Published on TheHill.com November 6, 2009
As the suicidal Democratic congressmen proceed to rubber-stamp the Obama healthcare reform despite the drubbing their party took in the ’09 elections, the president trotted out the endorsements of the AMA and the AARP to stimulate support. But these — and the other endorsements — his package has received are all bought and paid for.
Here are the deals:
* The American Medical Association (AMA) was facing a 21 percent cut in physicians’ reimbursements under the current law. Obama promised to kill the cut if they backed his bill. The cuts are the fruit of a law requiring annual 5-6 percent reductions in doctor reimbursements for treating Medicare patients. Bravely, each year Congress has rolled the cuts over, suspending them but not repealing them. So each year, the accumulated cuts threaten doctors. By now, they have risen to 21 percent. With this blackmail leverage, Obama compelled the AMA to support his bill…or else!
* The AARP got a financial windfall in return for its support of the healthcare bill. Over the past decade, the AARP has morphed from an advocacy group to an insurance company (through its subsidiary company). It is one of the main suppliers of Medi-gap insurance, a high-cost, privately purchased coverage that picks up where Medicare leaves off. But President Bush-43 passed the Medicare Advantage program, which offered a subsidized, lower-cost alternative to Medi-gap. Under Medicare Advantage, the elderly get all the extra coverage they need plus coordinated, well-managed care, usually by the same physician. So more than 10 million seniors went with Medicare Advantage, cutting into AARP Medi-gap revenues.
* The drug industry backed ObamaCare and, in return, got a 10-year limit of $80 billion on cuts in prescription drug costs. (A drop in the bucket of their almost $3 trillion projected cost over the next decade.) They also got administration assurances that it will continue to bar lower-cost Canadian drugs from coming into the U.S. All it had to do was put its formidable advertising budget at the disposal of the administration.
* Insurance companies got access to 40 million potential new customers. But when the Senate Finance Committee lowered the fine that would be imposed on those who don’t buy insurance from $3,500 to $1,500, the insurance companies jumped ship and now oppose the bill, albeit for the worst of motives.
The only industry that refused to knuckle under was the medical device makers. They stood for principle and wouldn’t go along with Obama’s blackmail. So the Senate Finance Committee retaliated by imposing a tax on medical devices such as automated wheelchairs, pacemakers, arterial stents, prosthetic limbs, artificial knees and hips and other necessary accoutrements of healthcare.
So these endorsements are not freely given, but bought and paid for by an administration that is intent on passing its program at any cost.