July 24, 2009

(h/t Shoq Value)

This incident is a perfect illustration of how the right's noise machine is fooling the American people all over again, using easily debunked lies and misinformation, and how this very kind of irresponsible broadcasting—which they so often pretend is "journalism"—is empowering them to do it.

We came thisclose from having an honest discussion of health care reform this morning on Morning Joe. Not surprisingly, the "journalists" at the table dropped the ball, instead allowing two Republican congresspeople free airtime to lie to the American people once again. Hey GOP, where's your alternative plan again?

Republican Representatives Tom Price (MD--he's a doctor, you should listen to him!) and Dave Camp--having no constructive things to do to address Americans' health care concerns--appear on the Morning Joe show to field concern trolling, er...questions from no less than four "journalists" on health care. And Mike Barnicle gets the closest to actually digging for the truth when Rep. Price drops the name of The Lewin Group and Barnicle asks who funds The Lewin Group. Price deflects it with a mealy-mouthed answer about their foundation, but since he's a Republican and he's moving his lips, you gotta know he's a big fat liar:

The political battle over health-care reform is waged largely with numbers, and few number-crunchers have shaped the debate as much as the Lewin Group, a consulting firm whose research has been widely cited by opponents of a public insurance option.

To Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip, it is "the nonpartisan Lewin Group." To Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, it is an "independent research firm." To Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the second-ranking Republican on the pivotal Finance Committee, it is "well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country."

Generally left unsaid amid all the citations is that the Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers.

More specifically, the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association, a physician's group, of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied its parent company and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the "usual and customary" doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care.[..]

Lewin's clients include the government and private groups with a variety of perspectives, including the Commonwealth Fund and the Heritage Foundation. A February report contained information that could be used to argue for a single-payer system, the approach most threatening to private insurers, Sheils noted.

But not all of the firm's reports see the light of day. For example, a study for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association was never released, Sheils said.

"Let's just say, sometimes studies come out that don't show exactly what the client wants to see. And in those instances, they have [the] option to bury the study -- to not release it, rather," Sheils said.

Well, they might not be partisan, but they sure as hell ARE biased--they are paid by the LARGEST health insurer in the nation (remember when Elizabeth Edwards said that $1 out of every $700 spent in healthcare went in the pocket of United Health's CEO?) and bury reports that are unfavorable? Where's that report on single payer? Why aren't the Republicans quoting that one?

Price also spews out another patented Luntz-crafted lie about the House bill, claiming that the bill states that in five years, all insurance will have to look the same, claiming this is proof of government intervention into your well-being. Price isn't the only one to give this zombie lie:

(G)reat message discipline! That's always been their forte. But it makes a tiresome chore to smack down all the odd lies they come up with, again and again, just like in the old zombie movies. You give it both barrels of a 10-gauge, but it shambles forward mindlessly. "Braaaiinssss..."

The one I have seem pop up most recently is the odd lie that the House Tri-Com bill (HR 3200) will "outlaw individual private coverage."

Huh? I thought that's what the National Insurance Exchange was for?! Where did that come from?

I remembered that I had seen some crazy rant from Rep Michelle Bachmann (R-Loon) along these lines:

It’s over 1,000 pages long. On the 16th page, it says whatever health care you have now, it’s going to be gone within five years. So your current health care plan, you’re not going to have in five years. What you’re going to have is a government plan and a federal bureau is going to decide what you get or if you get anything at all.

And some commenters on Kevin's blog linked to this unsigned opinion piece from Investors.com:

It didn't take long to run into an "uh-oh" moment when reading the House's "health care for all Americans" bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.

How odd that they both cite "page 16" in their rants, both of which were published on the same day. It's almost as if this were somehow coordinated... Nah. I must be getting paranoid.

The provision they are referring to, by the way, is this [..]

So what does this mean in the real world?

  1. Individual health insurance policies already in effect may continue but may not be altered.
  2. Employer-sponsored plans have five years to get in compliance with the new regulations.
  3. New individual health insurance policies will only be available through the National Insurance Exchange (NIE).

Remember, the NIE is where the private insurers will be competing against one another as well as against a possible public plan, if it survives. It is not synonymous with a "government plan," though I hope that consumers will have the choice of a government-sponsored insurance policy. The new regulations referred to are simply those I've outlined many times before -- community rating, guaranteed issue, and a minimum benefits floor.

Ezra Klein has more on the disingenuousness of the Republican talking points.

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