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May 1, 2010
How the Justice Department is sticking its nose into the MA governor's race
Yesterday, I wrote a blog regarding the Department of Justice being used as a political tool. Among the actions taken was a recent move to open an investigation into Partners Healthcare System of Boston, Massachusetts to determine if the hospital network violated antitrust rules in its contract negotiations with health-care insurers. The probes concern whether the network took steps that may have raised prices and allowed it to squeeze higher reimbursements from local health plans.
At this point, the legitimacy of the investigation is undetermined because so few documents or evidence has come to light.
However, the political implications are clearer.
Massachusetts is Patient Zero when it comes to the debacle of government control of health care. Forcing health providers to lower prices in one state will chill the ability of other providers in other states to raise prices, thereby, presumably, making Obamacare marginally less of a disaster than it will otherwise become.
But there may be more political thuggery at work from the Boys from Chicago
An early version of Obamacare was established in the state years ago (to the eternal heartache of Mitt Romney, Governor at the time). Current Governor Deval Patrick has defended the program despite the fact that premiums have vastly increased for that state's citizens and the constant drain on state finances has been unstoppable.
Patrick - a good friend and political ally of Barack Obama's - is in the fight of his political life as his reelection efforts are imperiled by, among other things, the financial problems of the state's healthcare plan. Patrick used David Axelrod as his campaign manager, as did Barack Obama. Now Axelrod has perhaps become the power behind the throne in Obama's White House. He has played a role in many Administration decisions. As befits the power behind the throne, his office is the closest office to the Oval one.
The Department of Justice effort can be seen as an attempt to chill premium increases in the state and, perhaps, lead to their rollback. This will help the fiscal drain on the state's finances and give a potential boost to Patrick's flagging efforts. He can use - as Obama often does - the straw man of health care providers as a political foil and blame them for the problems with the plan
An additional tactic may be at work. One of Patrick's most threatening opponents is health insurance executive Charles Baker, a Republican who had been the former president of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a full-service health benefits company serving many Massachusetts citizens. Any bad press regarding health plans, premium increases, market dominance and violation of laws would rub off on Baker.
There is one more potential beneficiary: Martha Coakley - the Democrat last seen losing to Republican Scott Brown, in the Senatorial race to replace the late Ted Kennedy. As Attorney General for Massachusetts she has been flailing away at Partners Healthcare for awhile making no evident headway. Now she has the full force and weight of the Department of Justice to give her some ammunition to take on Partners, and perhaps compel them into a settlement in the face of having to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours of manpower trying to battle the endless budget of the Department of Justice. This could boost the future of Coakley. Recall that Brown was only elected to fulfill the un-served term for Ted Kennedy. Another Senatorial election looms in 2012.
Barack Obama and Eric Holder using the Department of Justice to tip the political scales-once again.
We have seen this type of abuse before-when Inspector General Gerald Walpin took on another Democratic political ally of Barack Obama's, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson over Johnson's abuse of stimulus money for personal expenditures. End result: Walpin was fired and publicly raked over the coals.
The bully in the Oval Office considers all government power in his hands to be political tools.
Welcome to governing-Chicago style.