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Robert Reich
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June 12, 2009

The big decisions on health care reform are happening right now. Congress is "mixing the concrete" of the health care reform bill, as the economist Robert Reich puts it on his blog, "And after it's poured and hardens, universal health care will be with us for years to come in whatever form it now takes."

But who's doing the mixing? Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, tells Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL that the fight to shape health care reform is the biggest test to date for President Obama. Powerful lobbies have lined up to oppose what is being called "the public option," a key element of the president's plan.

The public option, according to Reich, is a government-run non-profit insurance pool, that, by virtue of its size and bargaining power, could control costs and offer people who are either uncovered by, or unhappy with private insurers an affordable alternative path to health care. Medicare is an example of a public option, notes Reich, with one important caveat — the Medicare drug benefit bill passed during the Bush administration expressly forbids Medicare from using its size to negotiate for lower costs, an important key to keeping prices down.

>Explore the plans being considered by Congress (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Robert B. Reich
Robert B. Reich is professor of public policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three administrations, most recently as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written 11 books, including THE WORK OF NATIONS, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers THE FUTURE OF SUCCESS and LOCKED IN THE CABINET, and his most recent book, SUPERCAPITALISM. His articles have appeared in the NEW YORKER, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of THE AMERICAN PROSPECT magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio's MARKETPLACE are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclav Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, PUBLIC EXPOSURE, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

As the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor, Reich implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act, led a national fight against sweatshops in the U.S. and illegal child labor around the world, headed the administration's successful effort to raise the minimum wage, secured worker's pensions, and launched job-training programs, one-stop career centers, and school-to-work initiatives. Under his leadership, the Department of Labor won more than 30 awards for innovation. A 1996 poll of cabinet experts conducted by the Hearst newspapers rated him the most effective cabinet secretary during the Clinton administration.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Related Media:
Health Care Reform

Medical practitionersCalifornia Nurses Association
Washington's abuzz about health care, but why isn't a single-payer plan an option on the table? Public Citizen's Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Physicians for a National Health Program's Dr. David Himmelstein on the political and logistical feasibility of health care reform. (May 22, 2009)

Medical practitionersDonna Smith
Bill Moyers speaks with advocate Donna Smith about how our broken system is hurting ordinary Americans. (May 22, 2009)

Medical practitionersCalifornia Nurses Association
The California Nurses Association advocates a "Cheney-Care for all Americans. (May 5, 2008)

Melody Petersen, photo by Robin Holland Melody Petersen
Melody Petersen talks with Bill Moyers about her new book OUR DAILY MEDS, and how drug companies market medication. (May 16, 2008)

Rachel CarsonFRONTLINE: "Sick Around the World"
FRONTLINE travels to five other wealthy capitalist democracies — Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland — to find out how they provide health care to all of their citizens far a fraction of the cost of the U.S. system.

References and Reading:
Robert Reich

Robert Reich's official Web site.

Robert Reich's Blog

Articles by Robert Reich

Health Care Reform

"Who Will Be at the Table?"
By Trudy Lieberman, THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, June 8, 2009.

Trudy Lieberman Campaign Desk Archive
Trudy Lieberman tracks health care reform coverage in the media for the COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW.

"Democrats Nearing Consensus on Health Plan"
By Robert Pear, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 9, 2009.

"Obama to Forge a Greater Role on Health Care "
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 6, 2009.

"Health-Care Bills Begin to Crystallize "
By Naftali Bendavid and Janet Adamy, THE WASHINGTON POST, June 10, 2009.

"Doctors’ Group Opposes Public Insurance Plan"
By Robert Pear, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 10, 2009.

"AMA would support some public health plans"
UPI, June 11, 2009.

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