McClatchy is reporting today on a new study by the Lewin Group, a health care research organization that purports to be independent but is actually a subsidiary of health insurance giant UnitedHealth. Over the course of the year, Lewin studies have frequently been cited in news coverage of the debate over health care reform without any disclosure of its ties to the insurer -- until the Washington Post reported on the connection back in July.
UnitedHealth has a pretty good thing going, actually. The Lewin Group pimps its favorable research to congressional representatives but does not do any lobbying. UnitedHealth has another organization to do that work for them: America's Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP. You might recall that AHIP is one of those organizations that's spending a lot of money on advertisements that are nominally pro-health care reform while working behind the scenes to undermine it.
It's a great little set-up where the industry gets to have it both ways -- a nonpartisan face on an effort to prolong the legislative impasse. And you know what? Damned if this new Lewin report doesn't accomplish the same trick: an oh-so precisely mixed bag of information that will likely have the same effect of Eris' Apple of Discord.
Here's what reform advocates will be quoting:
Good news! The House health care bill will offer immediate benefits to consumers. By 2011, 29.7 million people would get health care coverage, "which would shrink the number of projected uninsured by 60 percent." Reform would all but pay for itself over the next ten years as well: "Savings in Medicare and Medicaid such as reductions in hospital spending, as well as higher taxes on people who earn the most, should bring the net cost to about $39 billion, almost fully paid for."
Here's what reform opponents will be quoting:
Bad news! After the first decade, health care reform represents a looming budget disaster! "In the second decade, net costs would balloon to about $1 trillion, as spending on premium subsidies jumped to $2.23 trillion. Revenues, the study found, wouldn't keep up."
Here's what's missing, from McClatchy's report:
Umm... context? You know, that Washington Post article I mentioned above? The one that reported out the matter of how the Lewin Group's findings should maybe be taken with a salt lick because they are a WHOLLY-OWNED SUBSIDIARY OF A POWERFUL INSURANCE COMPANY? Yeah, I wasn't making that up. That article actually exists, but you're not going to see this matter disclosed in this McClatchy article. What you will see cited here is that Lewin's study was commissioned by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. They are identified as a "fiscal watchdog group" in the story (which ought to tell you something), but, friends, they are SO MUCH MORE:
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is against nationalizing health care in the US. Health care is one of the single biggest holes in the US social safety net today with record numbers of Americans going bankrupt to pay for essential medical care. The foundation is also against clean energy incentives, social security expansion, and extended unemployment benefits. Basically, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is against some of President Obama's most socially relevant reforms.
What have we learned from all of this?
What can I say? The Lewin Group really has a nice racket going!