Health care reform takes an encouraging turn

HEALTH CARE REFORM TAKES AN ENCOURAGING TURN…. When Senate leaders cleared the way for health care reform to pass through the reconciliation process, it made the prospects for passage a whole lot better. In about an hour, representatives of hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry will present a proposal to the White House that makes passage even more likely.

Volunteering to “do our part” to tackle runaway health costs, leading groups in the health-care industry have offered to squeeze $2 trillion in savings from projected increases over the next decade, White House officials said yesterday. […]

The groups aim to achieve the proposed savings by using new efficiencies to trim the rise in health-care costs by 1.5 percent a year, the officials said. That would carry huge implications for the national economy and the federal budget, both of which are significantly affected by health-care expenses. […]

“I don’t think there can be a more significant step to help struggling families and the federal budget,” a senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters.

These are, of course, some of the very same health industry trade groups that worked to kill health care reform in 1993. We’re dealing with a very different landscape now.

Marc Ambinder said, “What’s the bottom line political significance of all of this: it means that the White House is gonna get health care reform, this year.” Jon Cohn added, “[M]ake no mistake: This is a big deal…. [T]he industry groups aren’t promising to control costs as an alternative to reform. They’re promising to control costs as part of reform.” Paul Krugman, while noting the reasons for skepticism, described today’s announcement as “tremendously good news” and “some of the best policy news I’ve heard in a long time.”

Krugman added, “The fact that the medical-industrial complex is trying to shape health care reform rather than block it is a tremendously good omen. It looks as if America may finally get what every other advanced country already has: a system that guarantees essential health care to all its citizens. And serious cost control would change everything, not just for health care, but for America’s fiscal future.”

Ezra Klein takes a more skeptical approach, highlighting the groups’ fierce ongoing opposition to comparative effectiveness review and the public plan, and questioning what the industry trade groups are going to do, exactly, once they have a seat at the proverbial table.

All of those concerns have a lot of merit. That said, I’m encouraged anyway, in part because it suggests the right’s opposition is completely falling apart, as the reform push picks up needed momentum, and in part because it brings these heavy-hitters into the tent, where they’re far less likely to start launching vicious attacks.

The writing is on the wall, and to mix crude LBJ metaphors, the White House sees the value in having these industries inside the tent pissing out, as compared to the alternative.