Hardball on Health Care?
This morning, the New York Times reported that the American Medical Association had sent the Senate Finance Committee a firm, detailed rejection of the public plan. “The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs," their comment read. "The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.”
Well, looks like something happened between this morning and this afternoon, because the AMA is backtracking, and quick. It just released a clarifying statement:
"Today's New York Times story creates a false impression about the AMA's position on a public plan option in health care reform legislation. The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress. This includes a federally chartered co-op health plan or a level playing field option for all plans."
In other words, it opposes the "strong" plan I outlined here and is open to the "weak" plan. The co-op thing is a red herring. So why the quick turnaround? Hard to say. But that's not a clarification. It's a backtrack. The original statement was not unclear. And it comes amid mounting indications that the key players are beginning to play hardball with the industry. Take this article from Roll Call:
Top aides to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called a last-minute, pre-emptive strike on Wednesday with a group of prominent Democratic lobbyists, warning them to advise their clients not to attend a meeting with Senate Republicans set for Thursday.
Russell Sullivan, the top staffer on Finance, and Jon Selib, Baucus’ chief of staff, met with a bloc of more than 20 contract lobbyists, including several former Baucus aides.
“They said, ‘Republicans are having this meeting and you need to let all of your clients know if they have someone there, that will be viewed as a hostile act,’” said a Democratic lobbyist who attended the meeting.
“Going to the Republican meeting will say, ‘I’m interested in working with Republicans to stop health care reform,’” the lobbyist added.
They're saying that you're either with health reform, or you're against it. And if you're against it, you can't expect to be taken care of in the final legislation. They're not going to save your seat at the table while you're trying to burn down the room. And the AMA, it seems, got the message.
(Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images)
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