April 5, 2009

IS HE AN EMANUEL BROTHER OR A BUSH BROTHER?:

Second Emanuel joins Obama fray as health care adviser: Zeke, Rahm's older brother, advises on health care reform (JUDITH GRAHAM and NOAM N. LEVEY, 4/05/09, Chicago Tribune)

He's the oldest brother, a doctor and a scholar with a résumé the size of a small book. Though brothers Ari and Rahm are celebrities, he is the one they think could someday win the Nobel Prize.

Ezekiel Emanuel has become something of a public figure, like his famous siblings, as he pursues a new challenge: trying to help the Obama administration reform the health care system.

It's an enormously difficult task given the nation's economic woes, and one for which the former Chicagoan appears uniquely well suited but surprisingly unprepared.

Zeke, as everyone calls him, is an accomplished academic with boundless energy and impressive medical and policy credentials who has written a well-received book on health reform. He has the ear of Rahm, the president's chief of staff: The brothers talk every day.

Yet Zeke has never been part of a political team or toed a party line. The reforms he has championed — giving all Americans insurance vouchers and getting rid of employer-based health care coverage — bear little resemblance to those embraced by the president.

That doesn't bother the 51-year-old, who is serving as special adviser to Peter Orszag, the director of Office of Management and Budget. The job puts Zeke Emanuel at the table with a small circle of trusted insiders crafting health care policy.

As the top physician in the group, he gets to explain how policy proposals can affect providers working at the front lines of medicine — a perspective that was lacking during the debate over health reform in the Clinton presidency. Publicly, his role is to make the case for reform while reassuring medical professionals that it won't constitute an unwelcome upheaval. [...]

Although well-known in medical and academic circles, Zeke Emanuel was unfamiliar to many health reform advocates when he joined the White House team late last year.

Some were put off by proposals in his book, including a plan to scrap Medicare, Medicaid and employer-based health insurance in favor of vouchers that people could use to purchase coverage.

"It's very unrealistic," said Diane Archer, who co-directs the health care project at the Institute for America's Future, a liberal Washington think tank.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 5, 2009 9:25 PM
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