GOP Should Pick Its Battles

The Hill's A.B. Stoddard talks with John Feehery and Chris Kofinis of The Hill's Pundits Blog about where Republicans need to focus their energies in the coming months.


A Watershed Washington Moment

Good news is in short supply these days, or these years. Actually, it it so rare it nearly shocks the system. So yesterday was a big day in this bad new world we find ourselves living in — the healthcare industry has not only come to the reform table, it is (at least) promising to dish up a generous helping of change.

Officials from a coalition of healthcare interests, upon meeting face to face with President Obama, have announced their intention to cut healthcare costs by 1.5 percent in 10 years, a slice that would save roughly $2 trillion, $2,500 for a family of four in the fifth year.

The Public Option

As Congress mulls what to do on healthcare reform, talk has started to turn to a solution offered by some Democrats that is seen as a way to deal with the problem of the uninsured.

It is called “the public option,” and on its face it looks like a winner.

Basically, the public option is a low-cost health insurance option that would be run by the government, which would compete with private plans and which would give more people access to the insurance.

Two More Pieces to the Healthcare Puzzle

After one major false start, the health policy team for the Obama administration is finally in place. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) will head the sprawling Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), while former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) director Nancy-Ann DeParle will lead the newly created office of Health Reform.

The sheer size of HHS, with its plethora of responsibilities, makes it ideally suited for a governor (the last three secretaries were former governors). The secretary has administrative responsibilities for not only two of the biggest entitlement programs (Medicare and Medicaid), but also the National Institutes of Health, with its enormous research budget.

No Gordian Knot

With Kathleen Sebelius getting named to head the Department of Health and Human Services, healthcare reform becomes the hot topic for Washington pundits.

The president’s budget obnoxiously makes a very small segment of the population pay for just about everybody else in his plan to reform healthcare in this country. That has never happened before. Social Security, Medicare and even Medicaid have had funding from a wide swath of the American people. In fact, most folks believe that the money they pay in from their payroll taxes goes into accounts that they get back in retirement benefits. Doesn’t work exactly like that, but it does encourage wide-based support for the program.

Careful with that Ax, Rahm

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean, a doctor, wants to be Health and Human Services secretary. And with the influence White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has with President Obama — Dean won't make it to the shortlist.

Senior staff writer Alexander Bolton had a great story in our paper this week about how Dean has been sidelined from the list of true contenders to take on HHS due to Democratic "family politics." And The New York Times reported today that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), Obama's good friend, is the most likely pick.

Bad Science

The past few days haven't been good for vaccine-autism conspiracy theorists.

Earlier today, the Special Court of Federal Claims ruled that no evidence existed that the MMR vaccine contributes to autism. One of the judges said that the parents had been misled by physicians pushing the theory, who were guilty of "gross medical misjudgment."

The ruling comes on the heels of The Times of London’s report that Andrew Wakefield, M.D, the chief charlatan behind the anti-vaccination movement, fudged his data to reach his discredited conclusion.

Abundance of Judgment, Dearth of Judiciousness

If former Sen. Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) mistake on his taxes was unintentional (as President Obama expressed last night), then he should have become the next secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Reasonable people could make the mistake Daschle made. He didn't create an elaborate leasing tax shelter to hide income. He said it was a mistake and apologized. That does not excuse Daschle from paying his back taxes or some sort of penalty (“Ignorance of the law is no excuse”), but it also doesn’t mean Daschle should be prevented from serving in the Cabinet.

Politicians aren’t perfect. They aren’t saints, and they make mistakes like the rest of us.

Daschle’s Loss is America’s Loss

It’s a damned shame to see Tom Daschle drop out of the running for HHS secretary.

Yes, he made a mistake, a dumb mistake, by not paying his taxes. But, as President Obama says, who hasn’t made a mistake?

Besides, given the president’s goal of making sure every American has quality, affordable healthcare — and given the fact that nobody is better qualified than Daschle to lead the fight — wouldn’t it have been better to stick with Tom Daschle than let him loose over a mistake on taxes? Absolutely!

I admire Obama for nominating Daschle. I just wish he had stuck with him until the end, or that both Obama and Daschle had chosen to stay and fight, rather than cut and run.

Dr. Gupta Accused of Malpractice

At first, he seemed like the perfect candidate. He’s the most popular TV doc ever: CNN’s handsome, articulate, energetic, personable Sanjay Gupta. He’s both a noted neurosurgeon and a media star. Who better to serve the nation as surgeon general?

I admit, when I first heard that he was Obama’s choice for surgeon general, I had a heart flutter. Perfect choice! But then other voices, who knew Sanjay Gupta better than I, started speaking out.