The Stash

Is Obama's Health Care Approach Fueling More Lobbying?

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The Journal argues that it is: 

What has fueled the lobbying surge is that President Barack Obama has left the details of the health overhaul to Congress. That means interest groups have plenty of decision-makers to badger. It also makes any legislation vulnerable to death by a thousand cuts.

The implication is that, had the White House provided Congress with a plan that resolved every detail, there would be far less lobbying, which strikes me as somewhat hard to believe. What trillion dollar piece of legislation (or, for that matter, $100 billion piece of legislation) has ever gone from the White House to Capitol Hill without endless legislative tinkering and around-the-clock special-pleading by K Street? Even the Bush tax cuts had more than their share of these things.

The Journal piece lists a number of specific lobbying efforts--by oncologists, device-makers, small-business groups, realtors, rural hospitals, urban hospitals, etc. Which of these groups would have sat out the fight--or even scaled back their efforts much--had Obama sent Congress a detailed plan?

Relatedly, the piece has an example of why you can't trust anything insurance companies say: 

The health-insurance industry said Tuesday it is launching an effort to send insurance-company employees to public meetings nationwide this month to rebut increasing criticism of the industry from the White House and top Democrats. "Attacking our community will not help get anyone covered," said Karen Ignagni, chief executive of lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans. ...

Hmmm. This seems pretty counterintuitive to me. If Obama can pass near-universal healthcare reform by making insurers into the bad guys, he will almost literally have gotten people covered by attacking the insurance community. It may not be the most honest or ennobling way to go about it (though hardly the least honest or ennobling)--so Ignagni may be on firmer ground if she wants to make a normative claim. But, as a statement of fact, it sounds completely wrong.

--Noam Scheiber

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