effort at your campus? In what follows, you’ll find our top-ten tips for failure, followed by the implications of these disastrous moves for what actually helps the work succeed.


Click to read more | Comment

11.07 For adult students, confidence should be a good thing, but is it limiting their chances at success?

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 | Allison Rizzolo

For adults without a college degree, making the choice to go back to school can be intimidating. These adults have been out of practice as students for a year or often much longer. They need to believe that they will succeed in order to make it to the starting gate, never mind the finish line. Otherwise, they'd never go back. Ironically and unfortunately, this confidence can also prevent them from taking steps that could increase their chances for success.

We spent part of the last year speaking with many of these adult prospective students. None had degrees, though all were planning on taking the leap back to school within the next two years. In doing so, these adults face some grim statistics.

Just half of all undergraduate students earn a degree or certificate within 6 years. Among older students – those who start college in their twenties or later – the risk of dropping out is much higher. More than half (54 percent) of those students who start school at age 25 or older end up leaving within 6 years.

If adult students want to beat the odds, they need to start by choosing a school or program that's right for them. Most of the adults we spoke to were confident that they could do so:

  • 76 percent agreed that there is enough information "out there" for people to be able to choose the college and program that best fits their needs – they just have to make the effort to find it.
  • 73 percent say they know someone who can give them good advice and guidance in choosing a program and college.
  • 67 percent say they know someone who can give them good advice on how to pay for college and manage their finances.

On the one hand, this confidence and optimism could be advantageous in their pursuit of higher education. On the other hand, it may hinder these prospective students from asking important questions and properly evaluating all of the information they need to make good decisions.


Click to read more | Comment

10.29 Post-Sandy New York: A Model for Collaboration in Problem Solving

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Will Friedman, Ph.D.

Today is the year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy here in New York. To remind us of the important work we have done and inspire us to tackle the work we still must do, we are reprinting Will Friedman's commentary on collaboration in post-Sandy New York. This piece was originally published in the Huffington Post.


Photo by Daniel Thornton

Former Mayor Ed Koch once said that "New York is the city where the future comes to rehearse." While he spoke these words in 1986, they have perhaps never been truer than they are today. As the city shapes its future post-Sandy, can it also become a role model for how a community of leaders and citizens can work together to solve complex and potentially volatile public problems?

The city, after fall, faces a steep challenge. New York is living in changed circumstances. Hurricanes, rare in our past, are now a part of our normal weather pattern. Every borough other than the Bronx is, or is part of, an island, and one that's going to become more prone to flooding. Meanwhile, as it's virtually impossible to evacuate the city, what can we do to insure the residents' safety?


Click to read more | Comment

  1   Page 2    3   4   5   6   7  . . .  18  Next >>