Friday, September 25, 2009

Divided Traditional Allies

Business is parting from its traditional allies in the Republican Party on health care as companies and big corporate lobbyists lend tentative support to a congressional overhaul that conservative lawmakers staunchly oppose.

Staunchly: steadfastness: loyalty in the face of trouble and difficulty is one way to define the term, and the Republicans are facing troubles and difficulties, indeed.

The rift mirrors a similar divide on other issues, including immigration and climate change, where many companies have backed legislative action that Republican lawmakers oppose. But the health-care debate, in particular, casts a spotlight on the split in the longstanding alliance between economic conservatives and the business community. Republican lawmakers are digging in to oppose the overhaul effort as a big-spending government intrusion.

Big-spending intrusion is when the Democrats are in power; when Republicans are in power the same thing is called reform by Republicans.

Many companies, on the other hand, cite soaring costs to explain why they continue to back the congressional work under way to revamp the health-care system, despite misgivings over a range of provisions.

Drug and insurance companies have also signed on, though their goals are far less ambitious than those of others.

Just as Sen. Baucus was preparing to unveil his plan, the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group that represents major U.S. multinationals, released a study arguing that congressional inaction was not an option.

Even the Republicans have hurriedly put together some sort of proposal, for simply saying no is not a good strategy (other than pleasing their right-wing base).

The study found that without any changes to the current system, the cost to insure a single employee, including the person's own out-of-pocket expenses, would jump to more than $28,000 a year by 2019, from around $11,000 a year now.

155% increase in cost in ten years. Wow!

"The reality with the business community is that we want reform, while some Republicans want to stop this train and start over," said Bruce Josten, the chamber's chief lobbyist. "That is just not going to happen."

That pretty much says it: health care reform is going to pass, perhaps by December, and the Republicans will not be able to stop it.

"I wouldn't confuse pleasant noises about the Baucus bill with an endorsement," said Republican Rep. David Camp of Michigan. "If this bill tacks left, which it is already doing, business won't support it."

Of course, some people can't see or smell what they've stepped on.

Republicans have been particularly furious at the pharmaceutical industry, whose early willingness to cooperate with the White House and with Sen. Baucus proved crucial in keeping the push for an overhaul alive this summer. In June, the drug makers' lobbying group, PhRMA, cut a surprise deal with Mr. Baucus, offering to slash $80 billion in drug costs in exchange for a range of protections from the government.

No one howls as loud as a spurned lover.

That deal was shortly followed by the announcement of $150 billion in concessions by the hospital industry. House Republican leader John Boehner blasted the PhRMA deal in a letter to the group's president, Billy Tauzin, a former Republican lawmaker.

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