Throughout the health care reform debate, Congressional Blue Dogs lobbied then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to adopt provisions that would lower health care spending and reduce the deficit, but curiously opposed the so-called robust public option. That measure reimbursed providers 5 to 10 percent above Medicare rates and would have reduced the deficit by as much as $110 billion over 10 years. In July of 2009, the fifty-member Blue Dog Coalition wrote a letter to Pelosi revealing “strong reservations” about an earlier House version of the health care bill. “After reviewing the draft tri-committee health care reform proposal, we believe it lacks a number of elements essential to preserving what works and fixing what is broken,” they wrote, noting:
A “Medicare-like” public option would negatively impact hospitals, doctors and patients…using Medicare’s below-market rates would seriously weaken the financial stability of our local hospitals and doctors.”
That argument was debunked repeatedly by MedPAC — which argued that Medicare rates are adequate and consistent with the efficient delivery of services — and relied heavily on insurance industry talking points. The industry feared that it would lose market share if forced to compete against a more efficient public plan. In March 2009, he industry’s chief lobbying arm, AHIP, provided lawmakers with this presentation, ‘What you should say when asked about the public option“:
You could end up not being able to see the doctor of your choice as the government plan would reimburse doctors so little for their services they stop accepting or dropping patients by the government plans.
And so, given all this, it is perhaps not surprising that today’s Politico Pulse reports that Erik Komendant, the policy director for the Blue Dog Coalition, has now accepted a job at AHIP as “VP for federal affairs.” After all, it’s like he was working for them already.