Rethinking Healthcare

How Republicans beat health reform

How Republicans beat health reform

Posting in Finance

The result is that Republicans on Senate Finance now face the choice between a Baucus bill lacking all the elements of reform the President previously laid out -- a public option, employer mandates, no tax on benefits -- or walking away. Either way, they win.

Unity and money.

These two forces appear, for the moment, to have checkmated President Obama on health reform.

Unity
is what Republicans brought to the table. While they are a minority in
both Houses of Congress, unity always lets a minority wield power out
of proportion to its numbers.

Money, from both the buy side (insurers) and the sell side (doctors and drug companies) is providing the margin among Democrats that Republicans need to prevail.

Republicans are united in
opposing reform. They proved this unity during the stimulus debate,
keeping their caucus together. And in this battle that unity extends to
the grassroots, from the bottom of the party to the boardroom.

Take Michael Hennessy (left, and that's his signature above, from Pharmacy Times.)

The chairman of Intellisphere,
which started 10 years ago offering online medical sites and now owns both magazines and
the political publication Campaigns & Elections, he's a regular Republican contributor who seldom wears his political heart on his sleeve.

Except
now.

Yesterday he blasted an e-mail, at risk of spam charges, attacking the Obama
plan as dangerous, and attacking any form of universal health care --
whether single-payer systems like England, the Massachusetts plan, or
the hybrid Democrats want. Let's Hope History Repeats Itself, was his headline.

Beyond
Republican opposition to universal care under any scheme, we have
industry fears that the gravy train may halt. United Healthcare has
been especially clever in this regard, handing Republicans their
talking points through its Lewin Group subsidiary.

But alongside opposition to being cut-out on the buyer's side,
there is also unease about reform on the selling side, as at a recent
town hall meeting held by Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at the Texas Medical Center.

The spin was stall, but even though most of the industry leaders "were united that reform is necessary," wrote the Houston Chronicle, Hutchison was happy to take their cries of "careful" as a reason to support her party's line.

What has split the Democrats and made reform nearly impossible is money.  Specifically it's campaign contributions to top Democrats like Finance Committee chair Max Baucus, whose committee must report a bill before anything will move.

This program of big money to conservative Democrats is also working in the House, which has now stalled floor consideration of its bill.

The
result is that Republicans on Senate Finance now face the choice
between a Baucus bill lacking all the elements of reform the President
previously laid out -- a public option, employer mandates, no tax on benefits -- or walking away.

Either way, they win.

The
coming August recess will also be filled with a barrage of TV ads
opposing either the idea of reform or major elements of reform, both
from industry and the Republican Party.

Thus the President has a
choice. He can try to force his caucus into line with his goals, which
he may be unable to do, or he can take what he's being offered, which
may be worse than no reform at all.

Heads the Republicans win, tails the Democrats lose.

Whatever your views on the issue, you have to admire the tactics. Almost everyone agreed in January action was necessary, yet we will see no action thanks to unity and money.

This failure by the Democrats leaves the Republican Party in great shape to win back the Congress next year and take the White House in 2012.

Disappointed liberals are bound to stay away from the polls in droves, preferring to take their despotism pure, not laden with the base alloy of hypocrisy. By failing to hang together they will, in a political sense, all hang separately.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure