The White House is expected today to announce a major agreement in which the major players in the health care industry pledge to reduce the expected rate of growth of health care by $2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Policywise, there are reasons the be skeptical, as the Washington Post reports:
Despite such heady predictions, many aspects of the plan remain unclear. The groups did not spell out yesterday how they plan to reach such a target, and in a letter to Obama they offer only a broad pledge, not an outright commitment.
In addition, White House officials said, there is no mechanism to ensure that the groups live up to their offer, only the implicit threat of public embarrassment. And it would be difficult to track whether they come up with the promised savings, other than the imprecise measure of comparing current projections of health-care cost increases with future actual costs.
Furthermore, it’s important to draw a distinction between a reduction in the rate of growth in overall health care costs and the reduction in the rate of growth of government spending on health care. If legislation, as expected, dramatically expands the role of government, then government spending will rise even if projected costs decline for the sector as a whole.
With that said, politically this is a major development, one which may very well be the “game changer” the White House is touting it as. I wrote a few months ago that while conservatives had a lot of allies in the private sector in 1993 and 1994, that they’d be alone like Gary Cooper in High Noon this time around, and it’s now coming to pass.
Most Americans who pay attention to the news today won’t care about all the details. All they’ll see is the major industry groups (American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Hospital Association, and America’s Health Insurance Plans) and the Service Employees International Union coming together under the leadership of President Obama. Remember, in 1993/94, it was the predecessor group of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) that took out the famous “Harry and Louise” ads opposing HillaryCare.
The theatrics of this alone will create a lot of momentum for health care reform and put pressure on Congress to get something done this year. Conservatives, and those who advocate a free market or consumer-driven approach to health care, will be further marginalized as obstructionists. Say what you want about Obama, but he continues to find creative ways to out-maneuver his opposition.
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