Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 12, 2009


The hyper-simplistic arguments of both sides in the healthcare debate is obscuring much of what lies behind it. Here, for example, the conservative Washington Examiner points out how much the Democrats are in the bag to the health insurers, something you would never guess from the public debate.

Timothy P. Carney, DC Examiner - Barack Obama last year received more campaign cash from health maintenance organizations than any politician before him ever did -- and it's not even close.

Obama raised more than $1.4 million in 2008 from the employees and executives of "Health Services/HMOs" as the Center for Responsive Politics labels them -- or "villains" as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls them. That's more than the combined haul of every Republican nominee since Ronald Reagan left office.

These numbers don't prove that Obama is owned by the health insurers. But they deflate the liberal claim that Republicans and "reform" protesters are shills for the industry.

But the liberals and the Democrats are now relying on this line of attack -- that opponents of "reform" are doing the bidding of the insurance companies -- instead of trying to defend on the merits their package of subsidies, taxes, regulations, mandates, spending, and new government programs.

The truth, largely ignored in the media, is not useful for Democrats nor does it fall into the standard journalistic framework of regulators-vs-industry. . .

We need to be more precise when talking about who is on what side. An ad funded by a labor union charges that "insurance companies and Republicans want to kill President Obama's health insurance reform." But things are more complex than that, in part because there are at least four different "reform" bills.

The bills all would require everyone to buy and keep health insurance while subsidizing private insurance. For obvious reasons, the health insurers support these provisions. Some of the bills also include a Wal-Mart-supported mandate that employers offer health insurance benefits to workers -- a provision that also profits insurers.

"Reform" bills all would impose regulations on the insurers -- for example, barring insurers from turning down customers or charging more for people who have health problems. America's Health Insurance Plans, the lead lobbying group for the health insurers, has long supported these regulations in exchange for the individual mandate.

Finally, some of the bills would create a government health insurer that would compete with the private insurers. This is the main point of contention between Democrats and the insurers. The other sticking point: One proposed way of paying for the spending programs is through cutting Medicare spending, and Blue Cross administers Medicare in many states.

So, the "villainous" insurers' lobbying agenda is more in tune with Democrats than with Republicans.

On insurer campaign cash, the Democrats win hands down. First, there's Obama, the all-time champion in raising money from HMOs. . . The second-highest recipient ever of HMO money is Hillary Clinton. . . The Nbr 2 GOP recipient last election (after presidential nominee John McCain) was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who created his own Obamacare in the Bay State.

So far this election, 65 percent of HMO money has gone to Democratic candidates, up from 60 percent last cycle.

The top recipient of HMO money this election is Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and the top House recipient is Rep. Henry Waxman, the "reform" author in the House.

So the insurers are and have been crucial allies to Obama and the Democrats on health care reform, just as they were allies in Obama's first major action, expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. And similarly, big business has been an ally in all of Obama's major pushes -- cap and trade, the stimulus, and even tobacco regulation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The joke is: The Democrats are posturing against the boogeymen of the greedy healthcare lobby -- and the healthcare lobby wrote the f'ing bill the Democrats are pushing.

August 13, 2009 7:01 AM  
Anonymous good article said...

And the designated loser is single-payer - the one and only perfectly doable and desirable solution.

This is the biggest and most sinister betrayal ever by the DINO's. We are talking desperately-neglected life and death issues here, and of the wasting of rare political power and possibilities that Obama and congress were hired by superwealthpowerful parties to waste!

Have we no shame? America has become a place where we spend our families on our money! Why do not immediately RID ourselves of the middlemen who rake away our hard-earned money and stuff it all in their over-stuffed treasure chests? By what reasoning should a few wealthpower giants be allowed to build unlimited personal fortunes just because we live in human bodies that require we have healthcare?

Get rid of these stratospherically overpaid health insurance execs and big pharma execs! Society does NOT need legal thieves to function! Having wealthpower giants on earth is a luxury we can no longer afford!

EVERYONE should oppose ALL reform that falls short of single payer! There ARE NO second-best choices!

August 13, 2009 8:32 AM  

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