U.S. Senator Roger Wicker’s (R., Miss.) summer 2009 “Report on Health Care,” mailed out recently to thousands of Mississippians makes the main point that the public-health insurance option is a “bait and switch tactic.” His basis for making this claim, as shown in a large graph, is that, of the 170 million Americans who currently have private insurance, 119 million could lose private coverage under the proposed public plan—70% of the total. In the graph and repeated in text, Wicker uses “a recent study by the nonpartisan Lewin Group” for those data.
The Lewin Group might be “nonpartisan” but it manifestly is not disinterested. It is part of Ingenix, owned by United Healthcare Goup (UHG); in addition to its flagship company, UnitedHealthcare, UHG has been busy buying insurance companies, making it the largest health insurer in the country. Previously, Lewin Group has released “studies” that claim a public-option would cost doctors and hospitals money.
Five times in Sen. Wicker’s report he uses some version of the phrase “government takeover of health care.” He claims that “a public plan would kill the private insurance market.” But, the Lewin Group consultants he uses to support his claims have insurance industry ties, thus their editorial independence is suspect.
The independence of politicians, too, has long been suspect; and Congress’ standing with the public could hardly be lower. They would help their cause by presenting honest assessments of issues, using unbiased data. Then, with the crucial and necessary assistance of responsible media, the public forum would be a place where citizens could rationally decide public issues.
Sen. Wicker’s report, rather than pulling us out of the bayou of befuddlement, is, instead, a less-than-honest assessment, if its claims are supported by biased data. It seems they are.