Sen. Barrasso Misrepresents Both The Lewin Group Study And CBO Analysis

July 07, 2009 2:24 pm ET

In a July 7, 2009 blog post on The Hill's "Congress Blog," Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) attempted to offer a doctor's perspective on the health care debate.  Yet not even doctors can get away with skewing the facts.  In his post, Sen. Barrasso misrepresented both a study published by the insurance company-funded Lewin Group AND an analysis provided to congress by the Congressional Budget Office.

Sen. Barrasso Misrepresented A Study By The Insurance Company-Funded Lewin Group

Sen. Barrasso: "According to the Lewin Group, 119 million Americans would lose the private coverage they currently have - if we have a government run system." [Barrasso Blog Post, The Hill, 7/7/09]

NPR: Lewin Number Quoted "Hardly Represents The Entirety Of The Report."  According to NPR, the 119 million figure "hardly represents the entirety of the report [Lewin Group Vice President John] Sheils and colleague Randy Haught put out in April. The point of the study was to show that the number of people who would eventually join a government-sponsored public insurance plan would vary - dramatically - depending on how that plan is designed." [NPR, All Things Considered, 6/10/09]

Lewin Study Shows That As Few As 10.4 Million People Could Move To The Public Plan.  According to NPR, the Lewin Group's study shows that "if the public plan is limited to fewer people (perhaps only those in small businesses and individuals), or if the plan pays higher rates to doctors and hospitals, fewer people would join, both because fewer would be allowed and because the plan would be less financially attractive. According to the study, the number of people dropping private coverage could be as low as 10.4 million." [NPR, All Things Considered, 6/10/09]

The Lewin Group Is Owned By Ingenix.  NPR reported that "the Lewin Group, [is] a number-crunching consulting group owned by Ingenix, which is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group." [NPR, All Things Considered, 6/10/09]

  • UnitedHealth And Ingenix Used Skewed "Data To Under-Reimburse Its Own Policyholders." During testimony given during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, John D. Rockefeller, IVA said: "Everywhere experts have looked at this data, they have found what statisticians call a 'downward skew' in the numbers. For ten years or even longer, this skewed data was used to stick consumers with billions of dollars that the insurance industry should have been paying. Ingenix markets two 'usual and customary' database products that every major payer in the health insurance industry used to calculate their reimbursement payments. Ingenix is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mr. Hemsley's company, UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth not only owns Ingenix, but it also used the skewed Ingenix data to under-reimburse its own policyholders." [, 3/31/09]

Sen. Barrasso Cited Incomplete And Outdated CBO Analysis

Sen. Barrasso: "The Senate HELP Committee has been debating a health reform plan put forth by Senators Kennedy and Dodd. Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office told us the Kennedy-Dodd plan increases spending by more than $1.3 trillion in the first 10 years.

"That number is staggering. Even more disturbing is that the plan is incomplete. So ten years and trillions of dollars later, CBO also tells us the Democrat plan only reduces the number of uninsured by 17 million. That leaves approximately 37 million Americans without health insurance coverage."[Barrasso Blog Post, The Hill, 7/7/09]

The Preliminary CBO Analysis Cited By Sen. Barrasso Was Released On June 15th, Not "Last Week." The "$1.3 trillion" cost estimate cited by Sen. Barrasso originates in preliminary CBO analysis of an incomplete bill written by the Senate HELP committee. [CBO Letter via The Atlantic, 6/15/09]

The Actual CBO Analysis Released "Last Week" Estimated HELP Bill Would Cost $600 Billion.  According to a July 2, 2009 letter sent by the Congressional Budget Office to the Senate HELP Committee: "According to that assessment, enacting those provisions would result in a net increase in federal budget deficits of $597 billion over the 2010-2019 period-reflecting net costs of $645 billion for the coverage provisions, which would be partially offset by net savings of $48 billion from other provisions of title I." [CBO Letter, 6/2/09]

CBO: HELP Committee's Health Care Reform Package Would Cover 97% Of Americans.  According to the Associated Press, "Democrats on a key Senate Committee outlined a revised and far less costly health care plan Wednesday night that includes a government-run insurance option and an annual fee on employers who do not offer coverage to their workers. The plan carries a 10-year price tag of slightly over $600 billion, and would lead toward an estimated 97 percent of all Americans having coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office." [Associated Press, 7/1/09]