Ignani and the Ignavi

Robert Waldmann

AHIP The health insurance lobby just declared war on the Baucus plan. This is new, since they previously supported health care reform. It is not, however, surprising. AHIP made its condition clear, they would support health care reform provided that all were insured. Basically the individual mandate was the price for their support.

Displaying his usual inverted political genius, Baucus decided to water down the individual mandate so that some people are allowed to go without insurance. He was trying to compromise with Republicans, well in this case, with a Republican — Olympia Snowe. Thus he violated the terms of a very clear very public agreement with AHIP. It’s not as if I didn’t warn on September 2 that this is a terrible idea.

Now Baucus has lost AHIP and Snowe remains officially undecided. He dumped AHIP Prsident Karen Ignani in a bid for the Ignavi (I make that plural to refer to the Divine Comedy but pretend it is to include Nelson or Lieberman or someone).

Update: Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Baucus is an even more brilliant 11 dimensional chess player than Obama (a 12 dimensional chess player) and he knew that provoking AHIP was a brilliant strategy. The line from an anonymous “finance committee aide” is that AHIP’s attack is good for Baucus. The idea seems to be that Senators are angry with AHIP and don’t want to appear to take instructions from AHIP (doesn’t mean they don’t want to take the instructions, it just means that they don’t want it to be obvious as in changing their position the day before the big vote after a very public command).

Of course I assume that “a finance committee aide” would not make a totally bogus claim in support of the view that Sen Baucus is a genius and certainly wouldn’t demand anonymity if the claim were totally bogus. Nahhh that’s just not the way Washington works.

I’d guess that the bought and paid for insurance industry senators (definitely including Sen Baucus) aren’t even capable of being good fiduciaries of insurance company shareholders — that there obsession with compromising, watering down and settling for half a loaf (and above all pissing of the left wing of the party) lead them to water down the individual mandate which is much more critical to insurance company profits than is the avoidance of a public option.

update 2: Kevin Drum has the same theory as I do, but he writes much more goodly.

update 3: Yves Smith ways in
More comments after the jump.

Interestingly the AHIP broadside is not a press release. It is an A1 article by Ceci Conolly in The Washington Post. I thought the Washington Post was a subsidiary of the test prep industry not the health insurance industry (live and learn).

Dougj notes that The Washington Post publisher invited health industry players to pay for access to Ceci Conolly and writes “There‚Äôs a pretty strong prima facie case for pay-to-play here.”

Also AHIP didn’t just say the Baucus bill is a bad bill which will cause insurance premia to increase. They commissioned a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an analysis (it must be an analysis there are lot’s of numbers in it) and a frightening possible price tag. PricewaterhouseCoopers clearly explains, in the text of their analysis, that they made extreme and implausible assumptions to make the calculated number as large as possible. AHIP and PwC assume that they know how journamalism works. Journalists don’t look at the assumptions or any non headline number so credibility can be bought (although I didn’t know that PwC had any left to sell). John Cohn read the fine print so you don’t have to.

I’m not sure if the old approach will work now that serious journalists have to worry about geeks who actually read the analysis that interest groups buy. OK I’m pretty sure it will still work.

update: looks the approach of anonymous sources praising their bosses still works.

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