Tuesday, October 13, 2009


It seems as if the insurance industry blundered badly yesterday -- but I'm not so sure:

Yesterday, the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry trade group for private insurers, launched a new attack against reform, issuing a report with dire warnings about increased premiums should reform become law. The strategy, apparently, was to help derail the Democratic initiative the day before the Finance Committee vote.

How'd that work out? Not so well....

Democrats and other reform advocates angrily enumerated the flaws in AHIP's report. Even the auditing firm AHIP used backed away from AHIP's conclusions. Pretty bad, hunh?

Well, it's not what AHIP wanted and it's probably not what AHIP expected (who ever expects Democrats and liberals to fight back fiercely and quickly?), but I think AHIP was counting on the usual lies-can-travel-the-globe-while-the-truth-is-still-putting-on-its-shoes process -- a hope, in other words, that the conclusions of this flawed report would be heard and believed far and wide, notwithstanding any future debunking. Thanks to the right-wing noise machine, that process usually works quite well, thank you; in fact, to judge from the lead story at Fox Nation, the AHIP report still has Democrats on the defensive, and hasn't been debunked at all:

I think AHIP just wanted the reform-equals-higher-premiums message out there, and out there first. It doesn't matter if the message is debunked because many right-wing voters and many swing voters heard it. It won't die. How many debunked rumors about health care have died? . Did "death panels" die? Doesn't your right-wing cousin still think the bills will force taxpayers to pay for abortions and give insurance to illegals?

And there's this:

George Stephanopoulos added that in light of the AHIP stunt, "the chances that some kind of public option will make it into the final bill have now increased."

That's a double-edged sword, isn't it? On the one hand, folks like us want the public option in the bill; on the other hand, it makes the bill harder to get past Republican and Blue Dog senators. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the AHIP people gamed out the possibility that a backlash to their report could make inclusion of the public option more likely, but if they'd thought of it, I'm not sure they'd have cared. I think they'd have thought injecting a nasty new meme into the discussion was worth that possible outcome, because that possible outcome is a mixed blessing at best for our side. I just don't see the backlash against AHIP making more fence-sitters in the Senate want to vote for the public option.

This is more of my usual contrarianism, but I'm sticking with it. So I'm not sure the insurance industry is as upset with how this has played out as you'd think.

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