… and the lobbyists won

Posted on December 22, 2009


President Obama was very nearly spot-on with his assessment of the Democratic health care bill in the Senate poised for passage on Christmas Eve.

The president said Congress is radically changing health care in America “by standing up to the special interests.”  All he has to do is change “to the special interests” to “WITH the special interests,” and he’ll have nailed it.

Let’s look at just a few examples of my point:

  • The pharmaceutical industry and its shotgun-toting lobby “Big Pharma” wanted the language removed that would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from Mexico and Canada.  And the lobbyists won.
  • The private health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), wanted the language removed that would force them – industry wide – to reduce medical insurance premiums.  And the lobbyists won.
  • Plastic surgeons, fronted by lobbying firms such as Randlett Associates Inc., wanted the language removed that would mandate reduced fees and accept a 5 percent practice tax. And the lobbyists won.
  • “Big Pharma” and the insurance lobby fought vehemently against language which would require bigger rebates under the government’s low-income Medicaid insurance program and price negotiations in the Medicare program for the elderly. And the lobbyists won.
  • The private insurance lobby demanded inclusion of language that would make individual health insurance mandatory – and with the absence of a public option – would ensure themselves approximately 65 million new customers with a choice between whatever the insurance company wants to charge, and a federal fine of up to two percent of the entire household income if caught without medical insurance.  And the lobbyists won.
  • “Big Pharma” demanded an exclusivity protection in the manufacture of name-brand drugs, meaning generic versions of the same drug could not be FDA-approved until after 12 years.  And the lobbyists won.
  • America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) wanted the language removed that would eliminate the long-maligned “pre-existing condition” loopholes that would allow insurance companies to deny legitimate claims.  And the lobbyists won.

So what about us?  Who is fighting for OUR interest?  Who’s OUR lobbyist?  Oh … right … CONGRESS is supposed to fight for what WE want.

  • More than three-quarters of all Americans polled wanted it guaranteed that whatever form the “health care industry overhaul” took, it included a government-funded public option that would force health care costs down.  Guess what.  The lobbyists won.

Now, before you go rambling off about how all this is “the Democrats’ fault,” I would remind you that the health care bill passed by Republicans (and Democrats) in the House of Representatives last month had all but one of those bullet items removed from its language before passage, as well.  They think things are pretty much fine just the way they are. The one bullet not removed was reworded, so that insurance companies can still deny claims based on pre-existing conditions … but only “following due and reasonable consideration.”  Well, who gets to decide what “due and reasonable consideration” is?  You guessed it;  it’s at the insurance company’s discretion.

But don’t worry; the Republicans are counting on Divine Intervention to stop the Democrats’ bill from succeeding. They’re actually holding prayer vigils to ask the Supreme Being to smite down “Satan’s work” through the Democrats.  That’s right … instead of doing their jobs, the Republicans want God to handle it.

So, the Republicans’ health care bill is a shameless ass-kissing of the same old corporate executives and special interests.  The Democrats’ health care bill, on the other hand, is a shameless ass-kissing of an entirely NEW set of corporate executives and special interests.  So which special interests have the Democrats “stood up against,” Mister President?  If you (or any president, for that matter) TRULY gave a damn about fixing health care, you would mandate that – effective immediately – all of Congress must be subject to whatever bill they pass. But that’s not about to happen, now is it?

The only interests not being considered in the health care bill for all Americans is … those of the Americans who are PAYING for it.