Could it be the mountains of cash being being poured into Congress by the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies so that they can override public opinion [and physician opinion] favoring government run health insurance? Or might it be obstructionists like Senator Baucus and "moderate" Democrat, Senator Kent Conrad? (or Evan Byah or Ben Nelson or ...)
According to NPR and Mara Liasson (...and PhRMA) the option of a public (government-run) plan "has emerged as the biggest obstacle to health care legislation." And why is it an obstacle? Because, Liasson explains, "Republicans oppose a public plan, so does the American Medical Association...and even more perilous for the President, so do many moderate Democrats in Congress..."
As if Mara Liasson's Friday morning take on a public plan wasn't enough, NPR followed her report with Julie Rovner and Steve Inskeep providing their slant on the matter. Inskeep repeats the Republican argument about "this government plan [that] is going to offer a very nice service, which is good, but it's going to be cheaper than private insurers can manage" and is "actually going to damage, as Republicans say, damage my private insurance company." Neither Rovner nor Inskeep offers the most obvious response to this argument: if the government can offer a more efficient, cost-effective program than the private sector, what's the problem?
Inskeep is not done either. He then puts this question to Rovner: "We have Democrats here who are saying it's absolutely essential, if we don't have this public plan, we've got nothing, there's no health care reform, NOTHING. On the other side you have Republicans who say if you put this public plan in, your're right on the way to socialized medicine. Are law makers at all seeing a way between those two extremes."
Rover doesn't even acknowledge the fact that reform without a robust public plan is not reform at all, or as former Sec. of Labor Robert Reich notes:
"A public option large enough to have bargaining leverage to drive down drug prices and private-insurance premiums is the defining issue of universal health care. It's the only way to make health care affordable. It's the only way to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from eating up future federal budgets."Instead, Rovner agrees with Inskeep, then goes on to claim that the reasonable way between the "extremes" will be a plan "having co-ops...regional buying groups...[or] a government plan but very limited."
NPR is really crafty in this coverage. In these two back-to-back Friday reports they've managed to take an option like the public plan [which is already a serious compromise from the single-payer model] and turn it into "the biggest obstacle" and one of "these extremes." Furthermore, they manage to tout the dismal co-op model as the reasonable compromise. I'll let Robert Reich have the final say about co-ops: "Kent Conrad came up with this bamboozle. Finance chair Baucus is impressed, and some Republicans -- even Grassley -- seem interested...."
Well, almost the final word: he could have added NPR to the list of those "interested."