President Barack Obama openly courted the health insurance industry as he attempted to craft a coalition to craft a health care reform bill.
But that industry turned out to be the wolf in the hen house, keeping its powder dry and waiting for the right time to try and torpedo any serious attempt at reforming the system that provides them with huge profits while saddling Americans with crippling costs.
They struck this week with charges that the bill that emerged from the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday would increase the cost of health insurance while doing little, if nothing, to change the system.
This sent the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats scrambling for damage control and fighting to discredit the claims from the one-time allies.
But the move could also help Obama’s cause by giving the White House a clear enemy to fight in the long battle.
For months, President Obama and his administration waged their fight for a health-care overhaul without a clear opponent, even courting the industry executives and interest groups that helped kill reform efforts 15 years ago.
But attacks on the leading Democratic reform plan this week by the insurance lobby left little doubt that two of the most powerful institutions involved in the debate — the White House and the nation’s insurance companies — have abandoned any real hope of forging a compromise. What was a tenuous truce has turned quickly into an all-out battle, with both sides ratcheting up the hostilities.
As the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved a 10-year, $829 billion bill to remake the health-care system, Obama’s top advisers and the insurers moved into a more intense stage of conflict.
“The insurance industry has decided to lead the charge against health reform, and everyone recognizes their motives: profits,” said White House deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer. “We are going to make sure they can’t sink this effort at the last minute.”
Pfeiffer castigated the industry for releasing a report Monday that concluded that the finance panel’s bill would increase costs for consumers. “They made themselves a very good foil,” he said.
The insurers, however, showed no sign of being chastened. America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, opened a fresh line of attack with a multistate advertising campaign warning that senior citizens enrolled in private Medicare plans could lose benefits under the legislation.