There’s the Special-Interest Lobbying We Were Waiting For

A David Herszenhorn “Prescriptions” piece in today’s New York Times (which, oddly, I can’t find online) has some interesting things to say about how cost control, or “bending the curve,” has become largely forgotten in the health care debate. One tool that might have addressed that goal is a mechanism to reduce Medicare payment rates if costs rise too fast. Writes Herszenhorn:

The absence of such a provision is not a result of special-interest lobbying but rather lawmakers’ basic instincts to protect their home turf: high-cost regions fear being punished by steep cuts, and low-cost regions want flexibility to let their costs rise…

That leaves the proposed excise tax on high-end “Cadillac” plans included in the Senate Finance Committee’s bill as the biggest remaining effort to curb spending, according to budget experts. And how might that measure fare as the debate proceeds? From a Robert Pear story that appears on the same page of today’s print edition:

In a blistering new attack, the health insurance industry said Sunday that health care legislation drafted by Senate Democrats would drive up premiums, rather than making coverage more affordable, as the White House contends.

A lobby for the industry, America’s Health Insurance Plans, focused its criticism on a bill likely to be approved Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee.

One of AHIP’s specific targets? That excise tax on high-cost policies. Looks like special-interest lobbying may play a role on this front, after all.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.