Health care Politics

Zeke Emanuel on the Health Insurance Exchange

Noam Scheiber profiles the man he calls the nicest Emanuel brother, the eldest, ┬áZeke. Zeke is one of the nation’s leading bioethicists and works – along with Cass Sunstein and Peter Orszag in the Office of Management and Budget. Even with all the intellectual firepower in that normally staid department, Zeke stands out – and as someone who has been working for health care reform his entire life, he is one of those taking the lead on this issue. His focus – unlike most progressives – is not on the public option, but on the Health Insurance Exchange:

[N]ot surprisingly, Emanuel digs deepest into his healthy reserve of enthusiasm for the parts of the plan that dovetail with his own ideas. At the top of this list is a so-called insurance exchange – a regulated market in which people who lack coverage through their employer (and maybe people who work at small companies, though that’s still being negotiated) could choose from a variety of private plans, which would offer at least a minimum level of benefits and could not discriminate by health status. “He’s a key thinker on the exchange. How it operates. How it interacts with insurance market reform,” says the administration official.

On the one hand, the exchange is absolutely central to the Obama plan–it’s how the uninsured get covered. So it’s worth having Emanuel’s considerable brainpower on the problem. On the other hand, one can imagine a future in which the employer-based system gradually withers away, leaving everyone to purchase insurance on the exchange. Though Emanuel scrupulously avoids such discussions, it’s hard to believe the thought has never occurred to him.

I’d like to hear more about his thinking on “How [the exchange] operates. How it interacts with insurance market reform.”