Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Look Who Backs A Public Plan Now
January 16, 2009

One of the most controversial elements of the reform scheme President-Elect Obama and leading Democrats are proposing is the creation of a new public insurance plan, modelled vaguely on Medicare, into which some or all Americans could enroll. Liberals (this writer included) like the idea for several reasons, not least among them the fact that public insurance premiums don't have the same high overhead costs that private insurance plans do. But the idea is positively toxic to many industry groups--starting with the private insurers--and their conservative allies.

Reform: "as Soon As Possible"
January 16, 2009

As I mentioned earlier, Peter Orszag’s confirmation testimony--though barely noticed in the media--was full of hints about the policy directions the Obama administration will take. One particularly important clue came during an exchange with Sheldon Whitehouse, the first-term Democratic senator from Rhode Island. When Whitehouse got his turn to question Orszag, whom Obama has tapped to head the Office of Management and Budget, Whitehouse suggested the country faces an opportunity. The U.S.

Senate Committee To Kids: We've Got You Covered
January 15, 2009

Just in from the Senate Finance Committee: They've approved an extension--and expansion--of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. And, like their counterparts in the House, they've struck the provision in existing law that prohibits the children of legal immigrants from receiving benefits for five years. As expected, most of the committee's Republicans protested the immigrant provision. They also raised familiar objections about the extension of government-administered health insurance, in this case to some middle-income families. It didn't matter.

Orszag On Priorities: Health Care First?
January 14, 2009

Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner were the Obama appointees grabbing all of the public attention on Tuesday. But Peter Orszag, Obama’s choice for the post of budget director, may have made the most intriguing statement. It came while Orszag was responding to a question by Senator Ben Cardin, the Democrat from Maryland. Cardin asked Orszag about the new administration’s agenda--in particular, where Obama would focus his energies after dealing with the economic stimulus package.

Kids First. But Which Kids?
January 13, 2009

Pretty much everybody who follows domestic policy has understood, for a while, that expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) was going to happen under President Obama--and that it would happen quickly.Large, bipartisan majorities in both houses passed such a measure last year, as the program was set to expire. The idea was not merely to renew the program, which has brought health insurance to millions of children and their families, but also to relax its eligibility standards, since even many middle class families are struggling to find affordable coverage these days.

Downsizing Michelle Obama--and Why That's Worrisome
January 12, 2009

To better cover the debate over health care policy, we've asked Harold Pollack to contribute items occasionally. Pollack is a public health policy researcher at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, where he is faculty chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies. The University of Chicago Medical Center on Friday announced up to $100 million in budget cuts, from an annual budget of roughly $1.5 billion. These will be implemented by the start of fiscal year 2010.

Delong On The Stimulus: Good Opening Bid
January 11, 2009

In my ongoing effort to convey the insights of genuine economics experts, rather than pretend I'm such an expert myself, economist and blogger Brad DeLong has what seems like a smart take on the stimulus debate. Like Paul Krugman and others, he is skeptical that proposal under discussion is sufficiently large. But he also cautions that crafting a larger package isn't as easy as it sounds: I agree with Paul that this fiscal boost plan is too small, but I do want to admit that doing this well is harder than it looks.

Krugman & Galbraith: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
January 10, 2009

On Saturday morning, the Obama transition team released a memo outlining its calculations about the economic recovery package. The memo's authors are Christina Romer, who will chair the new president's council of economic advisers, and Jared Bernstein, who will be chief economic advisor to Vice President Biden. The report suggests the package President-elect Obama has sketched out would create three to four million new jobs by the end of 2010.

United--But For How Long?
January 09, 2009

The last time most of us saw Bob Dole talking about health care was 1994, when he was burying the Clinton health care plan on behalf of his fellow Republican Senators. On Thursday, Dole came back to the Senate and back to the health care debate. But this time his agenda was different. Dole was there to introduce Tom Daschle, whom President-Elect Barack Obama has tapped as his Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Daschle: Not Backing Off Health Care Strategy
January 09, 2009

TalkingPointsMemo is reporting that Tom Daschle yesterday holstered one of the Democrats' most potent political weapons, the Senate's budget reconciliation process, in the fight to pass health care reform. If true, it would be a major shift. The rules of reconciliation forbid filibusters, making it possible to pass legislation with just fifty votes. Democratic reform propopents, including not just Daschle but also Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, have for some time said they'd use reconciliation, if necessary, to enact health care reform.