Reason's Annual Webathon is underway! Donate today to see your name here.
Reason is supported by:
Phil de Oliveira
Health-care reform advocates have spent a fair bit of time complaining about the boisterous protests that have hit town-hall meetings across the country over the last week. Many of the complaints have suggested that the protests are illegitimate because they are industry funded. If I had to guess, I'd say that industry funding has probably played some role in some of the protests, but I'm not sure that necessarily delegitimizes them.
Moreover, if we're going to talk about industry support, I think it's worth looking at where major industry players stand with regard to reform. Democrats, meanwhile, have vilified industry—literally: Nancy Pelosi recently called health insurers "villains" and said that they're "immoral."
Funny, though, as Tim Carney points out, while the insurance industry is wary of a government-run public plan, which would serve as a competitor, it supports reform to the extent that it expands coverage and subsidies.
So the insurance industry, despite being labeled villains, is, for the most part, playing along. How about other major industry players? The drug industry, represented in Washington by PhRMA, came out in favor of reform. It cut a deal with the White House up front, promising to help reduce costs and make some drugs more affordable for seniors in exchange for protection from additional measures that might cut into its revenues. President Obama, who ran an ad attacking PhRMA head Billy Tauzin during his campaign, bragged about the deal, calling the industry's support "a turning point" on the road to reform. Doctors, meanwhile, represented by the AMA, have announced support for the House overhaul plan.
Deal-making is a fact of life in Washington, and knowing this, politically savvy reformers have openly sought to bring industry groups on board with their plans in hopes of avoiding the industry-funded opposition that helped tank the 1994 reform attempt. The point here, I think, is that no matter what Nancy Pelosi says about the supposed evils of the insurance industry or what harsh words Obama has for top drug industry representatives, Democrats have explicitly made major industry players partners in their legislative efforts, and industry has been basically happy to play along.