Lying Celinda Lake and the Herndon Alliance: Insurance Company shills
I scooped Kip Sullivan -- linking Celinda Lake, the Herndon Alliance, HCAN and GAC first -- but he's done the heavy lifting and delved deeply into Lake's focus grouping that brought us Guaranteed Affordable Choice, and Americans want a system that's uniquely American, and all that rot.
[update 19 jan 2009: oops, i didn't scoop kip sullivan after all; in fact i quoted him in my very first diatribe against gac. ah, the perils of not re-reading one's earlier work before writing newer stuff. my abject apologies to mr sullivan.]
My teeth hurt and I break out in hives whenever I hear a lawyer talking about junk science, so I'll skip over that part of Sullivan's takedown, other than to say that yeah, Celinda Lake and American Environics did a bunch of hocus pocus abracadabra to sort a handful of people into groups with cutesy names [Proper Patriots! Marginalized Middle-Agers! Mobile Materialists! gak] and feed them warmed-over pablum until they threw up their hands and agreed Medicare bad, GAC good.
Which is exactly the result that the Herndon Alliance wanted, and hired Lake to produce.
And just who is the Herndon Alliance? Sullivan fills us in:
The Herndon Alliance was formed in 2005 by groups and individuals who support universal health insurance but not through a single-payer or “Medicare for all” system. (Under a single-payer system, one public insurer replaces the nation’s 1,500 health insurance companies as the sole reimburser of doctors and hospitals. The one payer has the authority to set limits on what doctors, hospitals, and drug companies can charge.) Most of the individuals who founded or took leadership positions in the Herndon Alliance were enthusiastic supporters of Bill Clinton’s failed Health Security Act and similar proposals to achieve universal health insurance by funneling tax dollars to the insurance industry. Ron Pollack, director of Families USA and a founder of the Herndon Alliance, played a key role in convincing Clinton not to support a single-payer system at a meeting in Arkansas in 1991,17 and was perhaps the most visible proponent of Clinton’s bill outside of the White House after it was introduced in 1993.18 Richard Kirsch, director of Citizen Action of New York [and HCAN]and an advocate of the Clinton bill, chaired the Herndon Alliance’s policy committee.19 Bob Crittenden, MD, the current director of the Herndon Alliance and a member of the board of Families USA, wrote a bill for the Washington State Legislature that Crittenden himself said was “strikingly similar” to Clinton’s Health Security Act.20 (Unlike Clinton’s bill, Crittenden’s bill actually passed, only to be repealed two years later.)
According to Crittenden, the original idea for the Herndon Alliance came out of a conversation he had with Gordon Bonnyman, another Families USA board member and an advocate of a program enacted by Tennessee in 1994 known as TennCare. Under TennCare, Tennessee privatized its Medicaid program literally overnight. In a 1996 article entitled, “Market-based Medicaid in Tennessee,” Bonnyman wrote of TennCare, “At the stroke of midnight on 1 January , Tennessee moved all 800,000 Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care networks [that is, insurance companies].”21 When Tenncare predictably failed to contain costs, it underwent substantial cuts beginning in 2005.
If we can move 800,000 people from a working public plan to a non-working private plan overnight, we can move 300,000,000 of us from a non-working bunch of private plans to a working public plan in 100 days.
Sullivan goes on:
According to Crittenden, about the time the TennCare cuts were being made, Bonnyman asked him why advocates of their particular brand of universal health insurance “keep losing.” This led to the formation of the Herndon Alliance. Here is how Crittenden recalled it:
[J]ust when the TennCare cuts were coming along, Gordon and I and Phil [“Phil” was not further identified] sat down one night and Gordon brought up the idea that we really can’t keep losing. On the verge of losing, he urged us to think differently and to think of ways we can win this and not lose. From that, we brought about 50 people together from about 50 different organizations and formed a thing called the Herndon Alliance.22
The founders of the Herndon Alliance (the group takes its name from the city where the first meeting was held) developed a unique explanation of why advocates of universal health insurance have yet to achieve universal coverage. Here is how Crittenden described the Alliance’s analysis:
So the question that came around … was: What can we do differently to be successful? When you’re doing the same thing, and you’re going backwards even though you’re winning little fights, what can you do differently? And … this group [that is, the founders of the Herndon Alliance] laid out the idea that we need to really contact or connect with the values that people hold in this country, we need to work with those values, and help them strengthen the values and connect the goals that they actually have values for supporting, and take those and help them support affordable health care for all Americans and for all people in America.
And from that we developed a work plan, how are we going to approach it to do some values research, which you’ll hear about today, and then to test that, to take it out in the field and say if we try focus groups, try polling, does it make sense.23
Golly gee whiz, maybe the reason they 'keep losing' is because Americans are fed up here with the bloodsucking leeches that call themselves insurance companies.
Heh. I mentioneded in my earlier post on Celinda and the Herndons that she'd rephrased the description of single payer, used it to describe GAC, basically substituting 'choose the doctor you want' with 'choose the insurance plan you want'. How did she know that a true description of single payer would resonate with her focus groups? From a 1993 article:
After conducting extensive focus groups on health care, pollster Celinda Lake discovered that the more people are told about the Canadian system, “the higher the support goes.” In contrast, according to Lake, working Americans found the managed competition idea “laughable.”
And just what would 'managed competition' be? Why, the politically viable option, of course. From the same article:
Sounds vaguely familiar, eh?
But much of the national news coverage in recent weeks has been promoting Bill Clinton’s managed competition plan as the smart, new, “politically viable” option.
News reports trumpet the “consensus” behind managed competition: big insurance companies, most doctors, conservative Republican think tanks, George Bush, conservative Democratic think tanks, Hillary Rodham Clinton-and the wise men from the “Jackson Hole Group” who’ve been meeting in Wyoming for years to discuss “health care reform.”
In national media discourse, managed competition seems easier to tout than explain. Since no other country has ever tried such a system, it remains a complicated, untested theory.
The plan leaves the largest insurance companies in the center of the picture; after the federal government defines a minimum package of benefits, health care partnerships or superHMOs organized by insurance firms would “compete” to offer health packages. Meanwhile, giant “Health Insurance Purchasing Cooperatives” would be formed so that employers and consumers could search for the best deal. Between these behemoths would be the government, “managing the competition,” grading the medical providers and trying to restrain costs.
It's worth following Sullivan's footnote 17 to read about Bill Clinton and single payer.
17 According to Tom Hamburger, Ted Marmor, and Jon Meacham, Ron Pollack debated singlepayer advocate Ted Marmor at a two-hour meeting in front of Bill Clinton in Little Rock in 1991. Pollack promoted a system in which employers would be required to make payments to insurance companies. Marmor promoted a single-payer system. When the debate was over, Clinton pointed at Marmor and said, “Ted, you win the argument.” Then Clinton pointed at Pollack and said, “But we’re going to do what he says” (Hamburger et al., “What the death of health care reform teaches us about the press,” Washington Monthly, November 1994, 35-41).