Do Democrats Realize They're in Charge?
By this point, I could write the transcripts in advance. Every interview with members of the administration involved in health-care reform goes the same way: A reporter asks if they support the public plan. They do. Then the intrepid reporters asks if it's non-negotiable. And, like everything else in health-care reform "except for success," the public plan turns out to be negotiable. And that's the headline.
Today, everyone is up in arms about a Wall Street Journal story in which Rahm Emanuel goes through those motions. I'm not particularly up in arms about this, because it's not a change in rhetoric. At all. They've been saying the same thing since the first day. Barack Obama has said this. Kathleen Sebelius has said this. Nancy DeParle has said this. And Rahm Emanuel has said this previously. As it has been, so it still is.
But I was struck by the rationalization Emanuel provided for the so-called "trigger" public plan. This is not an argument I've heard before:
Mr. Emanuel said one of several ways to meet Mr. Obama's goals is a mechanism under which a public plan is introduced only if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own. He noted that congressional Republicans crafted a similar trigger mechanism when they created a prescription-drug benefit for Medicare in 2003. In that case, private competition has been judged sufficient and the public option has never gone into effect.
Putting aside the success, or lack thereof, of Medicare Part D, this is a bit of a weird comment. In 2003, Republicans controlled the White House, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. As such, when they tried to pass their legislation adding a private prescription drug benefit to Medicare, they allowed a small concession to Democrats: a weak public plan that would be activated if certain conditions weren't met by private industry.
What Emanuel is saying here, however, is that in 2009, when Democrats control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate -- and have larger margins than Republicans ever did in the latter two -- that they are interested in settling on the same policy compromise: a weak public plan that would be activated if certain conditions aren't met by private industry. That's a bit weird. Weren't elections supposed to have consequences?
Photo credit: Getty Images.
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