Weekly Pulse: Pro-Choice Cabinet Picks Boon for Health At Home and Abroad


It’s finally official: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.

Some observers thought Clinton was a curious pick because she made a point of differentiating her foreign policy views from Obama’s during the Democratic primary.

Clinton and Obama

However, optimism is running high in the reproductive health community that Clinton will use her new office to champion women’s health issues worldwide. They expect that Clinton will push for changes in foreign aid criteria to make it easier to provide comprehensive sex ed and reproductive health services to the world’s neediest girls and women.

Back in the U.S., Clinton and Sen. Patty Murray introduced legislation to block the finalization of the rules changes at Health and Human Services that would have given employees the right to refuse to administer any birth control or abortion-related services that offended their religious beliefs. These changes would have restricted access to reproductive health services nationwide.

Emily Douglas of RH Reality Check notes the deadline for submitting rules changes is 60 days before the inauguration, but the HHS has classified these "conscience clause" changes as "non-major," thereby giving themselves a 30-day extension. It’s a sneaky procedural move, but the stalling won’t circumvent the Clinton/Murray bill.

Additional presidential appointments are starting to give shape to President-elect Obama’s health care agenda. Melody Barnes has been named Obama’s Senior Domestic Policy Adviser. Barnes is one of the few cabinet appointees so far who can be regarded as an unequivocally progressive choice. Barnes is a former executive policy director for the Center for American Progress and well-known in the progressive community.

"By appointing policy leaders like Barnes who see the connections between health and the economy, Obama appears to have pulled together an economic team that reflects many of the goals he set out during his campaign," wrote Todd Heywood in RH Reality Check.

Ezra Klein of the American Prospect compares satisfaction ratings across several countries, and between Americans on Medicare vs. private insurance: "Medicare has much higher satisfaction ratings than private insurance. Americans are much less satisfied with their health system than they are in other countries."

Healthcare reform is gathering momentum in Congress and the White House. The health insurance industry can’t help but take notice and offer a few preemptive reassurances, in the hopes of forestalling more fundamental change.

As part of his ongoing coverage of the health insurance industry: Ezra Klein of the American Prospect phones Robert Zirkelbach, America’s Health Insurance Plans’ director of strategic communications to discuss the trade organization’s recent pledge "[…] too guarantee that health plans provide coverage for preexisting conditions in conjunction with mandate that individuals keep and maintain healthcare coverage." Zirkelbach admits that the insurance companies have not pledged to make this coverage affordable. He also says that the Association resists competition from public plans as a strategy to drive down costs.

Here’s a fun fact courtesy of Mother Jones to bring up around the Thanksgiving dinner table: Scientists have shown that obesity in mice is linked to the diets of their grandmothers. If pregnant mice were fed a high-fat diet, their offspring were more likely to be obese and insulin insensitive. The surprising result was that the next generation were predisposed to the same problems.

To close this Thanksgiving edition, we offer you a list of 10 things science says will make you happy, courtesy of YES! Magazine. Unaccountably, tryptophan didn’t make the list, but gratitude did.

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