Profiles of Key Players in Health Reform
Several of the key players in the health reform debate have recently been profiled in major publications.
Today, Bloomberg has a story about Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Obama's "primary apostle" for a health care overhaul. Obama's success on health care, Bloomberg reports, is entirely dependent on Orszag's ability to persuade Congress that "it can save hundreds of billions of dollars in expanding medical coverage to all Americans without diminishing care." Key to Orsgag's argument for health care is comparative effectiveness research and getting hospitals to "uniformly follow the best practices." If that can be achieved, he believes, "the savings would make up for the cost of universal health care." Orszag, "the youngest member of Obama's cabinet," studied economics at Princeton and the London School of economics. He was formerly head of the Congressional Budget Office, where he "spent hours with many of the lawmakers he is now working with" and is considered credible by congressmen and industry leaders alike. (Tackett, 5/26).
Politico has a profile of Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama's health reform czar. DeParle, who ran Medicare and Medicaid under former President Bill Clinton, is once again going head-to-head with industry leaders, including BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, who oppose a public plan option. This time, DeParle is trying to avoid "one mistake from that earlier battle: letting the other side get the upper hand in the message wars," by working to oppose negative advertising that helped kill reform in the '90s. For now, "industry is still at the table," and Politico writes that Deparle "said she remains optimistic about Congress, the White House and the industry continuing to work together on an overhaul bill." As health reform czar, DeParle "said she views herself as a 'point person'" coordinating the White House and Health and Human Services, getting them to work with congress. This time, she says, the White House is "not writing a bill here." Instead, they are "working with Congress on the details" of bills that are based on Obama's health plans, she says (Frates, 5/26).
On Sunday, the AP profiled Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), who could "make or break" Obama's health care agenda. Ignagni, a "Democratic former union official and firefighters daughter," is an "unlikely face of the powerful health insurance industry." "Bit by bit," Ignagni has been introducing her own proposal for health care that would "achieve Obama's goal of universal health coverage through a regulated insurance market." Insurance companies would end the practice of charging more to people with pre-existing conditions, but in exchange "they want to quash a government-run insurance plan that Obama supports, but that Ignagni fears would put private insurers out of business." Ignagni is working to position "her industry as an ally of health care, not its enemy," but "a giant question remains: What will Ignagni do if Congress does produce a bill she doesn't like?" (Werner, 5/24)
Also on Sunday, the Washington Post published a profile of chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus D-MT), who "may be President Obama's most critical ally on health care reform." Baucus is "committed to delivering universal coverage and getting more and better care from health dollars, and he is seriously considering an individual mandate -- requiring adults to have health insurance -- and taxing employer-provided health insurance." A Democrat from a conservative state, the "independent-minded Montanan" has more than once been accused of breaking rank with Senate Democrats and "remains a Senate original." He is determined to "craft a bipartisan solution," and in recent weeks has been convening eight-hour sessions on his committee advising the other Senators to "suspend judgment, if only for a nanosecond. "Some Democrats are leery about his loyalties, but Baucus "insists that passing a bill supersedes his desire for bipartisanship" (Murray and Connolly, 5/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.