Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NPR Does Health Care Right - Far Right That Is

A few days ago a reader (h/t to Masbrow) mentioned an interesting article by Felice Pace in CounterPunch. Pace does a little exploring with the NPR search engine to see how poor, old single payer fares there. He notes that "...stories mention single payer. [but] I can find no NPR news reports or other shows which actually focused on single payer or on the movement to achieve it."*** This prompts him to ask, "Why is NPR refusing to report on what 60% of US citizens and the majority of health professionals want?" To answer that question he did a little more digging at NPR and found that (as of 2006) NPR's financial health care was mighty dependent on some heavy hitters in insurance industry:
  • $1 million+: Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, Prudential Financial
  • $500,000 - $999,999: Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Allstate Insurance Company, Northwestern Mutual Foundation
  • $250,000 - $499,999: AARP, The Hartford Financial Services Group, UnumProvident
  • $100,000 – $249,999: Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
Single payer may be off the table, but when money sets the table, public radio isn't so different from our trusty public servants.

***A slight correction: I found that by searching "Physicians for a National Health Program" there was one relatively recent (Dec. 24, 2008) report that focused on the single-payer plan; however, the whole point of that Christmas Eve coal-in-the-stocking from NPR was how single-payer is neither as popular nor realistic as supporters claim. It featured Baucus and Rep. Pete Stark poo-pooing single-payer and Rovner relying on one dud poll to claim that "while single-payer has won big majorities in many polls, in this one it came in dead last" (How's that for unbiased?).

Now that Obama and the Dem's sadly watered-down health care proposal is working its way through the bowels of Congress [and still facing attacks from the GOP, PhRMA, and insurance industry because of the public option] I thought it might be worthwhile to put NPR's most recent health care stories into perspective and see whose viewpoints (i.e. $$$) hold sway.

My poor little post of last Friday - noting how TWO features on Morning Edition flogged the public option - had barely seen the light of cyberspace when the next morning NPR felt obliged to give oft-consulted Karen Ignagni of AHIP ("enemy number one" of single payer) unchallenged airtime to denounce the public option with the help of Scott Simon. Instead of responding here - I dropped a comment (reprinted at the end of this post) on NPR's site.

Since then things have only gotten worse. On Sunday morning Rovner claimed that "the bill coming up this week is going to be the most left-leaning if you will...could provide subsidies to people earning up to 5 times the poverty this may be the farthest to the left of all." With that salvo, is it any wonder that on Tuesday morning Steve Inskeep was all over Kathleen Sebelius with the Republican talking points about the public option and denouncing single-payer:
  • "I want to understand this number because...Republicans have said, quoted a study, way over a hundred million what's your number?"
  • "Just the numbers you mention...this option, this public option, if it passes as you imagine is going to be vast."
  • "....people in Congress are talking about putting some kind of limit on this public plan...what kind of limits are you prepared to expect..."
  • "...would you accept a limit that would say this is just not going to be a national health insurance at some point in the future...?"
  • "Can you say flat out it's just never going to be single-player health insurance....?"
This morning Inskeep was at it again in a chat with Juan Williams. After Williams claimed "what the government's doing may in fact drive up the cost of health care" and touted a CBO report alleging that the Dem/Obama plan would "cause some people to lose their insurance" - Inskeep played a clip of the Sebelius interview in which she calls the potential for single-payer insurance a "draconian scenario." He then asks Williams, "Has the White House found any effective way to prove a negative here; to say this is not going to become creeping socialism?" [I swear to God, I'm not making this stuff up.]

You might think I'm selectively picking only the anti-public plan stories or the anti-single player reports. If you can find any featuring a positive tilt on either the public-plan or single-player, let me know; when I searched NPR to see if even a few of the major proponents of progressive health care reform have been featured in the last two weeks, here's what I found:
  • Progressive Democrats of America - nothing
  • California Nurses Association -nada
  • Physicians for a National Health Plan - zilch
Alas, seems that real health care reform at NPR is DOA...

[My comment left at NPR below Scott Simon's schmooze with Karen Ignani]:
Congratulations NPR - as a "public" news station you have done a great service by providing a voice to the voiceless: the health insurance industry which lacks the funds and connections to get it's message out. After yesterday's Republican slant on the public plan from Liasson, Rovner, and Inskeep - you showed a brave commitment to your mission statement ["'Fair' means that we present all important views on a subject."] by giving yet more airtime to the insurance lobby this morning.

Methinks it's time to tell your member stations to stop begging for support from the public (whose opinions don't seem to amount to much on NPR) and to just plug into the money stream from the insurance industry that you are so loyal to.


miranda said...

I rec'd your comment. Great message, devastating hyperlinks.

Yes, NPR, just insert the insurance company money IV directly, do not pass "membership drive." Figures that the fake public network opposes a real public plan.

gopol said...

To be sure, a search for Dr. Himmelstein brings up Health Insurers Have Billions in Tobacco Stocks where we learn that the PNHP doctors "are crowing today about what they've learned" about the investment portfolios of HMOs.

I'm most interested in the use of the word "crowing" here. My Merriam-Webster defines the verb crow as

1 : to make the loud shrill sound characteristic of a cock
2 : to utter a sound expressive of pleasure
3 a : to exult gloatingly especially over the distress of another b : to brag exultantly or blatantly
transitive verb : to say with self-satisfaction

which is like the cock calling the rooster fowl, I think.

Anonymous said...

"creeping socialism?"

There's no way that this stuff comes out of the blue. These on-air folks are simply not creative enough to make it up on the fly.

Especially Inskeep, head parrot at National Parrot Radio.

Anonymous said...

NPR's mission statement ["'Fair' means that we present all important views on a subject."]

The only views that are important are the ones held by important people.

As everyone who is important knows, the views of the public are not important, not even at election time (Bush v Gore proved the latter).

A majority of Americans opposed handing hundreds of billions over to the banks that created the current financial mess, but did it matter to Obama, Pelosi, Dodd and their cheerleaders on NPR?


A majority of Americans favors single payer, but does that matter to Obama, Pelosi, Baucus and their cheerleaders at NPR?


A majority of Americans thinks that Bush administration officials should be prosecuted if found to have committed crimes, but does that matter to Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and their cheerleaders at NPR ?


These (Obama, Pelosi et al) are VIP's we are talking about here. "Deciders" they call themselves. Roll out the red carpet, folks and bow down in homage as King Barak and Queen Nancy pass. Kiss the ground they walk upon (and/or their asses)

The rest of America does not mean squat -- not to Obama, not to Nancy Pelosi, not to Harry Reid and certainly not to the management at NPR.

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

The rest of America does not mean squat -- not to Obama, not to Nancy Pelosi, not to Harry Reid and certainly not to the management at NPR.

Oh, that's a little unfair.

The Peoples' Voices echo frequently on NPR's air, especially when they can be made to say things supportive of the (One) Party line, or back up the droolings of their CorpoRat sock-puppets.

Oh, and PLEASE, PLEASE, fire Wan Williams?

mjs said...

NPR: Nascent Plutocrat Regurgitator.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Tom Ashbrook's On Point (out of WBUR Boston) on 6-17-09 had a balanced conversation including guest Stuart Altman of Brandeis that discussed Single Payer. Please give a listen and comment on whether you thought it was a truly fair presentation of the trade-offs.

Anonymous said...

The liberal obsession with single payer is naive and misguided. It's not who pays that matters as much as what forces are in place to contain spending and prices. The U.S. has no such mechanism.

Germany and Holland both have multi-payer systems that try to restrain health care inflation. The Germans have been doing it for more than a century. Thus those systems spend half what we spend per person on health care.

Other OECD nations manage to do it with hybrid or single payer systems like Canada and England. The key is not to just force everyone to pay into a system that pays whatever prices health care services charge.

Medicare is the fastest growing source of health care spending. Old people demand more health care. That's a fact. Old people also vote and keep congress from doing even the smallest thing to restrain Medicare spending.

How interesting in the current round of mandatory health insurance legislation the Obama admin. and congress did nothing to give Medicare and Medicaid drug price negotiating power like they have in the VA.

Those with private or public health insurance are responsible for out of control spending; notwithstanding some of the shrill protestation in this blog.

Give her a choice of a brand name drug with no or low copay or a generic with the same no or low copay and you can be sure the patient will go for the high priced brand name. The patient and her doctor are the true corporatists.