Paper in a Top Medical Journal Has Unexpected Author: Barack Obama

President Obama appeared in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana on May 17, 2009.
President Barack Obama in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, on May 17, 2009. (Image credit: Ron Foster Sharif | Shutterstock)

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Obama's article was not peer-reviewed, but it went through several rounds of editing and fact-checking, according to Bloomberg.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.