If there are two things we’ve learned in the health-care debate, it’s that the special interests oppose Obamacare and the insurers are uniquely evil.
Why, then, the outrage and shock that the insurance industry would commission a study that casts Obamacare’s current iteration, the Baucus bill, in a poor light?
Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, sounded betrayed. She told NBC News, “I’d spent a couple of hours with insurance industry folks last week, and yes I did feel blindsided. I did feel we were working constructively.”
It’s almost as if she wasn’t listening while Obama spent most of the summer instructing us on the odiousness of the insurance companies. Americans have been “held hostage” by insurance companies, Obama said in August. They have “reaped windfall profits from a broken system,” Obama thundered in July.
Compared to holding people hostage and profiteering from their misfortune isn’t commissioning a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers relatively mild? Even if it is not methodologically air tight?
Considering that they are some of the worst people on earth, their releasing a study is the merest peccadillo. It’s like Idi Amin getting a parking ticket or Slobodan Milosevic confusing his salad and dinner forks.
Remember: Nancy Pelosi has condemned insurance companies to the outer darkness. “Of course they’ve been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure,” she explained. “They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way.” In the same irenic spirit, Senator Rockefeller accused insurance companies of “banditry.” For those unfamiliar with the word, that means their business model is the equivalent of hiding out by the side of the road and robbing people.
But now these hostage-holding, profiteering, immoral bandits have really gone too far: They’ve very publicly pointed out a flaw in the Baucus bill. Never mind that — whatever the methodological merits of the PWC study — it is certainly true that the bill will increase premiums for most people.
A key conceit of the Democrats is that special interests are fighting them tooth and claw on health care. As Obama put it in his joint address to Congress, “I will not stand by while special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are.” How stalwart, how Churchillian.
Except this is all a political pose and the purest hogwash. The Democrats have managed to buy off and/or bully all the major special interests into supporting Obamacare. The drug industry, the doctors, the hospitals, and the AARP have all been broadly on board (although the doctors and hospitals are getting restive). Even the dreaded insurers — despite their opposition to the public option — were running gauzy ads in favor of reform at the same time Pelosi and Co. denounced them as immoral.
The Washington Post story on the PWC study on Monday opened this way:
After months of collaboration on President Obama’s attempt to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, the insurance industry plans to strike out against the effort on Monday with a report warning that the typical family premium in 2019 could cost $4,000 more than projected.
Months of collaboration.
The sense of betrayal that greeted the release of the PWC study demonstrates that, far from getting a spirited fight from the special interests, the White House feels entitled to their quiescence. Nancy DeParle expected the insurers to behave themselves. If they were going to do anything untoward like criticize the Baucus bill she felt owed a decent heads-up so she’d have ample time to prepare a new denunciation of them for their turpitude.
As our editorial today points out, the insurers haven’t necessarily gone into all-out opposition. Perhaps they are still angling for the best possible deal on the assumption that a bill is inevitable, just like everyone else is doing. Or maybe they’ve finally realized they shouldn’t acquiesce in heading down a road leading to their destruction.
Evil people are unpredictable like that.
– Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been amended since its inital posting.