In an unusual move for a sitting president, Barack Obama has published a scholarly paper in a scientific journal.
The paper, which discusses the success and future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was published Monday (July 11)in the prestigious medical journal JAMA.
It may be the first time a sitting president has authored a complete academic article — with an abstract, findings and conclusions — that's been published in a scientific journal, at least in recent history. However, several other presidents have written commentaries or opinion pieces that have been published in scientific journals during their presidency, including George W. Bush, who wrote about access to health care in a paper published in JAMA in 2004, and Bill Clinton, who wrote a commentary published in the journal Science in 1997.
Obama's journal article analyzes data gathered from other reports and studies, and highlights some of the successes of the ACA, including a drop in the percentage of Americans who do not have health insurance . After the act became law, the uninsured rate dropped by 43 percent, from 16 percent of Americans in 2010 to 9.1 percent in 2015, the paper says. [The 5 Strangest Presidential Elections in US History]
Still, Obama said, the country continues to face challenges on the way to improving its health care system. "Despite this progress, too many Americans still strain to pay for their physician visits and prescriptions, cover their deductibles, or pay their monthly insurance bills; struggle to navigate a complex, sometimes bewildering system; and remain uninsured ," Obama wrote.
To make sure Americans have enough insurance options and to keep insurance costs low, Obama encouraged Congress to revisit the "public option" plan, meaning a government-run insurance plan that would compete in the insurance marketplace alongside private plans. This public option could be available in parts of the country where insurance options are limited, he said.
Obama also recommended policies that could help reduce the cost of prescription drugs, including those that "give the federal government the authority to negotiate prices for certain high-priced drugs."
Obama's article was not peer-reviewed, but it went through several rounds of editing and fact-checking, according to Bloomberg.
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In the closing days of his White House term, President Barack Obama argues that the push toward renewable energy is unstoppable, and that it’s a valid strategy for economic growth.
The substance of Obama’s argument isn’t as surprising as where it was made: in a commentary for Science, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals.
“The mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue,” Obama writes, “and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow.”
Obama notes that carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. energy sector have fallen by 9.5 percent since 2008, while the economy has grown by 10 percent. That points to a “decoupling” of growth from greenhouse-gas emissions, and gives the lie to arguments that clean energy requires accepting lower growth rates, he said.
The president also pointed to increasing private-sector investments in clean energy, and reductions in the per-kilowatt cost of solar and wind power. And he pointed out that the trend isn’t limited to the U.S.: Other countries are “seeking to reap benefits … by being at the front of the clean-energy race,” Obama said.
President-elect Donald Trump has called concerns over climate change a “hoax” and has threatened to drop out of the Paris climate accord that took effect last year. Obama argues that stepping away from the Paris agreement would “undermine our economic interests,” but he says Trump could take alternative paths to reach global targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Over the next several decades, it would be “prudent” to decarbonize the U.S. energy system, take advantage of carbon sequestration technologies and reduce all industrial emissions, Obama says.
“Of course, one of the great advantages of our system of government is that each president is able to chart his or her own policy course,” Obama writes. “And President-elect Donald Trump will have the ability to do so.”
Obama’s commentary doesn’t draw upon original research, but it’s peppered with 23 footnotes that cite research papers as well as reports and policy statements. The article parallels Obama’s commentary on health-care policy, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August.
It’s not clear how much credence Trump will give to Obama’s clean-energy views. Many of the people he plans to put in charge of his energy policy strongly favor burning fossil fuels, despite their impact on the environment. But there are some signals that the president-elect may be more open to clean-energy initiatives than his critics expect.
Last week, Electrek reported that Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is on a Trump advisory board, gave such signals during an event at Tesla’s battery-producing Gigafactory in Nevada.
“I think we may see some surprising things from the next administration,” Electrek quoted Musk as saying, based on reports from investors attending the event. “We don’t think they will be negative on fossil fuels … but they may also be positive on renewables.”
Musk and other tech industry leaders met with Trump last month, and Musk had a follow-up meeting with some of Trump’s aides in New York last week.
Obama’s commentary, “The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy,” is freely available on the Web. (A previous version of this report pointed to a password-protected version.)
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