America's Health Insurance Plans, the private health insurer's industry group, which commissioned a study that claimed that private insurers would have to health care to jack up prices and families would pay through the nose for health care if the reform bill passed didn't change the deal. It actually strengthened it. A few days after the industry's blatant blackmail, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel again reiterated that a public option was not "the defining piece of health care." This was a wink and nod to the industry that the White House would keep its part of the bargain no matter the trickery, skullduggery, or lies from the industry.
The fall guy for the play acting has been Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. He's been hectored, cat called, finger pointed, and raked over the coals for supposedly single-handedly torpedoing the public option. Baucus just took his cue from the White House. When the deal was cut, he had the green light to craft a reform bill that is firmly within the parameters of the industry guidelines the White House rubber stamped months earlier. There can be no deviation from that. As agreed, the public option was nowhere to be found in his plan. It was never a part of the round-the-clock negotiations the key players on the finance committee engaged in to nail down the fine points of the bill.Only the most hopelessly naÃ¯ve can be surprised by the White House and Capitol Hill play acting. Obama desperately needs to knock down a win on health care reform, no matter how much of an industry giveaway it is. He's heard the loud grumbles from progressives and liberal Democrats that he is way too quick to make nice with the GOP on comprehensive heath care reform. His soft shoe of the public option is their single biggest point of displeasure with him.
Some progressives will scream sell-out and flip-flopper at him when he signs the final bill sans a public option.
It won't much matter. Their criticism will be buried in the avalanche of media publicity, a blitz of laudatory industry accolades, and congressional back patting when Obama signs the gutted final bill and declares it the greatest victory for health care reform since LBJ inked Medicare into law four decades ago.
The major provisions of the reform bill won't kick in for years down the line. In that time, memories will have long since faded as millions remain uninsured, private insurers continue to rake in their grotesque profits, and the promised cost savings from reform never materialize. A true public option was the obvious answer to this. But when the insurers, pharmaceuticals and the White House agreed to play act on it it was dead as a doornail.