Lobbyists in the health care industry kept quiet for the first weeks of debate over the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the measure is dividing the industry against itself.
As I previously reported, the health care industry collectively has held some of its fire over the Republican legislation. Companies were wary of agitating Republicans whose goodwill they'll need on other legislation while the party holds power.
But divisions within the industry are deepening. Insurers like several provisions in the bill: a $140 billion tax cut as well as more than $100 billion in federal funding designed specifically to improve the insurance markets. Hospitals and doctors, meanwhile, are warning of the dangers of a $772 billion cut to Medicaid over the next 10 years and the consequences of 22 million fewer Americans having insurance.
The split makes insurers and hospitals sound like they're talking about two different Senate bills.
Anthem lauded the legislation, saying it would "markedly improve the stability of the individual market." The American Hospital Association, on the other hand, urged senators "to go back to the drawing board" because the bill's cuts to Medicaid were "unsustainable and will increase costs to individuals with private insurance."
Insurers' support for the bill is affecting its political prospects. Some Republican senators who oppose the bill, stalled for now after defections from the conservative and centrist wings, have cited the giveaways to the insurance industry — which made the strategic choice to work with Senate leaders — as reason for their opposition.
"Maybe we should think about health care and not necessarily bailing out the insurance companies," Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told reporters recently. "The insurance companies have had their fingers all over this bill. The rich are gonna get richer, as far as the insurance business goes."