Transparency and Health Care Reform

Stethoscope on the X-Ray
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President Obama faces major tradeoff in achieving promised health reform.

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Tort Reform. Death Panels. Abortion. The Public Option. Add to the list of obstacles along the path toward health care reform a new issue: Open Government.

Two of Obama’s signature domestic policy initiatives — health reform and transparency — now appear on a collision course with each other.

Political commentators, editorial writers, bloggers, and politicians (even Democratic ones) are raising concern over the secrecy surrounding Democrats’ final push to hammer out health care reform legislation.

In response to a reporter’s question about the contrast between a secret reconciliation process and Obama’s transparency pledges as a candidate, Nancy Pelosi lightheartedly quipped, “There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.”

Transparency is a double-edged sword as a political strategy. Trumpeting transparency helped distinguish Obama from Bush and his reputation for secrecy. But it also has raised expectations that the Administration cannot — and should not — always meet.

As I note in a recent paper,  “it remains unclear whether Barack Obama will ultimately earn the mantle of the ‘transparency president’ – or whether the unrealistic hopes for openness in government he has raised will, when unfulfilled, only serve to reinforce public cynicism about government.”

Cary Coglianese

Cary Coglianese is the Edward B. Shils Professor of Law, Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Penn Program on Regulation at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is the founder of and faculty advisor to RegBlog.