medical-industrial complex made a big show of working with President
Obama on health care reform — and the double-crossing is already well
under way. Indeed, it's now clear that even as they met with the
president, pretending to be cooperative, insurers were gearing up to
play the same destructive role they did the last time health reform was
on the agenda.
So here's the question: Will Mr. Obama gloss over the reality of what's
happening, and try to preserve the appearance of cooperation? Or will he
honor his own pledge, made back during the campaign, to go on the
offensive against special interests if they stand in the way of reform?
The story so far: on May 11 the White House called a news conference to
announce that major players in health care, including the American
Hospital Association and the lobbying group America's Health Insurance
Plans, had come together to support a national effort to control health
The fact sheet on the meeting, one has to say, was classic Obama in its
message of post-partisanship and, um, hope. "For too long, politics and
point-scoring have prevented our country from tackling this growing
crisis," it said, adding, "The American people are eager to put the old
Washington ways behind them."
But just three days later the hospital association insisted that it had
not, in fact, promised what the president said it had promised — that it
had made no commitment to the administration's goal of reducing the rate
at which health care costs are rising by 1.5 percentage points a year.
And the head of the insurance lobby said that the idea was merely to
"ramp up" savings, whatever that means.
Meanwhile, the insurance industry is busily lobbying Congress to block
one crucial element of health care reform, the public option — that is,
offering Americans the right to buy insurance directly from the
government as well as from private insurance companies. And at least
some insurers are gearing up for a major smear campaign.