President Biden’s first State of the Union address — “a unity agenda for the nation” — was notable for several standing ovations from both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers applauded in unison when Biden signaled the nation’s resolve against Russia’s assault on Ukraine, urged U.S. schools to keep classrooms open, and called for cities to fund the police.
Like much of the speech, the domestic agenda items came fast and furious. Here are some takeaways on what the president said about issues where AV works:
“Cut the cost of prescription drugs.”
Americans are united on this: Millions struggle to afford their prescriptions, and voters across the political spectrum want Congress to act. (Meanwhile, many states have.) The president focused on capping the cost of insulin, which was part of the broader drug pricing reforms included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act that is now stalled in the Senate. Insulin prices need to be reined in. In fact, Arnold Ventures is collaborating with Civica Rx to develop, produce, and distribute affordable insulin at a cost of no more than $30 per vial by 2024. But we shouldn’t abandon efforts to lower drug costs for everyone. The president also said Medicare should be allowed to negotiate the price of prescription drugs — another key piece of the Build Back Better package — and nearly nine of 10 Republican, Democrat, and Independent voters agree.
“Let’s not abandon our streets, or choose between safety and equal justice. Let’s come together and protect our communities, restore trust and hold law enforcement accountable.”
Biden reminded Americans that the Justice Department has banned chokeholds and restricted no-knock warrants for its officers, as well as required body-worn cameras (learn more about the science behind those here). While a bipartisan police reform bill — the George Floyd Policing Act — stalled in the Senate, Biden can still use executive orders to bring accountability to federal law enforcement agencies.
Biden also called for the nation to confront the spike in gun violence. One roadblock: Right now we lack basic data about how guns are used and misused. A report funded by the Joyce Foundation and AV found the federal government needs to spend roughly $120 million a year over five years to close this gun data gap. Biden also recognized the critical role community violence intervention plays in stopping violence before it starts and called for more action at a national level. Meanwhile, local leaders from Texas to California are already implementing interventions that have the potential to reduce violence.
In his brief nod to higher education, Biden called for more investments in HBCUs and community colleges. While it’s important to get students in the door, what’s equally important is helping them succeed and graduate once they are there. The proposed College Completion Fund would do just that. It sets aside funding for proven, evidence-based college completion programs. Here are five of them.
With so much on the line, here’s hoping the applause Tuesday night wasn’t just for the cameras, but a sign of cooperation to come. We need it now more than ever.
Programming note: We'll be taking next week off the newsletter to reconnect with colleagues and recharge.
Workforce Training Programs
That Really Deliver
By Torie Ludwin, communications manager
President Biden spoke forcefully during his State of the Union address about the need to create jobs and “grow the workforce” through education and investment. Finding effective programs to train that workforce has gotten one evidence-based step easier.
What’s Happening: Research organization MDRC released updated seven-year findings this week on WorkAdvance, a set of four workforce training programs, and one stood out among the rest. Per Scholas, a well-studied IT workforce training program, continues to show that participants substantially out-earn their peers — by 14% to 20% over the course of the study.
Why it Matters: With funding from the American Rescue Plan dedicated to workforce training, and a growing need for trained workers due to job creation from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, state governments across the country are in an urgent search for evidence-based workforce training programs.
What’s Next: To help states choose evidence-based programs, the National Conference of State Legislature’s (NCSL) Center for Results-Driven Governing recently issued an evidence brief recommending scalable, evidence-based workforce solutions, including Per Scholas. The brief is first in NCSL’s “Investing in What Works” series.
By Kate Bernard, advocacy communications vice president
A new poll by YouGov, commissioned by Arnold Ventures, found that 92% of voters are in favor of the No Surprises Act, a new law that bans the predatory practice of surprise medical billing.
What’s Happening: The bipartisan law, which was signed during the Trump Administration, is now being implemented under the Biden Administration. Before the act became law on Jan. 1, 2022, one in five emergency room visits and one in six visits to in-network hospitals — for privately insured patients — resulted in a surprise medical bill. These bills could exceed $100,000.
What the Polling Says: The survey, which was part of YouGov’s omnibus poll of 2,000 likely voters fielded Feb. 24-28, revealed the No Surprises Act is overwhelmingly popular with Americans across the country. And unlike so many policy issues, Republicans and Democrats are unified in their support for the law. Of likely voters polled, at least 90% of both Republicans and Democrats surveyed were supportive.
The poll found an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats would be more inclined to vote for members of Congress who support this law.
What's Next: How the law is implemented matters. Arnold Ventures submitted comments to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury that aim to safeguard full implementation of the law.
Standing Up Against Injustice
For Women's History Month this March, we're recognizing the women who are making history today by working to impact policy change for the future.
By Torie Ludwin, communications manager
Lanae Erickson admits she loves working on the hardest, most divisive subjects — that’s part of her job as senior vice president for social policy, education, and politics at the national think tank Third Way. She sees a path toward changing people’s minds by creating empathy and acknowledging and addressing concerns. It’s influenced her advocacy in higher education, where she works to ensure that both students and taxpayers are getting a return on investment.
“What gets me out of bed in the morning is standing up for folks that don’t have a strong advocate in Washington and fighting against those who have outsized influence in politics,” Erickson says.
This week, the Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge (I-MAK), released a blueprint for reform with 10 steps that could help to drive change to lower prescription drug prices and bring relief to those suffering under the crushing prices of their medications.
Why It Matters: Drug pricing has outpaced inflation three-fold in the last 30 years, and nearly one-third of Americans are not taking medications as prescribed due to the skyrocketing prices. Lowering drug prices remains top-of-mind for policymakers.
A Q&A With...
Jullian Harris-Calvin, the director of the Greater Justice New York program for the Vera Institute of Justice. Two years after New York lawmakers implemented sweeping bail reform, Harris-Calvin points to how this reform accomplished the twin goals of shrinking jail populations and reducing the number of people jailed merely because they are too poor — and discusses the right responses to the nationwide increase in homicides.
“There should be an investment based on the kinds of evidence-based public safety solutions that address the real harm and pain that people and communities — particularly communities of color who have been harmed by mass incarceration and overpolicing — are suffering because of the uptick in gun violence in New York and across the country,” Harris-Calvin said.
Black households and households with one member of Hispanic origin that had medical debt, compared with 17.2% of non-Hispanic white households.
26.5% vs. 14.4%
Households in which one member has a disability (26.5%) that have medical debt compared to 14.4% of households without a member with a disability (or poor health) that carry medical debt.
Recent data reveal racial, health, and socioeconomic disparities in who carries medical debt. Read more in a new blog by Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reform.
The numbers don’t lie: Health care prices are out of control and must come down.
What We're Reading
How do you report on an unprecedented spike in homicides even as violent crime remains at historic lows? KQED investigates whether the political debate over crime reflects the data. (Spoiler: It doesn’t).
Research shows that most 911 calls are not related to a crime in progress, yet often still elicit a police response, leading police to spend much of their time responding to incidents that don't amount to public safety or health emergencies. The Crime Report offers recommendations on how to improve the system.
The inaugural issue of Vital City, a policy journal on how to improve the health and safety of cities, looks at the problem of gun violence and potential solutions.
This essay by Michael Javen Fortner delves into the complex political tensions faced by mayors, prosecutors and “reformers” over responses to the rise in violence.
Physician staffing companies are often backed by private equity – and they are becoming more common. A new paper looking at what it means for health care prices finds a 17% uptick for anesthesia services.
Experts at the Commonwealth Fund identified reforms needed to reduce overpayments in private Medicare Advantage plans and ensure that beneficiaries — specifically those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid — can make informed choices about what plan is best for them.
The National Bureau of Economic Research issued a working paper on the effects of COVID-19 on contraceptive use, pregnancy, and childbirth among low-income women, concluding that the COVID baby bust may be smaller than expected and unplanned births will likely rise.
After an investigation finding rampant fraud and abusein the federal student loan system by predatory schools, NPR wonders when colleges and programs will be held responsible.
New America compiled data from the College Board, the U.S. Census, and elsewhere showing that while college graduates earn more than non-college graduates, wage gaps among graduates appear when accounting for race, gender, and type of degree.
Forbes reports on oil and gas company Continental Resources’ $250 million investment into a $4.5 billion carbon capture project, which will capture 8 million tons per year of carbon dioxide, transport it across five states, and inject it into the ground a mile deep in North Dakota.
Regulation on construction for clean energy projects is hindering U.S. efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions, writes ClearPath’s Rich Powell in Scientific American,
David Myers at the Fulcrum points out the millions of dollars Texas could have saved by using ranked-choice voting instead of primaries. The state must now pay for a series of run-off elections, which have historically low turnout.
What We're Watching
“Apart,” an Independent Lens documentary that follows three mothers incarcerated in Ohio on drug charges — Amanda, Lydia, and Tomika — as they participate in a program to help prepare them for the world of family and work outside of prison walls. Their children — and the moms — yearn to do what many of us would view as the most mundane stuff: going to the mall or snuggling up to watch a movie on the couch. Since the start of the war on drugs, the number of women in U.S. prisons has grown drastically, rising more than 800%, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and 80% of women entering the prison system are mothers, according to the National Institute of Corrections. The film deftly portrays the devastating emotional toll of separation on the mothers and their children and the challenges Amanda, Lydia, and Tomika face readjusting to life as “felons” and reconnecting with their families. Read a Q&A with the film’s director and producer, Jennifer Redfearn.
This important conversation from the Tradeoffs podcast: “Pain, Fear and Waste: The Costs of Unnecessary Care.”Host Dan Gorenstein talks to several experts about a phenomenon known as the “cascade of care,” a series of unnecessary medical tests or procedures that can start small and often snowball into something bigger. Such “low-value care” can lead to wasted dollars and time and have adverse psychological impacts on patients.
Also: The American Enterprise Institute podcast “Hardly Working” kicks off its miniseries for Criminal Justice Reform Month by interviewing AV’s Jeremy Travis, EVP of Criminal Justice. Travis talks about the past, present, and future of criminal justice reform — and re-entry specifically — in this wide-ranging discussion.
Some Final Inspiration
More ways to help Ukranians amid the Russian attacks.
Enjoy this optimistic view of how the pandemic has played out in the U.S.: “Most people have behaved honorably, and that they have done so in spite of harrowing circumstances and bad leadership makes their efforts even more worthy of celebration.”
Stephanie DiCapua Getman develops and executes Arnold Ventures' digital communications strategy with a focus on multimedia storytelling and audience engagement and oversees daily editorial operations and design.
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