Dr. ‘Zeke’ Emanuel’s chal­lenge

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JON WARD

Rahm Emanuel may be the most fa­mous of the three Emanuel broth­ers, but he’s prob­a­bly not the most in­tense.

Sit­ting next to his older brother, Rahm comes off as folksy, flash­ing Cheshire grins and crack­ing jokes as he did in a TV in­ter­view last year, while Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel ra­di­ates an al­most ner­vous en­ergy, lean­ing for­ward in his chair, earnestly wait­ing for the con­ver­sa­tion to turn to health care re­form.

It is that very is­sue that has brought Zeke Emanuel, as he is known, to the White House with his younger brother af­ter two decades as an on­col­o­gist and na­tion­ally rec­og­nized bioethi­cist.

There is one com­pli­cat­ing fac­tor to all this: Dr. Emanuel, 51, has some very dif­fer­ent ideas about health care re­form than Pres­i­dent Obama and some of his key ad­vis­ers.

And he car­ries that same fire in the belly for which his younger brother is known. He has been known to chal­lenge su­pe­ri­ors dur­ing his time at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health and else­where, col­leagues say.

“He’s feisty. He’s not a mil­que­toast or a pushover,” says Vic­tor R. Fuchs, a health pol­icy and eco­nomics pro­fes­sor at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity who worked with Dr. Emanuel over the past five years on a com­pre­hen­sive health care re- form pro­posal.

That in­fa­mous Emanuel feisti­ness — shared by the youngest brother, Ari, a Hol­ly­wood “superagent” — was on dis­play re­cently when Dr. Emanuel helped moderate one of sev­eral small-group dis­cus­sions be­tween mem­bers of Congress and health care in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als.

“Can I throw out a chal­lenge?” Dr. Emanuel asked nearly an hour into the ses­sion. Then he asked the group of about 20 to pro­pose con­crete ideas for how to “make” health care providers lower cost and in­crease the qual­ity of care.

When a Pfizer Inc. ex­ec­u­tive praised an idea to col­lect and pub­li­cize in­fec­tion rates among hos­pi­tals in an at­tempt to name and shame poor-per­form­ing in­sti­tu­tions, Dr. Emanuel spun quickly to his left and placed his hand on the shoul­der of Rep. Roy Blunt, Mis­souri Repub­li­can.

“Do you agree?” Dr. Emanuel asked point­edly.

“Yes,” said the star­tled Mr. Blunt, who is head­ing up a Repub­li­can health care work­ing group.

Dr. Emanuel pounced quickly: “And do you think the gov­ern­ment ought to pay to col­lect that in­for­ma­tion?”

Mr. Blunt hes­i­tated, and be­fore he could say any­thing, Dr. Emanuel raised his voice.

“Who ought to get that in­for­ma­tion?” he asked sharply. “It’s a pub­lic good. We know that we un­der­in­vest in the pub­lic good.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michi­gan Demo­crat, also was in the ses­sion.

“I was very im­pressed with him at that meet­ing,” she says days later dur­ing an in­ter­view. “He is in­tense.”

Dr. Emanuel, who is di­vorced and a fa­ther of three daugh­ters, just last year pub­lished a 240-page book on health care re­form — the prod­uct of his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mr. Fuchs — based on his two decades of prac­tic­ing medicine, re­search­ing bioethics is­sues and study­ing the in­ter­sec­tion of pol­icy and pol­i­tics.


Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel is a na­tion­ally known bioethi­cist work­ing on health care re­form within the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, but his ideas don’t con­form to the pres­i­dent’s goals in all re­spects.

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