Say Cheese

Why is it so hard to get a decent photo? This was taken the night before the big rally last week here in DC. Yup, that’s Edie Falco. She was terrific.

Clearly I felt the need to break out my best faux pageant grin. Go me.

Phoning It In

I’ve been doing more and more radio interviews lately, and I’m starting to really enjoy them. It’s the unscripted, personality-driven broadcasting I’ve always preferred, and it reminds me a lot of my Pseudo days.

I just finished up The Stephanie Miller Show with Hal Sparks who was filling in for Stephanie. It went well. He’s fun to banter with. Actually, I can only think of one “appearance” I didn’t totally adore, and that’s because a couple of other guests went off on a pro-single payer tangent in which I had no interest in participating. I just sat back and let them go to town.

But usually, especially when it’s one-on-one, I get to say what I want, fight for the cause, and toss in a little humor along the way. And I get to do it all in jeans and a t-shirt, and I don’t have to wear TV makeup.


A First For Everything

I actually think I agree with David Brooks today. (Yes, I’m feeling okay)

Before you judge, take a gander:

On health care, too, the complicated job of getting a bill that can pass is taking priority over the complicated task of creating a program that can work. Dozens of different ideas are being added, watered down or merged together in order to cobble together a majority. But will the logrolling produce a sustainable health system that controls costs and actually hangs together?

The great paradox of the age is that Barack Obama, the most riveting of recent presidents, is leading us into an era of Congressional dominance. And Congressional governance is a haven for special interest pleading and venal logrolling.

When the executive branch is dominant you often get coherent proposals that may not pass. When Congress is dominant, as now, you get politically viable mishmashes that don’t necessarily make sense.

We need health care reform legislation that actually does something to make people’s lives better, not legislation that makes it easier for Members of Congress to sit together in the cafeteria.

Kudos to TPM

I love when blog reporters do the work traditional outlets overlook:

As Congress gets set to take up health-care reform, there’s a crucial piece of data that hasn’t received nearly the prominence in the debate that it deserves.

Defenders of the status quo on health care like to point out that a public option will destroy the system of robust free-market competition that currently exists.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), speaking earlier this month on Fox News, called President Obama’s plan the “first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known.” A public option, Shelby added, would “destroy the marketplace for health care.”

But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The AP and NPR picked up our report when it was released, but very few national outlets followed up or even bothered to discuss the ramifications of uber-consolidation in the private insurance marketplace.

I’m glad Zack took notice and posted a longer form explanation as to why such consolidation is problematic. In fact, every time a Republican stands up and says we have plenty of competition in the marketplace because there are 1300 insurance companies out there right now, the interviewer or opposing pundit should counter with the truth. 94% of the health insurance markets are considered “highly concentrated” by the AMA, and there is no real competition. One or two companies dominate. And instead of fighting to offer you the lowest prices and best service, they fight to see how much overpayment and stripped down service the market can bear.

Zack is right to re-emphasize the data, and he is right to start looking into the holdout Members of Congress and their campaign contributors. It’s all tied together and not tough to suss out:

That’s because insurers who control large swathes of a given market stand to see their bottom lines particularly threatened by the introduction of a lower-cost public option. So, in turn, they’ll be particularly aggressive in pulling out all the stops to pressure lawmakers to oppose the plan. Given the healthy amount of campaign dollars that some wavering members take in from the major insurers, that’s hardly encouraging.

Of course, the Senate is where the major legislative showdown will likely occur. So in some forthcoming posts, we’ll be taking a close look at just which senators have taken money from insurers who control major percentages of the state-wide market — and where those senators stand on the public option. Stay tuned…

AP: Math Is Hard

The Associated Press covered our rally and lobby day last week and reported the following…twice (emphases mine):

“I work in a business where they take great care of you if you are working,” Falco told a crowd of several hundred at the rally.

Across from the Capitol Thursday, hundreds of people, including actress Edie Falco, rallied for health care overhaul.

I emailed three reporters at the AP (and their boss) to explain we had a crowd of 10,000, and at the very least, the accurate account would be thousands instead of hundreds. I broke it down accordingly:

We and our partners paid for 207 buses (a number which has actually grown by 14 now that the final tally is in) – each of which held 55 people. Let’s assume only 40 got on each. That’s 8280 people right there that we physically brought to DC ourselves. Add onto that the 250+ who flew into town, those who drove on their own from neighboring states, and those who turned up through Organizing for America, Democracy for America, and We had 7500 lunches, and anyone who got a lunch had to turn in a ticket to receive it. We ran out. The 13,500 bottles of water disappeared quickly too.

I even sent several other news reports as examples of outlets that got it right as proof that their reporter had perhaps severely underestimated the size of the crowd:

WSJ: Thousands of union members and other advocates of overhauling the health care system rallied on Capitol Hill today to demand high quality, affordable health care for all — this year.

Miami Herald: Thousands of their constituents rallied outside the Capitol to show their support for change, and the Obama administration called for action.

CBS: In a rally on Capitol Hill today, some high profile politicians joined thousands of union workers, doctors and other health care reform supporters in a united front against the industry and demanded a government-sponsored health insurance option.

Politico: Thousands of grassroots activists and labor workers from across the country flooded Capitol Hill Thursday for a high-volume rally for health care reform.

For the Associated Press to refuse to correct its tally is ludicrous. Even though the Park Police no longer calculate estimates, a uniformed officer told us it was the largest gathering he’d ever seen in Upper Senate Park. The permitted area holds 2500. Our crowds spilled way over that capacity. Not even close.

The most frustrating part of the whole debacle is that papers nationwide reprint the AP. So when they screw up, the numbers of record become grossly understated. 10,000 is a lot different than “hundreds,” especially when it comes to covering a story about the breadth of support for health care reform.

It’s one thing to stand by your reporter when the story’s subjective. It’s another to back up a bad report when the facts are indisputable.

There is no shame in correcting the record. There is shame in refusing to admit you’ve rewritten the record and should go back and make it right.

Just Checking In

Apologies for the radio silence around these parts the past few days. Recuperating from the event that was Health Care ’09 took a little longer than expected.

The press release gives a good summary of the day:


300 Congressional Visits, 13 Town Halls, & Sen. Specter Endorses Sen. Schumer’s Public Health Insurance Option Proposal

Washington, DC – On Thursday June 25, 2009, Health Care for America Now (HCAN) – the nation’s largest health care campaign – held a large-scale rally at Upper Senate Park in Washington, DC and conducted the largest health care lobby day ever with more than 300 visits to Congressional offices on the Hill. Actress Edie Falco, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ),Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Labor and Community leaders, doctors, nurses, and everyday people with health care stories addressed a crowd of at least 10,000 who traveled to the nation’s capital from across the country to demand quality, affordable health care for all in 2009.

Read the whole thing here. Here’s a short video too:

Speaking of video, I just discovered Mad Men (on demand) this weekend and am having trouble tearing myself away.

I promise I’ll be back tomorrow with something of substance. Actually, I’m booked to do radio again in the morning so if you’re so inclined, you can catch it online here around 8:15am.

Until then, g’night.

Health Care ’09

It’s here. Today’s the day. Go to for all the details. The rally starts at 11:30am at Upper Senate Park.

You also can text HEALTH to 94553 to get updates, and follow us on Twitter at #healthcare09.

Edie Falco will be on CNN in the 8:30am half hour to kick things off. Then I suspect the rest will just take on a life of its own.

Happy Rally and Lobby Day. Now let’s go win this thing.

Former Insurance Insider to Testify

At 2:30pm today, Wendell Potter, former insurance executive with CIGNA and Humana, will testify before the Senate Commerce committee. It should be good stuff.

Here are a few early press clips. From ABC:

The much-maligned health insurance industry is braced for another black eye today as the Senate hears testimony from a former insurance company executive.

Wendell Potter, who worked in public relations for Cigna and Humana Inc., for more than 20 years before retiring in 2008, is scheduled to testify this afternoon before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Potter is expected to speak critically of insurance company practices and provide insight on why consumers often come away feeling confused after dealing with insurance companies.


CBS News has learned a former executive for a major health insurance company, Cigna, will speak out for the first time before Congress tomorrow on practices that he is expected to characterize as deceptive by the health insurance industry.

Wendell Potter, the former Vice President of Communications for Cigna Insurance Company in Philadelphia is scheduled to testify at 2:30 pm before the Senate Commerce Committee. He is expected to describe how the health insurance industry purposefully uses “confusing language” for consumers as part of its business strategy. He worked in the health insurance industry for 20 years for both Cigna and Humana health insurance companies.


Potter “left the industry after witnessing practices he felt harmed American health care consumers,” the organization said. “To him there was a heart-breaking discrepancy between Americans struggling to find affordable, comprehensive coverage and wealthy insurance executives who based their premium charges—and coverage decisions, on profits rather than people’s health care needs.”

Potter’s aim, according to the news release, is to stop his former industry “from once again derailing meaningful reform.”

Potter’s successor as spokesman for CIGNA, Chris Curran, said Potter “was intimately involved in our health care reform efforts.”

You can watch the hearing online here.

Pull Up A Chair

Let’s have a little conversation about this private health insurance companies’ “we can’t compete with a public health insurance plan” argument.


You insure 170 million people. You have name brand recognition. You’ve been in the business of health insurance for decades. And yet somehow, a brand new public health insurance option is going to run you out of business?


Oh, and at the same time, you argue the government can’t run anything and shouldn’t have a role in health care coverage or reform. A contradiction President Obama also pointed out in his press conference today:

Why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government — which they say can’t run anything — suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.


So there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this [public] plan takes shape. But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they’re giving consumers the best possible deal, that they can’t compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what’s the best deal. That defies logic, which is why I think you’ve seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan.

A close second in the race for dumbest argument is the call for a “level playing field.” The insurance companies have been in control with no competition and little regulation forever. How level’s that field?

Nothing about health insurance companies as they are now is fair. It’s the whole premise of our video:

and the corresponding website. It’s why we need reform in the first place.

Can I Get A Witness?

Richard is testifying before Energy and Commerce this morning. You can watch online through the committee website. Click on the “live video webcast” link at the top of the page.

The photo to the left is Emmy editing Richard’s written testimony. She felt there weren’t enough aaaaaa’s and cccccc’s in it.