Health Care Industry Is Now Reform's Only Hope, Which Is Sure To End Well

03/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Now that Scott Brown is on his way to the U.S. Senate, the press is wondering if health care reform is alive, dead, or shambling ever-forward like some mindless zombie. Republicans want to press the reset button. Democrats are quaking, unsure if they should pursue the passage of the bill they voted for or cut and run. Who's going to push health care reform forward? The multimillion dollar health care industry conglomerates that shaped the bill in the first place, that's who. So make way, for zombie health care reform!

The Senate victory by Republican Scott Brown caught many health-care companies off guard, with a number of firms reiterating support Wednesday for a sector overhaul thrown into doubt by his win.

PhRMA, the drug industry association, as well as companies including Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, WellPoint Inc. and Humana Inc., voiced support for an overhaul of some kind, despite objections among insurers about the efforts to date. Trade associations representing the insurance, hospital and medical-device industries declined to comment.

Yes, let's not forget that many moons ago, the pharmaceutical industry cut a sweetheart deal for themselves. Want to see it?

Of course, both sides strenuously denied that any such arrangement had been made, but, as Ryan Grim reported, "Stories in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times...indicated that the administration was confirming that such a deal had been made."

Meanwhile, the Journal reports that the health insurance lobby feels like they've still got some skin in the game, too:

Even health insurers, though, continued to expect some sort of change. "The issues we are dealing with are not going away," said Ron Williams, chief executive of insurer Aetna Inc. "There are legitimate concerns we need to address and we need to find good bipartisan ways to address them. We think there is a huge opportunity to get rid of the demonization and get back to civil discourse."

Many have spent over a year strategizing about how to position their companies for growth after reform, researching new acquisitions and markets.

"It's demoralizing," said Diana Birkett, executive director of public policy for Group Health Cooperative, a coordinated care system in Washington state that insures 600,000 people. "We were getting so close to something. Parts of the bill were great, and parts concerned us, but I really hope all this work doesn't go to naught."

Indeed! The health care debate shone a bright light on the common practice of denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions, which forced the insurance industry to promise to do away with the practice in return for federal mandates that would require healthy people to buy insurance from private insurers. Only now, the insurance industry may not even get their delicious, delicious mandates. This puts them in a bind, seeing as how now, continuing to deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions makes them look like a passel of yawning, amoral scumbags! Man, you'd be demoralized, too!

So, if health care reform is to survive, it will do so because the major players in the health care industry are already way too heavily invested in the bill they wrote to not close the deal. Which means the fate of health care reform is in the hands of lobbyists.

Which is kind of where it was in the first place! But, hey, maybe now representatives of PhRMA and AHIP will just battle each other to the death, with pitchforks, for our amusement.

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