The Obama administration learned an important lesson from the Clinton health care debacle: buy off the leading interest groups. So the administration offered whatever it took to win over the drugmakers, health insurers, and doctors. But these deals are now under attack in the Senate.
After all, like Willy Sutton, the Democrats want to go where the money is. And that is the providers. Reports the Washington Post:
Heading into a make-or-break week, Senate Democratic leaders are struggling to preserve the fragile support of interest groups for an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system, even as lawmakers seek to change the carefully crafted provisions that brought the groups on board.
On the floor and behind closed doors, the Senate wrestled Saturday with amendments that would impose additional cost-control requirements on hospitals, doctors and drug companies, squeezing out savings beyond the considerable sums those groups had already volunteered to give up.
Of particular concern to seniors groups is an effort to strengthen a new independent board that would determine the future of Medicare, raising the possibility of cuts much deeper than those envisioned in the $848 billion health-care bill.
It’s hard to pick a side when thieves fall out. The Democrats want to nationalize the medical system. The insurers, et al., want to make money on patients as the latter receive poorer care at higher cost. There isn’t much moral difference among them. Yet Republicans have tended to side with industry out of habit, principle, or both.
But there is no reason to be nice to providers who are dedicated to sacrificing the rest of us for their own gain. Rather than working against legislation that will inevitably lead to government-imposed rationing, industry is aiding the process. As the Wall Street Journal noted about PhRMA, the pharmaceutical trade association:
So how has the industry responded? More or less as Lenin predicted. Big Pharma is now running ads against Joe Lieberman, saying his threat to torpedo the Senate bill could cause drug prices to rise by 20%. It is also funding a campaign that targets the fence-sitters Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln.
In other words, the industry is trashing the very Senators who stand the best chance to rescue it from government control. Instead, the drug CEOs are making themselves complicit with the Washington mentality of seeing only the costs of medications, not benefits like longer lives or fewer hospitalizations. They are ensuring that they will always be a political target and making the extortion easier in the bargain.
The shame is that there be will fewer resources for the research and development that drives innovation, particularly for the smaller biotech companies that are the future of cutting-edge medicine. When it takes about a decade and a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market, a CEO of a smaller drug company told us recently, most firms are “living on the edge of extinction.”
Almost certainly, the industry is being short-sighted. Even if the deals hold today, in a few years, as costs skyrocket, everyone will be looking for money to save. No one on the left will feel the need to respect past promises to guarantee industry profits. Whatever the Democrats fail to achieve today they will get tomorrow.
So Republicans should vote to give the providers supporting Obamacare their just desserts today. Rather than fighting to protect doctors, insurers, and drugmakers from increased regulation, the GOP should support any proposed restrictions. If industry wants the American people to suffer under government health care rationing, then the pain should be shared. Industry should give up its pound of flesh in the name of “reform” as well.
American health care is a mess and needs real reform. But not a government takeover. If industry is going to support rationing for the rest of us, it should be made to feel the full consequences of its policies.
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