There’s a perception out there that the Obama administration’s health reform drive is operating hand-in-glove with industry players. You see a left-wing version of this critique from the “public option or nothing” crowd and a right-wing version in things like Tim Carney’s Obamanomics book. And certainly this legislation is friendly to corporate interests than the bill we’ll be writing when I become dictator.
But the simple fact of the matter is that corporate America is doing what it usually does—attacking progressive legislation, and promoting obstruction by conservative politicians. The Chamber of Commerce is vehemently opposed to health reform, and the insurance industry is making nice sounds while, in practice, trying to kill reform. The insurance industry knows it’s unpopular, so it takes a reassuring attitude in public, but as my colleagues have been documenting there’s a vast industry-funded anti-reform effort underway aimed not just at killing the public option but killing the whole thing.
Meanwhile, Lee Fang reports that the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBS’ lobbyists) are covertly backing far-right efforts to get health reform declared unconstitutional. Their key partner in this is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that drafts business-friendly legislation and feeds it to conservative state legislators. ALEC is developing “states rights” legislation aimed at raising “tenther” constitutional objections to health reform, and one of the three masterminds of ALEC’s efforts is Joan Gardner from BCBSA. And as Lee points out, industry players don’t shy away from a little hypocrisy:
Part of the reason the BCBS Association has claimed that it opposes the reform bill in its current form is because of what it perceives as a weak individual mandate. However, the BCBS Association-supported ALEC campaign depicts the very notion of an individual mandate as “anti-freedom.” So either way the Senate acts, BCBS will be able to trash the bill and try to kill reform.
It’s worth being clear about this. Whatever drawbacks there may be to the administration’s health care approach, it is in fact being fought by industry. Similarly, the Obama administration is often alleged to be in bed with the big banks, but it’s the administration that’s pushing to overhaul financial regulations, and it’s the banks and the GOP who’s blocking it.