As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Casting Call For The Next Harry And Louise

First, a short history lesson: in 1992 and 1993, the insurance industry made exactly the same kind of concessions on health care reform that they have thus far, lulling the Clinton Administration into believing they had a partner, only to double-cross them with attack ads that helped cement public opinion against reform and sink the plan.

This year, the industry offered concessions, attended the meetings, talked nice about reducing costs and ending discrimination in coverage, and then backing off their commitments. Now, one company has taken the next step:

One week after the nation's health insurance lobby pledged to President Obama to do what it can to constrain rising health costs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on a public message campaign aimed at killing a key plank in Obama's reform platform.

As part of what it calls an "informational website," the company has hired an outside PR company to make a series of videos sounding the alarm about a government-sponsored health insurance option, known as the public plan. Obama has consistently maintained that a government-run plan, absent high-paid executives and the need for profits, could be a more affordable option for Americans who have trouble purchasing private insurance. The industry argues that creating a public insurance program will undermine the marketplace and eventually lead to a single-payer style system.

Well, that would be just awful.

WaPo has storyboards of the proposed videos, and basically, we're back in Harry and Louise land, with the scare level amped up. Confusing plans, forced rationing, an uncertain future - it's all on display. If you read the Luntz memos, you could write one of these ads yourself. And since Luntz is being paid by health insurance companies, maybe he wrote them.

Insurance groups have mostly stayed off TV at this stage of the process, at the request of the Finance Committee Chair. But clearly, they're ready to gut the plan whenever they see an opportunity.

The smart move at this time would be to lock the industry out of the negotiation room. Foxes don't get to deliberate over their inclusion in the hen house.

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