We finally got around to reading gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry’s column in yesterday’s Grand Junction Sentinel and, well, it’s pretty bad. By bad we don’t mean poorly written, Penry is articulate enough–we mean bad as in a string of disproven Tea Party canards.
To casual observers, the president’s choice of Grand Junction as a venue for his next campaign event may seem a bit peculiar. Residents of bright-red Mesa County, after all, chose John McCain over Mr. Obama by a large margin in the last election.
So why Grand Junction? Because Grand Junction has one of the most cost-effective and high-quality health-care systems in the country. So effective, in fact, that it was recently featured in The New Yorker (along with the Mayo Clinic) as an example of health care reform that works.
As The New Yorker piece explains, in Grand Junction, doctors “agreed to meet regularly on small peer-review committees to go over their patient charts together. They focused on rooting out problems like poor prevention practices, unnecessary back operations and unusual hospital-complication rates. Problems went down. Quality went up.”
The article goes on to talk about how the physicians cooperated with Rocky Mountain Health Plans to create a “communitywide electronic-record system that shared office notes, test results, and hospital data for patients across the area.”
And that is likely why the president is coming to Grand Junction – to tell America that Mesa County makes the case for a single-payer health care plan…
As good a place to start as any. Apparently, we woke up yesterday in a parallel universe where all the proposals for health care reform before Congress have been replaced by a single-payer plan! That’s what happened, right? Because none of the bills under consideration do that. It’s either that or Penry is wantonly misleading his readers–isn’t it?
It gets so much better, folks.
The Mesa model didn’t come about because of government coercion or an expensive, taxpayer-financed “public option.” It didn’t become more cost-effective by rationing care, as Mr. Obama’s plan would – a plan that would, in his own words, tell elderly patients that, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.” [Pols emphasis]
One of the most often-repeated distortions in the health care reform debate is the massively out-of-context quote from Obama cited by Penry above. This is the one lie that arguably gave rise to “Obama wants to kill your grandma” as an article of faith for these protesters. And by “massively out of context,” we mean 180 degree Orwell-style ‘means the opposite’ out of context. The nonpartisan fact-checking site Politifact.com debunked this weeks ago–claim rated “false.”
Looking at the full transcript, it’s clear that Obama voluntarily brought up the example of having to choose between a surgery and a pill. But he did so as a hypothetical example of difficult decisions about medical treatment for older patients. He was not advocating, much less requiring, bureaucrats to make a potentially life-ending decision for a centenarian.
“I don’t want bureaucracies making those decisions,” Obama said.
And of course, no right-wing tirade against health care reform would be complete without some helpful facts and figures from an ‘impartial source.’
Despite President Obama’s assurances that “you can keep your insurance if you’re happy with it,” it doesn’t take an economist to realize that if Obama care becomes law, many employers will simply drop their coverage. In fact, according to the non-partisan Lewin Group, as many as 114 million Americans who now have private health insurance through their employers would lose their coverage under the Democratic plan.
Ah yes, the “non-partisan Lewin Group.” You hear a great deal about them lately. For more on who writes the songs the Lewin Group sings, we turn to SourceWatch:
The Lewin Group is a national health care consulting firm based in Falls Church, Virginia, that…is wholly owned by the health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. [Pols emphasis] UnitedHealth Group acquired the firm in 2007.
The Lewin Group is the source of the most frequently-cited statistic invoked by those opposing health care reform in 2009: that nearly 100 million people will lose their employer-provided health insurance if a government-run public health insurance option is available. When citing this statistic, its source, the Lewin Group, is said to be a “non-partisan” firm that provides health care consulting.
Despite its corporate ownership, opponents of health care reform often cite the Lewin group as an impartial, non-partisan or independent source of information. House Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia), has referred to it as “the nonpartisan Lewin Group.” Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have called it an “independent research firm.” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, referred to the Lewin Group was “well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country.” They do not mention, however, that the Lewin Group is owned by UnitedHealth Group.
The Lewin Group has a reputation as the “go to” firm for beleaguered organizations in need of reports and research to support controversial positions and issues…
It’s clear that Penry’s intention with this column was to stoke opposition to the President in advance of today’s town hall, which has a secondary benefit of getting his name out to GOP primary voters on the big issue of the day. He clearly does not want anything that has worked well in Mesa County to be appropriated by the President to support Democratic health care reform efforts.
The fact is that Mesa County’s innovative model for working together on care and reducing inefficiency is in many ways laudable, entirely consistent with President Obama’s goal of reducing the cost of care without reducing quality, and does not conflict with proposals now before Congress. If anything, Mesa County residents should be proud that some of the things they’ve done right in terms of health care are being considered for replication all over the country.
But this put Mesa County’s Josh Penry in a tough spot, since he must condemn the President without impugning the local successes Obama has come to Grand Junction to praise–a situation he appears to think he can extricate himself from by stringing together just about every debunked lie in the “deather” arsenal, hoping (in the case of his Tea Party base of support, fairly certain) that nobody will check his facts.