James Pethokoukis

Same old, same old from Obama on healthcare

September 2, 2009

What is POTUS going to say that is any different, really. The risk of the Tune Out factor is growing. This, from a pro-ObamaCare blogger:

5 scenarios for healthcare reform

September 2, 2009

Former Bush White House economist Keith Hennessey lays some odds on how healthcare reform will proceed from here:

Where healthcare reform is heading

August 28, 2009

Karen Tumulty of Time opines:

The bill most likely would attempt to cover children who have not received coverage under other federal programs, and possibly their parents. It might also expand the Medicaid program to low-income people who do not currently qualify.  … If the Senate decides to pass the bill under parliamentary rules that prevent a filibuster, it may also have to get rid of other provisions that do not directly affect federal spending, such as those that attempt to encourage wellness programs and more preventive care.

No trillion-dollar healthcare tribute for Kennedy

August 26, 2009

The pleas for politicos and pundits to refrain from politicizing the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy are actually quite charming in their naivete. The so-called Last Lion of the U.S. Senate was not even dead half of a day when the politicking began. Proponents of Democratic efforts to reform overhaul America’s troubled healthcare system quickly began urging passage as a tribute to Kennedy’s lifelong efforts on the issue.

Kennedy’s death and the future of healthcare reform

August 26, 2009

My friend Washington analyst Pete Davis give his always-insightful two cents:

1) Senator Kennedy’s death is quite a blow to hopes for health care reform. No only could Kennedy rally the troops for the tough parliamentary battles ahead, his seat will sit vacant until late January.  Under Massachusetts law, a special election must be held within 145 to 160 days to fill the vacancy and there will be no interim appointment in the meantime.  That robs Senate Democrats of a vote until then, leaving them one short of the 60 they need to overcome a filibuster.

The strange Republican embrace of Medicare

August 24, 2009

Chris Edwards over at the Cato Institute is also unsettled by how the GOP is endorsing the status quo with Medicare spending to score political points:

Turns out U.S. healthcare system is actually, like, really good

August 20, 2009
University of Pennsylvania researchers Samuel Preston and Jessica Ho have looked at the low-life expectancy numbers in the United States and asked the question: “Is the health care system at fault?” Here is their answer (bold is mine):
Life expectancy in the United States fares poorly in international comparisons, primarily because of high mortality rates above age 50. Its low ranking is often blamed on a poor performance by the health care system rather than on behavioral or social factors. …  We find that, by standards of OECD countries, the US does well in terms of screening for cancer, survival rates from cancer, survival rates after heart attacks and strokes, and medication of individuals with high levels of blood pressure or cholesterol. We consider in greater depth mortality from prostate cancer and breast cancer, diseases for which effective methods of identification and treatment have been developed and where behavioral factors do not play a dominant role. We show that the US has had significantly faster declines in mortality from these two diseases than comparison countries. We conclude that the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.
So if not the healthcare system, then what?
But measures of population health such as life expectancy do not depend only on what transpires within the health care system – the array of hospitals, doctors and other health care professionals, the techniques they employ, and the institutions that govern access to and utilization of them. Such measures also depend upon a variety of personal behaviors that affect an individual’s health such as diet, exercise, smoking, and compliance with medical protocols. The health care system could be performing exceptionally well in identifying and administering treatment for various diseases, but a country could still have poor measured health if personal health care practices were unusually deleterious. This is not a remote possibility in the United States, which had the highest level of cigarette consumption per capita in the developed world over a 50-year period ending in the mid-80’s (Forey et al. 2002). Smoking in early life has left an imprint on mortality patterns that remains visible as cohorts age (Preston and Wang 2006; Haldorsen and Grimsrud 1999). One recent study estimated that, if deaths attributable to smoking were eliminated, the ranking of US men in life expectancy at age 50 among 20 OECD countries would improve from 14th to 9th, while US women would move from 18th to 7th (Preston, Glei, and Wilmoth 2009). Recent trends in obesity are also more adverse in the United States than in other developed countries (OECD 2008; Cutler, Glaeser, and Shapiro 2003).

GOP uses Dem playbook to kill healthcare reform

August 19, 2009

What’s good for the donkey is good for the elephant — or at least as politically effective.

What Americans really want in healthcare reform

August 19, 2009

This is a great analysis of healthcare polling by Humphrey Taylor, head of The Harris Poll (via The Health Care Blog):

Obama and “W”

August 19, 2009

Not that “W’ (as in the 43rd president), but a W-shaped economy.  I was on CNBC today talking healthcare with Howard Dean, and he said he thought the economy would improve and then worsen again. Would that be good or bad for the Obama agenda? Certainly it was a weak economy that got Obama elected and helped him push through the $800 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. But high unemployment has been sapping his popularity. And that has been bad for his agenda, especially healthcare reform. If Dean’s forecast is correct, the Dems better pass healthcare while they can. There might be a lot fewer of them in Congress after 2010.