The health wonks behind the candidates

Leading up to the November election, the health reform proposals of presumptive presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama will be analyzed, compared and critiqued until absolutely nothing original is left to say about them.

The team of strategists corralled to draft the proposals are now defending and promoting them. Both sides have put Harvard professors and U.S. Representatives to work, but the similarities end there.

Here’s a brief look each candidates’ health wonk roster:

Team McCain:


Douglas Holtz-Eakin
is McCain’s policy director. The economist is the former director of the
Congressional Budget Office and economic advisor to both Presidents
Bush. "The key to real reform is to restore control over our
health-care system to the patients themselves," he has said. While not on McCain’s Straight Talk Express campaign bus , Holtz-Eakin is Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and President of DHE Consulting, LLC. Holtz-Eakin staunchly supports limiting national spending to clearly defined priorities and reforming entitlement programs to keep taxes low.

TommillerThomas P. Miller is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. He is a former senior health economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and former Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Miller believes that health care is over-regulated, over-subsidized, and over-politicized.


Stephen T. Parente is a finance professor at the University of Minnesota and former director of the HIT Institute there. Here’s his resume. Parente earned his PhD in health care finance from Johns Hopkins. He has published frequently on health care consumerism and value-based purchasing.



Regina Regina E. Herzlinger is a professor at Harvard Business School who has been dubbed the "grandmother of consumer-driven health care." Her books include Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Payers, and Policymakers and Who Killed Health Care? Herzlinger has a long history of mentions on THCB here, here and here.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess  is a doctor who represents the 26th district in Texas. He sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for health care, the safety of food and drugs, energy and power legislation. Burgess blogged recently for  Health Affairs on doctor-owned specialty hospitals.

Jay Khosla worked as Health Policy Counsel for the former U.S. Senate
Majority Leader, Bill Frist, before joining McCain’s health policy
advising team. Khosla has also worked as the health counsel for the
U.S. Senate Budget Committee, focusing on Medicare, the uninsured and
insurance market reforms.

Team Obama




David Blumenthal
is a physician and professor of
medicine and professor of health policy at Harvard
Medical School. His work has focused on the costs of health information
technology and different strategies for health reform. This is his fourth time advising a presidential candidate on health care.



Cutler David Cutler is a professor of economics at Harvard University. He is the author of Your Money Or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America’s Health Care System. Cutler helped develop the Clintons’ failed universal health care proposal in
the early 1990s and worked on health care blueprints for
Democratic presidential candidates Bill Bradley in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. He has worked with the National Institutes of Health and the
National Academy of Sciences. Currently, he is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a member of
the Institute of Medicine.


U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper from Tennessee has been working on health reform in the House since 1992. He played an antagonistic role during the Clintons’ attempt at reform in the 1990s. Cooper blogged recently at Health Affairs on health spending.





Jeffrey Liebman is a professor of public policy at Harvard University and an expert on federal budgeting and program costs. Along with Cutler and Blumenthal, Liebman authored an economic review of Obama’s health plan, finding that it could be implemented without raising taxes.

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charlotteChrisBill SpringerKimberly TracyKaren Olson,CLU Recent comment authors
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For long term care


Dear Annie, As a non-nurse provider, I’m still waiting for the nurses to come up with a differnt mantra other than “there are 3 million nurses” and we have all the answers but no one is listening because we’re nurses. As if to say “stop listening to the doctors and listen to use because we’re delivering all the care”… This “moantra” sounds like the cry of the abused spouse! Well…it comes down to this. Nurses aren’t providing care unless a physician orders it. Care doesn’t get paid for unless a physician orders it. If you wanted to be a physician,… Read more »

Bill Springer
Bill Springer

In assessing Obama’s health care strataegies, it’s important to also understand his more fundamental views on the US economy. Dave Leonhardt wrote a nice piece which appeared in The New York Times on August 24th on this topic. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/magazine/24Obamanomics-t.html?ref=business My sense of where Obama is coming from is that he tries to balance a conservative economist’s view of the value of well functioning markets with an understanding of the need for appropriate government guidance and regulation to help markets work. Health care is sorely in need of well functioning markets. Obama and McCain will both be challenged to try to… Read more »

Kimberly Tracy
Kimberly Tracy

As everyone knows, Health Care Reform is a major issue during this Presidential Election. The Health Care Reform Proposals from each Presidential Candidate have been analyzed by the experts in which the pros and cons have been exposed. While Americans will review the proposals and the analytical reports, there is one unresolved issue which proves Health Care Reform will not be enacted by Congress. Until this issue is resolved, Health Care Reform is nothing more than an attention getter for the candidates, not a reality for Americans. The issue I speak of regards a law enacted by Congress in 1972… Read more »

Karen Olson,CLU

#1.-Universal Healthcare & that means everybody covered is an absolute necessity to protect us all. With the cost of family coverage exceeding $12,000/year in many jurisdictions, it is entirely unreasonable to think that “making it more affordable” & reducing the average family’s cost by $2500 within 4 years will solve our national common problem. We must devise a method that will almost automatically cover every man, woman & child in USA for reasonable medical treatment. #2.-As we have a very well-developed system of employer -based coverage, It is least disruptive to retain it, requiring ALL employers of any size to… Read more »


This is arguably the most important health policy post. The paucity of professionals who provide care in the stables of advisors is disturbing, as is the absolute absence of a registered nurse anywhere. It’s the almost three million nurses in the US providing about 95% of all reimbursed health services, that earn, control or manage a large percentage of healthcare dollars and resources. Surely, these professionals, charged via statute and ethics to safeguard patients across all treatment settings, should be at the health policy and agenda tables of the presidential candidates. As Hillary supporters would say, it’s time to put… Read more »

sacramento chiropractor

Great info, thanks.


Healthcare is a very expensive issue- both in dollars and political capital- if you actually want to change anything. Tracking polls show it plummeting in political saliency as the economy has weakened. KFF’s data shows it has been eclipsed by the economy (jobs, gas and food prices, etc.) and you see candidates scrambling to be relevant here. With the prospect of a $500 billion FY08 federal deficit looming, expect a lot of mumbling about the uninsured, and a lot more non-specific talk about costs (you don’t want to blame anyone and wake the dragon). Sad to say, given all the… Read more »