Sen. Grassley Misrepresents Insurance Company-Funded Study

July 16, 2009 11:51 am ET

During a July 16, 2009 appearance on MSNBC, Sen. Chuck Grassley misrepresented the results of a health care study conducted by the insurance company-funded Lewin Group.

Sen. Grassley Cited Lewin Group Study

Sen. Chuck Grassley:

Well, listen, the government is not a competitor. The government is a predator. And what you're going to have according to the Lewin think tank that specializes in health care.  You're gonna have everybody opting out of private health insurance into the government-run insurance. [Sen. Grassley on MSNBC, 7/16/09]

The Lewin Group Is Funded By Health Insurance Giant UnitedHealth

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]

The GOP's Usage Of The Lewin Group's Study Has Been Soundly Debunked

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 If The Public Option Is Run Like Medicare, More Americans Will Opt Into It.  According to NPR: "If the public plan is open to everyone and pays health care providers rates similar to those paid by the government-run Medicare program, which are lower than most private insurers pay, 'you'd have a lower premium level and thus [more] people go into it,' says [Lewin Vice President] Sheils." [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]

Five Of The Six Options Lewin Studied "Are Less Aggressively" Priced And Would Cause Fewer Americans To Switch To The Public Plan.  NPR reported: "The study looked at six options, says [Lewin Vice President] Sheils. 'And five of those options are less aggressively priced than the Medicare payment level option,' meaning they would attract fewer enrollees to switch from private insurance coverage. Sheils stops short of saying that opponents of a public plan were misusing his statistics, because while 'this is the extreme case, I don't think it has been stricken from everyone's agenda, as far as I can tell.'" [NPR, All Things Considered, 6/10/09]

Lewin VP: Sen. Schumer's Plan Would Result In Only 10-12 Million People Moving To The Public Option.  According to NPR, Lewin Vice President Shiels "did add that in general, the mood in Congress seems to be moving toward a more constrained sort of public insurance program; most likely one that would pay somewhat more than Medicare and limit enrollment. For example, Sheils says, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York 'has a plan which would require the public program to pay private payer rates - the same rates that other private insurers have to pay - and under that scenario we get only between 10 and 12 million people dropping private coverage.'" [NPR, All Things Considered, 6/10/09]