I'ved poked around Washington today, talking with friends on the Hill who confirm the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill.
You know why, of course. They don't want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, "unfair" is anything that undermines their profits.
So they're pulling out all the stops -- pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called "moderate" Republicans who say they're in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only. One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they've been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers.
That sorry-ass Max Baucus is behind this. The Democrats are more dishonest than the Republicans in this regard; at least the GOP is straight-up about their intentions. Mitch McConnell: "The key to a bipartisan bill is to not have a government plan in the bill, no matter what it's called ... When I say no government plan, I mean no government plan. Not something described some other way, not something that gets us to the same place by indirection. No government plan." The Blue Dogs will put together a Potempkin bill which looks like a public option, but as a practical matter won't be -- their modus operandi in other policy matters.
All this will be decided within days or weeks. And once those who want to kill the public option without their fingerprints on the murder weapon begin to agree on a proposal -- Snowe's "trigger" or any other -- the public option will be very hard to revive. The White House must now insist on a genuine public option. And you, dear reader, must insist as well.
This is it, folks. The concrete is being mixed and about to be poured. And after it's poured and hardens, universal health care will be with us for years to come in whatever form it now takes. Let your representative and senators know you want a public option without conditions or triggers -- one that gives the public insurer bargaining leverage over drug companies, and pushes insurers to do what they've promised to do. Don't wait until the concrete hardens and we've lost this battle.
We remain silent at our peril.