Category Archives: Public Affairs

Americans’ Views on Healthcare

At the root, healthcare is a pocketbook issue. An increasing share of insured Americans report difficulty affording healthcare. Deductibles are rising – growing more than four times faster than wages – and causing worry, especially over unexpected medical bills that ripple families and their budgets.

Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, provides an analysis of the public’s priorities and opinions in healthcare as the new congress takes shape and the 2020 presidential campaign begins.

Using polling data, he shows that in the midterms, healthcare was a top issue for Democrats and Independents but not for Republicans. The Democrats perceived that the ACA was under threat and rallied behind that issue. That helped propel them to large gains in the House.

Altman predicts that with that new Democratic-majority some of the big moves proposed in the last two years will not happen. These include repeal and replace of the ACA, changing Medicaid to include caps or block grants, and changing Medicare to a voucher system. He further predicts that no major health legislation will be passed at all except perhaps some bipartisan legislation on drugs.

With the huge partisan divide on the ACA – 81% of Democrats approve versus only 17% of Republicans – there are obvious limits to passing any national health care reform, even though generally the public highly values many of the key benefits of the ACA. Simultaneously, public knowledge about what the ACA does is actually spotty. For example, Altman cites polls that show that 41% wrongly believe that the ACA established “death panels.”

As the 2020 presidential election heats up, Altman shows that healthcare will continue to be a big issue with Medicare-for-all perhaps out in front of the others. There are many misconceptions about this kind of plan including the costs and benefits of a single-payer system.

When it comes to Medicaid, sweeping change proposed by the Republicans is unlikely. Polls show that it is generally more well-liked than some people acknowledge, almost as popular as other big programs like Medicare and Social Security, in part because it covers almost 75 million people. There are lurking issues such as work requirements but most Americas want to keep it as it is, affordable insurance for low income people.

Watch The Pulse of the Public on Health Policy and Politics – The Chancellor’s Health Policy Lecture Series

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Combating Climate Change in California

California has made huge strides in combating climate change, but there is still a long way to go. Back in 2006, state lawmakers passed AB 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. It set a goal of getting greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels or lower by 2020. The state managed to reach that goal four years early. Robert Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, discussed the success of AB 32, and what needs to happen next, during a lecture at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Epstein begins with a look at what worked. Some solutions you might expect, like renewable energy, increased efficiency and long-lasting political support. Other factors may come as a surprise. The economic downturn helped, because people use fewer resources when they have less money. We also got some assistance from mother nature, with heavy rains in 2016 that boosted hydroelectric power generation. But, even though California has made great achievements in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the state must make even deeper cuts to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A new version of AB 32 aims to get emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Epstein says California has much of the technology and policy in place to reach that 40% goal, but some aspects of the plan are unclear. He says we’re on pace to meet 50% renewable energy 10 years early, and have a solid track record when it comes to appliance and building standards. He thinks it’s likely we’ll figure out how to manage methane and increase energy storage. But, he sees big hurdles when it comes to reducing transportation emissions, cap and trade reductions, and management of both forests and land used for agriculture.

Despite those challenges, Epstein is optimistic California can rise to the occasion and be an example to the world of how to combat climate change. He even has some ideas on how to overcome each major obstacle, and how the oil industry might be able to help.

Watch California Accomplishments in Addressing Climate Change featuring Robert Epstein

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

When 911 Calls are Motivated by Race

You’ve probably seen the videos online recently – someone calls the police on a person of color for seemingly no reason. Maybe it’s a group of families having a barbecue, teens at a public pool, or a college student who fell asleep on campus. Incidents like these are getting more attention thanks in part to social media and the nicknames given to callers like BBQ Becky or Cornerstore Caroline. Andrea Headley studies these situations and other aspects of police accountability in her work at UC Berkeley.

It’s called profiling by proxy. It happens when someone calls police based on their own biases or prejudice. While many make light of these situations online, they can potentially have serious consequences. Headley notes, you never know how someone will react when confronted by officers. That person might have inherent fear of law enforcement due to previous encounters, or the officers might hold some of the same biases as the caller. A situation that starts out as a minor call has the potential to escalate quickly.

So, what’s the solution? Some might suggest the easy fix is for police to assess the situation, realize the call is unfounded, admonish the caller and move on. But, Headley says that response ignores the complicated and often tense relationship between communities of color and police. It also takes responsibility away from the caller. Headley says the best way to stop these calls is for people to ask themselves tough questions about their own biases, and have conversations with family and friends to get the root of why this is happening. She says there is a role for policy when it comes to how 911 dispatchers interpret calls and relay information to officers, but that’s not the first line of defense.

Watch Police Accountability and Profiling by Proxy with Andrea Headley — In the Arena with Jonathan Stein — UC Public Policy Channel

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Does Trump Have a Middle East Policy?

The Trump administration has clear objectives in the Middle East, but there is a wide gap between those objectives and the methods employed to achieve them. That’s according to Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Obama and current fellow at the Washington Institute. Ross spoke recently at UC Santa Barbara, breaking down President Trump’s Middle East policy into three key elements: counter-ISIS, counter-Iran, and achieving the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

When it comes to ISIS, Ross says the president’s strategy is working in part, but is incomplete. The military effort to defeat the terror group has been largely successful, but ISIS will leave behind a power vacuum. Ross says without a comprehensive plan for reconstruction, security, governance and the inclusion of Sunnis in place, we risk another, similar terror group filling the vacuum.

In Iran, Ross says the Trump administration is pursuing a maximum pressure strategy, hoping to squeeze the regime with sanctions until it is forced to give up its nuclear program. Ross says a similar plan has made some headway with North Korea, but there is a major difference: the Iran nuclear deal. Ross says it will be difficult to put the necessary pressure on Iran when the US is the only country that has pulled out of the deal. Additionally, Ross says the administration has been largely absent from a growing conflict in the region concerning Iranian surface-to-surface missiles being sent to Syria, threatening Israel.

Finally, when it comes to Israel itself, Ross says the Trump administration is pursuing a deal with the Palestinians, but has made some missteps. Ross argues the approach of getting Arab leaders involved with negotiations was a step in the right direction, but the execution of the plan pushed Palestinians away from the table, and has ignored the recent actions of Mohammed Bin Salman in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

While Ross argues the Trump administration lacks sufficient strategy in three key areas of Middle East policy, he believes there are relatively simple changes the president could make. In the fight against ISIS, Ross lays out a plan to ensure the terror group is not replaced by something worse. In Iran, he predicts an opportunity to negotiate with Russia on both sanctions and a deal to keep Iranian weapons out of Syria. And, he even has some suggestions for how to achieve the ultimate deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Watch Does Trump Have a Middle East Policy?

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Is the Possibility of a Unified Korea Lost?

Two decades ago, Harold Koh thought he would soon see North and South Korea reunited. Today, the Yale professor who served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations says he no longer expects it will happen in his lifetime, if ever. Koh explained why he believes a series of missteps by Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump have stopped progress toward a unified peninsula during a recent talk at UC Santa Barbara.

Koh has dealt with the challenges of North and South Korea since before he was born. His mother was trapped in North Korea when the country was divided after WWII. She and her family hiked for days to the border, and were able to make it back to Seoul. His father worked in politics, but was forced to seek asylum in the United States after the South Korean government was overthrown in 1961. Koh eventually followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a legal scholar and diplomat.

Koh was optimistic about a peaceful resolution between North and South Korea back in 2000. He had just left Pyongyang after what was the highest-level diplomatic visit up to that point. He says there were plans in motion to move the 2002 World Cup to North Korea with a unified Korean team. But, when George W. Bush took office and named North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” Koh says those plans, and any hope of uniting the countries, died.

As much as Koh disagrees with the Bush administration’s approach to North Korea, he is even more critical of how President Trump has handled the situation. Koh says the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un was a mistake, because the administration should have demanded concessions from the North Korean regime before agreeing to such a high-level meeting. He also says Trump should have made clear demands from Kim, and certainly should not have publicly said he, “fell in love” with the dictator. But, Koh does believe we’re approaching a “moment of change.”

Watch The Trump Administration and North Korea

facebooktwittergoogle_plus