Over at TNR's The Treatment, Jonathan Cohn worries about the rumor that Obama is considering Phil Bredesen--an insurance-industry insider who relishes Medicaid tax cuts--for Secretary of Health and Human Services:
One of the primary reasons for optimism Obama might succeed where Clinton failed is that the left seems engaged and enthusiastic this time around. Groups like the Service Employees International Union are pouring money and bodies into a grassroots push for health care; liberals, generally, are unified behind the sort of plan Obama is likely to push, even if they don't consider it ideal. Putting Bredesen at HHS would threaten that progress and, in the process, threaten the prospects of enacting health reform.
Meanwhile, University of Chicago researcher Harold Pollack takes issue with Senate Republicans' would-be hatchet job on important public health initiatives in the stimulus package:
Perversely, the obvious social value of public health investments has become a mark against them in the current stimulus debate. Critics worry that someone might support these policies because they are sensible and humane, not merely because they shovel some quick money into the economy. I guess the charge rings true. Yet as a mechanism of economic stimulus, hiring nurses and counselors to prevent unintended pregnancies or HIV infection is no less worthy than hiring burly construction workers to build a road. Public health measures are a lot cheaper. They are a hell of a lot less likely to stiff taxpayers for an environmentally dicey boondoggle.
And Cohn hopes the Senate will reconsider its decision to ax subsidized COBRA coverage for laid-off workers from its stimulus bill:
If access to COBRA were guaranteed, you might decide it was worth spending the extra money for it now. And so extending COBRA eligibility might very well increase the liklihood you opt into the program and pay premiums--which, don't forget, is its own form of economic activity. Premiums are payments to insurers, after all. And with those payments, the insurers have more money to pay their employees and cover their overhead.
Be sure to keep checking The Treatment for the most up-to-date healthcare news and analysis.