Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily about the political battle over filling the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Peterson said there is no “election year rule” that would prohibit the confirmation of a high court justice in the heat of a presidential election. What’s most concerning, he said, is straying from norms that have developed over the years. These include thorough background checks of possible candidates and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that allow ample time for review of a nominee’s academic articles, speeches, written opinions, and other materials that shed light on judicial and policy positions. The entire process, including a floor debate followed by a vote, has historically taken an average of 70 days but could be accelerated by the Republican-led Senate and “there is nothing the Democrats or anyone in opposition can do to stop that from happening,” Peterson said.
Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson was featured in a virtual interview for the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law about his article “The ACA a Decade In: Resilience, Impact, and Vulnerabilities.” Peterson’s article highlighted the strengths and vulnerabilities of the Affordable Care Act 10 years after its enactment. In the interview, he pointed to the polarized political environment and the complexity of the bill as sources of weakness. Although the ACA started off as a Republican idea, he explained, stark partisanship prohibited modern Republicans from supporting it in the Senate. Peterson also mentioned that although almost everything in the bill was extremely popular, the public didn’t understand what was in it. “The strategy of building a health care reform plan not by replacing anything but by building on the existing structures resulted in an enormously complicated bill,” he said. “Most people did not know to what extent they were going to be affected by it.”
The state of the 10-year-old Affordable Care Act is the subject of a new article by Public Policy Professor Mark A. Peterson in a special two-issue publication of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. The advance publication of Peterson’s study, “The ACA a Decade In: Resilience, Impact, and Vulnerabilities,” is included in the first issue of the Duke University Press journal. Peterson, former editor of the journal, writes that in the decade since its enactment, the political health of the ACA — popularly known as Obamacare — has looked precarious. “It decidedly lacked the popular acclaim of the sort that arose to undergird programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Peterson says, but he adds that it has remained “viable and consequential despite Republican efforts to end it.” He also points out that, while the impact on insurance coverage has been substantial, it remains distant from universal coverage. “The ACA has revealed perhaps surprising resilience, put insurance cards into the hands of millions previously outside the system, and even contributed to some degree of reduced financial burdens,” Peterson argues. “At the same time, all of these gains have been incomplete, remain vulnerable and are threatened by underlying forces in the political economy.” Assessing the strengths and vulnerabilities of the act in its first 10 years, Peterson cautions that a path to a more secure future for either the ACA — or a more ambitious successor — is far from clear.
Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson was cited in a New York Times article discussing the prospects for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal. Even if elected president, Sanders would probably not have sufficient support in Congress to achieve universal health coverage, the article noted. In the past 70 years, no legislation to advance universal health care has succeeded without Democratic control of all three branches of government and a supermajority in the Senate, which Sanders would be unlikely to have. Peterson pointed out that even if the rules were changed to require a simple majority to pass the legislation, “there is not any guarantee that the 51st Democrat would be willing to support Medicare for All or anything close to it.” Many Democrats in the House and Senate oppose Medicare for All, advocating instead for improving the Affordable Care Act or pursuing a new government-run “public option” that would compete with private insurance.
As Super Tuesday drew to a close after 72 hours of campaign twists and turns, Public Policy students and faculty flocked to a watch party at the Luskin School for pizza and political talk. The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination as a two-man race came into focus as returns came in from across the country. In addition to weighing the merits of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, students talked about state and local races and the new voting centers rolled out by Los Angeles County for the March 3 primary. Many in the room wore “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots at Ackerman Union. The crowd also included half a dozen international students who were fascinated by the political process unfolding before them. Professors Martin Gilens and Mark Peterson provided context and commentary as hosts of the event. They were joined by Associate Professor Wesley Yin and Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic nominee. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, shared their own unique perspectives with students at the watch party.
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Professor of Public Policy Mark Peterson was featured in a Health Affairs article discussing the feasibility of “Medicare for All” in the United States. Healthcare coverage has been a frequent topic of debate in the 2020 presidential campaign. The article takes a closer look at six significant efforts to advance universal health care since 1950 and finds that the only serious efforts to advance coverage have occurred during periods of unified Democratic control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, known as the Trifecta. “To explain in brief the problematic politics of [health] reform in the U.S., just enunciate four simple words: the United States Senate,” Peterson said. “It is likely to remain the biggest stumbling block in the years ahead.” While hopes for a Democratic supermajority in 2021 are low, the article points to alternative pathways to universal coverage that are less extreme than “Medicare for All.”
The New York Times spoke to Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson for a story about House Democrats’ focus on rising prescription drug costs in their reelection campaigns. Democrats, particularly those in districts that flipped from red to blue in the 2018 midterm elections, are betting heavily that they have solidified an image as protectors of affordable health care, the story noted. “The Republican efforts at ‘repeal and replace’ ironically highlighted the protections in the [Affordable Care Act] that would be lost and generated more public support for the law than at any time since its passage,” Peterson said. “Now more attention has turned to the other live issue that remains, that has largely always been present and that the A.C.A. has done little to forestall, and in some cases is perceived to have made even worse: out-of-pocket healthcare costs for individuals and families.”
The November issue of the American Journal of Public Health features an article authored by Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson on the debate surrounding government-run “Medicare for All” healthcare coverage. The article, “Enacting Medicare for All: Balancing Ambition With the Needs of Statecraft,” highlights the leadership and coalition-building skills necessary to enact Medicare for All. Peterson draws on his practical experience as a legislative assistant for health policy in the office of South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle during the 1990s as well as extensive research on the politics of health reform. Peterson is currently working on a new manuscript, “American Sisyphus: Health Care and the Challenge of Transformative Policymaking,” that explores public attitudes, interest group dynamics and leadership contexts over the past 100 years. He argues that “2009 to 2010 during the Obama presidency was the most advantageous political setting in U.S. history for comprehensive health care reform” and points to the U.S. Senate as “the biggest stumbling block” of the politics of reform in the United States. Looking to the 2020 presidential election, Peterson highlights the lack of clarity surrounding the topic of Medicare for All, which he explains “means different things to different people.” According to Peterson, the idea of Medicare for All is “motivational poetry for many” but actual implementation requires adaptation and skilled coalition-building. Peterson concludes by recommending that “candidates with the shared commitment to universal coverage avoid forming a circular firing squad, both on the campaign trail and once in office.”
Mark Peterson, professor of public policy and political science, spoke with Roll Call about a new single-payer “Medicare-for-all” bill being introduced by House Democrats. The bill, introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, said 107 House Democrats are initially supporting the measure. Health care is a central campaign topic among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, but there are risks for any politician who proposes dramatic change and uncertainty in a system that is central to Americans’ well-being, the article noted. Success of a single-payer system hinges on whether supporters will span the ideological spectrum within the Democratic Party, Peterson said. “The important symbolism of how it’s risen is how many Democratic presidential candidates are at least signing on thematically, even if it’s only because they support universal coverage,” he said. “But that’s where you have to start.”