What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 16, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday Part I

In this week's column, Jack Kelly wiggles his way into actually spreading the by-now debunked wingnut "government death panel" lie.

In doing so he (inadvertently I am sure) offers us a way to describe his own MO. The first line of the column is:
Who you gonna believe? Me ... or your lying eyes?
It's of course from Duck Soup. (If you're in need of a chuckle, watch the scene for yourself - the joke above is about 2 minutes in.)

The point of the joke (the exact wording of which, incidentally, Jack gets wrong) is that while it's a command to the listener by the speaker to trust the latter's statements over the former's own empirical data, it's the speaker who's wrong, he knows he's wrong, lies about it anyway and tries to get the listener to agree with him.

Jack is hoping his readers will think this of Barack Obama, though any readers of this blog will surely realize it better describes Jack himself - an inadvertent mistake of Jack's to be sure.

He finds his own "gotcha" moment to show that Obama can't ever be trusted. Here's Jack's set-up:
In response to a question asking whether he still supports a single-payer system (one in which the government is the sole provider of health-care services, as in Canada), Mr. Obama said:

"I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter because, frankly, we historically had an employer-based system in this country with private insurers, and for us a transition to a system like that I believe would be too disruptive."

He gets his "gotcha" by going waaaay back in 2003 where State Senator Obama said:
I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer health care program.
Jack continues:
Had the president said: "I used to support a single-payer system, but I changed my mind because ...," more people might give credence to the claims he's making for his health-care reform plan. Instead, he told an outright lie.
Well, no. It's entirely possible that the man simply changed his mind in the last 6 or so years. Had the earlier statement been from, say, six weeks ago, then Jack would be entirely correct.

But it wasn't.

Let me ask a question only to answer it myself: how much has changed since mid-2003? The lies about Iraq's WMD became well known, Valerie Plame is outed to protect those lies, the Bush era illegal domestic surveillance was uncovered, a number of USAttorney fired illegally, and finally there's the Bush recession. It's hardly surprising that one person's mind would change during the time when all that happened.

Perhaps Obama should explain himself on this, but it's hardly an "outright lie." It's not like he made stuff up.

And if anyone knows about making stuff up, it's our friend Jack.

In any case it's a tiny point. Even if it's true (which it isn't) it's hardly enough to support the entirety of Jack's argument. So let's continue. After pointing out the assessment from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) regarding the cost of the budget plan (something Obama has already refuted - not that Jack would let you know about it, though), he goes on:

And when Mr. Obama says people who like their private insurance will be able to keep it, but the Lewin Group estimates the "public option" would force 88 million people with private insurance into the government program, people worry.

He omits telling you that that same CBO says, uh no. How do I know this? It says so in the conservative Washington Times. They write:
Republicans touted a report from theLewin Group, a health research firm owned by an insurance company, that predicted 100 million people out of the 160 million now covered by employer-sponsored insurance would go to the government coverage.

But the CBO estimates about 12 million people would opt for the public plan. The wide difference in estimates is the result of drastically different assumptions about the price of the plans. CBO estimated the public plan would cost 10 percent less than private plans, compared with the Lewin Group estimate that it would be 20 percent cheaper.[emphasis added]

See that? A research firm owned by an insurance company - something else Jack didn't tell you but the Washington Times did. I'll let the other newspaper in Washington DC explain in more detail:
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 of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied UnitedHealth and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the "reasonable and customary" doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care.

In January, UnitedHealth agreed to a $50 million settlement with the New York attorney general and a $350 million settlement with the AMA, covering conduct going back as far as 1994.

So, um maybe, they might not be as,uh, unbiased as Jack would maybe like you to think. Maybe - I dunno, just a guess - that they might be spinning the data to favor their, you know, bosses.

End of Part I

1 comment:

EdHeath said...

Even more than Obama changing his mind in the last six years about a single payer system, I believe it is possible to be in favor of single payer in the abstract, but look at the United States and decide its not currently possible. It would be irresponsible for President Obama to demand Congress do something he knows they won't do. Maybe in a few years, but not now.