Politico uncritically quoted Richard Scott's falsehoods about President Obama's health care plan, including his comparison between the public health insurance option supported by Obama and the health care systems in Canada and Great Britain.
In an April 21 article, Politico reporter Carrie Budoff Brown advanced a false comparison by Richard Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), between the public health insurance option supported by President Obama and the health care systems in Canada and Great Britain. In the article -- a profile and interview of Scott -- Budoff Brown also uncritically quoted Scott's repeated suggestion that the public option is tantamount to a “government-run system” or “single-payer” system, echoing the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee's claim that “the government-run plan option is the Trojan horse in health care reform” because it would inevitably lead to single-payer health insurance.
The previous week, Budoff Brown wrote a Politico article allowing former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to attack the public health insurance option without noting that the group he founded, Center for Health Transformation, is a for-profit entity that receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a direct interest in whether a public insurance plan is part of health care reform.
In her April 21 article, Budoff Brown reported that Scott's group is “trying to discredit the public insurance option.” She added that the group “will release a documentary illustrating what [Scott] describes as the perils of public health care in Great Britain and Canada” and that "[t]he film will feature people affected by the Canadian and British health care systems." But she did not note that Obama has explicitly rejected adopting the British and Canadian models or that the public option supported by the White House is fundamentally different than the health care systems provided in Canada and the United Kingdom. According to the White House website's Health Care agenda, the administration aims to "[e]stablish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage" [emphasis added]. Indeed, when asked, “Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?” during a March 26 online town hall discussion, Obama rejected such a system:
OBAMA: Now, the question is, if you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries? I actually want a universal health care system; that is our goal. I think we should be able to provide health insurance to every American that they can afford and that provides them high quality.
So I think we can accomplish it. Now, whether we do it exactly the way European countries do or Canada does is a different question, because there are a variety of ways to get to universal health care coverage.
A lot of people think that in order to get universal health care, it means that you have to have what's called a single-payer system of some sort. And so Canada is the classic example: Basically, everybody pays a lot of taxes into the health care system, but if you're a Canadian, you're automatically covered. And so you go in -- England has a similar -- a variation on this same type of system. You go in and you just say, “I'm sick,” and somebody treats you, and that's it.
OBAMA: [W]hat evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that's what everybody is accustomed to. That's what everybody is used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don't think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.
Additionally, Budoff Brown did not challenge Scott's suggestion that the public option is equivalent to a “government-run system” or “single-payer” health care. She quoted Scott saying: "'If we are going to have a government-run health care system, how does that impact individuals?'" Budoff Brown also did not challenge Scott when, in response to the question, “Would you be satisfied with the status quo if Congress fails to pass a health reform bill this year,” Scott said: “If the option is a government-run system or the status quo, I will take the status quo. ... If you're going to single-payer vs. the status quo, I think most Americans are going to pick the status quo.”
At no point did Budoff Brown note that the public option is not tantamount to either government-run health care or a single-payer system. As the White House's website makes clear, a public plan would compete side by side with private plans.
Scott's suggestion that the public option is equivalent to government-run health care or a single-payer system echoes the argument made in a March 24 release from the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, "A Government-Run 'Public' Health Insurance Plan: Why Doctors, Hospitals, and Patients Will Lose," that “the government-run plan option is the Trojan horse in health care reform.” According to the release:
Advocates of a single payer system have stridently argued for its inclusion in a health care reform proposal because they understand that a government-run plan is the gateway to a government-run system. ... Inevitably, the government-run plan will take over the market for health insurance, leaving room for only the government-run plan making health care decisions dictated from Washington.
Budoff Brown also did not note that Scott has previously made false claims about health care proposals supported by Obama and congressional Democrats.
From Budoff Brown's April 21 article, "A conservative health care champion":
Within a month, Scott's Conservatives for Patients' Rights will release a documentary illustrating what he describes as the perils of public health care in Great Britain and Canada. He's trying to discredit the public insurance option, an idea supported by many Democrats that would force private insurers to compete with a government plan.
“If we are going to have a government-run health care system, how does that impact individuals?” Scott asked last week in an interview. “What is it like, what are the issues you deal with? And on other side, what are the benefits?”
The film will feature people affected by the Canadian and British health care systems, Scott said, and the interviews will “most likely” make it into TV ads.
Proponents of the public plan say comparisons between U.S. and foreign health care won't resonate at a time when many Americans are desperate for lower insurance costs. Not to mention, there are plenty of horror stories to highlight about health care in this country, they say.
The focus on foreign health care marks the next phase in a six-week-old effort to shape the debate by Scott, a wealthy health care entrepreneur from Florida. A Scott aide has circulated a Daily Mail story about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologizing in March for conditions at a government-run hospital, which had 400 unexplained deaths.
Would you be satisfied with the status quo if Congress fails to pass a health reform bill this year?
If the option is a government-run system or the status quo, I will take the status quo. ... If you're going to single-payer vs. the status quo, I think most Americans are going to pick the status quo.