Was Frontline Documentary Edited To Reflect Health Insurance Industry Interests?

There was never any doubt in my mind that once PBS was moved by the Republicans to corporate sponsorship instead of full public funding, their content

There was never any doubt in my mind that once PBS was moved by the Republicans to corporate sponsorship instead of full public funding, their content would inevitably grow to reflect the viewpoints of the people who wrote the checks.

It seems that insurance company investments are paying off in the healthcare debate. While this Frontline piece does address corporate abuses of their clients, the journalist who worked on it says it was altered to reflect insurance company interests, according to Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter:

Last year, former Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid made a great documentary for the PBS show Frontline titled "Sick Around the World."

Reid traveled to five countries that deliver health care for all – UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan – to learn about how they do it.

Reid found that the one thing these five countries had in common – none allowed for-profit health insurance companies to sell basic medical coverage.

Frontline then said to Reid – okay, we want you to go around the United States and make a companion documentary titled "Sick Around America."

So, Reid traveled around America, interviewing patients, doctors, and health insurance executives.

The documentary that resulted – "Sick Around America" – aired Monday night on PBS.

But even though Reid did the reporting for the film, he was cut out of the film when it aired this week.

And the film didn't present Reid's bottom line for health care reform – don't let health insurance companies profit from selling basic health insurance.

They can sell for-profit insurance for extras – breast enlargements, botox, hair transplants.

But not for the basic health needs of the American people.

Instead, the film that aired Monday pushed the view that Americans be required to purchase health insurance from for-profit companies.

And the film had a deceptive segment that totally got wrong the lesson of Reid's previous documentary – Sick Around the World.

During that segment, about halfway through Sick Around America, the moderator introduces Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the lead health insurance lobby in the United States.

Moderator: Other developed countries guarantee coverage for everyone. We asked Karen Ignagni why it can't work here.

Karen Ignagni: Well, it would work if we did what other countries do, which is have a mandate that everybody participate. And if everybody is in, it's quite reasonable to ask our industry to do guarantee issue, to get everybody in. So, the answer to your question is we can, and the public here will have to agree to do what the public in other countries have done, which is a consensus that everybody should be in.

Moderator: That's what other developed countries do. They make insurers cover everyone, and they make all citizens buy insurance. And the poor are subsidized.

But the hard reality, as presented by Reid in Sick Around the World, is quite different than Ignagni and the moderator claim.

Other countries do not require citizens buy health insurance from for-profit health insurance companies – the kind that Karen Ignagni represents.

In some countries like Germany and Japan, citizens are required to buy health insurance, but from non-profit, heavily regulated insurance companies.

And other countries, like the UK and Canada, don't require citizens to buy insurance. Instead, citizens are covered as a birthright – by a single government payer in Canada, or by a national health system in the UK.

The producers of the Frontline piece had a point of view – they wanted to keep the for-profit health insurance companies in the game.

TR Reid wants them out.

“We spent months shooting that film,” Reid explains. “I was the correspondent. We did our last interview on January 6. The producers went to Boston and made the documentary. About late February I saw it for the first time. And I told them I disagreed with it. They listened to me, but they didn't want to change it.”

About Susie Madrak

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