As former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ben Sasse has been at the forefront of today's most dynamic healthcare issues.  Nominated by President Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Democratic Senate to the fourth-ranking position in the government's largest-budget agency, Sasse led policy, planning, and research functions across the Department's eleven operating divisions, with a special focus on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Currently, Sasse is president of Midland University in Nebraska, where his astute planning and swift action led to an increase in enrollment by over 50% within only months of his induction.  Appointed in 2010 at the age of 38, he became one of the youngest chief executives in American higher education.  Prior to joining Midland, Sasse taught public policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.  His research examines efforts to modernize payment systems in American health care, to eventually migrate from "paying for more" to "paying for better" in ways that will stimulate entrepreneurial innovation from doctors, hospitals, and related industries.

ABOUT The Honorable Ben Sasse, Ph.D.   (+/-)

Successfully Guiding Companies in Crisis

Ben Sasse began his career with the Boston Consulting Group and has advised a wide variety of organizations at moments of strategic crisis - working with airlines, utilities, manufacturers, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the government of Iraq, and a number of nonprofit and educational institutions. After 9/11, he moved to Washington where he would serve as a chief of staff in the U.S. House of Representatives and as the chief of staff of the Office of Legal Policy, the internal think-tank of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Since concluding his service as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, he has advised dozens of innovative health sector firms on business and regulatory strategy.

Reform-Minded Scholar

As a faculty member at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, Sasse focused primarily on the leadership, management, and reorganization of large governmental, nonprofit, and for-profit American institutions.  A Nebraska native and historian by training, he was educated at Harvard, Oxford, and St. John's (Annapolis) before receiving his Ph.D. from Yale. His doctoral dissertation on domestic politics during the Cold War won both the Theron Rockwell Field Prize and George Washington Egleston Prize.



Why Politicians and Lobbyists Can't Heal Healthcare

American healthcare is in crisis.  Costs are exploding, quality is uneven and often unknowable, and nearly eighty million of us are uninsured at some point each year.  It is entirely understandable that the American people want explanations, solutions, and leadership.  There is thus much discussion of reform in Washington.  Unfortunately, little of this talk amounts to real change.  Why not?  Because the problems are actually even worse than the American people understand:  When the baby boomers start to retire in 2011, we will begin a decline from 3.8 to 2.4 workers per beneficiary.  Healthcare is already the largest sector of the U.S. economy and will soon be ballooning beyond any sustainable level.  The three policy levers that are available that might address this crisis - provider reimbursement decreases, benefit cuts, or tax increases - are not the kinds of proposals politicians raise their hands to propose.  And the only real solution - actual health sector innovation - is not something current payment systems can stimulate.  The future will be both treacherous and fascinating.

Related Speech Topics:


  • THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYER-SPONSORED INSURANCE:  How To Create Truly Portable Health Insurance for the Knowledge Economy

  • HEALTH IT:  The Promise, the Perils, and the Politics of Higher-Quality, Lower-Cost Care

  • COMPARATIVE EFFECTIVENESS:  How Do We Provide Higher-Value Care Without Hamstringing Innovation?

The Entitlement Crisis Is Worse Than You Think - And What We Can Do

Both Wall Street and Main Street are worried about the federal deficit - and well they should be.  Government spending as a percentage of GDP is projected to grow more this year than at any point in American history.  Still, single-year deficits are not really that significant; we have run large annual deficits because of wars and economic downturns many times in our history.  It is the deficit trends and the total national debt that matter.  Unfortunately, these problems are even more frightening.  Why?  Because even though the subprime mortgage and the larger banking crises are at the forefront of our minds, the baby boomers' retirement - and especially their healthcare costs - present a much larger macroeconomic challenge than does the present crisis.  With the main Medicare trust fund now only seven years from insolvency, Washington will eventually need to act.  But it is not at all clear that Congress is up to the task.  What are the possible options, what is likely, and what are the economic and political implications?

Related Speech Topic:

  • DEMOGRAPHICS:  Will the Baby Boomers' Retirement Bankrupt Us?

Faster Approvals, Less Secrecy, More Data:  The Food & Drug Administration We Need

The FDA has an almost impossible job - keeping dangerous drugs from market, and simultaneously speeding life-saving drugs to market.  The riddle, of course, is that these are often the same drugs.  Reasonable people may differ over how the agency manages the trade-offs between its safety mission and its responsibility to help Americans gain access to possible new cures.  But two things are not open to dispute:  First, the FDA's overwhelming focus on pre-market, clinical trial data is an artifact of an era before database technology made it possible to do robust post-market surveillance of drug safety and effectiveness.  No one would create this outdated approval process if we were building it from scratch with today's technologies.  Second, personalized genetic information is transforming our understanding of how different drugs work - and on whom.  This presents the opportunity for huge medical breakthroughs - and yet it too is a development for which today's FDA is woefully underprepared and underfunded.  Unfortunately, instead of helping reform this agency in crisis, many in Congress seem content to grand-stand - making the agency is even more risk-averse.  How can we embrace new technologies to enable the FDA to help more Americans get faster access to the latest drug and device innovations?

Related Speech Topics:

  • GOVERNMENT REFORM:  Bureaucracies Are Forever: Why Government Reform Always Fails

  • THE COMING FOOD SAFETY CRISIS:  The Problem of 19th Century Regulation for 21st Century Supply Chains

The History of the Culture Wars:  How the 1960s Still Shape Our Politics

American culture and politics have always had divides along religious, class, and regional lines.  Through the 1950s, though, Democrats and Republicans both included among their numbers social liberals and social conservatives.  Sexual mores and public religiosity simply did not constitute the primary fault lines between the parties in the eras of Roosevelt, Truman, or Eisenhower.  Beginning in the 1960s, however, and accelerating through the 1980s and '90s, something unexpected transpired - and it was about much more than drugs, rock-n-roll, and Vietnam.  Social conservatives were gradually purged from the Democratic Party, and social liberals from the Republican.  Although journalists and academics still lazily talk of the political spectrum as defined mostly by class concerns and economics, this perspective has become less salient for average Americans each election cycle.  For many on the left, the spectrum now looks like freedom versus theocracy.  For many on the right, faithfulness versus godlessness.  How did we get here?  And will the fragmentation of the mainstream media and the proliferation of communications technology help social crusaders of all stripes more efficiently target the cultural extremes - thereby cementing the culture wars of the 1960s for decades more?

Related Speech Topic:

  • RELIGION AND POLITICS:  How the Cold War Gave Us the Secular Left and the Religious Right