Calling Wash. Post's Connolly "ridiculous," health care activist makes his case

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Ceci Connolly wrote that "in an interview," Change Congress' Adam Green "was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan." But Green says that he was answering a completely different question.

In the latest in a series of misleading reports on the effort to pass health care reform legislation, The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, in an article on efforts by progressive activist groups to lobby Democratic senators to support the inclusion of a public insurance option, wrote that "in an interview," Change Congress interim chief executive Adam Green "was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan but said that it 'has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents.' " But in a June 28 post on the blog OpenLeft, Green said that in his interview with Connolly, he was not responding to a question about the substantive argument for a public plan. Rather, Green wrote: "Connolly asked me a question on the politics, and when I gave her an answer on that, she said I didn't answer on the substance."

From Green's OpenLeft post, headlined "Ceci Connolly -- Ridiculous Reporter":

Connolly then asked me why progressives were picking a political fight on the public option, as opposed to another issue. I guess the fact that it's the #1 domestic issue of the day -- one that affects millions of American families -- wasn't explanation enough.

I figured she was looking for a quote summarizing the political stakes, so I though for a moment and said, "The public option has become a proxy for the question of whether Democrats will stand on principle and represent their constituents."

I was quite proud of that answer. It summarizes what a lot of people are feeling -- the public option is the "line in the sand" issue for Democrats, something Chris has written about here on OpenLeft several times.

Connolly's take on that quote:

Green, in an interview, was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan but said that it "has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents."

WHAT? Connolly asked me a question on the politics, and when I gave her an answer on that, she said I didn't answer on the substance? Did I mention Ceci Connolly is a r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s reporter?

Moreover, even if her assertion were true, she could easily have provided a clear articulation of the argument. She could have cited a June 25 New York Times column by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who wrote:

What will determine the success or failure of reform? Above all, the success of reform depends on successful cost control. We really, really don't want to get into a position a few years from now where premiums are rising rapidly, many Americans are priced out of the insurance market despite government subsidies, and the cost of health care subsidies is a growing strain on the budget.

And that's why the public plan is an important part of reform: it would help keep costs down through a combination of low overhead and bargaining power. That's not an abstract hypothesis, it's a conclusion based on solid experience. Currently, Medicare has much lower administrative costs than private insurance companies, while federal health care programs other than Medicare (which isn't allowed to bargain over drug prices) pay much less for prescription drugs than non-federal buyers. There's every reason to believe that a public option could achieve similar savings.

Similarly, University of California-Berkeley political science professor Jacob Hacker argued in a December 16, 2008, policy brief that Americans should have a "menu of health plans [that] must include a good public plan modeled after Medicare if the broad goals of reform -- universal insurance and improved value -- are to be achieved" [emphasis in original]. And in recent congressional testimony, numerous other health care policy experts have explained why they believe a public option is an "essential" or "important" component of health care reform.

A "substantive argument for the public plan" was not the only thing absent from Connolly's article, which portrayed activists lobbying for a public plan as unyielding in their campaign to pressure centrist Democratic senators. She also did not mention that the public option is itself a compromise for many progressives who advocate a single-payer system. Nor did she point out that in the view of many progressives, the public option is the least that must be included for health care reform to be successful.

Previous examples of health care misinformation advanced by Connolly include:

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Ceci Connolly
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