Former President Bill Clinton showed up in Las Vegas this week to repeatedly thank AHIP and the for-profit health insurance companies for their role in the health-care reform battle. From Medpage Today:

Clinton gave the keynote address here at the annual meeting of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the powerful insurance lobby that has strongly opposed efforts at wholesale reform in the past. [...]

But if others didn’t consider AHIP to have been a cheerleader for the reform bill that ultimately became law, Bill Clinton seemed to.

“I want to thank you for your support of the healthcare reform movement,” Clinton said numerous times during his lengthy, largely economics-oriented speech, which dealt with everything from the BP oil spill to a new bus system in Lima, Peru.

I’m sure AHIP also thanked its keynote speaker with a substantial fee. This should put to rest the empty rhetoric in the health-care debate that the new law was going to take on the insurance industry. There’s no single-payer option, which would have eliminated the industry. It won’t face new competition from a public option or Medicare buy-in. The health insurance industry did not lose its exemption from federal anti-trust laws, and will not be under federal regulation or face a federal rate-review agency. Enforcement is left to weak and often overly friendly state regulators.

The law very closely resembles AHIP’s own health-care reform proposal. It has the government forcing millions of people to become the industry’s customers through an individual mandate, and gives hundreds of billions in federal subsidies without serious federal oversight.

Of course, if the Democrats actually took on the for-profit health insurance industry through tough legislation, they’d probably lose those lucrative invites to speak at its fancy conferences.