Everyone a Little Suspicious of Health-care Industry’s Motives

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Look out, Obama, they're right behind you! Photo: Getty Images

Earlier this afternoon President Obama convened what he termed a "remarkable" meeting with health-care-industry representatives to announce a "historic" agreement. And indeed, this sounds like a pretty big deal: Leading industry groups have agreed to lower costs over the next ten years to the tune of $2 trillion. Finally, we can all agree that that's a lot of money. Obama said that lowering the costs of health care will complement the overall reform of the health-care system, which Congress will be taking up soon. But wait a second — this is the same lobby that killed health-care reform in the early nineties. Now we're supposed to believe that they're onboard, and are willing and able to find $2 trillion in savings? What's really going on here?

• Paul Krugman believes that "that key interest groups have realized that health care reform is going to happen no matter what they do, and that aligning themselves with the Party of No will just deny them a seat at the table." While "there’s every reason to be cynical about these players’ motives," Krugman call this "some of the best policy news I've heard in a long time." [NYT]

• Jonathan Cohn calls it "good news" that "instead of pitching a fit about health care reform, as they have so many times in history," the health-care industry "will offer their assistance." Though the "depth of the groups' commitment" is unclear, just the "sight of these groups standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Obama will give reform additional political momentum." [Treatment/New Republic]

• Ezra Klein "can't shake" his "skepticism about today's big health care announcement." Basically the health-care industry is, "at this juncture, helping the White House with its messaging. But that doesn't mean they will help the White House with its legislation." Why would they support the reforms? After all, a "1.5 percentage point decrease in health spending is a 1.5 percentage point decrease in medical industry profits." [American Prospect]

• Kevin Drum is "with Ezra," since the health industry's "incentives here are simply too clear to believe they want to genuinely be of help." [Mother Jones]

• Michael F. Cannon suspects that the industry is hoping, in the short term, to reap "a huge revenue boost" from universal coverage — and then every lobbyist at today's White House media event will fight those spending reductions over the long term. [Corner/National Review]

• Marc Ambinder says this is a "big" development, and "the bottom line political significance" is "that the White House is gonna get health care reform, this year." [Atlantic]

• Matt Yglesias points out that from now on, the health-care industry "won’t be able to take back the fact that once upon a time they stood beside the White House in agreeing that it’s possible to achieve massive cost-savings without compromising patient care," which "may well prove hugely important, politically, to getting a package through congress." [Think Progress]

• Karen Tumulty notes that "the industry offers almost no details of how it intends to do this, and it would be virtually impossible to track how well the individual players — insurance companies, drug firms, hospitals, unions — are doing at meeting that mark." But it shows "that the health industry wants reform — at least, it wants it on their terms." [Swampland/Time]

• Joe Weisenthal calls it a "bad, bad sign" that "unions, big pharma and health insurers" are buying into this new initiative. "It's an indication that the status quo won't be seriously disrupted, and that at best the plan will make modest changes around the margins," despite the need for a "radical disruption." [Clusterstock]

• Steve Benen is encouraged "in part because it suggests the right's opposition is completely falling apart, as the reform push picks up needed momentum, and in part because it brings these heavy-hitters into the tent, where they're far less likely to start launching vicious attacks." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Ben Smith sees it as "a mark that negotiations have shifted from whether there will be sweeping reform to whether or not that reform will include a public option." [Ben Smith/Politico]

• Jennifer Rubin sees this as "a desperate attempt not to get run over by the Democratic healthcare 'reform' bulldozer and the 'public option' plan. Good luck with that." [Contentions/Commentry]

• Greg Sargent is struck by "how marginalized the remaining opponents of reform are right now, how disoriented the GOP opposition is on this front, and how much more likely reform suddenly looks." [Plum Line/Who Runs Gov]