Snapping Into Place

Good news for health insurance reform:

The health insurance industry said Wednesday that it would support a health care overhaul requiring insurers to accept all customers, regardless of illness or disability. But in return, the industry said, Congress should require all Americans to have coverage.

The proposals, put forward by the insurers’ two main trade associations, have the potential to reshape and advance the debate over universal health insurance just as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office.

This is the right way to understand the mandate question relative to Obama’s mandateless initial proposal. Adding the mandate makes the plan more favorable to insurers. But relative to other concessions one might make, it’s also an idea that makes sense. But there’s no particular need for progressives to do the heavy lifting on this point — if we keep pushing for regulation of the firms, they’ll keep pushing to put everyone in the system, and that’s how the job gets done.

UPDATE: Of course this does raise the question of whether Team Obama had a cunningly brilliant plan or sort of just happened to stumble into a tactically beneficial situation. The latter seems most likely, but really nobody ever accomplished anything major without benefiting from a lot of good luck along the way.