Cyber Security Industry Alliance Newsletter • Volume 2, Number 3 • November 2005

Congressional Spotlight:  Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)

About Senator Dodd

Born: Willimantic, Connecticut; May 27, 1944

Elected: 1980 (5th term)

Education: Providence College, B.A. 1966; U. of Louisville,
J.D. 1972

Committee Assignments: Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs (Financial Institutions; Housing & Transportation; Securities & Investment - Ranking Member); Foreign Relations (African Affairs; European Affairs; International Economic Policy, Export & Trade Promotion; Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps & Narcotics Affairs – Ranking Member); Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (Bioterrorism & Public Health Preparedness; Education & Early Childhood Development – Ranking Member; Employment & Workplace Safety); Rules & Administration – Ranking Member;
Joint Library – Ranking Member

Career: Lawyer; Peace Corps volunteer

Notable: Army Reserve, 1969-75; U.S. House of Representatives, 975-81; Chaired the Democratic National Committee during 1994 elections; recipient of the Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award recognizing leadership in foreign policy.

Biography: Chris Dodd is a senior Democratic leader in the United States Senate who has championed children’s issues, worked to streamline government, and has been a consistent leader on high-tech issues.

Sen. Dodd has sought to bring the benefits of the digital economy to all Americans, co-chairing a special committee on the Y2K problem and authored legislation which encouraged people to fix technology problems rather than fight them out in costly court battles. The New York Times called the law the single most significant accomplishment of the 106th Congress’ first session, a recognition mirrored by an award Dodd recently received from the Information Technology Industry Council as Legislator of the Year.

Recognizing that the information age offers great challenges as well as opportunities, Dodd also has fought to protect people’s basic right to privacy, authoring legislation to protect individuals’ financial, medical and genetic records. He also wrote and successfully enacted a measure requiring Internet service providers to notify parents of how to obtain software to screen out web content unsuitable for children.

Working for our children, Sen. Dodd formed the first children’s caucus, and authored and enacted landmark legislation to ensure that our nation provides better access to safe and affordable child care. He has consistently fought to expand and improve Head Start, and was honored as a national Head Start "Senator of the Decade" for his efforts. He helped write the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, worked to create after-school initiatives designed to keep children out of trouble and on the road to success, and has helped author measures to make higher education more affordable for working families.

He was also instrumental in extending health insurance to 5 to 7 million of the nation’s uninsured children and has consistently fought to support community health centers and initiatives aimed at child nutrition, maternal and child health, and infant mortality prevention. He also led the fight to modernize the Food and Drug Administration approval process for drugs and medical devices, getting innovative therapies to patients more quickly without compromising safety and effectiveness. He also continues to push for a patient’s bill of rights, which would give Americans basic assurances in their health care services and a greater right to choose their health care provider.

Dodd’s record reflects his commitment to a strong national defense and his desire to build a more secure world. As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is a recognized expert on Latin and South America and has worked to foster peace, prosperity and democracy abroad.

Sen. Dodd’s commitment to public service and human rights was instilled at an early age by his parents, the late Senator Thomas J. Dodd and Grace Murphy Dodd. Thomas Dodd was one of the lead prosecutors during the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals before he was elected to the United States Senate. Chris Dodd is the first Connecticut son to follow his father into the Senate and the youngest person ever elected to the United States Senate in Connecticut history. He is also the first Connecticut Senator popularly elected to five terms.


Health IT: A Crucial Step Towards Safer and Better Health Care

In many respects, America has the best health care in the world, but far too many Americans are unable to receive that care. According to the Census Bureau, 45 million Americans were without health insurance in 2003 — an increase of 1.4 million over 2002.

The number of uninsured continues to rise because the cost of health care continues to soar. Year after year, health care costs increase by double-digit percentages. The cost of employer-sponsored coverage increased by 11 percent last year, after a 14 percent increase in 2003. Employers are dropping health care coverage because they can no longer afford to foot the bill.

Many in Congress, myself included, have looked to Information Technology (IT) as the best tool that we have to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and extend care to those who cannot now afford it. But what sometimes gets lost in this discussion of technology, efficiency, and economic benefit is that the real beneficiary of health IT will be patients themselves. With expanded use of health IT, patients will be safer, they will receive the right treatment more often, and their overall experience will be drastically improved.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has estimated that as many as 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. A recent RAND Corporation study showed that, on average, patients receive the recommended care for certain widespread chronic conditions only half of the time. That is an astonishing figure. To put it in a slightly different way, for many of the health conditions with which physicians should be most familiar, half of all patients are essentially being treated incorrectly.

Most experts in the field of patient safety and health care quality, including the IOM, agree that improving health IT is one of the crucial steps towards safer and better health care. By providing physicians with access to patients’ complete medical history, as well as electronic cues to help them make the correct treatment decisions, IT has the potential to significantly impact the care that Americans receive. It is impossible to put a value on the potential savings in human lives that could result from a nationwide investment in health IT.

I have introduced legislation – S. 1223, the Information Technology for Health Care Quality Act – that would make such an investment. This legislation would establish an Office of Health Information Technology in order to provide federal leadership in creating a National Health Information Infrastructure. It would create a public-private process to develop technological standards so that providers can share information electronically, while ensuring that patient privacy and confidentiality are protected. Finally, the bill would provide $250 million in grants and loans to providers to help them invest in health IT, and an additional $250 million in grants and loans to communities to help them set up regional health IT networks.

Just last month, the Commission on Systemic Interoperability released a report entitled "Ending the Document Game." This report describes the experience of patients in a paper-based environment. One cancer survivor from my home state of Connecticut, Tracey Ryan, describes endless paperwork and no communication between her doctors. The uncertainty from these factors needlessly caused additional stress for someone bravely fighting cancer.

It is time for our country to make a concerted effort to bring the health care sector into the 21st century. Health IT has the potential to save money, to increase efficiency, and to make health care safer and better for more Americans — especially those who now cannot afford any health care at all. And it will allow patients like Tracey Ryan to stop worrying about filling out another form or explaining to another doctor what medicines she is taking, and concentrate on beating cancer.