Sarah Kliff

Stories by Sarah Kliff

  • Who Would Have Really Won With A Medicare Buy-In? The Young

    Last week, the Democrats and Republicans waged a fierce, albeit brief, war over the Medicare buy-in, a possible concession to liberals for dropping the public option. The full details of the plan never emerged, and, with Lieberman's insistence that the Democrats kill it, there's a good chance they never will. But the general idea would be allowing 55- to 64-year-olds to opt in to the government plan for the elderly. Depending on where you are coming from, Medicare buy-in is either a promising step toward the holy grail of a single-payer system or just the beginning of a downward spiral into socialized, rationed medicine.You could argue endlessly about the philosophical benefits and drawbacks of a Medicare buy-in and its possible implications. But it’s unclear that if we gave 55- to 64-year-olds the chance to buy in to Medicare, they would have actually wanted to or would benefit from doing so. The idea behind expanding Medicare is that, much like the original public option...
  • Why The Senate's Abortion Debate Does Not Matter

    The Senate is now debating one of health-care reform's most controversial provisions: Ben Nelson’s abortion amendment. The language of Nelson's amendment, introduced yesterday, mirrors the strong restrictions of the Stupak amendment and bars plans traded on the government exchange from covering elective abortions. Barbara Boxer, the first Senator to speak in opposition to Nelson’s amendment, was quick to term it “the biggest rollback to a woman’s right to choose in decades.” Meanwhile, Nelson has repeatedly threatened to filibuster any bill without his language. Groups that both oppose and support abortion rights have encouraged members to write letters to their senators on the issue, imploring them to vote one way or another.But no matter how many letters are written or emotional speeches given, this abortion debate does not actually matter. Both Republicans and Democrats admit it's near impossible that Nelson’s amendment could pass the 60-vote threshold. “The question is whether...
  • Senate Bill Restores Abstinence-Only Funding

    While the Senate toned down the House's language on abortion restrictions, it may have ratcheted things up with another controversial reproductive-health issue: abstinence-only education. Sec. 2954 of the Senate health-reform bill, released Wednesday evening, restores funding for abstinence education. As of this summer, abstinence-only education seemed en route to becoming a thing of the past. As I wrote for Newsweek this past month: ...
  • Stupak Watch: Pro-Life Dems Back Off

    Another day, another development in the debate over abortion in health-care reform. This time, it’s a swing in favor of the abortion-rights side: pro-life Democrat Sens. Ben Nelson and Bob Casey Jr., both staunch abortion opponents and Stupak-amendment supporters, are toning down their demands. ...
  • The Mormon Church Supports Gay Rights ... Wait, What?

    The Mormon church is supporting gay rights. Sound a little suspicious? That has been the read around the blogosphere as of late, after the Church of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that it would support a Salt Lake City ordinance barring housing and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Cue cynicism: "The Mormon Church views gays as worthwhile human beings in the workplace, but not in their own bedrooms. Got it," quipped a blogger at gay blog Queerty. Over at Seattle's alt weekly: "No one is fooled: this 'rare' action is an attempt to blunt charges of anti-gay bigotry ... in the wake of Prop 8."...
  • Health Care's Prayer Provision: How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Fits Into Obama's Evidence-Based Model

    Should health-care reform require insurers to cover chiropractors? Acupuncturists? Yoga? Spiritual healers? These are the questions raised by a recently noticed health-care amendment requiring insurers to consider covering "religious and spiritual health care." The amendment, covered in this article, comes with backing from Senate heavyweights like Orrin Hatch, John Kerry, and the late Ted Kennedy. And while it does not mention Christian Science by name, it's been widely interpreted as a protection of the church's prayer treatments, which it encourages as an alternative to medical help. Others have understood the provision as even more far-reaching as to include any health provider acting within the scope of their license.The Freedom From Religion Foundation has criticized the amendment as an unconstitutional violation of church and state. Even with its powerful supporters, the amendment seems unlikely to make the final bill; Pelosi already dropped it from th...
  • The Other Gay-Rights Vote: Why Referendum 71 in Washington Matters

    While gay-rights activists mourn their loss in Maine, they should not discount the projected victory of Referendum 71 in Washington state. If the measure passes, the Evergreen State will be the first to approve gay equality by direct will of the people, rather than the court or legislature. ...
  • The Future of Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

    It's been a mainstay of sex ed for more than a decade. Now, as the Obama administration cuts off federal funding, the movement scrambles for money, determined to continue its mission.  
  • Birth-Control Bummer? The Pill May Affect Attractiveness, but Don't Give Up on Oral Contraceptives Yet

    File this one under "most unexpected side effect": birth-control pills both lower a woman's attractiveness and inhibit her ability to choose a good mate. That's the claim put forward by a study in this month's Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The review examines the surprisingly large body of research previously conducted on the relationship between birth control and female attractiveness. Taken as a whole, the studies suggest "oral contraceptives could interfere...with the ability to attract the preferred man."Why, exactly, would the pill stand in the way of a good date? Dr. Alexandra Alvergne and her colleague Dr. Virpi Lumma reviewed a decade of research on the behavioral side effects of hormonal contraceptives to figure out the answer. They found that, when the pill inhibits ovulation, it also eliminates a monthly period when a woman's attractiveness rises. The theory goes like this: Over the course of a menstrual cycle, hormonal...
  • Plan B's Complicated Legacy

    The emergency contraception drug goes generic but still remains out of reach for many women.
  • Michael Jackson's Medical Homicide: What The Coroner's Announcement Really Means

    Michael Jackson’s death took a bizarre turn this afternoon when the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office announced it’d found the anesthetic propofol, usually used in general surgery, and two other sedatives to have caused the singer’s death in June. The drugs were no surprise—court testimony earlier this week established early on that Jackson was on myriad medications the day he died. The big shock came when the coroner announced that the death was being labeled a homicide....
  • Why I Could Hardly Watch the Octomom Documentary

    “People can’t comprehend…why I’m not worried.” That’s just one of the many pearls of wisdom dispensed by Nadya Suleman on last night’s Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage. Sorry, Fox, but I think you oversold us. For those who missed it (and I hope, for your sake, you’re in that category) the two-hour special was largely Suleman waving off concerns that 14 children might be too many to handle and complaining about a loss of privacy. She showed off her new house, hid from paparazzi, got a tattoo, and spent a little time with the octuplets, too. Back when the babies were born, 23 percent of Americans followed the story very closely, according to the Pew Research Center. I, admittedly, was among them. Now though, I can hardly make it through a two-hour television special.This comes on the heels of Jon and Kate’s Gosselin slow but steady journey to obscurity. In May, they were at their peak, with 9.8 million viewers tuning in for the announcement of their divorce. The show took a one...
  • The Things We Carry: Artists Confront Compulsive Hoarding

    by Sarah Kliff Right now, in the Museum of Modern Art's second-floor atrium, there is a pile of junk: empty toothpaste tubes, bottle caps without bottles, used Styrofoam containers, slivers of soap. Thousands of items—piles of clothes, pots, pans, toys, books—overwhelm the 3,000-square foot display space. Collectively, these items are a new installation, called "Waste Not," by Chinese artist Song Dong. But before these items were art, they were all the contents of the house of his mother, Zhao Xiangyuan. Zhao grew up during the Chinese Revolution, a time when the government ran massive campaigns emphasizing the values of frugality and thrift. She took the maxims to the extreme, wasting nothing, even a tattered pair of work boots that her son tried to throw away. As her children grew, she saved their tiny shoes and jackets. She saved used tea leaves and shopping bags, soda bottles and toothbrushes. Over fifty years, their small house outside Beijing came to resemble "a landslide ...
  • "Women Are Not Intimidated": An Abortion Provider Responds To George Tiller's Murder

    But for abortion providers, his death may have been less a shock and more a reminder of the grave risks they face everyday. "We’re sitting ducks," says Susan Wicklund, an abortion provider who runs a clinic near Bozeman, Mont. and has been in the field for over 20 years. "We have to accept that if somebody is absolutely intent on targeting us, they will be successful." In her 2007 memoir, "This Common Secret," (PublicAffairs) Wicklund wrote about the harassment and stalking she’s faced over the years: Wicklund varies her daily routines to make herself less of a target; her clinic is regularly subject to protesters and she sometimes wears a bulletproof vest to her work. Tiller’s death, Wicklund says, exacerbates the challenges that she and her colleagues face in making abortion safe and accessible to all women. His murder may deter doctors from entering a relatively dangerous field that’s already struggling with a dearth of providers. 87 percent of co...
  • Why We Cling to Outdated Medical Myths

    Whether it's thinking that vitamin C can cure a cold, or that you must drink eight glasses of water a day, people cling to outdated medical lore long after it's been shown to be wrong. Here's why.
  • Worth Your Time: "This American Life" on Banking

    It's an embarrassing confession for a journalist: I couldn't understand the news. Specifically, news about the economy. "Toxic asset"? "Liquidity"? "Insolvent bank"? All the terms blurred together. I even read all of the Financial Crisis for Dummies articles. No dice. I still felt dumb.Enter "This American Life." The weekly public-radio show has produced two astoundingly lucid episodes—"The Giant Pool of Money," which aired last May, and "Bad Bank," which aired earlier this month—explaining the situation in paint-me-a-picture terms that monetary morons like me can understand. "Bad Bank" sums up multitrillion-dollar balance sheets using an analogy involving $100 and a dollhouse. "Giant Pool" distills the subprime-mortgage crisis with a human tale connecting the dots between a homeowner named Clarence and a Wall Street banker named Mike.Hosts Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg set a suitably relaxed tone: they sound like your friendly, biz-savvy pals laying out this whole thing over a...