So who is it this time? Well, it’s those savvy businessmen, wheeling and dealing inside the Beltway, as if the machinations that they arrange with the politicos are actually enforceable. Consider a New York Times report today, beginning with the following:
Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion. Drug industry lobbyists reacted with alarm this week to a House health care overhaul measure that would allow the government to negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers. In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement.
Can the drug producers possibly believe that President Obama would veto a health-care “reform” bill imposing price controls (“price negotiations”) on drugs yielding federal spending “savings” greater than $80 billion? (Actually, the agreement for the $80 billion yields savings for some patients, not the feds; but that is a story for another day.) And precisely how would anyone monitor White House efforts to resist such provisions in Congress as legislation takes shape? What about congressional efforts next year, or after the new Congress is seated in 2011?
Note that the administration about three weeks ago induced the American Medical Association to endorse its “reform” effort by promising not to make the Medicare reimbursement squeeze on the doctors even worse. I commented to a friend that it would take Congress at most two years to renege on that. I was off by two orders of magnitude, as OMB director Peter Orszag three days later — three days! — told one of the Sunday talk-show hosts that the deficit numbers in the plan then under consideration were big because the reimbursement squeeze had been assumed away. But it would be put back in, and the numbers then would look much better. Voila!
Such promises, in short, are as phony as a three-dollar bill, an unsubtle reality highly relevant for the other promises now being made in support of socialism in medicine. You like your private insurance? No problem: Keep it. You’re in the middle class? You won’t have to pay for anything. You’re old? You’ll get as much of the finest medical care and technological advances that your doctor and your family deem appropriate. You like new and improved medicines, medical devices, and diagnostic tools? Our “cost-effectiveness” controls won’t affect any of it. Ad nauseam. That the American people seem not to be buying this snake oil even as those smart businessmen rush to line up for a rubber-glove exam is fascinating.
— Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.
This blog post originally appeared on National Review’s The Corner.