The WonkLine: March 12, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below.

National Security

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced yesterday that France will return as a full-fledged member of NATO, forty-three years after Charles De Gaulle withdrew from the alliance.

The Pakistani government has banned a national protest march and arrested hundreds of political workers, evoking for many Pakistanis the sweeping security restrictions of the former military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.


The United States is seeking new supply routes for the war in Afghanistan that would bypass Russia, and has even had logistics experts review overland roads through Iran that might be used by NATO allies, according to military planners and Pentagon officials.

Health Care

Three House Democratic committee chairmen — Henry Waxman (D- CA) of Energy & Commerce, Charles Rangel (D-NY) or Ways & Means, and George Miller (D-CA) of Education & Labor — have just sent a letter to President Obama vowing to work together on health care reform legislation and bring legislation to the floor before the August recess.

In a survey of 66 health plans, including Aetna, WellPoint, and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the U.S., 56 percent of the insurers said that clinical quality improved in 2008 among physicians participating in pay for performance (P4P) programs.

Health Populi asks: Can Wal Mart mass merchandise electronic health records?


New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo “claimed on Wednesday that Merrill Lynch misled Congress over the timing of its plans to award billions of dollars in bonuses last December,” and that Bank of America “which was then in the midst of buying the brokerage firm, did little to prevent the payouts.”


The nation’s 100 largest corporate pension plans “were underfunded by $217 billion at the end of 2008, holding only 79% of the assets needed to cover estimated long-term liabilities.”

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) “is circulating a draft bill to crack down on offshore tax dodgers by doubling fines and penalties for underpayments and providing a paper trail of funds being transferred to overseas accounts so the IRS can spot potential red flags.”


“Bicycling is going to be available everywhere,” House Transportation Committee chair James Oberstar (D-MN) told the National Bike Summit on Tuesday, explaining he “will make sure the next transportation bill explicitly designates bikes as a mode of transportation.”

Despite excluding a “worst-case” scenario of polar ice sheet loss, researchers report that “nearly 500,000 people and $100 billion worth of property in coastal California are at risk of severe flooding from rising sea levels this century.”

In a Senate hearing Wednesday, limits on carbon pollution were called a “national sales tax on every electric bill and every gasoline purchase” by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and “a tax” by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) — “and that tax will be passed on to the consumer.”