Obamacare

(Not) Breaking News: "The Obama administration and the health insurance industry have suddenly discovered that they need each other."

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The New York Times squints and rubs its eyes in wonder at the pairing of two political adversaries:

After squaring off as political foes for more than a year, the Obama administration and the health insurance industry have suddenly discovered that they need each other.

Suddenly, eh? So the Times thinks this is a recent development? That's interesting, because I swear I've heard something like this before somewhere.

Look, it's easy to paint insurers as villains and act surprised when the industry buddies up with Washington. And, sure, it would be an exaggeration to say they supported the health care overhaul wholeheartedly; AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni was never going to quit her job and go volunteer at Health Care for America Now. And it's likely that there will be continued squabbling over rate hikes and regulations as ObamaCare takes shape. But the insurers saw where the legislative winds were blowing, knew they were going to be targeted, and, as a result, decided early on to suck up to the administration in an effort to get into its good graces, and thereby expand their influence. In doing so, they—like PhRMA (though not quite as explicitly)—made themselves partners in the health care reform process.

The flipside of that is that, for all its stern rhetoric, the White House ended up partnering with the insurers. The federal government has never regulated health insurance to this extent before—those responsibilities were left to the states—and, ultimately, the insurers are responsible for carrying out a lot of what the health care law calls for. And now the two are stuck together. They may not like each other, or at the very least they may not want to be seen to like each other, but either way, they're locked arm in arm—and they're going to be for a while.