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Saturday, December 19, 2009

A corporate takeover of healthcare AND a government takeover

[Originally posted at Beltway Confidential]

Following up on my column today about the progressive rebellion against Obama's corporatism, I wanted to comment on this claim by blogger Ed Kilgore:

To put it more bluntly, on a widening range of issues, Obama's critics to the right say he's engineering a government takeover of the private sector, while his critics to the left accuse him of promoting a corporate takeover of the public sector. They can't both be right, of course....

But, my health-care writing since February has focused on how a government takeover of health care is entirely congruent with a corporate takeover of health-care. Just as a government takeover of Wall Street and a Wall Street takeover of government are consistent. Reihan Salam at National Review explains it well:

The concern from the right isn't that the Obama approach will literally nationalize for-profit health insurers. Rather, it is that for-profit health insurers will continue evolving into heavily subsidized firms that function as public utilities, and that seek advantage by gaming the political process. Profits, including profits governed by medical loss ratios, can and will then be cycled into political action, which leads to the anxiety concerning a "corporate takeover of the public sector." Again, progressives don't literally believe that such a takeover is happening. Instead, they believe, rightly, that subsidies without effective cost containment represent a massive windfall for the private insurance sector, including non-profit insurers that generate salaries for large numbers of politically active middle and upper middle class professionals.

And Ross Douthat, as usual, takes it to a far higher level:

The point is that the more intertwined industry and government become, the harder it is to discern who’s “taking over” whom — and the less it matters, because the taxpayer is taking it on the chin either way. Or to put it another way: The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which...

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