Big Media Love Health Industry Loopholes, Deceptions

“The lack of single-payer support by top politicians and elite media is striking” to veteran independent journalist Roger Bybee (Z Magazine, 7/09), who reminds us that “numerous surveys have shown the popularity of the single-payer approach.” Bybee points out, for example, that “a January CBS/NY Times poll showed 59 percent for a single-payer system described in vague terms,” Business Week, in 2005, “found ’67 percent of all Americans think it’s a good idea to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens, as Canada and Britain do, with just 27 percent dissenting” and “in April 2008, a survey of 1,100 U.S. doctors published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed 59 percent backing among physicians for single-payer.” Bybee reports on the industry response to these fairly unequivocal numbers–a response heartily welcomed by corporate news media:

Following the thinking outlined for Republicans by conservative pollster and strategist Frank Luntz, the insurers and their allies have adopted a conciliatory, “pro-reform” face. Of course, the insurers and the medical-industrial complex have a distinct vision of reform. As Dr. Don McCanne of PNHP has written: “For the insurance industry, reform means expanding their successful business model to include more individuals in their plans while shifting the higher costs to the government (taxpayers). Most people do not want to be required to purchase health plans at premiums they cannot afford, and then be stuck with inadequate coverage designed to keep premiums from climbing even higher.”

Still, the insurers captured favorable media coverage for three rather hollow pledges: agreeing to drop “prior condition” considerations in signing up individual applicants in exchange for the government creating an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; accepting “much more aggressive regulation of insurance”; and announcing that they would cut $1.2 trillion from health care costs over the next decade. Each of these pledges is fraught with fundamental loopholes.

While these gestures have generated extensive media coverage and generated a sense of goodwill among some health-reform advocates, the health insurance industry has been fighting a less visible battle to ensure that the final plan emerges with insurer-designed loopholes intact.

Bybee gives an idea of the extent of the forces arrayed against the popular healthcare solution: “Toward that end, the health sector invested $134 million on lobbying in 2009’s first quarter alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.” Do your part to fight back by adding your name to FAIR’s petition to Tell Media: Include Single-Payer in Healthcare Debate.