The path of least resistance…for the health care industry

In a healthcare interview last week Rahm Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal that: “The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest…The goal is non-negotiable; the path is.”

Emanuel’s comments have sparked a firestorm of debate about the “trigger option”, a health care reform proposal that would instate a public option only if certain reforms were not made by the health care industry. Emanuel’s statement prompted outrage by pro-public option advocates, many Democrats, and caused Obama to issue a clarify statement from Russia restating his commitment to his campaign promise.

According to the Huffington Post, the trigger option has received favorable reviews from Max Baucus (who is very well paid by the health insurance industry), conservative democratic Senators Wyden and Carper, and would placate many members of the health care industry. So why has Emmanuel been pushing this option since January?

Emmanuel has connections to many folks who are well entrenched in the fight to keep health insurance private. Jonathan Hoganson, who now lobbies for AHIP, was formerly his legislative director.  David Castagnetti, a partner at Mehlman, Vogel & Castegnetti who lobbies for AHIP and was previously chief of staff for Baucus, has contributed money to his campaigns.

Chicago-area health care executives have also been generous to Emanuel’s congressional campaigns. Five Medline Inc. executives donated to Emanuel’s 2006 campaign. Other Illinois health care execs Susan Lopez, David Robbins, Charles Smith and Jame Skogsbergh also gave to his campaign. The insurance and health care industries both made the “Top 10 Interests Funding Emanuel” list published by

We can’t prove Emanuel’s comments were dictated by the health care industry. But it is important to remember Emanuel is part of a large web of connected, influential people who are opposed to creating a public healthcare option. Emmanuel would like to appear simply pragmatic, but his relationships tell a more complicated story.