Insurance companies account for less than 5 percent of American health-care spending -- less than hospitals (31 percent), doctors (21 percent) and medicine (10 percent). But because health-insurance companies are unpopular, Democrats are beating up on them, even though if Democrats are serious about containing costs, the cuts will have to come from those other slices of the pie.
But enough with the substance. The health-care debate ceased being about substance a long, long time ago. Fair or not, the Democrats' plan is unpopular, period. There is simply nothing Obama can say that will change that fact before Democrats vote for it. That hasn't stopped him from talking out of every side of his mouth. But outside the Obama bunker, no serious pollster, pundit or pol in Washington disputes this basic point: Obama cannot take the stink off this thing.
And that's why the Democrats are contorting themselves like a yoga swami in a hatbox trying to figure out how to pass it. (Note: If it were simply popular among Democrats, it would have passed months ago.) The latest idea involves the "Slaughter Solution" -- named after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter -- which would allow the House to fix-and-pass the Senate version of the bill without ever voting on the senate version, or something like that.
But here's the thing: There is no "over" to this debate. Obama, Pelosi & Co. have demonstrated time and again that no deadline is final if it means losing. Meanwhile, if ObamaCare passes, Republicans will run on a promise to repeal it, and that means we'll be debating health-care reform at least through 2010. Then, depending on how the election goes, the repeal debate will become part of the legislative process. That will in all likelihood carry the debate into the 2012 presidential election. In other words, there will be time for talk as far as the eye can see.
Now, part of me thinks this is too cruel a future to contemplate. I can't remember whether it was pederasts or mattress-tag removers, but I'm pretty sure someone in Dante's Inferno is condemned to spend eternity listening to a C-SPAN panel on community rating, preexisting conditions and rate pools.
But it's a better prospect than losing. That's one point that has bipartisan support.