Moment Of Brilliance #3: Obama’s Epic Win

I am laughing today about the healthcare reform debate.  That’s right, laughing.

I am laughing because yesterday, it came out that President Obama had, in closed-door negotiations, made a deal with pharmaceutical companies to support healthcare reform and make an $80 billion reduction in medication costs over the next decade.  In exchange for their support and pledge,  the White House would not support anything in the current reform package that would affect Big Pharmaceutical, including not allowing Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prices or import cheaper Canadian medications.

Is that necessarily a good thing, that Big Pharma has bought itself from the administration? Well, yes and no.

On the Huffington Post, there were plenty of comments about how Obama had sold out the American people to Big Pharma, how he has failed to bring the change he promised, that he’s a corporate shill, he’s a fraud, et cetera, ete cetera, blah blah blah, whine whine whine, change my diaper.

On the other hand, it took me about two seconds to see the brilliance of the plan.

No matter how much money the insurance companies and lobbies have, Big Pharma has as much, if not more.  We’ve already seen the destructive results of insurance lobbying in Congressional obstructionism, Astroturf campaigns disrupting town halls, and misleading advertising.   How much worse do you think it would be if the pharmaceutical companies were throwing their weight behind the movement as well?

So Obama negotiated and got Big Pharma off the table.

But wait! say the people who feel it their job to quuestion, insult, and attack the President at every turn, their chorus strengthened by the addition of those who don’t think in long-term goal achievement and don’t know how to play chess.  Isn’t rising drug costs one of the reasons that healthcare is so expensive?  Don’t America’s pharmaceutical practices need reform as well?

Surprisingly, they’re right.  There does need to be reform there, and time will tell if the pledged $80 billion cost reduction will help much or not.  But at least it’s something, which is more than the health insurance companies have been willing to do.  Also, there’s something else:  Congress is still free to pursue drug regulation reform  any time that it wants to.  It just won’t be able to do so in this healthcare reform package.  It will also be done, if it is done in the future, without White House support, so if it’s painted as chance to hurt Obama, the Republicans will sign on and override a veto, if he were to issue one.

Meanwhile, not only is Big Pharma not opposing the current healthcare reform package, they’re spending $150 million in advertising to support it.  Just as a comparison, that’s $24 million more than John McCain spent on his entire Presidential campaign, and just a little over half of what Obama spent.  It’s more than the opponents of healthcare reform are likely to be able to raise, plus that $150 million is aided by independent groups like MoveOn, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and others coming out in support of healthcare.

Obama not only avoided making the battle too large to win, he recruited an ally with money power comparable to his opponents and left the door open to a future solo battle with Big Pharma, as opposed to having to fight them and the healthcare insurance lobby together.

That’s just brilliant.

Call it choosing your battles wisely, call it pitting one enemy against another, steal a page from the Senryahu and call it borrowing the right of way to attack, it all boils down to a great strategic move. . .and one that stands in glorious counterpoint to the ham-handed “us vs. them” “bring it on” tactics of the previous Administration.  It’s so, so nice to have a President that thinks long-term and actually has strategies, as opposed to the “get out there and yell” whining and frustrated rabble-rousing of his enemies.

It’s brilliant, is what it is.

VS – 8.08.09

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