Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

Recent Articles

BYE-BYE ADVICE: HOLDING EVERYONE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE SCIENCE, ESPECIALLY OURSELVES

By Harold Pollack Thanks for the hospitality, Ezra. Thanks, especially, to the commenters for great observations and corrections. The combination of anonymity, spontaneity, and immaturity render many comment threads a depressing and toxic brew. Not here. I’m grateful that readers here care about public health, not merely healthcare delivery. One final Polonius-like note: For the past eight years, our presidential administration ignored or rejected scientific consensus in critical matters: climate change, syringe exchange, condoms, abstinence-only education, the health impact of environmental pollutants, and much more. Many people in the reality-based scientific, medical, environmental, and public health communities are breathing a sigh of relief that the Obama administration appears committed to evidence-informed policy. By all means, let’s collectively exhale. Then let's be sure to hold progressives to the same high scientific standards many of us wanted to apply to President Bush....

THE NEW GUY AT CDC

Richard Besser has the conventional good looks of a TV anchorman. That’s a useful qualification for public office. Fortunately, that is not what got him appointed Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I’m pretty happy about this pick, which hasn’t gotten the attention or visibility it deserves. As I have written before , our nation’s flagship public health agency is troubled. Besser takes the reins of an agency that has endured severe administrative and morale difficulties. CDC was traumatized by the ideological battles of the Bush years, by management reorganizations and budget difficulties, and by new challenges posed by 9/11, anthrax, and (later) Katrina….

BIG HEALTH VOTE IN THE SENATE YESTERDAY (OH YEAH, THEY VOTED TO INSURE MILLIONS OF KIDS, TOO)

By Harold Pollack What a different elections make. Less than two weeks into things, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats can just about chalk another victory on the board. In case you aren’t up on current events, the Senate passed SCHIP yesterday. The bill would cover an additional four million children. Since the House passed a nearly identical bill, this one seems bankable. The bill is quite close to those vetoed by President Bush, with one key difference: States would now be able to use federal money to cover legal immigrants without the five-year waiting period that now applies to most immigrant children and pregnant women. During the campaign, I remember debates among health reform advocates about what the fallback position should be if one could not achieve a larger victory. “Cover the kids,” was the most common suggestion. They will need to move these goalposts.

ABOUT THOSE CRACK BABIES

By Harold Pollack Tuesday's New York Times includes a nice story “The epidemic that wasn’t” recounting the crack baby scare of two decades ago. Quoting distinguished experts such as Brown University’s Barry Lester and Boston University’s Deborah Frank, Times reporter Susan Okie recounts that sorry history, in which real medical uncertainty, media sensationalism, and the race-culture politics of the drug war combined to produce a harmful panic. If you want to get this story, Laura Gomez’s Misconceiving Mothers remains an essential source. There are some interesting byways, such as the pervasive reluctance of juries to convict women prosecuted for their prenatal drug use.

ABOLISHING THE MEDICARE DISABILITY WAITING PERIOD

By Harold Pollack I’m charged this week to tackle public health. I’m cheating a bit to venture into other health reform issues. Dean Baker over at TPMcafe suggested that the feds abolish the current 2-year waiting period for disabled people to receive Medicare. This is a pet issue of mine. I want to second him on this point. Because I am a family caregiver, I ended up reaching out to disability advocates as a volunteer supporter for the Obama campaign. I wrote various articles, often for HuffPo —Ezra forgive me, again—on the importance of health reform to children and adults living with serious illness or injury, and to their families. Every time I wrote such a piece, my comment thread would fill up with heartrending stories of people facing challenging medical conditions who were deemed totally disabled, and who were often running up huge bills waiting for their Medicare eligibility. Many faced bewildering problems with Medicaid or with private insurers. Many, arguably the lucky ones...

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