Healthcare Reform Progress

Your Healthcare Dollars At Work Lobbying Congress to Defeat the Public Option?

Bill Moyers focused on health care last week, interviewing Wendell Potter, who worked as a corporate public relations executive at Humana and Cigna for the last 20 years, then recently retired from what he describes as a lucrative and posh executive position. Potter's one of those clever people who after they retire their position of import and influence, find a way to remain in the spotlight by suddenly seeing all the inequities they helped propagate before retirement.

Potter delivers some timely reminders though, with bonafide authority. For instance, in the 1990'a, the for-profit insurance industry's "medical loss ratio", that is the amount that insurance companies spent on patients, was about 95% of each premium dollar, whereas now it's only 80%. The insurance companies need to keep this percentage shrinking in order to meet investor demands. An efficient way to accomplish this is to kick people of the insurance rolls, and deny claims. What does insurance spend the extra money on? Acquisitions to increase market share? Executive compensation? Perhaps lobbying Congress for more market share?

The Language of Luntz

Moyers shared a healthcare reform communication memo, "The Language of Healthcare" by Frank I. Luntz. Luntz's name may be familiar to anyone who follows the climate change denial business guided by his public relations blueprints, the pro Israel settlements language, or many other GOP policy positions and "science based" rhetoric.

Luntz's healthcare memo presents "poll-based" advice on how to spin a healthcare solution which favors existing stakeholders like insurance while keeping the government out of healthcare. Luntz highlights "words that work" and "words that don't work".

For example, he writes:

"If the dynamic becomes "President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it," then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless."
"One-size-does-NOT-fit-all." The idea that a "committee of Washington bureaucrats" will establish a single standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatment based on how much it costs is an anathema to Americans. According to him, there are a number of ways to attack this:
  • Demand the 'protection of the personal doctor-patient relationship';
  • Compare the personalized relationship with their doctor to the distant, cold, calculations of a federal medical panel;
  • Utilize examples of medical breakthroughs that would be undermined or jeopardized. .."

Or, says Luntz:

"The Democrats plan will deny people treatments they need and make them wait to get the treatments they can actually receive. This is more than just rationing. To most Americans, rationing suggests limits or shortages - for others. But personalizing it - "delaying your tests and denying your treatment" -- is the concept most likely to change the most minds in your favor."

The Luntz document contains 28 pages of explicit wording suggestions that he suggests people should use to persuade people to choose the "right option".

The insurance industry and other health care interests are lobbying hard against a government-sponsored, nonprofit, public health insurance option, and are spending, according to The Washington Post , up to $1.4 million per day to sway Congress in this direction.

President Obama remains upbeat, saying that the administration has made "unprecented progress", and telling Congress, "don't lose heart".

follow us on twitter!