Wonkbook: 10 things I learned reporting on Obamacare

July 18, 2013

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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Sarah Kliff and I have spent the last three months interviewing dozens of Obama administration officials, state-level implementers, outside experts, steadfast critics and pretty much anyone else we could think of who's involved in setting up Obamacare. The full article going deep inside the effort to implement Obamacare is here, but as a bit of a teaser, here are 10 of my takeaways from the reporting:

1) For the White House, it's all about the marketplaces. The White House believes the line between success and failure is perfectly clear: It's getting enough young and healthy people to sign up for the insurance marketplaces (or "exchanges") so premiums remain low. If seven million people sign up for the marketplaces in 2014, as CBO expects, then they need 2.7 million younger, healthier folks. Getting those folks is the administration's top priority. If they get that right, the rest of the law -- including the Medicaid expansion -- will more or less fall into place.

Anything required to meet that goal -- like making the data architecture work -- is a priority. Anything that distracts from it, or is unrelated to it -- like the employer mandate -- is expendable.

2) It's a lot like the campaign. If you listen to the White House describe the task, it sounds just like the campaign. A majority of these younger, healthier adults are non-white. They skew male. One-of-three lives in Texas, California, or New York. They're getting microtargeted and heat-mapped and modeled. The guy running this part of the effort is David Simas, the guy who ran polling and focus groups for the re-election campaign.

This gives Team Obama a lot of confidence that they've got this one. Key quote: “When I hear the conventional wisdom about Obamacare,” said Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, “this is the difference between the Karl Roves who put their fingers to the wind and the Nate Silvers of the world who looked at the numbers.”

But there's one big way in which it's not like the campaign: Voting is free. Buying health insurance isn't.

3) Don't forget IT. The biggest difference between the national conversation over Obamacare and the ground-level conversation over Obamacare is the degree to which the second focuses on the IT challenge.

Making the IT work is very, very hard. It means building a data hub that lets federal-government systems from different departments and agencies talk to archaic state Medicaid systems and new state exchange systems and so on. If that data hub doesn't work then someone trying to sign up for Obamacare will be stopped by an error message. And if Obamacare loses too many of those people on their first try, it may not be able to get them back for a second.

4) No one knows how to model politics. If you look at the experience of Massachusetts, or you talk to the people who model the way people act when buying insurance, the Affordable Care Act should be fine. The numbers work out. But no one knows the degree to which the politics around the law will change the way consumers react to it.

5) But maybe the politics won't really matter. It's always worth remembering that everyone in Washington is really weird. Most of the country doesn't care much about Obamacare. They don't have particularly strong feelings about it. And they're never going to come into contact with something called "Obamacare,' anyway.

In California, it's called "Covered California." In Connecticut, it's "Health Access CT." In Washington, it's "WA State HealthPlanFinder." People signing up for Medicaid will be signing up for the program called Medicaid. People in Washington experience Obamacare as a political abstraction and project that onto the country. That act of projection might be a huge mistake.

6) There will be glitches. It doesn't matter how good a job the administration or the states do. Things will go wrong. When they go wrong, the media will cover them. No major program has ever rolled out without glitches. Even if 2014 goes well for Obamacare, it's not likely to go easily.

7) Glitches may not really matter. Take it from Mark McClellan, who led Medicare and Medicaid during the troubled implementation of Medicare Part D. “The memories didn’t last that long. In the end, it comes down to how good the insurance coverage is.”

Fun Medicare Part D fact: Months before it launched in 2006, Medicare Part D was less popular than today’s Affordable Care Act: Only 21 percent of the public viewed it favorably.

8) Different states will have wildly different experiences. California accepted the Medicaid expansion, chose to build its own exchange, is spending state money to promote the law, and is generally doing everything in its power to make Obamacare work. Texas rejected the Medicaid expansion, left the exchange to the feds, and the state's key politicians are out there talking down the law. It's very possible Obamacare will be a success in states like California and a failure in states like Texas. How the politics of that shake out is anyone's guess.

9) No one knows quite what to do in states that aren't expanding Medicaid. In those states, the poorest residents will get no help but slightly less-poor residents will get lots of help. That's confusing for everyone involved -- and a real challenge to the people trying to sign folks up for the law. How do you tell someone they're too poor to be eligible for subsidies?

Nor is anyone really certain what will happen to the hospital systems in those states, as they're losing out on a lot of money they were counting on. The administration's theory is that if the law is seen as relatively successful, the economics of participating in the Medicaid expansion are so overwhelmingly favorable to the states that they'll fall in line. But no one really knows what'll happen in that first year or two, nor who will be blamed for the resulting mess.

10) State regulators are exhausted. When you talk to the Obama administration, you get a serene confidence that Obamacare is going great. When you talk to the Obama administration's critics, you get a serene confidence that the law is collapsing under its own weight. When you talk to the state bureaucrats, technical specialists, and assorted other implementers, you get a harried download on just how much there is to do.

“In 2011, there was this ‘we’re going to save the world’ mentality,” said Rebecca Pearce, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. “In 2013, it focuses more on how do we deliver on the requirements of the law.”

To wrap up: Read the whole story. Really. There's much more there, including an update of Max Baucus's famous "train wreck" quote...

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 50 percent. That's how much lower health insurance rates will be in New York in 2014, according to new approvals from state regulators.

Wonkbook's Quotation of the Day: “This is about basic fairness,” said Rep. John Boehner of an immigration policy proposal for children brought into the US illegally.

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: Year-over-year inflation in health-care costs has slowed dramatically.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) Obamacare enrollment; 2) what the Fed said; 3) nominees and the filibuster; 4) education policy coming; and 5) immigration reform's direction.

1) Top story: How to sell Obamacare

Longread -- Obama’s last campaign: Inside the White House plan to sell Obamacare. "Deep inside the White House, in a bare room that the chief of staff uses for meetings, David Simas is still thinking about turnout. Turnout has been Simas’s job for years now. As director of public-opinion research and polling for President Obama’s reelection campaign, Simas was at the center of the effort to find and persuade young and minority voters to go to the polls like they did in 2008. Many doubted the Obama campaign’s contention that it could recapture the 2008 electorate. Simas’s data, however, convinced the campaign that was possible. And when the smoke cleared, young voters and minorities did show up to the polls, and Obama won. Now Simas, a sad-eyed Massachusetts native with a facility for PowerPoints, needs to reach those same groups again — with a much harder ask. This time, he doesn’t just need them to vote. He needs them to buy health insurance." Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

@CitizenCohn: Best thing about that Obamacare story I just tweeted -- it captures complexity and uncertainty of the situation.

Despite temporary reprieve, business owners increasingly anxious as health-care law looms. "Despite a temporary reprieve from some of the new rules under the health care law, business owners are growing increasing anxious about its looming implementation at the end of the year, according to a pair of recent surveys. Only three out of every 10 small employers say they are prepared to comply with new regulations under the law, while seven in 10 say those regulations have made it more difficult to grow, according to a new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, the percentage of firms expressing concerns over Obamacare have jumped by a double-digit margin since this time last year." J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

Explainer: New brief on delay of employer mandateCongressional Research Service.

Health plan cost set to fall 50 percent in New York. "State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower." Roni Caryn Robin and Reed Abelson in The New York Times.

@MikeGrunwald: Obamacare cutting NY premiums in half will be good test of post-truth politics. Does it change the debate at all?

...And here’s why health insurance premiums are tumbling in New York. " New York has, for two decades now, had the highest individual market premiums in the country. A lot of it seems to trace back to a law passed in 1993, which required insurance plans to accept all applicants, regardless of how sick or healthy they were. That law did not, however, require everyone to sign up, as the Affordable Care Act does. New York has, for 20 years now, been a long-running experiment in what happens to universal coverage without an individual mandate... The result: a small insurance market with very high insurance premiums." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Obama to tout Affordable Care Act on Thursday. "With concerns mounting about the viability of his signature health-care law, President Obama on Thursday is planning to highlight some of the more popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act with remarks at the White House. Obama is expected to focus on insurance company rebates that will be mailed to 8.5 million U.S. households this summer. The rebates, which average about $100 per family, are a result of a provision of the law that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect on medical care, rather than executive salaries or marketing. " Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

@markknoller: Tomorrow's Obama speech on ObamaCare also meant as response to latest vote by House to delay implementation of ObamaCare.

HHS adds $33 million to Obamacare PR contract. "The Obama administration has added roughly $33 million to a contract with a public relations firm to help promote President Obama's signature healthcare law. A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said the extra money was added to a contract with the PR firm Weber Shandwick." Sam Baker in The Hill.

@mattyglesias: “Gee, John, what do you want to do today?” / “The same thing we do every day — try to repeal ObamaCare!”

House votes on two bills to delay parts of Obamacare. "The Republican-controlled House yet again passed legislation Wednesday that aims to change the Affordable Care Act. This time Republicans called for one-year delays on two key provisions, one requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance and the other requiring businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide coverage. The Obama administration has already delayed the requirement for businesses. President Obama plans to veto the House’s legislation, and Senate leaders have no plans to take similar action. This marked the 38th and 39th times that the House has voted to repeal or change all or part of the landmark Affordable Care Act." Jenna Johnson in The Washington Post.

@daveweigel: If the House holds an Obamacare repeal vote and the press doesn't take it seriously, does it make a sound?

Obamacare privacy fears loom. "The biggest overhaul of the U.S. health-care system in 50 years has spawned one of the most complex computer projects in the government’s history. Dubbed the Hub, the $267 million computer system built by a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. is one of the most important determiners of whether the Affordable Care Act succeeds. The hub ties together the databases of seven U.S. agencies, ranging from the Internal Revenue Service to the Peace Corps, to determine which Americans can buy medical coverage and get U.S. subsidies through the new government-run insurance exchanges." Alex Wayne in Bloomberg.

COHN: This Obamacare rate shock is good for you. "hat does this tell us about Obamacare in the rest of the country? On the one hand, we should expect premiums in New York to decline by more than they will in most states. That’s because New York already has some of the Obamacare regulations that tend to make insurance more expensive...On the other hand, New York also seems to be reaping the benefits of a more competitive market. Based on the filings, it appears that some insurers are pricing very aggressively, trying to underbid competitors." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

MILBANK: On Obamacare, Republicans test the definition of insanity. "Well, this is embarrassing. Republicans have made so many attempts to repeal “Obamacare” that the scorekeepers have lost count...All the tallies fall well short of the actual number of times Congress has voted to repeal all or part of Obamacare. It has done that — are you sitting down? — 67 times." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: The White Stripes, "Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine."

Top opinion

ORNSTEIN: A new Voting Rights Act. "Imagine an intersection with a long history of high-speed car crashes, injuries and fatalities. Authorities put up a traffic light and a speed camera — and the accidents and injuries plummet. A few years later, authorities declare “mission accomplished” and remove the light and speed camera. No surprise, the high-speed crashes and fatalities resume almost immediately. This is the logic that animated Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to fillet the Voting Rights Act." Norman Ornstein in The Washington Post.

KLEIN: The sexist whispering campaign against Janet Yellen. "The favored parlor game of the political-economic complex right now is guessing who will replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The clear front-runner is Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen. But she’s by no means a sure thing. One important reason she’s not -- and I don’t know another way to say this -- is sexism, as evidenced by the seemingly uncoordinated yet disturbingly consistent whispering campaign against her." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View.

SWAGEL: Further progress on housing finance. "Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, that would end the taxpayer backstop on mortgages now provided through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and wind down the two companies over five years. Under the proposal, private investors rather than taxpayers would fund mortgages and take on the risks and rewards of housing investments...The government role in the new system would be sharply defined, with regulators focused on oversight and setting standards rather than providing insurance. The Federal Housing Administration would continue to guarantee mortgages under the Hensarling proposal but would focus on first-time home buyers with moderate incomes. " Phillip Swagel in The New York Times.

HENNINGER: Immigrants won't displace natives. "Anyone connected with these industries knows that the notion of Latin immigrants displacing Americans is largely false. The businesses are American-owned, but few Americans will work in them. The California agriculture sector has become a grim object lesson in this reality...Over time, the same permanent worker drain could occur in other migrant-dependent states if their labor force goes away. It will not be replaced by Americans." Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal.

SUNSTEIN: Why American students don't major in science. "Some new answers come from research by Todd and Ralph Stinebrickner (an academic father-and-son team). On the basis of a unique data set, the Stinebrickners find that at the time of college entrance, students think science is an appealing major. In the study’s sample, 19.8 percent of students believe they will choose science -- a higher percentage than for any other discipline. In the end, however, only 7.4 percent end up majoring in it. On this count, science stands alone. No other major displays such a large disparity between initial expectations and actual outcomes." Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.

More music interlude: Alanis Morisette’s ‘Ironic’ made actually ironic.

2) What the Fed said

Bernanke: Fed stimulus will adapt to economy. "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday that the central bank will adapt its stimulus efforts to the state of the economy, an attempt to reassure investors and the public that it will not let recovery veer off track. Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Bernanke emphasized the flexibility of Fed policies. Although the Fed has said it anticipates scaling back its $85 billion-a-month stimulus program later this year, Bernanke said that timeline could change if the economy stumbles." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Bernanke plays down link between jobless rate and Fed exit. "Mr. Bernanke suggested the Fed might keep rates near zero long after the jobless rate, which was 7.6% in June, falls below that 6.5% threshold. It is a point he has made before, but he placed new emphasis on it...If very low inflation accompanies a drop in unemployment, Mr. Bernanke said, the Fed might feel less urgency about pulling back on cheap credit. Moreover, the jobless rate may continue to fall partly because people are leaving the labor force, which means they are no longer looking for work and aren't counted as unemployed. In this case, Mr. Bernanke said, the Fed might disregard a falling jobless rate as a misleading indicator of the economy's vigor and keep rates low even after the rate falls below 6.5%." Jon Hilsenrath and Victoria McGrane in The Wall Street Journal.

The most important change in Fed plans from Bernanke's testimony yesterday. ""Within our overall policy framework, we think of these two tools as having somewhat different roles," Bernanke said. The Fed is buying bonds to "increase the near-term momentum of the economy," with special attention to unemployment. Low rates now and promises they'll stay that way for the "foreseeable future" make a longer-term play. Their job is to give "a high degree of monetary accommodation for an extended period after asset purchases end, even as the economic recovery strengthens and unemployment declines toward more-normal levels."...The division matters because as the Fed has explained its plan to "taper" its monthly purchases of Treasury and mortgage securities, financial markets rushed to anticipate interest-rate hikes. Bernanke is explaining for the first time why the two won't go hand-in-hand...Even if the House can't get its microphones to work, the Fed is speaking with a clearer voice." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

Regulatory rift develops globally over financial regulation. "Global regulators are pursuing disparate approaches to protecting the financial system against future shocks, fracturing an agreement forged in the wake of 2008 financial crisis to adopt a coordinated response. Policy makers, at odds over how to reduce risk in the financial system, are disagreeing over proper capital levels for banks, derivatives regulation, criminal prosecutions of bankers and even the appropriate forum for brokering agreement on financial-services issues." Michael R. Crittenden and David Enrich in The Wall Street Journal.

How Lew and Bernanke see "too-big-to-fail." "In separate appearances, the two officials said policy makers haven't fully dealt with the systemic risk posed by large Wall Street banks, adding to calls from U.S. lawmakers and others who say more may need to be done to ensure no bank remains so large its failure could hurt the U.S. economy." Michael R. Crittenden in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: These 5 things could drive an era of speedier economic growthNeil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Profits at Bank of America are up. "The Charlotte, N.C., bank, the nation's second largest by assets, reported a 63% jump in net income to $4.01 billion from $2.46 billion a year earlier. Earnings per-share of 32 cents beat the average analyst estimate of 25 cents as compiled by Thomson Reuters. But Bank of America reduced expenses by 6% during the quarter. Its portfolio of troubled mortgage assets posted smaller losses, and the bank said it will be able to wind down those assets more quickly than previously thought." Shayndi Rice in The Wall Street Journal.

Housing starts fall to 10-month low. "U.S. housing starts and permits for future home construction unexpectedly fell in June, but the decline in activity was likely to be short-lived against the backdrop of bullish sentiment among home builders. The Commerce Department said on Wednesday housing starts dropped 9.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 836,000 units. That was the lowest level since August last year." Reuters.

Rising mortgage rates give would-be homebuyers jitters. "How high do mortgage rates have to rise before consumers are discouraged from buying a home? Among consumers who plan to buy a home someday, 13% said that mortgage rates of 4% (which is what the rate had climbed to when the survey was conducted) were already too high for them to consider buying a home. Another 20% said they’d be discouraged from buying a home if rates reach 5%; yet another 22% said they’d be discouraged from buying a home if rates reach 6%." Jed Kolko in Trulia Trends.

Higher productivity used to mean higher wages. Has that broken down? "For a long time in America, earnings and productivity went hand and hand: The more productive workers got, the more they made, on average. That relationship appeared to break down starting in the early 1970s, as productivity increased but wages flat-lined, and economists have spent several decades debating why. But what if the mystery was always an illusion – and it distracted experts and policymakers from a more important productivity problem? That’s the argument James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, makes in a new paper. Sherk contends total compensation, properly adjusted for inflation, has kept pace with properly-measured productivity, on average" Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post.

How Congress might have already tied Obama’s hands in trade negotiations. "Congress is already expressing reservations: A collection of Democratic House freshmen sent a letter opposing fast track authority on the grounds that today’s trade agreements involve changing vast swaths of domestic policy, and they’d like to maintain a hold on the process, especially since the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have been kept so secret. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants to see all sorts of requirements built in, like language around Chinese currency manipulation." Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

And you thought you had seen it all interlude: "Darius McCollum has been arrested 29 times over the past 30 years for a series of transit-related crimes ranging from impersonating subway workers to stealing buses."

3) No detonation, but aftershocks of nuclear-option threat

Does a filibuster deal bring us any closer to comity? "The Senate agreement to pull back from unilateral rules changes that would have eroded the power of the filibuster was hailed by both parties as the beginning of a new spirit of bipartisan cooperation that saved the Senate. But to some policy makers practiced in the art of compromise, it represented a potential missed opportunity." Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

Hochberg confirmed for Import-Export Bank; Perez clears hurdle for Labor post. "The U.S. Senate easily confirmed Fred Hochberg to continue serving as head of the U.S. Export-Import Bank Wednesday, keeping to the tenets of a bipartisan agreement reached this week regarding the consideration of executive branch nominees. Hochberg was confirmed 82 to 17, with 28 Republicans joining all 54 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to support the pick...In a much closer decision, Obama’s pick to lead the Labor Department narrowly survived a key procedural vote. Senators voted 60 to 40 to end debate on the nomination of Thomas E. Perez to serve as the next labor secretary." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Senate panel questions nominee for UN ambassador. "Power, 42, a former journalist and national security specialist who has written extensively about genocide and humanitarian intervention, appeared to face no serious obstacles to confirmation during the hearing by the Foreign Relations Committee...Several key Republican senators, including Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking member of the committee, and John McCain of Arizona, offered their support." Brian Knowlton in The New York Times.

Reddit interlude: ELI5, an explainers page, just got default status on the Reddit homepage. Hooray!

4) Congress goes back to ABCs on education policy

Rollback of No Child Left Behind to get vote. "A bill to roll back No Child Left Behind, the far-reaching 2001 education overhaul that expired six years ago but remains in effect, will finally get a vote in the House of Representatives later this week after clearing a procedural hurdle Wednesday night—and despite grumbling from some of the chamber’s more conservative members. The House Committee on Rules voted to allow debate on the Student Success Act and a slew of amendments. The House will begin considering the rules for debate and the amendments Thursday, and a final vote is expected Friday. This is the first time an overhaul of K-12 education funding will hit the House floor since No Child Left Behind in 2001. But the bill isn’t likely to go anywhere from there." Libby A. Nelson in Politico.

Deal to reduce student-loan rates is near. "Senate negotiators agreed to the framework of a deal Wednesday to cut the interest rates on certain new federal student loans, an apparent breakthrough after weeks of talks. The tentative agreement would tie the interest rate on new federal student loans to the government's borrowing costs. The plan would affect all new Stafford loans—the government's most widely used program for undergraduates and graduate students—as well as federal loans known as "plus" loans, which are taken out by graduate students and parents...Under the current Senate plan, the rate on new Stafford loans for undergraduates would likely be 3.86% for loans taken out for the coming school year, a Senate aide close to the talks said. The rates on loans in future years would rise or fall along with the 10-year Treasury yield, but would be capped at 8.25%." Josh Mitchell and Corey Boles in The Wall Street Journal.

Federal student-loan debt tops $1T. "Federal student loan debt has topped $1 trillion, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will announce Wednesday, a milestone that will only intensify the debate in Congress over what to do about student loan interest rates...The vast majority of new and outstanding student loans in the U.S. are backed and issued by the federal government, either via banks like Sallie Mae or, since 2010, directly through the Education Department. All student loan debt, which includes private loans from banks as well as the federal loans, now stands at $1.2 trillion." Libby A. Nelson in Politico.

Yet more music interlude: Genre alphabet.

5) Immigration reform -- forwards or backwards?

Bipartisan group in House closes in on immigration reform compromise"The bipartisan “gang of seven” group of House members negotiating over immigration is closing in on a plan that would include a path to citizenship, but would impose new triggers on citizenship — and new conditions on the initial legal status the undocumented would enjoy — that would put the bill significantly to the right of the Senate effort. The details on the emerging plan — which were shared with me by an aide to one of the members of the gang — are important, because the tougher conditions it will impose could give some House Republicans a way to embrace comprehensive reform, at a time when many conservatives are still insisting on a “piecemeal” approach or are opposing any action at all. At the same time, it could conceivably be acceptable to some Dems and immigration advocates, too." Greg Sargent in The Washington Post.

...But we'll have to wait. "The bipartisan coalition of seven lawmakers has essentially agreed to punt the release of its legislation until at least September, according to several sources close to the private discussions. Multiple sources described the thinking as this: Unveiling the bill now, shortly before the August recess, would leave the House group little time to educate the public and fellow members about its bill before lawmakers head home to their districts for the month-long break." Seung Min Kim in Politico.

Boehner endorses push for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. "“This is about basic fairness,” Boehner said one week after convening a two-hour meeting to discuss immigration with his conference. “These children were brought here of no accord of their own, and frankly they’re in a very difficult position,” he said. “And I think many of our members believe that this issue needs to be addressed.” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are crafting a bill to deal with children brought to the U.S. illegally." Russell Berman in The Hill.

Obama: I ‘probably’ can’t legalize immigrants myself. "“I think that it is very important for us to recognize that the way to solve this problem has to be legislative. I can do some things and have done some things that make a difference in the lives of people by determining how our enforcement should focus.”" Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

‘Orange is the New Black’ is the best TV show about prison ever madeDylan Matthews.

Obama’s last campaign: Inside the White House plan to sell ObamacareEzra Klein and Sarah Kliff.

Whoa: Watch the PATRIOT Act’s author warn Congress might cancel the spying programTimothy B. Lee.

The World Bank cuts off funding for coal. How big an impact will that have? Brad Plumer.

CrowdSourced: How will cheaper natural gas affect business and the economy? Neil Irwin.

Higher productivity used to mean higher wages. Has that broken down? Jim Tankersley.

Here’s why health insurance premiums are tumbling in New YorkSarah Kliff.

Should you worry about AT&T gobbling up CricketTimothy B. Lee.

These five things could drive a new era of speedier economic growthNeil Irwin.

How Congress might have already tied Obama’s hands in trade negotiationsLydia DePillis.

Et Cetera

Thursday longreads: "Obama’s last campaign: Inside the White House plan to sell Obamacare," by Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff, The Washington Post. "Jahar's World," by Janet Reitman, Rolling Stone. 

House Republicans strike bill language to force postal unions to open contractsLisa Rein in The Washington Post.

White House regs chief defends ‘social cost of carbon’ boostBen German in The Hill.

In public opinion on abortion, few absolutesDavid Leonhardt in The New York Times.

Backlash grows against domestic surveillanceJames Risen in The New York Times.

The beginning of Susan Rice's term as National Security AdviserColleen McCain Nelson, Peter Nicholas, and Adam Entous in The Wall Street Journal.

Tech firms, civil liberties groups to demand more sunlight on NSA surveillance dataCraig Timberg in The Washington Post.

Bill Clinton: Act on climateZack Colman in The Hill.

House Democrats, GOP press competing views before another hearing on IRS controversyJosh Hicks in The Washington Post.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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Sarah Kliff · July 17, 2013