David Sirota Substack - August 17, 2020

... The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF) -- a front group created by health insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital lobbying groups to oppose “Medicare for All” -- announced on Friday that it is launching a new national ad campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon their plans to create a public health insurance plan. The group said it will run ads during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week. PAHCF is led by a former Hillary Clinton aide and run out of the offices of a D.C. lobbying firm led by former top Democratic congressional aides.

A substantial “public option” plan — which polls show is wildly popular — was the centerpiece of recent policy negotiations between supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden and progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had been pushing for a more expansive Medicare for All program. A draft of the party platform, approved by DNC members late last month, includes a pledge to pass a public option, or a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Within 24 hours of the launch of the industry’s new ads, however, anonymous Democratic congressional sources were telling The Hill that Democrats likely won’t bother with the public option fight next year if Biden wins the election. Instead, they said the party will instead work to tweak the party’s 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has done little to limit insurance or hospital costs and has failed to ensure universal coverage.

To justify the preemptive retreat, Democratic congressional aides told the newspaper that the party’s moderate crop of 2020 Senate challenger candidates could make it harder to pass a public option. That assertion comes even though every single one of those candidates is currently campaigning in support of a public option, according to a TMI review of campaign statements.

The situation echoes the Democratic promises and subsequent surrender on a public option that marked the debate over health care more than a decade ago -- only this time around, the health care crisis is an even more acute emergency. While most developed countries have managed to contain COVID-19, the pandemic is spiraling out of control in the U.S. and an estimated 27 million people have lost their employer-based health insurance plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

At the same time, the coronavirus crisis has been a boon for much of the corporate health care industry -- particularly for insurance companies and drugmakers, but also for some investor-owned hospital companies. As PAHCF gears up to fight the public option, the interests the group represents have been generating outsized profits and benefiting from massive federal assistance. ...
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