Tuesday, October 20, 2009

nucular war 

Hard to tell how serious the Democrats are about this, but it does look like the Insco's overplayed their hand and backed the Dems against a wall:

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And why now is the support growing on Capitol Hill to repeal the law?

RYAN GRIM: It’s payback, pure and simple. There’s been a kind of truce that the Democrats have had with the insurance industry: you know, you guys don’t come out here with your Harry and Louise ads and just burn the town down, and we’ll give you, you know, 47 million new customers. But when the insurance industry, about two weeks ago, came out with a report that was very critical of reform, it was seen by the Obama administration and Democrats on the Hill as a declaration of war, so Democrats came back with what is their biggest weapon, probably, to shoot back at the insurance industry.
It’s strange that it took them so long to come up with this, because if choice and competition, the mantra that you always hear from Obama, is really the thing that you want here, then revoking the antitrust exemption—protection is the first thing that you’d want to do, after the public option, of course.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And shouldn’t this have been part of healthcare reform legislation in any case? Why is it only coming as retaliation for the health insurance industry’s report a couple weeks ago?

RYAN GRIM: It’s kind of a nuclear issue. And so, if Democrats would have brought it up in the very beginning and made it part of the early bill, then the health insurance industry would have come guns blazing at healthcare reform. And the Obama strategy from the very beginning was to try to at least neuter, if not win over, the major healthcare players. That’s why they cut the big deals with PhRMA, with the medical device makers, with the hospitals. They cut another deal with doctors today about their Medicare cuts. So they’ve been trying to keep everybody at the table so that they won’t blow up the process. And they feared that if they revoked this exemption early in the process, that the health insurance industry would try to blow it up, and maybe they would see it implode over August, and we wouldn’t even be talking about healthcare anymore. That was their strategy, at least. Whether that’s right or not, nobody knows. But now that they’ve come into open war, you know, everything’s on the table.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite Obama’s comments in his radio address, the White House has refused to guarantee the President will back the repeal if it gets congressional approval.

Grim goes on to suggest that the anti-trust exemption and even a public option does have a chance at passing. The much fetishized public option, even if it does pass, is almost guaranteed to be toothless and could actually make things worse. But it is kind of interesting, as a propaganda issue, that things have gotten to the point where passing something called "public option" might be necessary to avoid losing face altogether.

However what's really curious here is why the Insco's went so far and basically forced this crisis. They weren't under any threat, in fact they were getting just what they wanted. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall during the decision to publish that report. The only options I can see are that:

a) either they thought they could get even more than they were getting by pushing the report, and thus made a tactical error. Seems unlikely though. They were already getting everything they wanted.

b) the collusion was getting so glaringly obvious that they had to throw a bone to the Dems and appear oppositional. In which case this is all a bit of theater. Both sides will back down from their extreme positions, a bullshit bill that benefits the Incso's will be passed and the Dems can walk away claiming they stared down the Insco's and didn't blink, heroic dragonfighters all.

or c) which is actually a subset of a), there's factions within the Insco bloc and this is the act of a hardline group that fears something called "public option", no matter how neutered or rigged in their favor, will ultimately be a slippery slope toward people getting the idea that they actually have a right to healthcare. In other words, they believe that ceding ideological turf for economic turf isn't a good trade in the long-term.

Will be interesting to see how it plays out at any rate.


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