Are Democratic lobby groups ready to fight alongside the Obama administration to secure their policy goals?
This time, too, the ground has shifted in the debate, with new support for a sweeping overhaul of the health care system from some quarters of the business community, where the crushing effect of benefits costs and the impetus to contain them through new governmental policies are a regular topic of discussion.
Wal-Mart and AT&T, for example, are members of Better Health Care Together, a group Mr. Podesta’s organization helped found with the leader of the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern.
Even the insurance industry group that ran the “Harry and Louise” spots — now called America’s Health Insurance Plans — says it wants to play a different role this time around.
I’d hesitate to reduce this to a single dimension: the strength of the Democratic lobby corps. While I haven’t done any deep analysis of the two situations, it seems to me that Clinton’s healthcare policy was being advanced from a position of weakness: Clinton was badly bruised in his election, taking only 43% of the popular vote. President Clinton then immediately galvanized the right with the issue of gays in the military. What’s more, the resulting solution of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” also managed to disenchant the left.
Today, we have a popular president advancing his healthcare agenda during a severe economic downturn. Businesses, governments, and individuals alike dread spending even more of their dwindling cash on healthcare. Individual states have experimented with private universal coverage, helping to bring the idea further into the mainstream.
A former colleague of mine in the information security business used to refer to what he called “the shelf life of urgency,” and the Obama plan may be able to take advantage of the current conditions to sail through.