Apparently, Disraeli was wrong. The three types of falsehoods are lies, damned lies, and insurance industry statistics.
That last category is turning out some real whoppers, judging by the propaganda now being spouted as God's truth by opponents of health-care reform.
In fact, even that phrase-health-care reform-is a product of spin. The truth is, the Administration's now-controversial medical proposal is actually more about health-insurance reform than health-care reform. It's a move to a single-payer system for those who would prefer not to have to take out a jumbo loan to cover the co-pay for a trip to the dermatologist to trim a hangnail.
Of course, insurance industry types aren't likely to gain much traction demonizing health-insurance reform. In fact, I'm guessing if you asked the folks now bashing Pres. Obama's plan how they would feel about health-insurance reform--rather than health-care reform--a lot of them would probably start right to work on placards stating "Eva Braun Had Health Insurance!!" or "Deductibles Are the Devil's Work."
As far as I can see, the goal of some in the health-insurance industry is to get people so worked up that they stop using their brains. In an article today on CNN, Wendell Potter, a former insurance company communications executive, said that the insurance industry is deliberately spreading false information in a bit to disrupt the debate.
He said the industry hires PR firms that create front groups to try to "destroy health-care reform by using terms like 'government takeover of the health-care system' or we are heading down toward a 'slippery slope toward socialism' or 'we're going to kill your grandpa' because of these health-care regulations."
Certainly, an industry group known as America's Health Insurance Plans has not exactly covered itself in glory during the health-care debate. When asked by CNN to respond to Potter's accusations, Robert Zirkelbach, the president of the group, sent an email acknowledging that the association opposes some aspects of Democratic health-care proposals. But he did so much more than just that.
"We have been very clear and up front since day one about our opposition to a government-run insurance plan that would dismantle employer coverage, bankrupt hospitals, and increase the federal deficit."
Wow. Rather than refute Potter's claims that the insurance industry is spreading misinformation, Zirkelbach used the opportunity to--yep--spread misinformation.
Actually, I have no doubt Zirkelbach believes strongly in what he wrote. By most lights, however, the Obama plan will not dismantle employer coverage (that task is going to fall to employers some day), nor is it going to bankrupt hospitals (treating the rising number of uninsured citizens might do the trick, though). The plan will add to the federal deficit, at least at first. A number of respected experts in the field feel that a public-option plan will eventually lower overall medical costs by introducing competition into the field, although others disagree.
In his email, Zirkelbach went on to deny that employees of his group were "responsible for disruptive and inappropriate tactics at health care town hall meetings."
Maybe so. But they certainly seem to be playing fast and loose with numbers. Remember the one factoid the group put out showing that profits at health-insurance companies only amounted to one percent of all the money spent on medical care in the U.S.? Some folks read that and decided that health insurance sure must not be a very good business to be in. Others did the math and discovered that one percent of the total outlay on health services in the U.S. amounted to $22 billion.
Hardly chicken scratch. Indeed, between 2000 and 2007, profits at the largest medical insurance providers rose more than 400 percent. Meanwhile, the medical loss ratio-what insurers actually spend on health care versus what they spend on administration, marketing and profits-has declined.
I didn't find that information on Campaign for an American Solution, a web site the group sponsors. And this is not to say that the site doesn't have some valuable information on it. It does. But it just gets lost amid the selective surgery.
Example: on one of the group's web sites, they cited a survey conducted in July by the well-respected Employee Benefits Research Institute. According to the site, fifty-eight percent of those with health insurance coverage are extremely or very satisfied with their current plan, and approximately one-third (30 percent) are somewhat satisfied.
True enough. Of course, what the insurance industry site failed to note was in that same EBRI study, nearly 60 percent of the respondents rated America's health-care system as fair or poor. Only six percent said it was excellent.
What's more, EBRI reported that between 68 percent and 88 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat support health reform ideas such as national health plans, a public plan option, guaranteed issue, expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, and employer and individual mandates.
It's likely that those percentages have gone down lately, now that health-care reform has turned into a plebiscite on just how gullible we Americans really are.