Political Correction

Karl Rove Fumbles WSJ Op-Ed

June 11, 2009 11:55 am ET

On June 11, 2009, former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal outlining the "five arguments Republicans must make" against the installation of a public health insurance option.  Because he, like the rest of the GOP, is grasping at straws in the argument against reforming America's health care system, Rove's piece misrepresents the facts and repeats oft-used talking points.

Rove: A Public Option Is Unnecessary

Rove: "...it's unnecessary. Advocates say a government-run insurance program is needed to provide competition for private health insurance. But 1,300 companies sell health insurance plans. That's competition enough." [Wall Street Journal, 6/11/09]

How Does Karl Rove Define Competition?

Only A Few Insurance Companies Dominate The Market, Leaving Americans With Limited Choices In Health Care. According to the American Medical Association, 94 percent of United States health care markets are considered highly concentrated, meaning that one company or a small group of companies control a great deal of the market. [American Medical Association, "Competition in Health Insurance," 2008 Update]

Private Plans That Offer Lower-Cost Options And More Comprehensive Plans Will Be Able To Compete. According to the Urban Institute: "Private plans that offer better services and greater access to providers, even at a somewhat higher cost than the public plans, would survive the competition in this environment.  It is also conceivable that private plans offering a lower-cost option - for example, lower premiums than the public plan, say by exploiting care management innovations, and network and payment rate limitations - could stake out a separate niche in some markets." [Urban Institute, 3/18/09]


Nearly 46 Million Americans Lack Health Coverage.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45,657,193 Americans lack health insurance.  [StateHealthFacts.org, accessed 6/11/09]

Rove Is Unaware Of The Successful Public-Private Systems Already In Place

Rove: "...a public option will undercut private insurers and pass the tab to taxpayers and health providers just as it does in existing government-run programs." [Wall Street Journal, 6/11/09]


Many States Run Public And Private Plans Alongside Each Other Successfully. According to the Center for American Progress: "Today, state governments (all of which regulate insurance companies) operate public Medicaid programs, purchase insurance for thousands of public employees, and regulate insurers. In fact, many states successfully offer their employees and retirees private health insurance plans side-by-side with these states' self-funded health insurance plans." [Center for American Progress, March 2009]

Rove Misrepresents Health Care Study

Rove: "...government-run health insurance would crater the private insurance market, forcing most Americans onto the government plan. The Lewin Group estimates 70% of people with private insurance -- 120 million Americans -- will quickly lose what they now get from private companies and be forced onto the government-run rolls as businesses decide it is more cost-effective for them to drop coverage." [Wall Street Journal, 6/11/09]

Like Other Republicans Before Him, Rove Only Uses The Part Of The Study That Suits His Purposes...

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]

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]

Rove <3 Luntz

Rove: "...the public option puts government firmly in the middle of the relationship between patients and their doctors. If you think insurance companies are bad, imagine what happens when government is the insurance carrier, with little or no competition and no concern you'll change to another company." [Wall Street Journal, 6/11/09]

Luntz Memo, Rule 7: "'One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.'  The idea that a  'committee of Washington bureaucrats' will establish the standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatement based on how much it costs is anathema to Americans.  Your approach?  Call for the 'protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship.' It allows you to fight to protect and improve something good rather than only fighting to prevent something bad."  [The Language of Healthcare 2009, by Frank Luntz, accessed 5/21/09, emphasis original]

If This Is How Insurance Companies Treat Americans, Is This What Rove Wants For Us All?

After Caesarean Section, Company Told Woman She Would Be Insurable If She Had Been Sterilized.  The New York Times reported on a woman who was turned down for private health insurance because her first child was delivered via caesarean section: "Having the operation once increases the odds that it will be performed again, and if she became pregnant and needed another Caesarean, [the insurance company] did not want to pay for it. A letter from the company explained that if she had been sterilized after the Caesarean, or if she were over 40 and had given birth two or more years before applying, she might have qualified." [New York Times, 6/1/08]

BCBS Retroactively Cancelled Plan After Six-Year-Old's Tumor Surgery.  According to the Los Angeles Times, "when Steve and Leslie Shaeffer's daughter, Selah, was diagnosed at age 4 with a potentially fatal tumor in her jaw, they figured their health insurance would cover the bulk of her treatment costs. Instead, almost two years later, the Murrieta, Calif., couple face more than $60,000 in medical bills and fear the loss of their dream home...Shortly after Selah's medical bills hit $20,000, Blue Cross stopped covering them and eventually canceled her coverage retroactively, refusing to pay for treatment, including surgery the insurer had authorized in advance." [Los Angeles Times, 9/17/06]

Insurance Applicants Rejected Based On Height And Weight.  In an article offering advice on what to do when you lose your health care, the Washington Post reported: "Insurers can decline to offer you a policy, exclude coverage for certain conditions or charge you high premiums. Those with serious conditions such as HIV, cancer or diabetes, as well as those with common conditions such as obesity, can feel the snub. 'In the past four or five years, I've had people turned down just because of height and weight,' says Jerry Patt, an independent agent in Gaithersburg who has been in the business for more than 35 years. 'They could be having no medical problems whatsoever, but their build was not acceptable.'" [Washington Post, 6/22/08, emphasis added]

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