Private Insurance Begins Its Propaganda War

As if it wasn’t bad enough that private, for-profit insurance routinely makes its money by getting between us and our doctor, now they want to get between us and real health care reform.  They’ve put a Web site to advocate for keeping things exactly as they are, thank you very much, and they're not afraid to cherry-pick facts like they cherry-pick customers.  The propaganda war has begun.

We’ve known that this day must come.  Yes, we’ve heard Karen Ignagni, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, tell President Obama that “we understand we need to earn a seat at the table” on health care reform.  But few of us thought it would last.  We heard her at a Senate Finance Committee hearing talk about how the insurance industry needed more regulation, and even claim that with additional regulation, our reform plan wouldn’t need the public health insurance option, designed to compete with private insurance and “keep it honest.”  It seemed rational.  We knew that couldn’t last, either.  After all, there was too much money in it for them.

Today, an email went out from a new Web site, GetHealthReformRight.org, warning in spooky terms that because of the current House bill, “Many Americans would lose their current employer-sponsored coverage as millions of people are shifted into a government plan.”  It urges, “Congress should build on the current employer-sponsored healthcare system that is already working for more than 160 million Americans.”  Presumably this means Congress should not follow the will of 72% of the American people and 50% of Republicans and create a public competitor to private insurance.

This of course is the same employer-sponsored and profit-drive health care system that one of its former executives admitted to Congress is “a Wall Street-run system that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care, and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.”

The Web site in question is beautifully done.  If I put together a parody site, it would look a lot like this.

  • Picture of doctors and nurses who sort of look nice but also vaguely sinister?  Check!
  • A “Myths vs. Facts” page that relies on half-truths and exaggeration?  Check out this most excellent sentence:  “A recent study estimates that up to 119 million people with private coverage would be shifted into the new government plan almost overnight.”  If you read this blog, you know  a.) this would be people choosing the plan, not shifting into it, b.)  the Lewin Group study only says 119 million would shift if the public plan had straight-up Medicare rates, was open to everyone, and forced doctors to participate – three conditions that are in zero of the Congressional proposals on the table, and c.) overnight is a laughable exaggeration.  Buddy, ain’t nothing happening overnight, no matter how successful the public plan is.  (More myths debunked by Jason Rosenbaum – go check his post out!)
  • A “What’s at Stake” page more interested in scaring people than being factual?  Try this opening sentence on for size:  “If you are one of the over 160 million American workers receiving healthcare from your employer, you should know your coverage may be at risk.”  There's a germ of truth here -- but it’s called “You’ve got private insurance, and that’s how they make their profits.”
  • A “Media Center” page that cherry-picks press stories on reform?  Well, let’s see: articles and editorials in praise of Republicans “plan,” articles suggesting Obama is rushing or misguided, an article on those poor nasty reform advocates beating up on poor Conservatives for Patients Rights mastermind Rick Scott… need I say anymore?
  • And the coup de grace – their sponsorship page lists “organizations whose shared mission is to ensure consumers continue to have access to employer-sponsored healthcare plans” – plans that they happen to sell.  From America’s Health Insurance Plans to the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the gang’s all here!

I guess we can stop waiting for the insurance industry to earn that seat at the table...

TAKE ACTION:  Give them a piece of your mind.  Tell the health insurance industry to stop their misinformation campaign – and tell your Representative in the House that you support real health care reform!

Ed. Note: "Private Insurance Begins Its Propaganda War" reprinted with permission and originally published June 30, 2009 @ 09:41PM PT by Tim Foley at change.org. - Connecticut Man1

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