What big ideas can help America solve its most pressing problems? In an ongoing project, Yahoo News is soliciting creative, outside-the-box and possibly controversial (but still credible) solutions. Here's one about health care.
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COMMENTARY | In 2013, President Barack Obama and Congress will tackle a number of important issues. However, they will likely ignore one of the United States' most pressing problems-the war on cancer. The disease is an insidious one. Over 12 million U.S. citizens have been diagnosed with cancer (at some point in their lives). More than 550,000 of them die each year from the disease. Many young and middle-aged Americans who survive are unable to work any longer. Per the Council for Disability Awareness, "cancer was the 2nd leading cause of new disability claim[s]."
Since Nixon increased federal funding for cancer research in 1971, scientists have made progress in treating some types of cancer. However, they have not achieved many significant breakthroughs in their fight to eradicate the disease. Their lack of success is partly due to money. The U.S. government and private entities spend over $5 billion per year on cancer research; however, that amount is not nearly enough. Additionally, experts criticize these funding agencies for focusing on conservative, low-reward projects over more innovative ones.
The president and Congress might be able to fix these problems in 2013 without increasing appropriations for cancer research. Further, the plan would likely garner bipartisan support, and that is something which is truly rare nowadays.
In short, the president and Congress could create a large prize centered on curing cancer. Similar to the X-Prize, the federal government would agree to provide a large reward to a company or individual who, for instance, found a cure for a certain type of breast cancer or developed a groundbreaking treatment for prostate cancer.
Both Republicans and Democrats might be inclined to support a government sponsored cancer prize fund. The plan should appeal to Republicans because it does not require the federal government to expend a significant amount of extra resources-at least immediately. Additionally, the incentive program might create jobs in the private sector. Democrats can promote the cancer prize as an extension of President Obama's current drive to increase the number of federally sponsored, incentive based programs.
Everyone would win by promoting a government sponsored cancer prize fund. The public would not lose much if the program proves to be ineffective. If the plan does lead to a cure for one or more cancers, then the federal money will be well spent.