Talking Health: Political Promises

Obama presidency: Does his health plan stand a chance?

Talking Health

Take part!

The speakers will answer questions submitted before and during the webcast. Send your questions to

At noon Eastern on Nov. 21, visit to watch the live webcast and submit questions.

Health care plan highlights

Barack Obama (D)

Tip sheet: Resources for covering the candidates' health care plans

Press release: New webcast series for health journalists debuts July 9

Past episode of Talking Health
Covering the Underinsured (July 2008)

What lies ahead for health reform? The candidates made lots of promises during the campaign and now the time has come to deliver on them. Will the new president really be able to bring insurance coverage to more Americans given the country's other financial problems and the growing deficit? Will we again fall back on an incremental approach?

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Our next Talking Health program – on Nov. 21 at noon Eastern – will feature two experts who have been following the politics of health reform for a long time: Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund, and Sheila P. Burke, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University. They will be on hand to offer their judgments on what we can expect. Our two journalist panelists Julie Rovner, health policy correspondent for NPR, and Marilyn Werber Serafini, health care and welfare reporter for National Journal, will give suggestions for covering the story for the next year both nationally and locally.

The speakers will answer questions submitted before and during the webcast. Send your questions to


Sheila P. Burke is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard University. Having received her master's degree in public administration from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1982, she returned in 1996 to serve as executive dean through June 2000. In between she was chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (1985 to 1996). She was deputy staff director of the Senate Committee on Finance (1982 to 1985), having been a professional staff member of the committee from 1979 to 1982. Burke holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of San Francisco and worked as a staff nurse in Berkeley, Calif. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. She serves on the adjunct faculty at Georgetown University, on the boards of trustees of the Kaiser Commission on the Future of Medicaid and the Uninsured, and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, as chair of the Kaiser Family Foundation, and on a number of corporate boards.

Karen Davis is president of The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that aims to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults. Davis is a nationally recognized economist, with a distinguished career in public policy and research. Before joining the Fund, she served as chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where she also held an appointment as professor of economics. She served as deputy assistant secretary for health policy in the Department of Health and Human Services from 1977-1980, and was the first woman to head a U.S. Public Health Service agency. Prior to her government career, Davis was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, and an assistant professor of economics at Rice University. A native of Oklahoma, she received her Ph.D. in economics from Rice University, which recognized her achievements with a Distinguished Alumna Award in 1991.

Trudy Lieberman is the director of the health and medicine reporting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She is a contributing editor for Columbia Journalism Review, a contributor to The Nation and the author of several books. She has won numerous awards for her reporting including two National Magazine Awards. She also was a Fulbright Scholar to Japan and a John J. McCloy fellow to Germany to study health care in those countries. She is president of the AHCJ board of directors.

Julie Rovner is a health policy correspondent for NPR, specializing in the politics of health care. She is also a contributing editor for National Journal's CongressDaily. In 2005, she was awarded the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress for her coverage of the passage of the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill and its aftermath. Rovner has appeared on The NewsHour, CNN, C-Span, MSNBC, and NOW with Bill Moyers. Her articles have appeared in dozens of national newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post, USA Today, Modern Maturity and The Saturday Evening Post. A noted expert on health policy issues, Rovner is the author of a critically-praised reference book, "Health Care Politics and Policy A-Z." Its third edition was published by CQ Press in September 2008. Rovner is co-author of the book Managed Care Strategies 1997, and has contributed to several other books, including two chapters in 1995's "Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy," edited by political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann. Previously, Rovner covered health and human services for the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, specializing in health care financing, abortion, welfare and disability issues. Later, she covered health reform for the Medical News Network, an interactive daily television news service for physicians, and provided analysis and commentary on the health reform debates in Congress for NPR. She has been a regular contributor to the British medical journal The Lancet, and her columns on patients' rights for Business and Health won her a share of the 1999 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award.

Marilyn Werber Serafini has been the health care and welfare reporter for National Journal since 1995, and has won awards for articles on these subjects. The most recent was an award from the Association of Health Care Journalists for an article comparing and analyzing the 2008 presidential candidates' health care proposals. She also won an  award from the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families for an article that scrutinized President Bush's controversial proposal to give states money to encourage marriage and discourage divorce. She has written extensively about Medicare policy, the uninsured and bioterrorism. Serafini has covered Congress since 1985, writing about health care, welfare, trade, tax and budget policy. She served two terms as a member of the executive committee of the congressional periodical galleries. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland and of American University, where she received an M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs.