Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

The Early Word On Nancy-ann Min Deparle
March 02, 2009

When President Obama introduced Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services a few moments ago, he also introduced Nancy-Ann Min DeParle as his new White House health care advisor. You're going to hear a lot of talk about how important Sebelius is to Obama's plans for comprehensive health care reform--and, undoubtedly, she'll play an important role, particularly if and when it comes time to implement a reform scheme. But when it comes to crafting a reform plan and then enacting it, DeParle's role is likely to be even more important.

Sebelius And (possible) Fireworks Over Abortion Rights
March 01, 2009

So why did it take so long for Obama to decide on Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary? Several factors were at play, including political considerations about taking her out of the running for the Kansas Senate seat up for election in 2010. But it's even more clear today that, as several media outlets have been reporting, the administration was weighing the pros and cons of a fight over abortion rights--and then preparing to fight it. Admittedly, Obama was never going to appoint an HHS Secretary opposed to abortion rights.

Playing Hardball On Health Care (and Energy, Too)
March 01, 2009

Budget Director Peter Orszag's appearance on ABC's "This Week" was full of revealing statements about the administration's plans and priorities. But this exchange, in particular, caught my eye: GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Some key Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying, if you want to do all of these big projects this year, you're going to have to follow what is called the reconciliation process, put health care, put energy inside the reconciliation process so that the effect of it is you only need 51 votes, not 60.

When Dogs Bark Softly
February 27, 2009

The Obama administration skipped over a lot of the details on Thursday when it unveiled its principles for health care reform. But among the few specifics was a call to reduce payments the goverment makes to private insurers who operate as part of the Medicare Advantage program. The rationale for making these payments is that virtually every unbiased authority who has looked at the payments has concluded they are too high--that what the plans offer do not justify the extra money they're getting. As always, one person's waste is another person's profit.

It's Sebelius For Hhs
February 27, 2009

Administration officials say that President Obama will nominate Kathleen Sebelius to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services. During her years as insurance commissioner and then the governor of Kansas, Sebelius proved herself an effective manager of govenrment agencies, an effective watchdog over the insurance industry, and a reliable defender of safety net programs for the poor. She is popular with liberal health care advocates, who have been touting her candidacy ever since Tom Daschle, Obama's original appointee, withdrew.

Spoiling For A Fight On Taxes
February 26, 2009

Jonathan Oberlander, one of the nation's leading experts on health care policy, is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Political Life of Medicare. This is the first of what we hope will be many posts at The Treatment. The Obama administration's just released budget blueprint marks the beginning of a new health reform battle. The largest source of money for financing health reform comes from a proposal to reduce itemized tax deductions for families making over $250,000.

Not Everybody Is So Thrilled
February 26, 2009

Most of the liberal advocacy community seems pleased--in many cases, very pleased--with the Obama budget proposal on heath care. But there are exceptions, particularly among the best-known champions of single-payer reforms. One of them is Don McCanne, the president of Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP). He expressed particular concern about the savings Obama expects to extract from reform: Although everyone agrees that slowing the increase in health care spending is essential, the budget proposals do not adequately address this.

Wyden Is Impressed, Too
February 26, 2009

Few people have been working as relentlessly towards universal health insurance in the last two years as Senator Ron Wyden, who introduced a serious universal coverage proposal just weeks after the 2006 midterm elections and has been building bipartisan support for it ever since. In an interview just moments ago, Wyden said he was pleased with Obama's opening bid on reform: In the last 36 hours, the president took two very gutsy steps on health care. The first was, after 60 years of yakking about health care in America, he wasn't going to wait until year 61 to do something about it.

An Expert Who Knows A Thing Or Two About Reform
February 26, 2009

Over at The Plum Line, Greg Sargent interviews an expert who thinks President Obamas chances of enacting health care reform are a lot better than Bill Clinton's were: It’s gonna be much harder to get the doctors and the business community to come out against reform than it was 14 years ago…The only way they can beat it this time is if they can convince public opinion and enough members of Congress that reforming health care now will cost more jobs than it will save.

From The Hill: Reacting To The Obama Budget Figures
February 25, 2009

Officials from the Obama administration on Wednesday briefed both members of Congress and advocates from the health care community about the budget proposal they'll unveil formally on Thursday. As noted below, they are proposing to allocate $634 billion over ten years towards health care reform, the bulk of it to expand insurance coverage.