Bob Franken

DC Rules: Whatever You Want

What is such fun about Washington is we get to be unbound by any reality. Words, for instance, have no meaning. Nor do alliances, promises or anything that normal people use as guideposts to understand what’s going on. Here in DC Fantasyland, there is nothing to understand, so we are permitted to conjure up any explanation we wish.

Case in point: Karen Ignagni: She is president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying enforcer for the health insurance mob, as the name suggests. For the last several months, we have been told that this time, the industry would be allied with the Obama White House and the other special interests in creating some sort of reform…not like the last go around when their “Harry and Louise” ads brought the Clintons’ efforts down in flames. They took a seat at the negotiating table. Now we discover that they were probably using it as a vantage point to choose the right moment to sabotage the whole thing from the inside.

AHIP (we’re big on acronyms here), has commissioned an anything-for-a-payoff accounting firm, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers to concoct a study that concludes the average American will end up paying more for health insurance under many of the planned reforms than they would otherwise.

They’ve been roundly attacked by the Democrats for a less-than-honest analysis, based on a very selective use of assumptions. Even Price-Waterhouse is backing off a bit in embarrassment, because the firm is looking kind of like the author of a medical study that is paid for by a drug company. Among the assumptions, the absence of a public option as an alternative to insurance companies.

Here’s the fun part: We can try and figure out what the group was thinking. Was the organization just pretending to be a willing participant so it would be in the best position to blow up the process when it mattered? Or was AHIP so UNhip that it didn’t realize this could all backfire and resurrect the public option that so many had pretty much left for dead? Or did it suddenly realize that it needed a public option to insure all those who were bigger risks, while the companies cherry-picked all the young and healthy customers?

These guys are either bumblers or insidiously clever. What’s fun for us pundits and analysts is that we can draw whatever conclusion we want. Any of them makes sense, even when some of them don’t make sense. It doesn’t matter how wrong we are, because no one is really paying attention anymore.

They didn’t mean to, but the insurance strategists have cleared up any doubts that when it comes to health care reform, it’s them against the public good. The reason they maintain their clout is because they have gazillions of dollars in profits they can toss at TV ads again to frighten everyone away from reform with a barrage of half truths and outright lies.

It’s no wonder the United States has such a dysfunctional system of medical care. It is so under the thumb of those who thrive in keeping the dismal status quo. The only hope is that they got so cocky that this time they overplayed their hands and the politicians will be too embarrassed to side with them. Oops, forget I said that. Politicians are never too embarrassed. Neither apparently, are the insurance companies. Which actually makes all of this EASY to understand.

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