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Lying Celinda Lake and the Herndon Alliance: Insurance Company shills

[GAC, part 1]
[GAC, part 0]

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 [1994], 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:

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.

Sounds vaguely familiar, eh?

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).

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and running some themselves too --

Insurers Seek Presence at Health Care Sessions

When supporters of President-elect Barack Obama hold house parties to discuss ways of fixing the health care system over the next two weeks, they may find some unexpected guests.

The health insurance industry is encouraging its employees and satisfied customers to attend. A trade group representing some of the nation’s largest health care businesses, including drug companies, is organizing several meetings. ...

living-room lobbying sessions involving some of the biggest stakeholders in the health care industry. ...

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

That's very good data.

Is anyone else besides Hipparchia going to a house party? DCB, is Health Care for America doing anything?

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I'm hoping that Correntians who (unlike me) know their asses from their elbows about single-payer will participate in these, to understand and document if and how we can make an impact through the channels the new administration is promising will help citizens bring change.

We've all experienced the STFU in cyberspace:

The movement is not meant to impress you..... as the goal of it is to get common sense legislation that can be achieved quickly and efficiently to pass in benefitting the majority of Americans. The goal was not to turn the entire system on its head, scrap it and start totally anew.

After 8 years of divisive politics, years of nothing being done to improve our health care system, more years of the demonization of Government controlled programs, and 50 million people who needed insurance yesterday, if it will take passing single payer health care prior for you to be impressed, I believe that there will be no pleasing you.

I didn't vote for single payer, because it wasn't offered by any Democrat running with even a chance in hell of winning....so you can see that in you waiting for something that was not part of the platform, you in effect moot yourself in what your final conclusion of this "movement" will be.

It's similar as one stating that when Obama has achieved peace on the Earth everywhere...only then will they be satisfied with his performance as President.

Moving the goalpost in order to be disatisfied is a clever ploy....so have fun with that.
As for me, as part of the movement, as opposed to a critic of it while sitting on the sideline, I'm going to keep it real.

But, supposedly, these house parties are a path for grassroots action. For Corrente to maintain its cred as a leading blog on UHC, it really behooves us to put in a showing. If I weren't over my head on this topic, I'd be there, as I was in bringing Obama-skeptic issues directly to the campaign. I hope you have better results than I did, but even bad results are more educational than what we'd learn from abstinence.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i haven't found one on health care specifically in my area [not within 100 miles anyway], but i did go to one of the more general house parties, where they were asking for ideas of all kinds. i put forth single payer, of course.

i really like all the people i met there [some of them are local activists i've known for years] so i'm not sure yet what i want to say about the experience overall. i most definitely don't want to derail any good efforts they decide to apply themselves to, but otoh, the obama organization does seem to be subverting classic community organizing principles.

if you've got one in your area, you should go to it. they're not actually looking for expert input. according to pnhp's blog, here's a copy of the participant guide you'll be given. no mention of single payer anywhere in there, but you could always write it in. i'd be happy to make some suggestions on how single payer could be applied to each of the main points.

Submitted by hipparchia on

why am i not surprised this is happening? good oppo research on your part there, and i agree with lambert, you should make it into a post.

ot: segovia... you promised me segovia.... ;)

Submitted by hipparchia on

i'll happily settle for pics. i can always steal your comments and make them into a post myself. spain, otoh, is out of my reach at the moment, so i'm counting on you.

Submitted by lambert on

Scoop! This is good, we need to know where these talking points come from. (A list would be useful... Sort of a "Field Guide...."

Submitted by hipparchia on

good editors are worth their weight in pixels! it's your blog, edit to your heart's content, i say. if i'm unduly emotionally attached to any of my own post titles, i can always change it back.

field guide to talking points in their native habitats, good concept. i can't say i've purposefully stalled them, other than accidentally stumbling over hcan's [and kirsch's] trail awhile back and following that.

Submitted by jawbone on

But I was heading to my mechanic, so couldn't finish the segment. Maybe just some big meeting mentioned in DC was over.

I never received anything about the house parties (but I told the Obama fundraisers back at the beginning of the general election that I would not be contributing to Obama's campaign since I was deeply disappointed in his move to kill pubilc financing and that I valued public financing, etc., etc. Never heard from them again!) and can't go to one anyway given the it's, like, Christmas holidays, with family visits and commitments and travel time, etc.

What was wrong with early January?? When the holidays are over (except for Epiphany and those who celebrate Christmas then)?? Suspicious timing to me.

Also heard on NPR that Obama's campaign has emailed some of the leaders of the campaign to ask if they would consider continuing in their roles, but as community leaders or something like that.

Now, the lists cannot be maintained on government computers--so what are they going to do? Set up the Obama Party? Rival the Democratic Party? Oh, yeah--Lambert's covered that idea pretty well. Except for the post-election execution--anyone know what's happening?

Submitted by hipparchia on

but i've got some ideas about what might be happening, based on the house party i went to.

the house parties that have are over with are probably those that were geared to campaigning. the one i went to was aimed primarily at active campaigners who wanted to keep on doing obama stuff. also this is probably what the 'continuing as community leaders' is about.

just off the top of my head, and from talking with my dad [he's an old hand at political organizing], while it may not yet be an obama party, they're certainly playing down their democratic party connections.

the last half of december they do seem to have targeted for healthcare house parties. i think the first part of january is going to be devoted to gearing up for the inauguration. the inauguration got mentioned a few times at the house party i went to, so i think we'll be hearing more about that in a couple of weeks.

all guesses and tealeaf reading on my part.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

well done Hipparchia!
In the interest of perserving my secret identity I am not going. I will try to find the link to the House Parties, Health Care Now! sent it out, so maybe it is on their site.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i haven't found any in my area yet, but i also don't have any direct links other than the one you posted about hosting a house party [hosting one is something i can't commit to, though i'll try to go to one that someone else is hosting]

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

CJR in July -- One Step Forward, One Step Back: The AP gets it right on universal coverage, but new code words loom --

... Those words—uniquely American solution— have shown up before. This spring, in an interview with Lee Newspapers, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee (though which health care legislation must pass), said: “We will have insurance companies in America. We’ll have uniquely American solutions….” Uniquely American solution is a new code phrase, intended to prod the public into approving this vague and unspecified “solution” without really understanding what the words really mean.

A thorough semantic dissection of what those words actually mean is in order. The press needs to decipher the new code words, just like it needs to decipher familiar ones like national and universal. And, just as important, it must tell the public what it and the insurance industry—along with whatever allies it digs up, be they liberal or conservative think tanks, businesses, labor unions, or consumer groups—has to gain by or lose from this “uniquely American solution.” ...

Kos diary -- Healthcare Reform: Is "Uniquely American" Killing Us?

Granholm on healthcare --

... In America, we put that entire business on -- burden on business. Lee Scott’s on this -- in this conversation. He has come to the National Governor’s Association and said if you want to make us competitive, let’s have a uniquely American solution to the cost of health care. That will significantly reduce that disparity between the U.S. and other countries in terms of competitiveness of the auto industry. ...

... (tons and tons more)

Submitted by hipparchia on

celinda lake, as far as i can tell, is considered a top democratic party strategist, and all of the healthcare people obama has surrounded himself with are of the managed competition good ilk. her 'uniquely american' has certainly resonated with them, if not necessarily with the rest of us.

Submitted by ohio on

These guides are marketing documents, pure and simple, for the health insurance industry. (And thanks a lot, hipp, for this smackdown. Nice work, though I don't think you're doing my blood pressure any good.)

The fab GF and I are are talking about hosting a house party here---tour our crazy house and talk about healthcare for everybody. But she thought virtual meetings might work better because of weather and holiday becrazediness. I remain hesitant. Frankly, I don't want to sign up and give the Obama Party my contact info---they should get it from the FISA files, like all good patriots.

How about we go through each question from the participant guide, one a day for the next few days? Then we can send the comments to change.gov either electronically or by mail. So we're participating but not having to give 'em any contact information.

Heh. Sneaky, snarky, and constructive. It's a Uniquely Corrente Solution.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i like. very american too.

lambert? can we hold a corrente house party of some kind?

you were the first one i thought of, ohio -- i bet ohio could deconstruct this 6 ways from sunday for us [sorry about your blood pressure, i didn't mean to]

Submitted by ohio on

We get the guides, ask a question, get all Corrente on its ass, then if I have to, I'll print out the responses and mail a big stack of paper. They can do as they will with what we have to say and frankly, I don't give a damn if they chuck the stack in the recycle bin. The point here is for us to frame our arguments regarding our nation's need for healthcare, not health insurance.

The request for Moderator sign up is just data gathering---a way to scoop up contact information to use later for fundraising. Each one of the questions is about conditioning us to accept as the premise, not inadequate access to healthcare, but that people don't have health insurance.

What crap. On so many levels.

This is evil marketing as it claims to want to do one thing ("let's all talk about healthcare") when it really does something else. This is faux transparency, fundamentally dishonest, and the height of truthiness.

It offends my capitalist heart, it does.

I also suggest we come up with our own Participant Questionaire with real questions about our failure to provide healthcare to all. And we can send that to change.gov. Heh, we won't even bill 'em for our marketing services.

Though we should.

And c'mon, it'll be fun.

Submitted by hipparchia on

evil marketing, it is that.

at these house parties they ask for someone to volunteer to take notes. in lieu of that, i think your volunteering to print it all out and mail them a big stack of paper is a terrific idea. i'd even chip in a lamberto or 2 towards the mailing.

and yep, they can chuck it all in the dumpster for all i care too. they can completely ignore us for not following their instructions to the letter, but they might accidentally listen to us after all. one thing's for sure, they won't hear us if we voluntarily stfu.

Submitted by hipparchia on

fill their physical space with dead trees [and faxes; and live bodies are good too], and their inboxes with big fat pdfs, and their voice mails with hr676 now now now!

Submitted by hipparchia on

especially if there's a little footnote at the bottom of every page: this paper made of hemp, too bad i had to go to canada to get it [or some such]

Submitted by hipparchia on

it looks to me like the survey is the last part of the participant guide, the last page or 2 is questions, with a note to hand them to the moderator before you leave.

and yes, it does look like those 3 links are all we need.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

Good. No new technology from me ;-)

Submitted by hipparchia on

yeah, they really did 'measure' all the wrong values, didn't they?

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

Health care is a right. Just keep punching on that.

Because to me, the marketing literature from Daschle is all about the rights of artificial persons to deny care -- since that's their business model -- than about the rights of real people who deserve care.

The whole thrust is to keep murderers by spreadsheet profitable.