Friday, June 12, 2009

NPR and the Biggest Obstacle to Health Care Legislation

Guess what the biggest obstacle to health care legislation is?

Could it be the mountains of cash being being poured into Congress by the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies so that they can override public opinion [and physician opinion] favoring government run health insurance? Or might it be obstructionists like Senator Baucus and "moderate" Democrat, Senator Kent Conrad? (or Evan Byah or Ben Nelson or ...)

According to NPR and Mara Liasson (...and PhRMA) the option of a public (government-run) plan "has emerged as the biggest obstacle to health care legislation." And why is it an obstacle? Because, Liasson explains, "Republicans oppose a public plan, so does the American Medical Association...and even more perilous for the President, so do many moderate Democrats in Congress..."

As if Mara Liasson's Friday morning take on a public plan wasn't enough, NPR followed her report with Julie Rovner and Steve Inskeep providing their slant on the matter. Inskeep repeats the Republican argument about "this government plan [that] is going to offer a very nice service, which is good, but it's going to be cheaper than private insurers can manage" and is "actually going to damage, as Republicans say, damage my private insurance company." Neither Rovner nor Inskeep offers the most obvious response to this argument: if the government can offer a more efficient, cost-effective program than the private sector, what's the problem?

Inskeep is not done either. He then puts this question to Rovner: "We have Democrats here who are saying it's absolutely essential, if we don't have this public plan, we've got nothing, there's no health care reform, NOTHING. On the other side you have Republicans who say if you put this public plan in, your're right on the way to socialized medicine. Are law makers at all seeing a way between those two extremes."

Rover doesn't even acknowledge the fact that reform without a robust public plan is not reform at all, or as former Sec. of Labor Robert Reich notes:
"A public option large enough to have bargaining leverage to drive down drug prices and private-insurance premiums is the defining issue of universal health care. It's the only way to make health care affordable. It's the only way to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from eating up future federal budgets."
Instead, Rovner agrees with Inskeep, then goes on to claim that the reasonable way between the "extremes" will be a plan "having co-ops...regional buying groups...[or] a government plan but very limited."

NPR is really crafty in this coverage. In these two back-to-back Friday reports they've managed to take an option like the public plan [which is already a serious compromise from the single-payer model] and turn it into "the biggest obstacle" and one of "these extremes." Furthermore, they manage to tout the dismal co-op model as the reasonable compromise. I'll let Robert Reich have the final say about co-ops: "Kent Conrad came up with this bamboozle. Finance chair Baucus is impressed, and some Republicans -- even Grassley -- seem interested...."

Well, almost the final word: he could have added NPR to the list of those "interested."


Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

The thing is, the discussion of these reports is entirely scripted. It sounds like they are engaged in converstaion, but it is all scripted. Insqueak is repeating the company line, not necessarily his own 'opinion,' but it's a distinction without a difference...

b.p.f.b. said...

^ True that. Which is why I largely ignore their lil' amateur radio plays.

Archtype said...

This is one issue where I really can't see a grooved NPR bias. Their underwriters probably want something similar to the status quo for health care, but none of this directly effects American empire, so NPR doesn't have their agenda totally prepped.

Archtype said...

I stand corrected. Scott Simon has an HMO lobbyist on right now and their laying it all out for us. I still don't know what they're talking about.

This followed Simon's somber intonations against all the anti-Semitic hate mail he receives every single week of his adult life.

Molly said...

I heard the Rovner-Inskeep piece and wrote to NPR (I got a canned response). Single payer was given a very negative slant, with never a mention that nearly 60% of the public WANTS single payer.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Rovner has a new part-time gig working for the Kaiser Foundation (the "non-profit" arm for Kaiser Permanente).

The Kaiser Health News Network. Gee, why would Kaiser need to "explain" health care?

And here's a link where Rovners June 10 NPR story is identified by Kaiser as coming from "our partner NPR."

Can NPR say "conflict of interest?"

Not when $$ are involved. Go NPR - cheerleaders for the health insurance industry!

Anonymous said...

"even more perilous for the President, so do many moderate Democrats in Congress..."

Perilous for the President?

How so?

Senators like Baucus are simply not doing the things they are without the approval (if not DIRECTION) of the Obama White House.

In fact, I'd have to say that the whole charade with Baucus saying "Oh I feel so bad that we left out Single payer, but it's too late to consider now because Obama is really anxious to get a plan approved" is ENTIRELY scripted, most probably by Obama himself.

It's the classic "good guy/bad guy routine" where Obama is allowed deniability when something backfires as it clearly did in this case -- afetr doctors and nurses got arrested and publicized what was going on.

Obama is essentially "gaming": the public.

Given what he said in the past (see below) about single payer, it is absolutely disgusting that he has now pulled it off the table after getting people's votes, quite likely based on that one issue for many.

Here's what Obama said BEFORE he was elected (from Obama for Single-Payer Before He Was Against It", By David Sirota)

"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program...I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House." - Barack Obama, 2003

///end quote

Talk about flip-floppers!

Now Obama will not even allow a discussion in Congress about it.

I swear I am going to go door to door to see that this guy does not get another term.

If there is one thing I can't stand it is people who say one thing and do the opposite.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear what the biggest obstacle is.

Health care "reform" [sic]is rife with conflict of interest, from members of the media to members of Congress.

I particularly love Senator Dodd's rationlization for why his wife's investments don't impact his decision: essentially, "I've been working on this stuff for years!" [and have nothing to show for it]

The following is from the Washington Post

Lawmakers Reveal Health-Care Investments
Key Players Have Stakes in Industry

by Paul Kane

"Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in a sector that could be dramatically reshaped by this summer's debate. "

gopol said...

Speaking of special interests, isn't that what an underwriter is? So I know that Merck has been an NPR underwriter (dear sir or madam, won't you hock my schlock? I'll make you a million with my Alpha Block)

I've been trying to find out exactly who the NPR underwriters are and how much they give and who their lobbyists are and what the transcripts of the meetings with the lobbyists reveal, but it's been tough digging. The best I could find was the NPR ethics site where we read (among other farsinating tiddly bits) that

4. If NPR reports on an organization or individual who funds us, we will disclose that relationship on air if the subject of the report is directly related to the thrust of the grant we received.

That's a big "IF," I take it.

Anybody know how to research this more better?

Anonymous said...

RE: NPR underwriting.

Here's the issue, as i see it.

Lots of Corporations (eg, bank of America) underwrite NPR member stations but not NPR directly.

So, there is a giant loophole that you could drive a Mack truck through.

NPR gets some 60% of a its money from NPR member stations who pay for NPR programming.

but NPR can legally run stories on companies that are member station underwriters but not NPR underwriters (eg on Bank Of America) without any disclosure whatsoever.

The claim by NPR hosts that "NPR does not receive much federal funding" (I think 8% is the figure) is really more than a little disingenuous.

NPR may not get money directly from the government, but it gets it indirectly, funneled through member stations. The members stations get a large amount of government funding and a significant fraction of that is paid to NPR for programming.

It's actually a lot like what we just saw with money being funneled to companies like Goldman sachs through AIG.

If member stations are being underwritten by a company like Bank of America and NPR is getting programming money from those stations, then they really have an ethical (if not legal) responsibility to disclose this.

But they do not.

gopol said...

oH - IT occuRs to me of a sUdden!¿

FOIA? Anyone know how to best phrase the request?

JayV said...

This is brilliant:

"NPR announced today that in a cost-cutting move they have replaced their news writers with a computer program that uses a simple formula to generate stories..."

masbrow said...

There's a good piece by Felice Pace on Counterpunch on this subject here:
follow the money indeed!

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

This is one issue where I really can't see a grooved NPR bias. Their underwriters probably want something similar to the status quo for health care, but none of this directly effects American empire, so NPR doesn't have their agenda totally prepped.

6/13/09 9:09 AM
Blogger Archtype said...

I stand corrected. ...
6/13/09 9:25 AM

16 Minutes! That might be a erecord...