Political Diagnosis: Supreme Court Pick Due Soon; Hamburg Confirmed as FDA Commissioner; Senators Demand Public Insurance Option; Single-Payer Advocates Keep up Fight ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — May 23, 2009

Supreme Court Nominee Announcement Next Week: Obama’s pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter could come next week. Obama is known to have met with Judge Diane Wood, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton 14 years ago to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Last weekend, Nina Totenberg named a few names you probably haven’t heard of that may be on the short list. Obama has been reaching out to Republicans, but conservative activists are still gearing up for a fight.

FDA Nominee Confirmed: The Senate this week confirmed Margaret Hamburg as the 21st commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. She is the second woman to hold the post in 100 years of agency history, reports the AP.

Paul Farmer to Lead Foreign Assistance Program?: “Dr. Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health, recipient of the MacArthur ‘genius’ award and a long-time provider of and advocate for basic health care for the poor is under consideration by the Obama Administration to head a newly overhauled foreign assistance program, according to sources close to Farmer. He will be meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week to discuss the post,” reports Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check.

Stay tuned to this one — the news has made  health and human rights activists ecstatic, and if the appointment goes through it would signal a genuine re-thinking of international assistance.

Product Liability Suits Shift Toward States: Obama on Wednesday reversed Bush administration regulations that  protected companies from product-liability lawsuits in state courts.

“The memo didn’t name specific industries but it could affect a wide range of consumer products subject to both federal and state regulation,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Prescription drugs would be included, but not lawsuits against medical-device makers, which are still pre-empted under a longstanding federal law on devices. The WSJ notes, though, that “Democrats in Congress, supported by the tort bar, are pushing legislation that would allow such suits.”

Who Will and Will Not be Covered: Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said this week that Congress’ health care reform would not cover undocumented immigrants.

“[W]e’re not going to cover undocumented workers. That’s too politically explosive,” said Baucus.  “I don’t have a good answer yet to undocumented workers, illegal aliens,” adding, “There will still be charity care.”

Baucus was speaking at a reporters-only event sponsored by Kaiser Family Foundation, Families USA and the National Federation of Independent Business. Undocumented immigrants account for 15 to 22 percent of the estimated 47 million U.S. residents without health coverage, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Put Public Option In: More than two dozen senators introduced a resolution on Thursday demanding that any health reform bill to come out of the Senate Finance Committee include a public insurance option to compete with private insurance companies, reports Politico.

At the Thursday meeting with reporters, Baucus said he expected the bill to include a public option, but he hedged on how it might be done.

“Now, by saying that, I don’t want to frighten people, particularly on the industry side. … All I’m saying is, there are ways to skin a cat,” Baucus said. “There are ways to find a solution.”

Looks like Blue Cross Blue Shield is already frightened. The health insurance giant is striking back with deceptive videos about the public plan. The Washington Post has the video storyboards.

Where the Money Comes From: Baucus and Finance Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R‐Iowa)  released policy options for financing health care reform. The Hill’s Jeffrey Young explains the proposals. Public comment is welcomed through May 26. Yes, that’s this Tuesday.

Put Single Payer on the Table: Meanwhile, the movement to add single-payer national insurance to the discussion continues. Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Sidney Wolfe this week discussed the political feasibility with Bill Moyers. Watch the episode or read the transcript.

In an editorial, the Albany Times Union questions why single-payer insurance hasn’t been given a fair shake:

Earlier this month, eight courageous doctors, lawyers and other activists interrupted a Senate Finance Committee meeting on health care reform to ask why there wasn’t one advocate of a single-payer health care system at the table. Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, had them arrested. Shame on Senator Baucus, and shame on Congress if it continues to stifle debate on one of the biggest issues facing this country.

To claim, as they have, that “everything is on the table” except a nationalized health insurance system, similar to what many other modern, industrial Western nations have, is much like saying the Thanksgiving meal is complete, except for the turkey.We are not saying single-payer is necessarily the answer. We are saying that a full discussion of the future of health care in America can’t take place if all credible potential solutions aren’t examined.

Health Care Reform Begins at Birth: Childbirth Connection this week outlined eight steps for reforming maternity care (pdf) as part of larger health care reform.

“It’s time to replace provider and institutional centered care with patient-centered, evidence-based care that meets the individual needs, values, and preferences of women, babies and families,” said Childbirth Connection Executive Direction Maureen Corry.

Bookmark This: Kaiser Family Foundation has launched a new “gateway” site on health reform: http://healthreform.kff.org

Among the highlights: a side-by-side comparison of major health care reform proposals; health policy headlines; and resources and fact sheets explaining national and state initiatives. It’s a nifty all-in-one shop.

Plus: Kaiser President Drew Altman explains “where the experts and the public are at odds on basic beliefs about underlying problems, delivery reform, and health care costs.” A handy chart shows the differences.

And the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institution, has launched a new blog — The Health Care Cost Monitor — that aims to “fill a void: the cost crisis has not been addressed in the public and legislative arenas with the care, depth, and nuance it requires.”

3 responses to “Political Diagnosis: Supreme Court Pick Due Soon; Hamburg Confirmed as FDA Commissioner; Senators Demand Public Insurance Option; Single-Payer Advocates Keep up Fight …”

  1. I really appreciate the variety of the topics chosen for this round-up. From the Supreme Court to foreign assistance to maternity care – awesome.

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