Health Care Lobby Extends Olive Branch to Obama

Six major health care industry lobbies have sent a letter to our “crypto-Marxist” President, laying out a plan, albeit a terribly vague one, to limit health care costs.  AHIP and the other big lobby groups, the same fine folks that informed us of the dangers of universal health coverage in the 1990s, say in the letter that they are formulating plans to cut 1.5% off the growth rate of health care spending.  This amounts to almost 2 trillion dollars over the next decade.

As anyone who reads The Activist knows the health care industry isn’t in the business of philanthropy; it’s in their vested interest to concede ground to and court Obama.  First of all, having 50 million people uninsured is a natural result of our private health insurance system, but it isn’t necessarily beneficial to these companies.  Those one in six Americans are people that are potential consumers for the health care industry.

Also, with 60 Democrats soon to be in the Senate and Obama committed to some type of health care reform, the question this time around isn’t whether or not there is going to be a change in our health care system but rather what kind of change is there going to be.

Remember the last time these same interests came to Washington with a plan?  That was in 2003 when pharmaceutical lobbyists pushed through the innocuously titled “Medicare Modernization Act,” which prevented Medicare from using leverage to control drug prices and insured that private insurers would continue to fleece the American taxpayer.  Bill Tauzin, class warrior and deregulator extraordinaire, pushed through this bill, resigned from Congress, became president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and played a key role in drafting this new letter to Obama (American democracy in action?).

So the powerful interests of the health care industry want to write another bill, but one that will probably mandate every American to get health industry.  They are aware that the political tides have changed and they have been forced to make some concessions–namely trying to help draft a health care bill instead of block one–but they will put all their considerable leverage behind killing the public insurance option.  Private forces claim that they cannot compete with public insurance and that a dual-plan would morph over time into a virtual single-payer system.

Obviously progressives agree with them–that’s what we’re after. Despite public support it is not likely that single-payer will be able to get much traction, but through our advocacy for single-payer we may be able to bolster support for elements in the Congressional Progressive Caucus that are avowedly committed to only voting for a health reform bill that has a public option in it.  The CPC met with Obama last week and told him something to that effect.  Given the amount of clout that the considerably smaller “Blue Dogs” have been able to throw around Washington in the past months, it’s about time that the CPC made its presence known.

The CPC isn’t a perfect body, but with many of them espousing genuinely left-of-center ideas they are among the few forces on the political scene that do not seem completely wedded to neoliberal orthodoxy and special interests.  Though my preference for a single-payer model and throwing the interests that have plundered working peoples’ bounty and jeopardized their health for too long to the wolves (perhaps literally) cannot be understated, we have to work with the forces we have now, and given the state of the left in America today a public option in a reform bill cannot be construed as anything but a victory.

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