For months, I’ve been reporting on the fact that many of the industry groups that opposed past attempts by Washington to overhaul the health care system are onboard with the Democrats this time around. But suddenly, that’s starting to change.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the American Medical Association would oppose the creation of a new government-run plan modeled after Medicare, which is supported by President Obama. This is a significant development, even though the group subsequently released a vague statement saying it may support some variations of a government plan.
But this wasn’t the only such example.
On Thursday, representatives from several business groups appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and delivered strong statements against the idea of a mandate requiring employers to provide health coverage or pay a fine. The groups said the cost of the mandate would have to be recouped somehow, meaning either job losses or lower wages for employees.
Randel Johnson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the idea a “sweeping new burden on businesses” and delivered a blistering criticism of the way Democrats were trying to ram through legislation in a matter of months. He said for all the flak Hillary Clinton received for conducting meetings behind closed doors during the 1993 health care drive, that was “a model of transparency” compared to the current process.
Taken together, this shift could complicate matters for President Obama and Democrats in Congress. For liberals, abandoning a government-run plan and employer mandate would take the teeth out of health care reform, and for some, make it simply not worth doing. The optics of Democratic lawmakers abandoning such ideas to win over industry groups would not go over well among the party’s activist base. At the same time, if Democrats insist on ramming through very liberal legislation without any Republican votes or support of doctors, insurers, and businesses, they won’t have any cover if (or I should say when) their program fails.
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