Stories by Sarah Kliff

  • What Exactly Is Holding Up Health-Care Reform? MIT's Gruber's Answer: Actuarial Value.

    I have been following the health-care debate for much longer than I thought it would be possible, watching more C-Span than I had ever desired or thought possible. And, sometimes, I cannot help but wonder (cue Carrie Bradshaw voice-over here): What exactly are the House and the Senate fighting over? Why won’t the House just pass the Senate bill and get this health-care reform effort done this week? Even after issuing a strong directive earlier today, Obama does not expect action until the end of the month. But the two bills have a broadly similar structure and the same goal: extend health insurance to more Americans. What is the holdup?Two words: actuarial value. That's the great answer from Jonathan Gruber, MIT’s health-care economist extraordinaire who spoke at Columbia University on the future of health-care reform and why it’s still not so certain—last night, pre-Obama speech, he ballparked the odds of it passing at 57 percent. His answer was actually much longer than two...
  • An Abortion on Twitter: Why Shame Remains

    A Florida woman tweeting her abortion is trying to take the shame out of the procedure. It's a high-tech twist on an evolving mission, one that's had limited success.
  • The Summit Spin: How the NYT Front Page Gets It Wrong and What Dems Do Next

    I was pretty surprised to see this New York Times front page land at my doorstep this morning. Not only did it survive a massive blizzard to make its way to Queens, but the lead photograph and accompanying headline just did not fit with the health-care-summit that I watched yesterday. First, and foremost, that picture: Joe and Barack looking so darn dismal. Granted, they did have to sit through an incredibly dull seven-hour meeting, but in general I thought Obama came across pretty well, while Biden was hardly a key player. Obama was concise, clear, and compelling. “What Obama did do was paint himself—for anyone who was watching—as someone genuinely interested in compromise and genuinely interested in engaging with his Republican colleagues,” Chris Cillizza writes over at the Daily Fix. The Daily Beast identifies Obama as “the best Democrat on display.” A photograph that would better represent the summit would be one of Obama engaging with a Republican, perhaps Lamar Alexander or...
  • Why This Health-Care Summit Won't Be a Game Changer

    Perhaps the most illuminating part of the health-care-reform summit wasn’t what happened at the Blair House, but what happened right afterward. Just moments after the summit ended, the Democratic leadership did a quick presser outside the White House where Sen. Harry Reid criticized Republicans for sticking to their talking points. A little while later the Republican leaders spoke from the same spot and went ahead and did just that. “Frankly, I was discouraged by the outcome,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, later adding, “I do not believe there will be any Republican support for this 2,700-page bill.” Listening to callers to C-Span right after that, you heard pretty similar opinions among voters. No one seemed to be swayed. Depending on which party they identified with, this was either a case of the Democrats courageously moving forward or ramming unpopular legislation down the country's collective throat.Perhaps the one thing everyone could agree on was a phrase...
  • Today In Untrue News (Health-Care-Summit Edition!): Democrats Aren't Talking About Reconciliation

    A six-hour summit offered a plethora of opportunity for things to be made up and our politicians did not disappoint (see Politifact’s jam-packed Twitter feed for more). But there was one particularly bizarre untrue claim made today by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He set the bar high when, in his opening statement, he claimed that “no one has talked about reconciliation.” Which is weird, since, a lot of people—people who are Democratic senators, no less—have talked about it. Like Chuck Schumer, who signed on to a letter urging for a public option via reconciliation. In an e-mail to his supporters last week, he specified “I just added my name to their effort to pass a public option through the reconciliation process, and I wanted you to be the first to know.” It’s not just Schumer—that letter, at last count, has 24 senators on board. A quick clip search shows that way back in August—eons ago health-care reform—Kent Conrad was already talking about reconciliation to The New York...
  • The Halftime Analysis: Health-Care-Summit Substantive, Really Boring

    As we move into hour three of the health-care-reform summit, Democrats and Republicans have, unsurprisingly, come no closer to an agreement on health-care reform. But we do have one consensus growing: this summit is pretty darn boring. “Admit it...your interest is waning…” the Washington Post’s Chris Cizilla tweeted about an hour ago (he’s since announced he may quit tweeting altogether after lunch). Matt Yglesias has suggested switching to a live feed of Bo. If reporters who obsess over health-care reform can barely stand to watch this debate, I cannot imagine many Americans are rapt with interest. Why? The health-care summit is pretty much the same wonky, partisan debate that many of us watched for 229 hours on the Senate floor. It’s a summit about CBO estimates, high-risk insurance pools, and the individual mandate. Some of the discussions are substantively useful (like the lengthy debate over whether high-risk pools are tenable in the long term); some not so much (Obama and...
  • First Hour of Health-Care Summit in Eight Tweets

    Members of Congress are about an hour into the much-anticipated bipartisan health-care-reform summit. We have gotten preliminary speeches from the president, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Lamar Alexander, who has thus far emerged as the most outspoken Republican at the summit. ...
  • The Summit Matchup That Wasn't

    In response tomy item on what will happen if Republican House Leader John Boehner's request that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) be invited to the White House health-care summit, Stupak's spokesperson e-mailed to point out that Stupak has not actually been invited to attend the summit and is not planning to attend. Stupak gave us the following statement: “I had no prior knowledge of either the content of Mr. Boehner’s letter or his intentions to reach out to President Obama regarding tomorrow’s health care summit. His office informed me of his letter only after it had been sent to the President and released publicly. I am far more concerned with making real progress toward enacting comprehensive health care reform than with who received an invitation to tomorrow’s health care summit.” 
  • Stupak vs. Slaughter: A Summit Matchup to Watch

     In what looks to be the last addition to the tomorrow's summit guest list, Minority Leader John Boehner has requested that Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan receive an invitation, citing his work on the "critical issue of life" and thus bringing a hugely contentious issue into an already contentious conference. Here’s a snippet from Boehner's letter to the White House: During the House floor debate on H.R. 3200, I individually questioned each of the Democratic committee chairmen with jurisdiction on health care issues to seek their assurances that the will of the House, as reflected by the support of a bipartisan majority for the Stupak amendment, would be preserved when a final health care bill is crafted by the Democratic majority in Washington. None committed to working to ensure that the House position is preserved in a final health care bill. These same majority committee chairmen will be representing the House in the February 25 summit....I write today to...
  • Today in Untrue News: GOP’s Going to Crash the Summit!

    The Hill has a small strategy scoop on the GOP tactic in the health-care debate: House Minority Leader John Boehner is planning to "crash" the bipartisan health-care summit on Thursday. A House GOP leadership aide told the newspaper that, during a closed-door Republican meeting earlier today, Boehner appealed to his colleagues by saying, “We shouldn’t let the White House have a six-hour taxpayer-funded infomercial on Obamacare. We need to show up. We need to crash the party.”  Personally, I’d love to see a hilarious C-Span-gone-Wedding-Crashers...
  • Obama Presents a Health-Care Plan, but Abortion Issue Remains Unsettled

    Obama’s health-care-reform plan is a huge step forward for the Democrats, the momentum they need to push the legislation out the door. But the legislation is not 100 percent in the clear yet: yet again, abortion promises to become a linchpin issue in the future negotiations. In his plan, Obama went with the abortion language that the Senate had adopted, which is less restrictive than the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. It came out of a last-minute compromise between Sens. Ben Nelson, an opponent of abortion rights, Patty Murray, and Barbara Boxer (both abortion-rights supporters). Opponents of abortion rights didn't like the language (neither did abortion-rights supporters for that matter) and Nelson later admitted he planned to filibuster the language, essentially force Senate to pick up the more restrictive Stupak language that the house was using. In other words, if the abortion opponents had their way, this language would never get anywhere close to seeing the light of days. Stupak...
  • New NEWSWEEK Poll Confirms: Health Care Divisive, Confusing

    Newsweek sent our pollsters out into the field this week and came back with a whole bunch of interesting results. I'll be blogging on it throughout the week, particularly trying to sort out how Obama could best use these findings to best prep for success at the bipartisan health care summit this Thursday (we're pretty sure he's a Newsweek reader, after all). But for now, here's the main take away:As Democrats struggle to salvage health-care-reform legislation, a new NEWSWEEK Poll shows that while a majority of Americans say they oppose Obama's plan, a majority actually support the key features of the legislation. The findings support the notion that Democrats have not done a good job of selling the package and that opponents have been successful in framing the debate. The more people know about the legislation, the more likely they are to support major components of it.When asked about Obama's plan (without being given any details about what the...
  • Krugman Explains Health-Care Reform in Two Sentences

    I thought I had done a pretty good job when I pared health-care reform down to about 400 words. Turns out, Paul Krugman over at The New York Times has done me one better and explained it in two sentences. His column today, which looks at the case for health-care reform made by premium hikes in California, has one of the best and most concise explanations that I have seen. By way of background, Krugman starts from a point that Democrats, Republicans, and the White House all tend to agree on: we should bar insurers from discriminating against those with preexisting conditions. ...
  • Ray Gosling, AIDS, and Euthanasia

    Ray Gosling's admission was shocking but not unusual: for years, gay men with AIDS have struggled with the legality, ethics, and reality of assisted suicide.
  • Texting Ban Yields Few Offenders in Missouri

    Lawmakers love to "get tough" on society's ills. But banning something is often better politics than policy—as states that have outlawed texting behind the wheel are starting to learn. In 2009 a dozen states rushed to restrict the practice; 20 more are expected to follow this year, and Congress is considering making the bans universal. But hold on, say traffic experts: the bans are virtually useless in practice. Missouri's State Highway Patrol has nabbed just eight text offenders in five months, and since law enforcement often can't tell the difference between illegal phone jockeying and someone rooting around for change, few doubt a similar outcome nationwide.Bans can help change behavior, of course. But they often require a simultaneous public-awareness cam-paign, along the same lines as "Don't Drink and Drive." So far only Utah has gone that route, producing a 15--minute documentary about a texting accident that's shown in schools. For a politician, however, "I made a PSA" just...
  • NEWSWEEK Poll: Mixed Signals on Health Care

    In the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, the majority of Americans are opposed to President Obama's health-care reform plan—until they learn the details. Plus, a look at very unhappy mood of the electorate.
  • The Health-Care-Reform Trickle-Down: What It Means When States Take Things Into Their Own Hands

    Health-care reform may be a ways off from becoming law, but at least a few of its provisions and debates that it started have already trickled down to the states—and not in a way that Democrats would want. RH Reality Check, a pro-choice reproductive-health blog, points out two places where you now see legislative fallout from Congress's heated abortion debate. The Kansas legislature is now considering a bill that would require all abortion coverage to be purchased as a rider, similar to what would have been required under the House bill’s Stupak Amendment (or, depending on how you read it, probably under the Senate language, too).  Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Wake County has dropped its coverage of elective abortions, in a move that looks like it might be taking a page from the Republican National Committee’s reactive ditching of their abortion coverage. Taken together, the two moves to limit abortion coverage can suggest that a national, highly publicized debate over...
  • Think Congress Suffers From Inaction? Take a Look at Canada

    As snowmaggedon continues to wreak havoc on the Capitol, the House has suspended all votes through Friday. Congress taking an entire snow week is rife with opportunities to mock the government’s uncanny ability to use any and all excuses to justify inaction. One editorial cartoon, a drawing of our nation’s capital blanketed in snow, comes with the tagline: “where every day is a snow day.”But if you want to talk about really egregious government shutdowns explained with implausible excuses, just take a look at our neighbors to the north (incidentally, this Gaggler's home country): using the Olympics as a partial justification, the Canadian Parliament is in the middle of a two-month shutdown. For those of you who have gotten behind on your Canadian politics, here’s a basic rundown. Prime Minster Steven Harper, who leads the Conservative Party, was facing a lot of difficult issues: an inquiry over maltreatment of Afghan detainees, economic woes hosting the Olympics. So he announ...
  • Study Confirms: Millennials Are Apathetic

    That is not an article from The Onion; it’s actual, real news.The Pew Research Center has some new, interesting numbers up on public opinion and health-care reform. The general takeaway is that, while the same numbers of Americans support  reform, they’re increasingly pessimistic about its odds of passing. It’s notable that, despite all the roadblocks in the legislative process, the same number of Americans generally stand behind it.What I found most interesting was a section on millennials and health care—partially because I’m a millennial who covers health care, partially because it reveals many interesting schisms in my generation’s support for reform. Here’s the basic rundown from Pew:Millennials' support for the health care proposals before Congress has been lukewarm at best . . . Small percentages of young people expect their own health care or insurance coverage to improve if health care legislation passes . . . Millennials have largely tuned out of the health care...
  • Football Concussions: Lessons From Spine Injuries

    Concussions are big news in the NFL, college, and secondary schools, but both football and hockey leagues did something right in reducing spinal-cord injuries. What was it, and can it be replicated?
  • The New Abstinence-Education Study Is Good News. So Why Are Liberals Freaking Out?

    The first peer-reviewed study to show abstinence education to be successful was published yesterday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. And, to put it succinctly, the liberal blogosphere is not thrilled.“According to this study, abstinence-only education might work,” quips one blogger at Feministing. “And the operative word here is might, as in, sometimes, maybe, coupled with other strategies or sometimes never.” The Guttmacher Institute does a thorough, point-by-point takedown of the study, noting that it “essentially leaves intact the significant body of evidence showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programming that met previous federal guidelines is ineffective.” And at AlterNet—well, you can basically figure out its take from the headline Why We Should Disregard a New Study Showing Abstinence Ed Works. The general meme circulating on liberal blogs has basically been: this study may indicate abstinence-only education worked in one instance, but it...
  • 90 Minutes of Q&A With Obama, Zero Questions About Health Care: What That Says About Senate Dems

    I don't think it bodes well for health-care reform that a 90-minute Q&A between the president and the Senate Democrats passed this morning without a single query on the subject. The closest the Senate Dems got was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s query about insuring 9/11 emergency rescue workers—a far cry from health-insurance reform for the entire country. Obama made a few quick remarks about health-care reform that, both in substance and scope, were similar to what he said during the State of the Union: I want you guys to pass this; we aren’t giving up. But he doesn’t explain how the Senate can do this. And what's more, the Senate Democrats didn't push for this guidance.What can we glean from such silence on health-care reform? ...
  • Today in Untrue News: Former Surgeon General Claims U.K. Denies Pacemakers for the Old

    As part of a $400,000 media buy, the 60-Plus Association is running an ad with former surgeon general C. Everett Koop’s death panel–esque take on health-care reform. Koop explains that, as a 93-year-old, he’s pretty thankful for his pacemaker replacements and artificial joints—and bets other seniors are too. “Seniors in this country can get the same care I received but in some places,” Koop warns, “like the United Kingdom, we would be considered too old and the cost to the state too high.” This, it turns out, is completely false. As Factcheck.org discovers, Britain's National Health Service has no blanket restriction on the elderly receiving pacemakers. Instead, “official statistics show 47 patients aged 100 or older got new or replacement pacemakers in a single recent year.” Factcheck also followed up on the other conditions that Koop mentioned—his hip replacements and heart stent—and found neither treatment to be denied to England’s elderly. I’ve also got to call Koop out on...
  • What the Roeder Guilty Verdict Means for Abortion Providers

    In an unsurprising verdict, a Kansas jury found Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller. The trial was a straightforward and short affair, with Roeder offering 37 minutes of testimony in which he admitted to purchasing a gun, taking target practice, and ultimately shooting Tiller, explaining the sense of "relief" he felt afterward. Roeder now faces life imprisonment with the possibility of parole at 25 years. ...