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  • WSJ fails to disclose conflict of interest in health care op-ed

    ››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

    The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by radiologist Mark E. Klein criticizing President Obama over the Medicare board's decision not to cover virtual colonoscopies. But Klein performs virtual colonoscopies at his Washington, D.C.-area practice, and the Journal did not disclose his interest in whether Medicaid covers them.

  • Not the same thing

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In an online discussion today, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon equates current Republican claims that President Obama wants to cut Medicare with mid-1990s Democratic criticism of Republicans for trying to do so. But the situations are far different: Multiple independent observers have made clear that current health care reform efforts wouldn't cut Medicare benefits or increase out-of-pocket costs, while the GOP's mid-1990s cuts would have done so.

    Here's Bacon:

    Las Cruces, NM: Much of the angst about the Health Care reform is voiced by seniors worried about changes to Medicare (Obama has repeatedly said that savings must come from Medicare). If you recall, in the '80's and '90's Republicans wanted to cut the rise in Medicare costs and were vilified (sometimes with very obvious lies, for instance - calling a reduction in increased funding "funding cuts") Is there any irony that Obama is now being vilified for the same reasons? I remember some pretty irresponsible t.v. ads, especially during the Reagan/Bush years.

    Perry Bacon Jr.: Yes, the way this issue has flipped is interesting. I wrote a piece about the Republicans that ran Sunday and I quoted ex-Bush aide David Frum complaining about how his party is making the kinds of attacks on Medicare that Democrats once did. Michael Steele has an op-ed in our paper attacking Obama on this issue, much as President Clinton did of Dole in the 1996 campaign. I do think the president's team has a major problem with seniors and has to get them behind the reform effort.

    Here's FactCheck.org: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum."

    And AARP: "Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.:

    By contrast, here's a New York Times description of the Republicans' 1995 efforts to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare:

    The Senate and House bills seek to save the same amount of money, cutting projected Medicare spending by $270 billion, or 14 percent, over seven years.

    ...

    Senate Republicans would impose more of a burden on Medicare beneficiaries, increasing the annual deductible for doctors' fees as well as the monthly premium that beneficiaries pay for coverage of doctors' and outpatient services. House Republicans have said they will increase only the premium, not the deductible.

    ...

    Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries must pay the first $100 of costs incurred each year for doctors' services. The Senate would increase the annual deductible to $150 in 1996 and would raise it by $10 in each of the following six years. The deductible, set originally at $50, has been increased only three times in the history of Medicare. The last increase, to $100 from $75, occurred in 1991.

    Senate Republican aides said the $270 billion of savings would be achieved in these ways: Beneficiaries would contribute $70 billion, through higher premiums and deductibles. About $150 billion would be extracted from hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and other providers of health care.

    Another key difference? Bob Dole, who helped lead the GOP's effort to cut $270 billion from Medicare, had voted against creating Medicare in 1965, and had bragged about that vote in 1995: "I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare -- one of twelve -- because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965."

  • Wash. Times, Fox Nation falsely suggest Mayo Clinic critical of Obama health proposal

    ››› ››› TOM ALLISON

    The Washington Times reported that the Mayo Clinic is "joining the growing chorus of critics" of the Obama administration's health care reform proposal, and a Fox Nation headline falsely claimed, "Mayo Clinic Rebukes Obama's Rationing." But the Mayo Clinic did not criticize Obama's health care proposal, and indeed applauded suggested revisions by the administration to the House bill.

  • Fred Hiatt's health care narrow-mindedness

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here's the Washington Post editorial page chief:

    Broadly speaking, we know how to insure most Americans: Order them to get insurance, help pay for those who can't afford it and tell insurance companies to enroll anyone who asks.

    Hiatt doesn't seem to have even considered using either the Veterans Health Administration or Medicare as a model instead. Which is odd, since they already exist and, by most accounts, work rather well.

    Hiatt goes on to complain about the cost of health care reform -- which makes his refusal to consider other models all the more odd. After all, the Lewin Group has found that Rep. Pete Stark's proposal, for example, would produce the greatest overall savings:

    Though Rep. Stark's AmeriCare bill is the most expensive to the federal government, it provides the biggest overall health savings, lowering projected national expenditures by $58 billion (Figure ES-4). It achieves this by significantly lowering the costs of insurance administration by covering most people through a program like Medicare, which has substantially lower administrative costs than private insurance.

    So even as Hiatt portrays universal health care as too expensive, he ignores proposals that would do the most to cut costs.

  • The question Pete Peterson never gets asked

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Morning Joe just hosted Pete Peterson, giving him an opportunity to plug his book and spread his doom and gloom about "entitlement reform." As usual, the reporters present treated Peterson as though he is a Yoda, the Dalai Lama, and their grandfather all in one.

    Nobody, for example, asked Peterson about his opposition to health care reform in the early 1990s ("The issue is whether we can afford it. We can't.") Since then, health care costs have skyrocketed, taking Medicare costs with them. So the failure of health care reform in 1993/1994 not only resulted in tens of millions of Americans going without health care for the past 15 years, it also contributed to the soaring Medicare spending that Pete Peterson insists is a crisis.

    All of which suggests a second question somebody should probably ask Peterson: Why should we listen to you?

  • WaPo reporter: "the real fiscal answer is ... slashing Medicare benefits"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    This is a couple days old, but Paul Kane's Washington Post online discussion last week is a near-perfect example of the tendency of many reporters to behave as though the Left and the Right are equally wrong and dishonest - and in the same ways - and only they, the noble reporters, standing squarely in the middle, tell The Truth. And of how that approach is itself an ideology, and one that often gets things very wrong.

    And, in the process, Kane proved the point of my most recent column: the media's approach to budgets is incredibly stupid.

    In Kane's very first answer, he addresses the growing national debt, and it doesn't take Madame Marie to predict his "solution":

    Kane: The real fiscal answer is entitlement reform -- that's code word, everyone, for slashing Medicare benefits and raising the retirement age/payout time for Social Security recipients. Those steps would save trillions of dollars over the years, but both parties are scared to death of infuriating seniors.

    Given the way the Establishment media covers the deficit, I'd be shocked if there was anyone reading who didn't see that one coming. The media believes in few things more strongly than the "need" to slash entitlement benefits in order to balance the budget. Of course, entitlement costs have skyrocketed because health care costs have skyrocketed, and we spend considerably more per person on health care than other nations, without providing better care. But somehow it never seems to occur to these reporters that rather than slashing entitlement benefits, we could reduce health care costs. Perhaps because recognizing that possibility would be agreeing with the liberals, which would eliminate the reporters' ability to portray themselves as the only sensible, non-ideological, fearless truth-tellers.

    Then there's this:

    Portland, Oregon: I'm a liberal Dem, and think I may be missing something. It seems to me that during the W years, we had massive increases in spending, and in the deficit, but that the message was diluted b/c of the way the war spending was handled (separate from the rest of the budget). The Republican hand-wringing over the Obama budget therefore strikes me as insincere. Isn't this really about spending money on infrastructure vs. spending on the military, not on spending vs. not spending?

    Paul Kane: No, sorry, Portland. You're wrong. I'm not putting blame on anyone, but everything's different now. Earlier this decade, the budget deficits were $300b-$400b, at its worst. Now, we're talking $1.8 trillion.

    Everything's different, everything.

    Well, Portland wasn't "wrong." Portland wasn't talking about the relative sizes of the current deficit and the deficit three years ago; Portland was making the point that the Republicans' complaints about deficits seem insincere given that they ran up deficits of their own. And those Republicans were attacking Obama last year, saying his policies would involve deficits - long before we were talking about $1.8 trillion deficits - so Portland would seem to have a pretty unassailable point.

    Then, this:

    The Deficit: One of the great tragedies of the $1.8 trillion deficit is that there is nothing to show for it. (Except Iraq, but no one wants to look at that). On the other hand what Obama seems to want do is invest. There is great value in borrowing for investment purposes. Check my (and imagine your) college educations. Obama is saying we are going to increase the deficit, but afterwards we will have a functional health-care system; a grid that can handle 21st century energy needs, an educational system that will help our kids compete on a level playing ground with the Chinese and Indians. Those types of things pay a return on investment!

    Paul Kane: The thing about liberals these days that is very striking about their fiscal thinking, is how similar it sounds to Reagan. Liberals believe in supply-side economics like Reagan did. Or something akin to it.

    Reagan argued that cutting taxes, thereby reducing revenue, would lead to -- presto -- more revenue, because things would get good again financially, leading to more people making more money and then -- presto -- more taxes flowing in.

    Liberals are currently arguing that increasing spending would lead to -- presto -- more revenue because the things they want to invest in would make things sound financially, leading to people making more money and then -- presto -- more tax revenue flowing in to pay for all these programs.

    Here, Kane is debating a strawman. His questioner plainly did not claim that "increasing spending would lead to - presto - more revenue." His questioner made the - again, seemingly unassailable - point that not all deficits are created alike; that you can have deficits for which you get nothing in return other than an unnecessary war, and you can have deficits for which you get universal health care in return. For example. The question was really not at all "similar" to Reagan, or to supply-side economics. It was simply a recognition of the fact that borrowing money to pay for college is quite different than borrowing money to buy lottery tickets.

    But, again, if Paul Kane agreed with that rather unassailable point, he would be agreeing with the liberals, and wouldn't be able to present himself as the only adult standing between two childish ideologies.

    Later, Kane speculates about recent presidents' success in keeping their promises:

    Kane: I wonder which one of the last 5 (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter) was best at keeping promises. I tend to think Reagan, but have no real data point to support that. Again, not placing judgment on his promises and their value, I'll leave it up to the Doris Kearns/McCullough/historian crowd to evaluate whether it was a good or bad thing that Reagan kept his promises. But he's my guess for best promise keeper.

    Really? I'll leave the details to Will Bunch, if he wants to weigh in, but it seems to me that Reagan's central promises involved things like smaller government and fiscal responsibility - and that he did a spectacularly poor job of following through on either.

  • Reading Nancy Pelosi's supposedly racist mind

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Conservative columnist Ruben Navarrette pulls a neat trick over at CNN.com. Dishing out the latest, warmed-over GOP talking points about Obama's proposed stimulus package, the RNC-friendly writer claims to be able to read minds. Specifically, he can read the mind of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who last week was at the center of a mini-controversy regarding the proposed expansion of Medicaid funding for family planning services.

    Navarrette though, was able to spot very nasty, vile and racist undertones to Pelosi's comments:

    When you make the argument that contraception is a cost-saving measure for state and federal government, some might think what you're implying is that the babies who would otherwise have been born were destined to become dependent on welfare and other public services. And for those who think wrongly that welfare dependents only come in two colors -- black and brown -- it's easy to see which births need to be controlled. That's how you connect the dots. Now, maybe that isn't where Pelosi was headed with her comments. It doesn't matter.

    Did you follow? According to Navarrette, "some might think" that Pelosi was implying that "black and brown" babies are a bad thing. And that if you "connect the dots," that's where Pelosi's comments were "headed."

    But did Pelosi ever say or even imply such a ugly thing? According to Navarrette, "It doesn't matter." He's going to smear her nonetheless.

  • Print reports portrayed Medicare drug price reform as problematic for Democrats, ignoring internal drug memo laying out industry concerns

    ››› ››› ROB MORLINO

    The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal all asserted that it may be difficult for congressional Democrats to deliver on their pledge to reform the Medicare drug plan over the opposition of the Bush administration, congressional Republicans, and the pharmaceutical industry, but did not report an internal drug company memo that warned of bills that would allow imported drugs and force price competition.

  • Conservatives tout "combative" Snow's barrage of false attacks on the media

    ››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN & JOE BROWN

    The White House released a series of statements, reportedly initiated by new press secretary Tony Snow, attacking specific media reports and editorials as misleading. Conservatives in the media have touted the statements as indicative of a new willingness on the part of the White House communications office, led by Snow, to call the press on its misinformation. But Media Matters for America has found that, of the six "Setting the Record Straight" releases issued from May 8 to May 11, at least four are highly misleading.