Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration and Public Health Sciences at the University of Chicago and a nonresident Fellow of the Century Foundation.

Recent Articles

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...

FAMILY PLANNING SERVICES IN THE STIMULUS PACKAGE

by Harold Pollack The current stimulus package includes some funds for family planning services provided to Medicaid recipients. Republicans are predictably upset, and the Obama administration may decide to pull this provision. Lindsey Beyerstein has a nice little article over at the Washington Independent recounting the dispute. Family planning is no pork barrel item. By any reasonable public health measure, these services are more important and cost-effective than many other health expenditures nobody is fighting about. Contraception is central to maternal and child health. Proper birth spacing and preconceptional planning are especially key for low-income Medicaid recipients. Preventing unintended pregnancies seems like a pretty good thing, too. One more thing: Contraception is a nontrivial expense for many women. Better Medicaid coverage for these services provides a timely implicit tax cut for needy women. I appreciate the delicacy of the Administration's political calculations...

ATTACKING OUR WORST DRUG PROBLEM

by Harold Pollack And he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent. Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren who were without. And Shem and Japeth took a garment, and laid it out upon both their shoulders, and went backward, covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. Noah was not the first person to go astray due to his alcohol use. He certainly wasn't the last. For millennia, problem drinking had harmed many drinkers, their families, and the wider community. For sure, tobacco kills more people, but by any other measure, alcohol poses far-and-away America’s most serious drug problem. A University of Washington team estimated that harmful drinking caused almost 64,000 deaths in the year 2000......

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