Patashnik

Eric M. Patashnik

Julis-Rabinowitz Professor of Public Policy, Professor of Political Science, Director of the Public Policy Program, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Public Sector Reforms
  • Social Security
  • Climate Change
  • Health Care Reform
  • Medicare & Medicaid

About Eric

Patashnik’s research examines the politics of American national policymaking, focusing on health policy, regulatory policy, the welfare state, and Congress. Much of his work has explored post-enactment politics - what happens after a bill becomes a law. His work also investigates American national government’s performance as a problem-solving institution. Patashnik has been a research fellow at Brookings and a legislative analyst for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Elections. He currently serves on the National Advisory Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Scholars in Health Policy Research Program and on an American Academy of Arts & Sciences task force on durability and flexibility in energy policy. Effective July 2016, Patashnik will serve as editor of Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

Podcast

Publications

"Can Congress Do Policy Analysis? The Politics of Problem Solving on Capitol Hill" (with Justin Peck), in Governance in a Polarized Age, edited by Alan Gerber and Eric Schickler (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Evaluates Congress’s ability to perform eight key policy analysis tasks.  Comments on how secular trends including partisan polarization, the widening of the policy agenda, and the growing complexity of government have interacted with Congress’s policy analytic strengths and weaknesses to affect institutional performance.  

Putting Trust in the U.S. Budget: Federal Trust Funds and the Politics of Commitment (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Provides the first comprehensive study of major social insurance funds, such as Social Security and Medicare. Discusses trust funds as the heart of U.S. budgeting and public social provision, and raises a fundamental question of democratic politics: can current officeholders bind their successors? Demonstrates how long term government commitments are effectively designed.
Reforms at Risk: What Happens after Major Policy Changes are Enacted (Princeton University Press, 2008).
Examines what happens to sweeping and seemingly successful policy reforms after they are passed. Argues that the reforms that stick destroy an existing policy subsystem and reconfigure the political dynamic. Demonstrates that sustainable reforms create positive policy feedback, transform institutions, and often unleash the ''creative destructiveness'' of market forces.
"The Politicization of Evidence-Based Medicine: The Limits of Pragmatic Problem Solving in an Era of Polarization" (with Alan S. Gerber). California Journal of Politics and Policy 3, no. 4 (2011).
Illustrates how partisan polarization and electoral competition can undermine government efforts to solve an important health care problem, specifically, the lack of hard evidence about what treatments, tests, and technologies work best for patients. Argues that the Obama Administration’s technocratic effort to eliminate gaps in the medical evidence base became highly politicized. Offers a cautionary lesson about the limits of pragmatic governance in an era of elite polarization.
"The Struggle to Remake Politics: Liberal Reform and the Limits of Policy Feedback in the Contemporary American State" (with Julian E. Zelizer). Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 4 (2013): 1071-1087.
Develops an argument about the limits of policy feedback to illuminate the obstacles to durable liberal reform in the contemporary American state. Argues that political scientists have paid insufficient attention to the fragility of inherited policy commitments, and that the capacity of reforms to remake politics is contingent, conditional, and contested.

In the News

Eric M. Patashnik quoted in Colby Itkowitz, "The Health 202: Medicare for All is New Democratic Mantra in Congressional Races" The Washington Post
Eric M. Patashnik quoted on Patashnik's book on American health care politics, "Why We Can't Have Nice Things, Like a More Rational Health Care System" WBUR: Commonhealth, September 15, 2017.
"People Love to Hate Congress. This New Book Reminds Us Why We Should Treasure It.," Eric M. Patashnik, The Washington Post, April 29, 2017.
"Obamacare is the Law of the Land. But It’s Still Vulnerable.," Eric M. Patashnik (with Jonathan Oberlander), The Washington Post, March 27, 2017.
"Why Even the Strongest Republican Efforts Can’t Defeat the Welfare State," Eric M. Patashnik (with Julian Zelizer), The Washington Post, December 12, 2016.
"Conservatives Worry that ObamaCare is a ‘Super-Statute.’ It Isn’t Quite One Yet.," Eric M. Patashnik (with Jonathan Oberlander), The Washington Post, June 28, 2015.
Eric M. Patashnik quoted on the benefits and shortcomings of the ACA in Michael Laff, "Panel Assesses ACA on Legislation's Fifth Anniversary" AAFP, April 22, 2015.
"Five Key Lessons about the Welfare State," Eric M. Patashnik, The Washington Post, April 6, 2015.
"Five Myths about the Future of ObamaCare," Eric M. Patashnik (with Julian E. Zelizer), The Washington Post, December 16, 2013.