As the health care debate moves forward, both in Congress and out in the public square, it's going to be important to keep two things in mind.
First, businesses that have an interest in the outcome of health care reform, specifically the prescription drug industry (PhRMA) and the insurance industry (AHIP and others) will argue against any health care reform that threatens their profits. Every single time. Period.
So, whenever you see statements from these industries, or whenever they come out with a "concession," as they did this week saying they would begin covering pre-existing conditions, keep the profit motive in mind. AHIP was shrewd to come out with their new position; they know not covering pre-existing conditions is one of the top reasons the public has such a low opinion of the insurance industry. But they are not actually interested in solving the problem. As Think Progress points out, nothing is mentioned about AHIP helping to control costs (read: lower their rates):
But while the insurance industry has shrewdly co-opted the rhetoric of universal coverage, they have not adopted the necessary affordability measures that progressives typically advocate for. For instance, while most progressives support community rating — everyone pays the same prices for coverage, regardless of health status — and a new health care exchange in which private plans are forced to compete with a public option, the insurance industry would be happy to see the government subsidize coverage for those who can’t afford it.
These costs remain the #1 cause of bankruptcy for Americans, but cutting those costs (by creating a public plan to compete with the insurance industry) would cut into insurance industry profits. And so, the industry continues its single-minded opposition to a public health care plan, because they know they can't compete on the level playing field.
Same goes for conservatives. Their opposition to health care reform will be based on one thing - political survival.
Back in 1992, Bill Kristol distributed a hugely influential memo to conservatives arguing that if Bill Clinton succeeded in passing health care reform, the right-wing in America would suffer a near fatal blow. In Kristol's words, conservatives should seek to "kill," not amend health care reform.
A similar feeling is echoing now through conservative circles, as James Pethokoukis reports in US News:
The GOP strategist had been joking about the upcoming presidential election and giving his humorous assessments of the candidates. Then he suddenly cut out the schtick and got scary serious. "Let me tell you something, if Democrats take the White House and pass a big-government healthcare plan, that's it. Game over. Government will dominate the economy like it does in Europe. Conservatives will spend the rest of their lives trying to turn things around and they will fail."
So, as the "legislative fireworks" start flaring up, keep that in mind. Whenever conservatives oppose health care, it's not because they think it won't work, or because they think it'll be unpopular. It's actually just the opposite. Conservatives will oppose health care reform precisely because it will prove so effective and so popular that they will lose power in this country. Conservatives oppose health care reform for their own political survival. Period. End of story.
As this debate moves forward, keep a close eye on who's making arguments. If it's the insurance or pharmaceutical industry, you can bet their argument helps or protects their bottom line. If it's conservatives, you can bet it helps their political viability. Don't ever assume these groups have the public's interest at heart.