In Praise Of Lobbyists?
If you haven't been following the health care debate, this AP article will strike you as curious.
A strong force, perhaps as powerful in Congress as President Barack Obama, is keeping the drive for health care going even as lawmakers seem hopelessly at odds.
The drug industry, the American Medical Association, hospital groups and the insurance lobby are all saying Congress must make major changes this year. Television ads paid for by drug companies and insurers continued to emphasize the benefits of a health care overhaul — not the groups' objections to some of the proposals.
Why on Earth would the drug industry, insurance industry, hospital industry and the AMA be so interested in protecting the passage of health care reform? Because they would all grab some goodies in the process. As a result of all those meetings with health industry executives, the President secured their support for reform. But it came at a price. The drugmakers got to extend their patents for biologics and didn't have to completely fill the doughnut hole for Medicare Part D. The insurance industry got their individual mandate that will require millions of Americans to sign up for their coverage. The AMA got the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for Medicare physician reimbursement dumped, which will likely increase their payments. And hospitals are working hard for their piece of the pie as well. All of these deals, which constrict the ability for Congress to wring more costs out of the system, would fall apart if no reform bill passes, leaving these interests vulnerable. So of course they want the process to advance. Yet if you take the Blue Dogs at their word, that they are concerned about costs, these deals are INHIBITING progress, not promoting it.
Deals, of course, are made to be broken, and Nancy Pelosi, who didn't sign on to any of them, will not adhere to their guidelines if it risks cost control.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she doesn't feel bound by the $235 billion in deals that the White House and the Senate Finance Committee cut with hospital and pharmaceutical companies to defray costs of a new health-care plan, stating that she thinks the industries could do more.
"When we're trying to cut costs, certainly we know that there are more costs to be cut in hospitals and pharmaceuticals. . . . So we'll be subjecting everything to some very harsh scrutiny as we see whether we can get more savings," Pelosi said in a late-afternoon interview, shortly after she left a marathon negotiating session with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats, who have put the brakes on the House version of the health-care reform bill. "As we look, there may be some more ways to get money out of pharmaceutical companies."
Pardon me if I don't see the lobbyists as the key to real reform. I think Nancy Pelosi's calculus might have more to do with it.