Jonathan Cohn

Jonathan Cohn served as an editor and writer at The American Prospect from 1991 to 1997. He is now a senior editor at The New Republic, the author of Sick, and a senior fellow at Demos.

Recent Articles

Getting Insurers to Behave

Job No. 1: Write new rules for health insurers and make sure they follow them.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. (U.S. Mission Geneva Photo/Eric Bridiers)
Now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is law, the Obama administration has to translate the law's requirements into specific rules, particularly for the health-insurance industry. The act requires insurers to do a lot of things they haven't done before, like making sure all plans cover at least a basic array of services and limit out-of-pocket expenses. But under a so-called grandfather clause, plans already in existence are exempt from many of the new requirements. How the administration has interpreted "grandfathering" -- one of its first rule-making decisions -- may be an indication of things to come. The exemption exists because of the president's promise that people who already have insurance can keep their current coverage if they like it. But from a policy perspective, the grandfather clause is dangerous. An employer eager to slash its benefit costs could try to exploit the exemption to whittle away coverage in a plan it currently offers. The Affordable Care...

What Really Ails Medicare

The cost crisis of Medicare gets a lot of attention. The program can be fixed only by universalizing the larger health system in which Medicare resides.

When Lyndon Johnson signed the law creating Medicare in 1965, he promised that it would transform the lives of America's senior citizens. "No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine," Johnson proclaimed. "No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years." As ambitious as those goals were, some of Medicare's architects had even loftier hopes. Many were veterans of Harry Truman's crusade to provide insurance to every single American; it was only after that effort failed that they decided to concentrate on covering the elderly, whom they knew to be a politically sympathetic group. But in focusing on senior citizens, they didn't give up on bringing insurance to the rest of the country. Medicare, they fervently hoped, would be a stepping stone to universal coverage -- and perhaps a model for how to achieve it. More than 40 years later,...

This Pill Makes You Honest

Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation By Philip J. Hilts, Alfred A. Knopf, 352 pages, $26.95 In the 1990s, attorney Daniel Troy made a name for himself defending pharmaceutical manufacturers and tobacco companies in their frequent fights with the Food and Drug Administration. But in 2001, Troy got an opportunity to champion the interests of those same clients from a far more advantageous position -- inside the FDA itself -- when President Bush appointed him to be the agency's chief counsel. The results have not been pretty. A recent story in U.S. News and World Report , for example, fingers Troy as one of the people responsible for stalling FDA investigations of ephedra, the dietary supplement now blamed for 100 deaths, including that of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher. When Troy was a private attorney, he had lobbied the FDA to ease restrictions on advertising for prescription drugs. Once Troy joined the FDA himself, he ordered that all...

Damaged Goods: Before Reinventing Government, Clinton Needs to Repair It

T he debris of Reaganism is scattered across Bill Clinton's domestic agenda: Environmentalism may be slow to take hold at the Interior Department because friends of industry have "burrowed in" to the bureaucracy. Sound industrial policy will call for better information than the Commerce Department and Federal Trade Commission have to offer. Crafting welfare reform may be more difficult because the Department of Health and Human Services keeps insufficient data to evaluate its own experimental programs. And invigorating the Environmental Protection Agency could take years because an orgy of contracting out and budget cutting has left the agency with insufficient staff to keep the private contractors honest. After 12 years of Republican neglect and frequent Democratic complicity, perhaps it is unsurprising that the new administration has inherited a government ill-suited for activism. The toll of drastic budget cuts and the grosser casualties of deregulation have been well-chronicled;...

Children's Crusade

They're at it again -- conservatives are masquerading as the patrons of the young. Before you buy it, think carefully about how much kids and young adults depend upon activist government.

Where, where but here have Pride and Truth That long to give themselves for wage, To shake their wicked sides at youth Restraining reckless middle-age? - W.B. Yeats H eather, a jeans-clad 26-year-old with long curly hair, is worried about the deficit. "Last year I paid an additional $800 in taxes just for the interest on the federal debt," she says. "At this rate, I'll be spending my whole life paying off the bills run up by our parents and grandparents." Pacing across a spacious loft high above some major city, Heather warns that it is time to balance the federal budget. "Budget deficits hurt all Americans," she says angrily, "but it's our generation that gets hit the hardest." If you haven't seen Heather, you probably don't watch MTV. In the weeks leading up to the November budget showdown, Heather appeared frequently on the youth-oriented music video network thanks to the Coalition for Change, a consortium of four well-heeled interest groups that favor balanced budgets. Formally...