Waxman’s Methods

In a jello-wrestling match between Rahm Emanuel and Henry Waxman, I think I’d bet on the latter. While Rahm has been frantically and loudly pursuing two opposing strategies–the Messina-Baucus welfare program for the insurance industry hidden under the guise of the public option kabuki, Waxman has been quietly preparing for battle in September. And it sounds like the insurance industry is getting increasingly worried that Waxman will be better prepared than Rahm and his little kabuki dance.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman raised eyebrows this week when he launched a financial probe into the nation’s largest insurance companies, which are at the center of the health reform battle.

Now POLITICO has learned that Waxman’s recent investigation began almost a month earlier than previously thought – with letters to the insurance industry’s powerful trade group and its consultant regarding grassroots tactics.

A committee spokeswoman defended the probes – saying lawmakers need to know that private insurance money is being spent effectively as part of the effort to control costs. But the trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is crying foul, saying Waxman is merely trying to bring it in line behind his version of the health reform bill.

"Congressional oversight is not a tool that should be used to chill dissent," said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. "These investigations are nothing more than politically motivated, taxpayer-financed fishing expeditions designed to intimidate and silence health plans."

Now, I don’t for a second think that Waxman can win this on his own, that even armed with the information he’s seeking (assuming the insurance industry doesn’t stall, which they will) he will be able to silence Baucus and his industry-owned cohort.

But at the very least, what Waxman will succeed in doing is demonstrate that his legislative foes haven’t even considered (or, more likely, would like to hide) the business realities of those whose bidding they’re doing. You’re going to have health insurance executives asking for a huge subsidy at the same time as they cry foul when asked to provide some documents about their business. And those hysterical cries will be pitted against some very rational voices speaking quietly about cost control–precisely what the Blue Dogs and the insurance industry shills claim to be pursuing.

“If we’re going to get health costs under control, we need to make sure that our private health insurance dollars are spent as efficiently as possible. That means our premium dollars should be paying hospitals and physicians for providing health care, not wasting resources on administrative bloat,” she said.

Oh, and as I suggested in my earlier post on this, Waxman will just happen to be collecting information that Evan Bayh would rather we didn’t have. 

I’m getting a feeling that the untold–and developing–story of this health care debate is that when Waxman was forced to push through an imperfect bill with the Blue Dogs on his committee, when he got stuck in negotiations with Rahm just before the break, he realized he was getting screwed. And, lucky for us, he was in a position to do something about it, to prepare for the fight that will come in September.

62 replies
  1. JimWhite says:

    Speaking of information that Evan Bayh doesn’t want to come out, check the figures for Indiana in this Seminal diary from yesterday: from 2000-2009 health insurance premiums in Indiana went up 116.6% while wages went up only 14.9%. Rut roh.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Well, interesting.
      According to the Wikipedia page on US states by population, Indiana is the 16th most populous state, at 6,376,792, and according to it’s Wikipedia page:

      The total gross state product in 2005 was US $214 billion in 2000 chained dollars. Indiana’s per capita income, as of 2005, was US$31,150. A high percentage of Indiana’s income is from manufacturing. The Calumet region of northwest Indiana is the largest steel producing area in the U.S. Indiana’s other manufactures include pharmaceuticals and medical devices, automobiles, electrical equipment, transportation equipment, chemical products, rubber, petroleum and coal products, and factory machinery.

      So the people who produce medical devices and pharmaceuticals get their premiums raised, while Bayh continues to turn a blind eye to the biz fundamentals of healthCos.

      Go figure.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Hmmmm… who pays for Bayh’s health insurance…?
          Lemme see… would that include those in his own state who have been excluded from affordable health care because of their preexisting conditions + those who can’t afford the increase in premiums…?



    • nellieh says:

      It’s not David and Goliath! It’s just Emanuel has met a man as dimunitive as he and Waxman isn’t afraid to get in the ring with him. All Emanusl’s profanity, bluster and threats won’t faze Waxman. To coin a phrase,”he will Wax his a$$!”

      • VJBinCT says:

        Henry has a great advantage with TWO middle fingers and a tickly little moustache. Both useful in jello wrestling.

  2. bubbagoober says:

    Speaking of administrative bloat and waste, where does the $1.4 million/day being wasted on bribing legislators fall?

    Is any of that tax deductible?

    Vaguely related, I recall Clinton lowering advertising deductibility from 80% to 50%. I forget when boner-pill and vagisil ads were first allowed to flood the telly, but it always brings a warm glow whem remembering We The Taxpayer are subsidizing that TWICE: through taxes and through misallocated resources in Big Pharma.

    ot/- since the deficits now forecast 900 Billion/yr for a decade, why not eliminate that taxpayer welfare? (As we’re ALL going to be paying more, every little bit helps).

    • PJEvans says:

      He wishes. He hasn’t got the publicity side down yet: we can see he’s having problems with it. Rove managed to hide his difficulties.

    • commonbond says:

      He wishes. He’s not particularly bright. He’s challenged as a public speaker. Apparently he wasn’t much of a ballet dancer…

    • Bluetoe2 says:

      Karl Rove would never accomodate any Democrat at any time. Have them prosecuted, absolutely. RE is more than willing to accomodate Republicans.

  3. fatster says:

    Disingenuous much?

    “Congressional oversight” is a no-no. Industry propaganda is best for chilling dissent among the public about insurance companies.

    “Congressional investigations are . . . politically-motivated”. Industry propaganda is profit-motivated, hence pure and anti-socialistic.

    Tax-payer dollars should not be used “to intimidate and silence health plans”. Tax-payers should dutifully assume their role of consumers and pay their insurance premiums.

    And so on. Thnx, EW.

  4. DWBartoo says:

    What will happen if the insurance companies do not comply with Waxman’s request for information?

    The squawking has already meant that a committee “spokeswoman” has had to “defend” the “probes” …

    Karl Rove is, clearly, the new role model for deference to the legitimate business of Congressional inquiry on the part of those “too big” to be questioned or held to account.


    Why not?

    How long do the “too bigs” need to stall?

    Oh, just long enough …

    What will be the “cost” to them for doing so?

    It will doubtless be in terms of money.

    And who will really be paying for that, ultimately?

    Tell me, who is actually “cynical”, some one, such as myself who asks these essentially silly question or the “too big to …” corporate “persons” and their millionaire minions?

    Cynicism becomes us, as the “brightest” and the “best” bask in the unquestioned nobility of their unique “exceptionalism”.


  5. PJEvans says:

    I wrote to Waxman and said that, IMO, insurance companies (among others) are like parasites that haven’t yet learned not to kill their hosts (that is, to cause their customers to walk).
    And that regulating them like public utilities would probably ensure their long-term survival.

    Go, Henry, go!

  6. rosalind says:

    ot: via link at huffpo –

    Former Armey aide charged in Abramoff scandal

    Cooper failed to report the gifts on his required financial disclosure forms and allegedly made false statements to law enforcement officials and the grand jury and provided documents that “he maintained proved his statements regarding alleged free meals were true, when allegedly he knew that they did not,” the indictment charges.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      And it would be even more cool if that somehow linked up with Armey’s resignation last week from some high paying lobbying gig.

  7. BoxTurtle says:

    I’m not aware of any law that would force the insurance industry to comply with Waxman’s request. For that matter, they can’t even be forced to reply at all!

    Waxman doesn’t have the votes to subpoena that information and if he did he might lose a very long court fight over it.

    I think Waxman’s implied leverage here is not a bailout, but bad publicity on a national scale. The insurance industry is already not well liked, he could easily make them look as evil as the railroad barons. There would be strong public support to restrict the amount on information insurance companies get about us and how they use it or indepenedent board to challenge insurance rejections. Both things would frighten big insurance.

    At least somebody is fighting.

    Boxturtle (Careful of those windmills, Henry)

    • manys says:

      Putting a flashlight on the insurance industry could be a catalyzing force that transcends all the teabagging and guns and simpering liberal BS of the past few months.

  8. allan says:

    Evan Bayh, Evan Bayh … where have I heard that name?
    Oh, that’s right. From back in the day:

    Still, Republicans have seized on the issue in an effort to discredit [Amb. Joe] Wilson, who has also informally advised Kerry. Instantly, conservative media and pundits have cranked up a howling storm against him. The RNC has blasted e-mails round the clock for more than a week to the press corps and Republican supporters. In its face, the committee’s Democratic members have remained muted. They pointedly declined to join their Republican counterparts in concluding that Plame in fact did recommend her husband for the trip. But neither have they publicly defended Wilson. “We were agnostic” on Wilson, intelligence panel member Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said in an interview Wednesday.

    Bayh has been a Republican enabler for years.

  9. bmaz says:

    “Congressional oversight is not a tool that should be used to chill dissent,” said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. “These investigations are nothing more than politically motivated, taxpayer-financed fishing expeditions designed to intimidate and silence health plans.”

    Hey pal, thanks for that insightful bit, you know, when lives, health and well being depend on a subsistence of fish, a fishing expedition is not a bad thing.

    These people got nuthin, but thanks to flimsy, fluid and weak messaging by the reform side, led by the White House, they sure are making a hell of a run with their nothing.

  10. Mason says:

    This is about health insurance reform, but O/T about Waxman’s inquiry. I posted this in response to Jane’s post, but fear it’s in EPU-land. I think my post is worth considering and I hope others will share my view. I apologize in advance to those who might disagree.

    Health insurance reform that includes mandates without a public option to effectively negotiate for lower prices is a multiple billion dollar government engineered theft from the middle class to the corporations involved in health care. This should now be clear to everyone and beyond dispute.

    Rahm-Obama-Bing-Bang know this and want it to happen. They specifically have put off the date it will go into effect until after the 2012 national election because they know re-election will be impossible if the bill passes and goes into effect before then.

    I do not believe it’s a coincidence that Obama’s actions since he took office are entirely consistent with the Chicago School’s neoconservative goal to remake the world into America’s corporate empire. Professor Leo Strauss, the neocon godfather taught Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Milton Friedman, virulent free market and pure capitalist enthusiast, taught in the Department of Economics. The University of Chicago is infected with their acolytes and Obama taught Constitutional Law at the law school. I doubt everyone who teaches at the University of Chicago endorses the evil theories of those two monsters, but what I’m seeing causes me to ask myself if Obama subscribes to their views.

    I believe the University of Chicago connection merits serious study, given the circumstantial evidence of linkage, and I intend to do that. In the meantime, just for fun, I encourage each of you to assume for the sake of argument that he is a Machiavellian corporatist neocon free market enthusiast who plotted and planned all of his actions to get elected so that he could do exactly what he has done since he took office. Does such an explanation for his decisions since taking office make more or less sense to you than theories based on notions that he’s too idealistic and too committed to compromise and bipartisanship?

    Also ask yourself why he is so nonjudgmental about the right wing and so judgmental about progressives? Is this not a quintessential neocon view?

    Finally, how, if at all, do the answers affect our strategy to assure a public option is passed?

    • Justinajustice says:

      OT too:

      Here’s an excellent article that compares the Original Hacker “Public Option”to the bills that are currently on the table. Hacker’s plan has been watered down until it is dribbling down the drain, just as Grover Norquest ordered.

      We have to fight for “Medicare for All”. It is the slogan which will galvanize the voters because they understand Medicare and they like it. The “Public Option” was simply bait,switch and feed private insurers more profits.

    • PeterHug says:

      Jello wrestling match between Rahm and Waxman seems WAY preferable to one between Rove and Limbaugh…

  11. Waccamaw says:

    Now POLITICO has learned that Waxman’s recent investigation began almost a month earlier than previously thought – with letters to the insurance industry’s powerful trade group and its consultant regarding grassroots tactics.

    Very interesting how Mr. Henry somehow managed to stay under the radar for almost a month with his investigation. A more important question might be why did the insurance companies wait until now to start their public pushback?

  12. tbsa says:

    Congressional oversight is not a tool that should be used to chill dissent,” said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. “These investigations are nothing more than politically motivated, taxpayer-financed fishing expeditions designed to intimidate and silence health plans.”

    Sounds like Mister Zirkelback might need some cheese to go with that whine. AHIP has NO business using the money from premiums for anything other than providing their customers with quailty healthcare. So cry me a river buddy….

  13. Hmmm says:

    Waxman is not the only grownup finally wading into the health scene now. Daschle — not clean, I know — and Howard Dean are also on the horizon. And FDL’s influence has I think become a significant factor both in whipping the Blue Dogs and energizing the progressives. I have the sense — call it a hope, call it naive if you want, I won’t object — that once Obama returns from vacation we might see a second act very different in character from the endless Rahm-driven, congress-centered fumbling and bumbling that we’ve seen so far.

  14. RevBev says:

    I want to say again, yes, repeat myself, but at the meeting I attended, the biggest enemy in the room was the insurance group..the docs weren’t happy along with many other voices, esp ones whose coverage had been cancelled or have an illness that prevents coverage. That did not = all were for the PO, but the excesses, problems etc were myriad, and folks were mad. For them to rebel on more information (about jillion $$ salaries?) may be shooting themselves in their feet…Have at it.

  15. KingSlayer says:

    Waxman to the rescue! In a battle, this is traditionally where the infantry cheer: “The cavalry has arrived!”

  16. sbvpav says:

    for an excellent article to cheer the heart on thedailybeast.com:
    How Lyndon Would Have Passed Health-Care Reform

    by Tom Johnson

    i’m hoping rep. waxman has gone to school and learned a thing or two; i’m betting on him.

  17. marchan1940 says:

    Fascinating report.

    Just saw on BuzzFlash an article on a whip count on House Energy and Commerce Committee on the single payer amendment by Weiner. Apparently Waxman had adjourned meeting before vote could be held on that issue. I thought it had gotten through as I’d read that Pelosi had promised to bring the issue to the floor for debate and vote. Anyway, article is Tell your rep in Congress to support Single Payer –

    The list of those committed, leaning etc is in the article.


  18. Hmmm says:

    Well, there’s just no winning for the insurance companies once the people start focusing on them. Everyone, I mean everyone, hates their insurance companies with a hot hating hate. This effort has to find some way to harness that popular energy.

    • fatster says:

      If you don’t mind my variation on your theme, Hmmm, seems the key is to harness the WH and Dem Congresscritters with that popular energy and make them plow on to a timely and successful outcome (defined as universal coverage with a robust public option and a substantial long-term care component).

      PS I love that “hot hating hate” phrase of yours. I will be using it, if that’s ok.

  19. Justinajustice says:

    Slightly OT:

    Very interesting post up at dailykos about a “Do It Yourself” single-payer plan based on the existing self-insured federal health insurance plan, but possible through state, city and even private companies:


    It suggests that Obama could create the possibility of universal coverage tomorrow by signing an executive order opening up the federal employees’ health insurance plan to anyone who wanted to join. State governors could do it too.

    I’d be very interested in hear FDLers’thoughts on this.

    • Justinajustice says:

      I incorrectly referred to a “single payer plan”, it should more accurately be called a “universal access to health care” plan.

      • solerso says:

        Yes, but he could do lots of things that make sense, or save lives, or provide coverage, or all of those things but wont, becuase the primary goals of “reform” are to, claim a “victory” on health care” while providing the private insurance monopoly hostages.

        • fatster says:

          Not just hostages or victims, but all the money they can squeeze out of us, too, and transfer to the insurance monopolies.

        • Justinajustice says:

          I agree with you completely. But coupled with Kucinich’s bill to include the right of state’s to pass single-payer, this idea might work to get us cheap health care while Obama and Rahm pander to the corporations.

  20. akak says:

    Our message should just be “peace of mind”
    Not living in constant fear of falling ill. Not quaking in your shoes as you open a letter from your health insurer. Not worrying about having children, or losing your job, because you know you can treatment you need when you need it without bankrupting yourself.
    Peace of mind. It’s only three words!

  21. Mauimom says:

    I hope Waxman includes some of the “human interest stories” in whatever press releases he issues or hearings he holds.

    The heart-wrenching stories of how the greed and capriciousness of insurance company executives affect REAL PEOPLE would be a nice counter to those executives’ claims that they aren’t paid enough and can’t produce documents.

  22. bobash says:

    If Obama played the game the way the Republicans do, the last 6 months would have been a scorched earth campaign against the health insurance industry; see Cenk’s vision if your imagination is no better than mine–it really made the distinction clear for me.

    So why has Obama and team been soft on health insurance industry? Because as Jane pointed out, it was a tactic to keep the industry’s money out of the Republican’s pockets in 2009-10. But at the cost of selling out not only single payer, but any public option as well.

    So now that we understand how the game has progressed thus far, what to do? Pass a watered down bill and keep the money in our corner (Rahm’s clear intent)? I.e., give up on real health care reform (yet again)? Or pursue real reform by castigating the insurance industry as the parasites they are and accept that Dem’s will have to compete against their money in the mid-terms. If you prefer the latter as I do, consider what this really means. It will require a ton of money. And more than a just a few well-placed exposes of the industry’s shameful ways. We’re talking about having to put more fear into the eyes of the corporate-funded blue dogs than they have of losing their health industry funds to their competitors. That’s a lot of fear. Merely pointing out the fact they have sold out the country to keep their current gig is not going to do it. I don’t begin to know how Waxman or anyone else leads that charge.

    I do have one last idea to add, FWIW. Put single-payer back on the table, as Justinajustice (”Medicare for All”) and marchan1940 suggest above. Instead of compromising, tack left. When they cry “they’re going to bankrupt the government”, ask to see any alternative that takes as much money out of the system for less added-value, and put Rep. Anthony Weiner in front of them asking the same question with which he left Joe Scarborogh speechless: what value do they bring to the table? Except for their shareholders, their employees, and the tools on the far right who are convinced anything Obama does is a government takeover, how many Americans will defend the insurance industry when they are personified by the industry’s CEO’s?

    • bmaz says:

      That should have been the tack from the start, and then “compromised down” to the full public option if they had to. But a decision was made to negotiate against themselves before they ever went to the GOP, and it is hard to see how they can put that worm back in the can at this point.

      • bobash says:

        Yep. I’m just now understanding the true picture of the health care effort. Late to the game I’m afraid. Between the Wall St. bailout, the failure to prosecute torture and wiretapping crimes, and this debacle, I’ve very little faith left in Obama.

    • Evelyn says:

      “I do have one last idea to add, FWIW. Put single-payer back on the table, as Justinajustice (”Medicare for All”) and marchan1940 suggest above. Instead of compromising, tack left.” — You are absolutely right. Time to fall back, push harder, and increase the demands.

      Single Payer — Better Medicare for All — IS on the table. Money and support should be going to those who vote for Single Payer.


  23. Auduboner says:

    Ummm… Seems lots of you are missing the point. Almost ALL the Blues, and many other mega-insurers, are REGISTERED NON-PROFITS. There are serious restrictions on how such entities may spend money in the political arena.

    I believe this is where Waxman’s investigation is headed. If they are breaking the law to obstruct health insurance reform, Rahm’s deal and goose are cooked. Go Henry!

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