Penry’s Health Care Op-Ed Riddled With Falsehoods

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we woke up yesterday in a parallel universe where all the proposals for health care reform before Congress have been replaced by a single-payer plan!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 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.


17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. COFPI says:

    of the outlandish excuses for a ‘debate’ going on with reform.  Reform critics are mostly arguing about fiction, completely made up fear-mongering, and are either unwilling or unable to recognize the very dangerous and costly environment we’re in if nothing is done on health care.  

    Read more here:

  2. WesternSlopeThought says:

    the “socialist” elements of that Mesa County model.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      Existing government programs are very popular – because they are efficient & successful.

      • Road Runner says:

        against opposition very similar in both form and substance to the opposition health care reform is facing now.

        • MADCO says:

          IN the early 30’s as Congress was debating Social Security, the R opposition was adamant that it would ruin business,  create a disincentive to save or for states to have their own old age pension, and was unconstitutional.


          Title II provides for compulsory old age annuities, and title VIII provides the method by which the money is to be raised to meet the expense thereof.

          These two titles are interdependent, and neither is of any consequence without the other. Neither of them has relation to any other substantive title of the bill. Neither is constitutional. Therein lies one of the reasons for our opposition to them.

          The Federal Government has no power to impose this system upon private industry.

          And here’s a a couple of R’s on the floor in 1965 opposing Medicare because it was socialism.

          “[T]o pay the medical bills and hospital bills of individuals over 65 who are well able to provide the same for themselves is not charity. It is not needed. It is socialism. It moves the country in a direction which is not good for anyone, whether they be young or old. It charts a course from which there will be no turning back.”

          – Senator Curtis (Congressional Record, Vol. 111 Part 12, p. 15870, July 8, 1965)

          “No one can doubt for a minute that this is simply another step toward the neutralization of private responsibility which will eventually end when the Government assumes complete control over the destinies of all of our citizens from the cradle to the grave. The principle established here, when carried to its logical conclusion cannot fail also to be damaging to two segments of our free enterprise system – our physicians and our insurance industry.”

          – Senator Mundt (Congressional Record, Vol. 111 Part 12, p. 16122, July 9, 1965)

          • Road Runner says:

            who are consistently wrong, generation after generation, century after century, millenium after millenium, does get a bit tedious after a while….

            But at least they are able to forget that the things they and their adherents now accept as fundamental and beneficial had to defeat the same arguments, the same ignorance, the same lack of vision and imagination that they throw against us today. Otherwise, how could they continue?

            That’s just one of the symptoms of Troglodytism: It distorts historical memory, such that no lessons are ever learned.

          • Yokel says:

            Savings are at an all-time low and there’s still no authority in the Constitution for Congress to create and fund programs like social security.  

            And your quotes sound rather prophetic and accurate.  Did you read them before Ctrl-C/V’ing them?  

            • Ralphie says:

              Article I, Section 8

              “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

              • Road Runner says:

                the combination of the preamble, that the constitution is established “in order to…promote the general welfare…,” and “the enabling clause,” Article I, Section 8, Clause 18: “The Congress shall have power…to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers….”

                Since the preamble summarized the purpose of the specified powers, and granted a power specifically to pass laws necessary to fulfilling that purpose, I think it’s a fair argument that the Constitution grants Congress a general power to pass laws that promote the general welfare.

            • parsingreality says:

              I think not.  Savings in this country was just fine, thank you very much, for fifty years after the implentation of SS.

              Slow response or something?  

  3. Go Blue says:

    Like Limbaugh, Palin, Bech and Gringrich who are opposing health insurance reform – fighting for the status quo of private insurance monopolies – while lying through their teeth about everything from one minute proclaiming Democrats to be Communists to Nazi’s who are going to kill everyone’s grandma.

    So, just say it. Josh Penry is a liar.

  4. smellykat says:

    Thank you for this, but i have some concerns about our current trends with regard to fact checking. I thought it apalling today, when post-Obama event, the CNN reporter interviewed a woman from and asked her what was correct and what wasn’t in the town hall meeting.  Didn’t that used to be what journalists did?  Then he had the audacity to give her an assignment and said if she got him the answer he would interview her again.  She said no problem. WTF. When did journalists give up on doing their own fact checking? What happened to investigative journalism?  Or has the intermingling of media outlets with other types of large corporations made it so impossible for journalism to be factual/objective that they no longer try?    

    • Road Runner says:

      What happened to investigative journalism is that it wasn’t profitable enough. The reason why political campaigns devised the concept of “earned media” is that they know that journalists will latch onto anything cheaply acquirable that they can pass off as authentic news: If you can make it look like authentic news, it’s news.

      But, take heart! Instead of a handfull of overworked investigative journalists uncovering the occasional Big Story, we now have a plethora of pimply peeping-toms with hand-held digital devices on the job. The unskilled many can sometimes, to some extent, accomplish what used to be accomplished by the skilled few. Kind of like nanotechnology applied to journalism.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        Yes the world of news generation is changing. It’s called evolution. And as with any creature evolving, the change is not 100% for the better.

        There are way too many people who think the old system was perfect and any chage is for the worse. Yes professionally trained journalists got us good reporting on Watergate. But it also got us Judith Miller reporting uttel B.S leading up to Iraq.

        I’ll take Josh Marshall over Bob Woodward any day of the week. Same with Michael Yon over anyone else in Afghanistan.

        • Road Runner says:

          Research on media biases and the effect of “information subsidies” (that is, the attraction of cheap and legitimate-appearing information, regardless of its relative news-worthiness) precedes the internet, let alone the changes in the flow of information wrought by the internet.

          And my remark about the pimply hordes replacing the professional few was really meant to be more up-beat than pessimistic: Large numbers, even when individually less professionalized, can be an enormous asset to any enterprise.

          In other words, there’s nothing you wrote with which I disagree.

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