Posts tagged with 'daschle'

Weekly Pulse: Not in Kansas Anymore: Sebelius Tapped to Lead HHS

Posted Mar 4, 2009 @ 11:44 am by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire blogger

The Obama administration unveiled two major nominations on Monday: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Nancy-Ann DeParle for health czar. The czar is responsible for shepherding healthcare reform legislation through Congress and the Secretary will be responsible for implementing the plan.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, but we’d like to remind everyone that In These Times floated Sebelius’ name for HHS in September of 2008; Ramon Castellblanch wrote:

Three major obstacles face the next secretary. One, tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Two, any attempt to deal with this crisis will result in the private insurance industry—and its lobbyists—swooping in to turn policy changes into a windfall for itself. And three, for eight years, the department has been crippled by low morale and staff departures caused by Bush administration mismanagement. The next secretary must have the ability to help undo this damage.

Castellblanch argued at the time that Sebelius was the right person for the job because of her executive experience as governor, her knowledge of the insurance industry, and her strong progressive values.

Julie Burkhart of RH Reality Check writes of Sebelius’ record as governor, “[Gov. Sebelius] has been a tireless advocate for expanded health care for pregnant women, for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education and for more accommodating adoption statutes.”

Naturally, the right wing hates the Sebelius nomination because of the governor’s strong pro-choice record, but there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it.

Anti-abortion groups are insinuating that Sebelius is a close ally of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician who performs late-term abortions. Operation Rescue has tried unsuccessfully to shut down his clinic for years, making Dr. Tiller the White Whale of the Kansas anti-abortion movement. The alleged smoking gun is the revelation that Sebelius invited Tiller to the governor’s mansion for dinner. As Ezra Klein points out in the American Prospect, Tiller and his staff did dine with Sebelius, but only because they placed the winning bid at fundraising auction.

Burckhart reports in RH Reality that the Speaker of the Kansas House, Mike O’Neal, introduced two anti-choice bills on Tuesday in an attempt to embarrass the governor on abortion. Presumably, he hopes to force Sebelius to veto the bills before her confirmation hearing.

Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, both conservative Republicans, have pledged to support Sebelius. Brownback says abortion is murder. So, it might seem odd that he’s supporting the ardently pro-choice Sebelius. Once again, home state boosterism triumphs over the “rights of the unborn.” Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly concludes that Sebelius’ confirmation is all but assured: If Operation Rescue can’t even pick up Sam Brownback, the religious right doesn’t have the political muscle to sustain a serious senate fight.

The liberal group Catholics United is also supporting Sebelius, Sarah Hepola reports in Salon.

As governor, Sebelius proposed that the state provide health insurance for every uninsured child in Kansas from birth to age five. In 2008, Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones praised Gov. Sebelius for vetoing a voter-disenfranchising ID law and nixing unhealthy coal-fired power plants.

Sebelius’s record as a reform-minded insurance commissioner may provide a preview of coming attractions at HHS. Sebelius served as commissioner from 1995 to 2002. As a candidate, she signalled her independence by refusing campaign contributions from the insurance industry. As insurance commissioner, Sebelius backed a number of pro-consumer reforms for health insurance including a patient’s bill of rights, mandated maternity coverage, and enhanced privacy protections. Sebelius also blocked a proposed merger of Kansas’ non-profit health insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, by a for-profit company because the deal would have increased insurance premiums and forced hospitals to turn away patients who couldn’t pay. The insurance companies fought Sebelius all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.

Obama’s pick for health czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle, is a health policy veteran from the Clinton administration. Matt Cooper of Talking Points Memo notes that she is married to New York Times reporter Jason DeParle.

Nancy-Ann DeParle currently works for a private venture capital firm and serves on the boards of various medical device companies. There was speculation that the Obama administration might scrap the health czar post alltoghether after former Sen. Tom Daschle was forced to abandon his confirmation bid when his income tax irregularities came to light. Ezra Klein writes in the Prospect that DeParle seems like an odd choice given the health czar’s portfolio as the president’s top liaison to Congress on health care reform:

The reason it’s hard to evaluate DeParle is because it’s not clear what she—or the Office of Health Reform—is meant to be doing. The OHR, remember, was built for Daschle: He wanted space in the West Wing where he could run the policy and politics of the health reform process. But few expect DeParle to assume a similar role. The OMB and the NEC have taken a central role in policy design and it’s hard to imagine the Office of Health Reform muscling control of the process away from them. Daschle was a political heavyweight whose particular basket of congressional-liaison qualifications is not reproduced in DeParle.

DeParle must, of course, resign from the boards of medical device companies before she takes the job. According to the Obama administration, DeParle’s recent affiliations present no conflict of interest—time will tell whether that assertion bears up under scrutiny.

On the whole, Sebelius and DeParle are two strong picks to advance Barack Obama’s health care reform agenda. If confirmed, these two nominees will bring energy and experience to the fight.

Weekly Pulse: Czar 44, Where are You?

Posted Feb 25, 2009 @ 10:37 am by
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Weekly Pulse: Czar 44, Where are You?
By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire blogger

The Obama administration may be about to pull the plug on the health czar. The position has gone unfilled since Obama’s appointee-apparent, former Sen. Tom Daschle, withdrew his name from consideration for both czar and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in early February. Several serious candidates are emerging in the unofficial race to lead HHS, but there’s no corresponding shortlist for health czar.

The czar and his Office of Health Reform were initially touted as proof that Obama was really serious about shepherding a health reform package through Congress. But the Obama team may ultimately decide that the Office of Health Reform is an obstacle instead of an asset without Daschle and ditch it altogether.

As Erza Klein explains in the American Prospect, the position was created especially for Daschle and any other candidate might be worse than nothing as far as passing a healthcare reform package goes. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly agrees, and says that nixing the health czar doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Obama administration is any less committed to healthcare reform.

The purpose of the health czar was to create a single emissary to represent President Obama’s healthcare agenda to Congress. When the Clintons tried to reform healthcare in 1993, they discovered that various powerful administration officials were claiming to speak for the president.

The health czar was supposed to prevent future confusion as the president’s spokesperson. Many senior healthcare officials are already close to Obama and a similar situation could arise. Daschle would have been a credible health czar because he’s closer to the president than any of them, and a former congressional heavyweight to boot. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is a front-runner for HHS secretary and she has a very good relationship with Obama. But Gov. Sebelius is a Washington outsider who has never served in the U.S. Congress, which might make her a less compelling candidate for czar.

Ezra Klein, linked above, argues that if nobody can fill Daschle’s shoes, appointing a less compelling czar might just add to the din of executive branch officials vying for the attention of key Congressional leaders.

Maybe it’s a good idea to send as many Obama health officials to Congress as possible. If nothing else, they might cut into time the reps are currently spending with health insurance industry lobbyists, as Talking Points Memo reports.

Speaking of contenders for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Gov. Howard Dean recently published an article on AlterNet defending Obama’s comparative effectiveness research (CER) agenda against right wing critics like Rush Limbaugh. Dean draws on his experience as a doctor and a healthcare policy-maker to argue that CER is a way to put more scientific evidence in the hands of doctors, so they can choose the very best treatment for the money. Right wingers don’t like the idea. They’re literally afraid that if science determines that a treatment is bogus, the government will stop paying for it. Right wingers calls this “rationing.” Taxpayers might call it evidence-based policy. Last we checked, Medicare and Medicaid were not faith-based programs.

As Dean points out, the CER to be funded by the new economic stimulus bill is officially for doctors, not legislators. “Mr. Limbaugh and his cohorts would have you believe that this research will be used to deny needed care to your great Aunt May and be run by the politburo. But the Bill passed by Congress states right up front that the Government can not make coverage decisions based on this research,” Dean wrote. Realistically, though, that’s kind of a hollow assurance. Once the research is done, there’s no way to stop legislators from using publicly available research findings to make healthcare decisions.

In another corner of the healthcare reform-o-sphere, Katrina vanden Heuvel says that time is right to reform New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws in The Nation. These laws have been on the books 35 years. The laws essentially force judges to send drug possessors to jail based on the weight of the drugs they were caught with, whether the judge thinks imprisonment would be a good idea or not. New York’s budget crisis might be a blessing in disguise for drug reform, vanden Heuvel argues, because policy-makers are sick of paying to keep drug offenders locked up whether they need it or not.

And finally, some good news from RH Reality Check. Many people just wouldn’t feel right stepping out without a spritz of perfume, a blast of breath-freshener, or regrettably, a head-to-toe shellacking with Axe Body Spray. As Joe Veix reports for RH, another spray-on product may one day be added to the essential equipment list: contraceptive. An Australian company is currently testing a hormone spritz for women. The product is applied to the forearm. Like the contraceptive patch, the spray is designed to deliver hormones through the skin. Researchers hope that through-the-skin delivery can produce the same results as pills, but with lower doses of hormones and fewer side effects.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit
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for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, <a href=””> and

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Pulse: The Daschle Debacle

Posted Feb 5, 2009 @ 12:00 pm by
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Tom Daschle withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Health Czar on Tuesday in the face of overwhelming public pressure to step aside. Daschle had been plagued by ethics problems that emerged during his confirmation process: He failed to report taxable benefits, including a chauffeur and vehicle loaned by a political ally. Daschle repayed over $100,000 in back taxes and interest last month, but it wasn’t enough.

In the video clip, above, Andrea Mitchell tells CNN that she’s just gotten off the phone with a “tearful” Daschle who said that he was withdrawing because he couldn’t pass healthcare if his ethics issues were too much of a distraction. (Hat tip to RH Reality for the dramatic clip.)

Czar 44, where are you? Like many others, Ernest Luning of the Colorado Independent wonders if meaningful healthcare reform is now up in the air. It’s a good question. As Matt Cooper reports for TPMDC, the Obama administration didn’t really have a plan B. Daschle was supposed to be the administration’s single point of contact for all things health care, and the Health Czar job was created just for him. Now, Ezra Klein asks in The American Prospect, what happens to the Office of Health Policy Reform?

Jeanne Lambrew, the deputy director of the OHR, described the thinking yesterday in her speech to the Academy Health Policy Conference. “Health reform is such an all encompassing and important priority to the President that he needed someone in the White House coordinating the effort,” she said. The question is whether he still does. OHR was created for Daschle at Daschle’s request. Obama wanted Daschle in the White House. Will he want Daschle’s successor in such close proximity? Will he split HHS and OHR?

Losing Daschle is a blow to  reform, but it’s not a lethal wound by any means. His main qualification for the job was that he knew the Senate. Given the healthy Democratic majority in the Senate, I’m not sure that his mojo is as critical as it might have been.

In Mother Jones, James Ridgeway argues that Daschle was not only doomed for being a deadbeat tax-payer, but more importantly, for not reporting the proceeds of his high-flying lifestyle as an undeclared healthcare industry lobbyist. Daschle literally made millions from cronies in industries that he would have helped regulate as Health Czar.

John Nichols of the Nation says good riddance: Daschle wasn’t so progressive in electoral politics, either, Nichols notes. As a senator, he worked closely with the Bush administration to orchestrate a bailout of the airlines while his wife was an airline industry lobbyist. And after 9/11, Daschle thwarted Russ Feingold’s attempts to put civil liberties amendments in the PATRIOT Act.

Hilzoy of the Washington Monthly thinks she sees a silver lining to this dark Daschle cloud: Obama was willing to sacrifice Daschle, a mentor and personal friend whom Obama had handpicked for two of the most important jobs in his administration, someone he had every personal and political reason to want by his side. Maybe Obama really is serious about raising ethical standards in Washington?

One of Obama’s first acts in office was to sign an executive order tightening restrictions on lobbyists joining the executive branch. Daschle was a lobbyist in all but name, he even worked for the lobbying firm Alston & Bird. Daschle’s back taxes were a big problem, but Tim Geithner was confirmed as Treasury Secretary despite having owed tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes. What made Daschle’s position untenable was the fact that he’d accrued his undeclared income as a crypto-lobbyist for interests he hoped to regulate. That’s exactly the revolving door Obama pledged to block.

Passing the stimulus bill will be the first step towards reforming healthcare. First off, that mammoth bill has to pass before Obama and the Senate can focus on anything else. Also, the stimulus offers short-term life support for the programs that many hope will form the basis for a universal healthcare system–billions of dollars to help states maintain healthcare services in the face of shrinking revenues. We can’t expect to expand Medicaid to cover everyone before we help the states run the programs they’ve already got.

Obama campaigned on promises of sweeping change. The honeymoon is over and the public is eager to see if he can deliver on ethics and healthcare reform.

In other healthcare news, Martha Rosenberg of AlterNet reports on the shady backstory of how Risperdal, a drug meant for treating rare psychiatric disorders, became the seventh best-selling medicine in the world. In Mother Jones, Maia Szalavitz notes with grim satisfaction that the economic downturn is putting abusive “tough love” and “troubled teen” franchises, such as the notorious Tranquility Bay program in Jamaica, out of business.

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Weekly Pulse: America’s Next Top Doctor

Posted Jan 7, 2009 @ 11:53 am by
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2009 already is shaping up to be a year of surprises. Yesterday, we learned that America’s favorite TV doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will likely be the next Surgeon General of the United States.

President-Elect Barack Obama is assembling a healthcare dream team. In November 2009, Obama named former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Health Czar and Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Daschle pick was widely taken as a sign that Obama was determined to pass a healthcare plan. Daschle’s political skills will be critical to getting a plan through Congress.

While Daschle will be in charge of selling the politicians on Obama’s healthcare agenda, Gupta will be tasked with winning over the general public.

Ezra Klein of the American Prospect is delighted with prospect of Gupta for Surgeon General:

Gupta is a great pick. To illustrate why, here’s another question: Who’s the current surgeon general? Odds that you just blurted out Steven K. Galson are low. That’s not necessarily a problem. The surgeon general isn’t just the guy who writes warnings for cigarette labels. He commands the 6,000 health professionals in the Public Health Commissioned Corps. He gives out awards. There’s no evidence Galson is failing in those duties.

But Gupta is not leaving CNN and Time to give out medals. The surgeon general has an informal role as the country’s leading medical and lifestyle educator, and it’s that role the Gupta is uniquely positioned to fill. There’s not a doctor in this country with half his media training and experience, nor one with a rolodex of editors and reporters a tenth as large.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly is cautiously optimistic, even if Gupta isn’t what you’d call red meat for the progressive base. Benen recalls a famous 2007 exchange between liberal documentarian Michael Moore and Gupta in which Moore took Gupta to task for a number of errors in Gupta’s “fact-check” of Moore’s healthcare film, Sicko. (See video, above.)

Clearly, Gupta will be the biggest star to occupy the office of Surgeon General since C. Everett Koop. Certainly, the 39-year-old will be the first Surgeon General in history to have been deemed one of the Sexist Men Alive by People Magazine.

Gupta hasn’t officially accepted yet, but he’s expected to say yes, if all goes well with the final vetting process. However, Gupta is reportedly concerned that he’ll have to take a pay cut to become America’s next top doc.

The Gupta pick won’t get rave reviews from everyone. He’s a great communicator, but his political experience is limited–though he did serve as a White House fellow in the late 1990’s and advised Hillary Clinton on healthcare.

Howie Kurtz of the Washington Post claims that Gupta has a longstanding interest in health policy and that he has even negotiated an expanded policy role for himself as Surgeon General. However, surprisingly little is known about which policies Gupta, a Michigan-born brain surgeon, actually supports.

The choice of a celebrity commentator with a background in high-tech, interventionist medicine will make some public health professionals uneasy. The Surgeon General is America’s top public health official. Ezra Klein anticipates that Gupta will be an effective public advocate for obesity prevention and other public health goals. However, it’s not clear from Gupta’s record if he will be a good administrator or an effective leader of America’s public health professionals.

In other healthcare news this week, Mother Jones kicks off the New Year with a miscellany of facts and figures on obesity in America. Last month, the Washington Post reported that Barack Obama is setting an example when it comes to physical fitness, noting that the president elect had been to the gym every day for at least 48 days. It’s only a matter of time before conservatives start blaming eating disorders on an imaginary “Obamarexia” epidemic.

But maybe prevention is overrated. At the American Prospect, M. Gregg Bloche says that preventative medicine won’t save the healthcare system money in the long run. Yes, it costs less to prevent a case of diabetes than it does to treat the condition once it sets in. But people who avoid diabetes tend to live longer. And the longer we live, the more healthcare resources we consume:

If we’re to get better at averting illness, we’re going to have to spend more. The Tufts Medical Center Cost-Effectiveness Analysis project tracks published data on the costs and benefits of thousands of tests and treatments, including 279 preventive measures. Fewer than 20 percent of these measures actually save money, the Tufts group recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. The rest raise medical spending, and that’s not even counting the extra costs patients incur down the line, for illnesses they could have avoided by dying.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t spend money on preventative medicine, Bloche says. We just have to think of prevention in terms of value, not savings. In other words, prevention may be expensive, but it’s worth it because it works better than treatment. Preventing diabetes may turn out to be expensive in the long run, but someone who never gets the disease will live a longer, healthier life compared to a patient who depends on insulin and drugs.

In December, Obama sparked controversy when he picked conservative mega-church Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration ceremony. As we’ve discussed before in the Weekly Pulse, Warren’s worldly political agenda makes him a troubling pick. The pastor opposes abortion, gay rights, and science-based sex education. He favors the discredited abstinence-only until hetero-marriage approach to preventing STDs and unplanned pregnancies home and abroad. Warren is clearly positioning himself for a prominent role in shaping the Obama administration policy on healthcare and international development, especially AIDS in Africa.

Elsewhere on the reproductive health front, Mike Ervin, writing for the Progressive, urges President Elect Obama and the new Democratic Congress to swiftly repeal the eleventh hour regulations that raise out-of-pocket costs for Medicaid services. Erwin notes that higher Medicaid costs disproportionately burden poor and disabled Americans and may discourage them from seeking treatment.

In RH Reality Check, Sam Sedai outlines the key reproductive health policy decisions facing the incoming administration. One of the most important questions is the fate of Bush administration’s radical “conscience clause” rules, which allow federal healthcare workers with religious qualms to opt out of virtually any task connected to birth control or abortion.

Clearly, 2009 holds many challenges and a great deal of opportunity in store for advocates of progressive health policy.

The Weekly Pulse: Good News and Bad News

Posted Dec 10, 2008 @ 12:02 pm by
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There has been good news and bad news in healthcare this week. On the plus side, momentum continues to build for healthcare reform on both a national and state-by-state level. Unfortunately, those sneaky rules changes at the Department of Health and Human Services appear to be a done deal.

Let’s start with the bad new first to get it out of the way.  It’s a done deal, folks. RH Reality continues its coverage of the eleventh hour rules changes at the Department of Health and Human Services which will give federal employees the unprecedented right to refuse to give out birth control based on their demonstrably false religious belief that hormonal contraception is abortion. Despite massive public outcry, the rules have reached the final stage before they officially take effect.

The ever-optimistic Amanda Marcotte sees these tactics as the final stage in the anti-abortion movement’s battle to control women’s bodies.

Unable to enact large-scale bans of contraception and abortion, anti-choicers have declared a form of trench warfare against the women of America for possession of the uteruses of America. In real trench warfare, you “win” a “battle” by gaining a few feet of territory. In the trench warfare of reproductive rights, anti-choicers consider a few women inconvenienced, humiliated, or even forced to become pregnant or give birth against their will a victory worth savoring.

The good news is that either President Obama or Congress can repeal these rules.

Let’s refocus on the positive movement for serious healthcare reform.  In a sign that Democrats are serious about the issue, Sen. Ted Kennedy has left the Judiciary Committee to focus on this issue. Kennedy has been fighting for universal healthcare since he was first elected in 1962 and describes the current political moment as the “opportunity of a lifetime” to win this battle.  John Nichols notes in The Nation that Kennedy’s strong voice for civil liberties will be acutely missed on the Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein of The American Prospect dispels a misconception about Tom Daschle’s proposed health bank, an agency that would review treatment options and decide which were cost-effective targets for government insurance coverage. Some critics fear that the Federal Health Board would somehow interfere with consumer choice by throwing the massive buying power of the federal government behind some treatments and not others, thereby affecting the relative costs of treatments for everyone. Ezra notes that only 26% of the population is on public insurance and that even if Daschle’s plan passes in its strongest form, anyone who didn’t like the options available from public insurance could buy supplemental private coverage.

In a separate post, Ezra argues that increased federal government spending on state-administered programs like Medicaid and S-CHIP could be an important part of an economic stimulus package. In a recession, more people need their healthcare benefits because wages go down and jobs are lost, but fewer jobs and lower wages mean less tax revenue for the states. States can’t deficit spend like the federal government. So, without federal help, states are forced to either cut back health coverage or take money away from economically stimulating projects like infrastructure. An infusion of federal dollars could help people in need and help states avoid cutting beneficial spending.

However, Florida’s expanded Medicaid pilot project is being criticized by a group called Florida Community Health Action Information Network, who claim that the program has not lived up to its promise in part because patients are having trouble accessing the care and providers are dropping out of the program.

A group called Health Care for All Pennsylvania vows that their state will take the lead in achieving healthcare for all. They argue that single-payer healthcare is a “simple concept – health care would be provided privately at hospitals and clinics, but paid for publicly by the government. They contend the plan would eliminate the insurance “middle man.”

In one of today’s more bizarre health stories, we find tobacco giant Philip Morris likening itself to the NAACP in order to get out of paying compensation to smokers who were harmed while the company knowingly misled them about the health effects of tobbacco. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones explains:

In the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Philip Morris, America’s largest cigarette company, compared itself to the NAACP. And to a South Carolina death row inmate illegally denied due process. And to indigent criminal defendants not afforded adequate legal representation. And it did so to win a case against an elderly African American woman named Mayola Williams whose husband died from lung cancer in 1997, after smoking three packs of Marlboros a day for more than 40 years.

Over at AlterNet, Martha Rosenberg reports that meat industry advocacy groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association are sponsoring “scientific” studies that purport to show that eating meat is better than the rest of the scientific community seems to think, which are getting published in prestigious medical journals. In June, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study called “The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Protein: A Misunderstood Concept.”

In its Oct. 15 issue, it had to print a correction stating that author Sharon L. Miller was “formerly employed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association” and author Robert R. Wolfe received money from the Egg Nutrition Center, National Dairy Council, National Pork Board and Beef Checkoff through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Do they graze their cows on Astroturf, too?

Kind of makes you wonder who’s funding the slew of new research purporting to show that high fructose corn syrup is no worse for you than sugar.

Here’s something that might cheer you up, if you’re feeling depressed about pseudoscience and creeping theocracy. In a special series, YES! Magazine explores various answers to the question: How can we have happy people and a happy planet?

Weekly Pulse: Pro-Choice Cabinet Picks Boon for Health At Home and Abroad

Posted Nov 27, 2008 @ 3:32 pm by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, MediaWire blogger.

Clinton and Obama

It’s finally official: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.

Some observers thought Clinton was a curious pick because she made a point of differentiating her foreign policy views from Obama’s during the Democratic primary.

However, optimism is running high in the reproductive health community that Clinton will use her new office to champion women’s health issues worldwide. They expect that Clinton will push for changes in foreign aid criteria to make it easier to provide comprehensive sex ed and reproductive health services to the world’s neediest girls and women.

Back in the U.S., Clinton and Sen. Patty Murray introduced legislation to block the finalization of the rules changes at Health and Human Services that would have given employees the right to refuse to administer any birth control or abortion-related services that offended their religious beliefs. These changes would have restricted access to reproductive health services nationwide.

Emily Gould of RH Reality notes the deadline for submitting rules changes is 60 days before the inauguration, but the HHS has classified these “conscience clause” changes as “non-major,” thereby giving themselves a 30-day extension. It’s a sneaky procedural move, but the stalling won’t circumvent the Clinton/Murray bill.

Additional presidential appointments are starting to give shape to President-elect Obama’s health care agenda. Melody Barnes has been named Obama’s Senior Domestic Policy Adviser. Barnes is one of the few cabinet appointees so far who can be regarded as an unequivocally progressive choice. Barnes is a former executive policy director for the Center for American Progress and well-known in the progressive community.

“By appointing policy leaders like Barnes who see the connections between health and the economy, Obama appears to have pulled together an economic team that reflects many of the goals he set out during his campaign,” wrote Todd Heywood in RH Reality Check.

Ezra Klein of the American Prospect compares satisfaction ratings across several countries, and between Americans on Medicare vs. private insurance: “Medicare has much higher satisfaction ratings than private insurance. Americans are much less satisfied with their health system than they are in other countries.”

Healthcare reform is gathering momentum in Congress and the White House. The health insurance industry can’t help but take notice and offer a few preemptive reassurances, in the hopes of forestalling more fundamental change.

As part of his ongoing coverage of the health insurance industry: Ezra Klein of the American Prospect phones Robert Zirkelbach, America’s Health Insurance Plans’ director of strategic communications to discuss the trade organization’s recent pledge “[…] too guarantee that health plans provide coverage for preexisting conditions in conjunction with mandate that individuals keep and maintain healthcare coverage.” Zirkelbach admits that the insurance companies have not pledged to make this coverage affordable. He also says that the Association resists competition from public plans as a strategy to drive down costs.

Here’s a fun fact courtesy of Mother Jones to bring up around the Thanksgiving dinner table: Scientists have shown that obesity in mice is linked to the diets of their grandmothers. If pregnant mice were fed a high-fat diet, their offspring were more likely to be obese and insulin insensitive. The surprising result was that the next generation were predisposed to the same problems.

To close this Thanksgiving edition, we offer you a list of 10 things science says will make you happy, courtesy of YES! Magazine. Unaccountably, tryptophan didn’t make the list, but gratitude did.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, and

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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The Secretary and the Czar: Obama Bets Big on Daschle for Healthcare

Posted Nov 20, 2008 @ 12:33 pm by
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It’s official, former Sen. Tom Daschle will be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle will also serve as Health Czar, which means he will be in charge of developing Obama’s healthcare program in addition to running HHS.

Ezra Klein writes in the Prospect: “This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don’t tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That’s not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress.

Ezra argues that Obama has learned the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful attempt to reform healthcare in 1994. In Ezra’s view, the Clinton plan failed because its architects were so focused on crafting the perfect policy that they neglected to figure out how they were going to sell their plan politically.

The hope is that Daschle has the political skills to actually get a healthcare plan passed.

Greg Sargent agrees that the Daschle pick is a sign that Obama intends to act quickly on healthcare.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, and

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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