Patients United Now Ad: Strong On Emotion, Weak On Facts

May 27, 2009 11:04 am ET

On May 27, 2009, Patients United Now, a new group funded by the right-wing Americans for Prosperity, released an ad titled "Survivor" that argues that Canadian-style government health care is being imported into the United States.  The ad conveniently leaves out the current state of health care in the U.S. - many Americans cannot afford health care, those who can are often denied coverage by private insurers, and Americans want an overhaul of the U.S. health care system.

Ad: Government Involvement In Health Care Will Lead To Delayed Or Denied Care...

Patients United Now, "Survivor" TV Spot: In Canada "...Care is delayed or denied.  Some patients wait a year for vital surgeries.  Delays that can be deadly." [, "Survivor" ad, accessed 5/27/09]

 ...But When Americans Cannot Afford Health Care, Isn't That Suffering From "Delayed Or Denied" Care?

Many Americans Have Been Priced Out Of Health Care.  As Ezra Klein points out on his blog: "If you look at waiting times, you'll see that relatively few Americans wait more than four months for surgery, which helps folks claim that America doesn't ration care, and makes our system look pretty good on the waiting times metric. Here's what they don't tell you: When you look at who foregoes care, the international comparisons reverse themselves. About 23% of Americans report that they didn't receive care, or get a test due to cost. In Canada, that number is 5.5%." [Ezra Klein blog, The American Prospect, 12/5/08, emphasis added]

American Families Already Faced With Cancer Diagnosis Also Have Difficulty Paying For Health Care.  According to a Lake Research Poll: "Half (52%) of families with a person under 65 who has had a cancer diagnosis say they have had difficulty paying for health care costs.  Additionally, close to half (47%) of those currently receiving cancer-related care has had difficulty affording care." [, 5/20/09]

Rather Than Waiting In Line, Americans Simply Do Not Get Care. As Ezra Klein argues in the Los Angeles Times, "although Britain and Canada have decided that no one will go without, even if some must occasionally wait, the U.S. has decided that most of us who can't afford care simply won't get it." [Los Angeles Times, 4/7/09, emphasis added]

Without COBRA Or Other Health Coverage, People "Are More Likely To Forgo Needed Medical Care And Incur Medical Debt."  A December 2008 report released by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured stated: "many workers find that after losing a job they are not able to afford the premiums required to continue employer-sponsored insurance through COBRA...Without insurance, these adults are more likely to forgo needed medical care and incur medical debt.  They are also at risk of having their health problems treated as pre-existing conditions if they later regain employer-sponsored coverage."  [, accessed 1/14/09]

2008 Study: "The Total Premiums To Cover A Family Are Up To $12,680."  The National Conference of State Legislatures reported: "In 2008 the average fully insured individual faced an employee share of $725 for 1-person coverage and a $3,354 annual share for family coverage.  The total premiums to cover a family are up to $12,680 according to the annual Kaiser/HRET survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits." [, accessed 1/13/09, emphasis added]

Ad: Canadian-Style Health Care, Coming To A U.S. Near You...

Patients United Now, "Survivor" TV Spot: "Now Washington wants to bring Canadian-style healthcare to the U.S..." [, "Survivor" ad, accessed 5/27/09]

...But Those Involved In Health Care Reform Do NOT Want A Canadian System

Health Care Reform Will Be Uniquely American.  Sen. Max Baucus, who is spearheading health care reform from the helm of the Senate Finance Committee, said: "We are not Europe.  We are not Canada...We need a uniquely American solution.  It has to be a partnership of public and private players." [Washington Post, 5/11/09]

President Obama: "Keep The Private Sector Honest, Because There's Some Competition Out There."  During the Health Care Summit at the White House, Senator Grassley commented to President Obama, "there's a lot of us that feel that the public option that the government is an unfair competitor and that we're going to get an awful lot of crowd out, and we have to keep what we have now strong, and make it stronger." President Obama replied: "The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give -- keep the private sector honest, because there's some competition out there. That's been the thinking. [Health Care Summit, Transcript via Talking Points Memo, 3/5/09]

"A Public Plan Would Provide An Essential Option" For Americans.  Harold Pollack, public health policy researcher at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration and faculty chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies, wrote in an op-ed: "A public plan would provide an essential option--and an equally essential backup--for millions of Americans living with chronic illnesses or disabilities." [The New Republic, 3/10/09]

Sen. Baucus: The Reformed Health Care System "Will Be A Public/Private Hybrid." The American Prospect published a quote of Senator Baucus saying: "We need health insurer reform to get rid of preexisting conditions and other ways insurers discriminate. That's part of our plan here, and the CEOs of many larger insurance companies are on board. They know this change is coming. They may lose the current model but they pick up on volume with 46 million people coming into the system...And that will be a public/private hybrid. There may come a time when we can push for single payer. But that time is not yet, and so I'm not going to waste my time." [The American Prospect, accessed 3/6/09]

Ad: The Government Will Come Between You And Your Doctor...

Patients United Now, "Survivor" TV Spot: "...government should never come in between your family and your doctor." [, "Survivor" ad, accessed 5/27/09]

 ...But What About Private Insurance Companies Getting Between Americans And Their Doctors?

Americans Face Denials For Coverage From Insurance Companies Every Day.  Americans are already facing the denial of treatments from their private insurance companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. As Diane Archer, director of the Health Care Project at Institute for America's Future recently argued in the New York Times: "As any doctor will tell you, when a private health insurance plan delays or denies a physician-recommended service, it is deciding who gets care and what kind of care people get." [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/08; New York Times, 5/8/09]

Major Insurance Companies Pay For Access To Private Medical Information.  According to a Business Week report, "Most consumers and even many insurance agents are unaware that Humana, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna (AET), Blue Cross plans, and other insurance giants have ready access to applicants' prescription histories. These online reports, available in seconds from a pair of little-known intermediary companies at a cost of only about $15 per search, typically include voluminous information going back five years on dosage, refills, and possible medical conditions. The reports also provide a numerical score predicting what a person may cost an insurer in the future." [Business Week, 7/23/08, emphasis added]

Insurance Companies Hire Agencies To "Do Computerized Searches" Of A Person's Health Record.  According to the Miami Herald, "to make sure that applicants are not lying, insurers hire a data-gathering service -- Medical Information Bureau, Milliman's Intelliscript or Ingenix Medpoint. Intelliscript and Medpoint do computerized searches of a person's drug use, gleaned from pharmacy benefits managers and other databases." [Miami Herald, 3/28/09]

Insurers Use The Data To Deny Coverage And To Charge Higher Premiums.  According to a Business Week report: "Two-thirds of all health insurers are using prescription data-not only to deny coverage to individuals and families but also to charge some customers higher premiums or exclude certain medical conditions from policies, according to agents and others in the industry. Some carriers are also using the data to charge small employers higher group rates." [Business Week, 7/23/08]

Common Diseases And Conditions Are Often Reasons For Coverage Denial.  The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported, "in Minnesota, the most common reasons for denial are obesity, mental health conditions, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But there are less well-known reasons insurers consider on a case-by-case basis: chemical dependency, allergies that require costly injectable drugs, a previous C-section, previous use of infertility medicine or something as simple as being pregnant." [Star Tribune, 1/10/09]

"Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions" Included In Coverage After An Individual Has Gone Without Health Insurance.  According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured: "If an individual is uninsured for 63 days or more, pre-existing condition exclusions can be imposed by their new health plan for most health conditions for which treatment, advice or diagnosis were received in the six months prior to enrolling in an employer-sponsored insurance plan.  Insurers can typically refuse to cover medical care related to pre-existing conditions for up to one year." [, accessed 1/14/09]

Some Insurance Companies Treat Caesarean Sections As A Pre-Existing Condition.  According to the New York Times:  "Insurers' rules on prior Caesareans vary by company and also by state, since the states regulate insurers, said Susan Pisano of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. Some companies ignore the surgery, she said, but others treat it like a pre-existing condition. 'Sometimes the coverage will come with a rider saying that coverage for a Caesarean delivery is excluded for a period of time,' Ms. Pisano said. Sometimes, she said, applicants with prior Caesareans are charged higher premiums or deductibles." [New York Times, 6/1/08]

Insurers Justify Exclusion Policies, Saying "They Need These Strategies To Protect Themselves."  The New York Times reported, "with individual coverage, insurers in many states can vary their prices based on medical history, exclude certain services or reject anyone they consider a bad risk...Insurers say they need these strategies to protect themselves, because some customers apply only after they get sick or pregnant, skewing the pool toward people with high expenses." [New York Times, 6/1/08]

And No Matter What Patients United Now Says, Americans WANT Increased Governmental Oversight In Health Care

More Than 70% Of Americans Polled Want An Increased Governmental Role In Health Care.  According to CNN, "seventy-two percent of those questioned in recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say they favor increasing the federal government's influence over the country's health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans, with 27 percent opposing such a move. Other recent polls show six in 10 think the government should provide health insurance or take responsibility for providing health care to all Americans." [, 3/5/09]

Plurality of Americans Polled Think Health Care Is The Most Pressing Issue For Congress And The President.  According to a New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted February 18-22, 2009 and based on 1,112 respondents, when asked "Beside the economy, which of these domestic policy areas do you want the President and Congress to concentrate on MOST right now - health care, global warming, education, or Social Security?" the respondents answers were: 40% Health Care, 5% Global Warming, 27% Education, 22% Social Security, 4% Something Else/Combination, and 1% Didn't Know.  [New York Times/CBS Poll, 2/09]

 The Majority Of Americans Want An Obama-style Mix Of Public And Private According to a poll conducted by Lake Research:

  • 60% of Americans favor "providing access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans even if it means raising taxes."
  • 71% of Americans favor "providing access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans even if it means a major role for the federal government."
  • 73% of Americans prefer "having a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan." [Lake Research poll, 01/09]

From Jason Rosenbaum at HCAN: "The health care reform proposal from President Obama is not a copy of any other system in the world. We're not going to become Britain or Canada. With Obama's proposal, you can keep the insurance you have if you like it, period. Nobody will force you into anything."

And as Jessica Kutch at SEIU points out: "This latest attack is lifted straight off a messaging memo by Republican strategist Frank Luntz, whose talking points aim to undermine health care reform in three simple steps: scare, conflate and confuse the American public. The ad's format is similar to a series of Rick Scott ads from earlier this month (guess they're low on creativity in the Grand Old Party), pairing up health care stories with misleading claims about reforming the system."