Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Speech Preview: "a New Era Of Responsibility"
January 20, 2009

Mike Allen at Politico has a fuller preview, based on a conference call held on background for reporters held Monday: Calling for America to show a new maturity that will bridge old squabbles, President-elect Obama plans “a sober speech” for bleak times, leavened with assurance that he believes better times are coming, aides said.

Speech Preview: Obama Still Thinking Big
January 20, 2009

Via Mark Ambinder, Obama transition aides say he will address critics who think he needs to scale down his amibitions:  The fundamental question of our time ... is not whether government is too big or two small, it will be whether it works.   The address will not have policy specifics, nor should it. It will instead make broad statements about Obama's vision for the country. And it sounds like that vision is entirely consistent with what we've heard from Obama for the last few months: He's thinking big. --Jonathan Cohn

Fixing Health Insurance--in The Industry's Backyard
January 19, 2009

Hartford, Connecticut, has been called the "insurance captial of the world." Could it be the insurance reform captial of the world, too? Last week, a coalition of unions and liberal advocacy groups unveiled a new proposal to give every state resident affordable insurance coverage. This account in the New York Times has the details: The plan ... would create an extensive health insurance purchasing pool that would include state employees, retirees, people covered by state assistance and the public.

Entitlement Reform? (cringe)
January 16, 2009

Word that President-Elect Obama vowed, during a meeting with Washington Post editors, to pursue "entitlement reform" set off all sorts of alarm bells among progressives on Thursday.  And rightly so. The last time a president talked about reforming entitlement programs and "saving" Social Security was a few years ago, when President Bush proposed to privatize the program. Nobody thinks Obama wants to transform Social Security into a system that includes private retirement accounts.

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.