Rep. Price Argues Against The Public Option By Distorting Insurance Industry-Funded Study
On July 27, 2009, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled "'Public Option' leaves no hope of cure." In the column, Price repeatedly argued that a government-run option will put private insurers out of business. To support his claim, Price cited the insurance industry-funded Lewin Group's estimate that up to 119 million Americans could move from private coverage into the public option.
Rep. Price Cited "119 Million" Figure From Lewin Group Study
Make no mistake; any honest evaluation will conclude that a public option will result in millions of Americans losing the personal, private health care they currently enjoy.
In fact, it is estimated that a government-run plan would result in 119 million Americans being crowded out of their current personal plans and enrolled in a bureaucratic, government-run program. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/27/09]
As Media Matters Action Network has previously noted, Republicans arrived at their "119 million" number by misrepresenting a study by the insurance industry-funded Lewin Group.
The Lewin Group Is Owned By Health Insurance Giant UnitedHealth
The Lewin Group Is Owned By "One Of The Nation's Largest Insurers." The Washington Post reported that "the Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers." [Washington Post, 7/22/09]
- Lewin Group Accused Of "Distributing Skewed Data." According to the Washington Post, "the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association, a physician's group, of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied its parent company and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the 'usual and customary' doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care." [Washington Post, 7/22/09]
Lewin Group Studies Are Buried If Insurance Industry Clients Are Not Happy With Findings. According to the Washington Post, "not all of the firm's reports see the light of day. For example, a study for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association was never released, Sheils said. 'Let's just say, sometimes studies come out that don't show exactly what the client wants to see. And in those instances, they have [the] option to bury the study -- to not release it, rather,' Sheils said. Asked to comment, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association spokesman Brett Lieberman said, 'We're still working with Lewin on a study, and, you know, we don't talk about our studies until they're done.'" [Washington Post, 7/22/09]
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]