I get out of the gym at the Shepherd University Wellness Center and go downstairs to the Cafe where I get my post-exercise coffee and plop down in front of the lobby television. Today on C-Span 3 they were showing an all Republican Health Care panel, supposedly exposing all the things wrong with the countries that have single-payer (read “socialized medicine”) health plans.
And, of course, the Congress- men and – women were quoting and basing their arguments on stuff from the “highly non-partisan” Lewin Group.
Did I say that the Lewin Goup is non-partisan? Yeah.. that’s what the Republicans attacking the President’s plans are saying. But I read this in the WaPo a while later:
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.”
Gee… they are all referring to this one, single consultancy. But the WaPo goes on:
Generally left unsaid amid all the citations is that the Lewin Group is wholly owned by United Health Group, one of the nation’s largest insurers.
Indeed, according to the NY Attorney General, the Lewin Group is a subset of Ingenix, a United Health subsidiary, that the American Medical Association has accused of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data (one of the reasons the AMA, I would guess, has surprisingly come out in support of Obama over the issue).
Lewin, which was bought by United Health in 2007, has tried to claim that there is no influence from this huge insurer on their opinions. Their Vice President, John Sheils claims there was no impact on them from Ingenix, which has now paid settlement fines to NY State and the AMA. The Insurance Industry, however, as represented by United Health, can push Lewin as npn-partisan, but it can also exert a kind of control over what is reported by them:
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.
If party politics could be squeezed out of the Health Care debates, we might have a whole new view of the truth… but, frankly, this will be a Democratic success, or it won’t happen at all.