Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to stop health care reform, and one of their tactics is to site the “non-partisan” Lewin Group as a source of support against reforming the current health care system. A recent Washington Post article calls into question the supposedly unbiased opinion of The Lewin Group.
The political battle over health-care reform is waged largely with numbers, and few number-crunchers have shaped the debate as much as the Lewin Group, a consulting firm whose research has been widely cited by opponents of a public insurance option.
To Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House Republican whip, it is "the nonpartisan Lewin Group." To Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, it is an "independent research firm." To Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), the second-ranking Republican on the pivotal Finance Committee, it is "well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country."
According to the article, The Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest private health insurance companies in the country, as part of a subsidiary company called Ingenix. This past January, UnitedHealth Group settled a lawsuit with the New York Attorney General and the American Medical Association (AMA) for $400 million after they allegedly shifted costs to individual health insurance policy holders for out-of-network treatment based upon information provided by Ingenix. Basically, Ingenix low balled the price for what doctors would charge and then charged the patient the difference.
The most cited statistic from The Lewin Group is that nearly 100 million people will lose their insurance from their employer if a government run public option is available. This argument address the fear, recognized in study after study, that people who currently have insurance are happy with their coverage. If you make it sound like you will lose your coverage, then it will cause fear and then support will drop for a strong public insurance option. The only problem is that this argument is more harmful to private insurance companies than it is for any government run health insurance plan.
The thing is, these people are not losing their insurance if there is a government health insurance option, they are looking at all the options available and choosing the government run plan because it’s either better or less expensive. The real concern insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group have is losing profits. Having a strong government run public health insurance option available will cause private health insurance companies to lose profits. That’s what the debate about health insurance is currently about.
There can be little doubt The Lewin Group is acting at the behest of the company that owns it by scaring everyone into delaying or killing health care reform. They have a huge financial incentive to keep the health care system the way it is; dysfunctional, deadly, and extremely expensive. When you hear a your elected representative talk about The Lewin Group and how scary health care reform is, think about whose interests they are protecting. It’s not you or me, it’s UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the rest of the private insurance industry. It’s not surprising they would try to game the debate about health care reform, it’s just surprising that so many elected officials are buying into it.