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Friday, June 12, 2009

Robert Reich: Will Obama Stand Up to Health Care Lobbyists and Insurers?

You may think I'm putting too much emphasis on health care reform of late, but if we don't get our way now, it won't matter what happens later. See the end of this post for info on how to act now to fight for real reform.

Today's required health care reading -- Robert Reich wants to know if Obama will take on the for-profit forces working against an affordable health care system that will work for all Americans. Can Obama get down in the trenches and fight tooth and nail against the AMA, Big Pharma and Big Insurance? Does he have the stomach to battle anti-progressive forces in Congress -- even those who are members of his own party? According to Reich,

"The next weeks will show what Obama is made of -- whether he's willing and able to take on the most formidable lobbying coalition he has faced so far on an issue that will define his presidency.

And make no mistake: A public option large enough to have bargaining leverage to drive down drug prices and private-insurance premiums is the defining issue of universal healthcare. It's the only way to make healthcare affordable. It's the only way to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from eating up future federal budgets. An ersatz public option -- whether Kent Conrad's non-profit cooperatives, Olympia Snowe's "trigger," or regulated state-run plans -- won't do squat.

Reich writes that the health care war has officially begun in Washington, with the always craven AMA and other forces coming out against an effective public option. What will Obama do?

The last president to successfully take on the giant healthcare lobbies was LBJ. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted because he weighed into the details, twisted congressional arms, threatened and cajoled, drew lines in the sand, and went to war against the AMA and the other giant lobbyists standing in the way. The question now is how much LBJ is in Barack Obama.

The AMA represents only about 25% of doctors these days, down from the halcyon days when virtually every MD was a member. However, they still have significant clout in Washington, linked to their generous campaign donation support for Senators and Reps who do their bidding. As Reich reports,

AMA's political action committee has contributed $9.8 million to congressional candidates since 2000, and its lobbying arm is one of the most formidable on the Hill.

Clearly, we need to overcome the influence of these monied interests if we expect to win this battle. It's now or never, as Reich says,

The President can't do this alone. You must weigh in and get everyone you know to weigh in, too. Bombard your senators and representatives. Organize and mobilize others. And let the White House know how strongly you feel. This is one of those battles that define a presidency. But more importantly, it's one of those battles that define the state of American democracy.

TAKE ACTION: Call your members of Congress and the White House TODAY and demand real reform that includes a strong, effective public option. No co-ops, no trigger. Tell them you won't be voting for them in the future if they fail the American people now:

Call the toll-free U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 1-877-210-5351 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office.

White House Contact Numbers: Comments 202-456-1111; Switchboard 202-456-1414; FAX: 202-456-2461.

You can also email the White House via this form.

June 12, 2009 at 12:56 PM in Corporatism, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Transition | Permalink


American citizens want single payer. We want government personnel to administer to our health care. These administrators would receive a dignified wage and be barred from taking any benefit from the private health industry. That person will have to be qualified to do their job being educated and trained for the job. Our health care system would be proof of evidence based. There are already plenty of successful health care systems world wide for our government to use as a template. COOPS aren't one of them.
Do what works.

Posted by: qofdisks | Jun 12, 2009 1:37:04 PM

From what I'm reading we're not gonna get single payer and we won't get a decent public option unless Obama and Democrats with some backbone step up to the plate and crush the selfish arguments of the Blue Dogs and others who serve their donors rather than the public. Stop mincing words. If Democrats can't support a public option they are not Democrats. We need to keep calling and calling and calling until they wake up.

Posted by: Old Dem | Jun 12, 2009 3:28:10 PM

By the way, Robert Reich will be on Bill Moyers tonight on our local PBS station (KNME-DT 5.1) It will be repeated Sunday three times: 6 am, noon & 7 pm on Ch. 9.1.

"Former labor secretary Robert Reich on the influence of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Also: founding father Thomas Paine is discussed with historian Harvey J. Kaye ("Thomas Paine and the Promise of America") and National Review's Richard Brookhiser."

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Jun 12, 2009 4:45:27 PM