Erratum: Stimulus Package Contains Potentially Deadly Medicine



I posted a bit on some potentially deleterious, obscure components of the “Stimulous” package as it underwent revisions to garner approval.  It mentioned opinions Tom Daschle mentioned in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis,”  in which he says that doctors must  “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

I first learned of this from and and cited, but it was corroborated by CNN and others, unfortunately, to be later trumpeted by right-wing tools (at Faux News),  GOP butt-buddies (Drudge et al) and a certain racist, misogynistic wind-bag (Talking Sphincter Limbaugh).

That was sufficient to raise Keith Olbermann’s radar.  Last night he shot the whole thing down on Countdown. I trust Countdown more than I do any of the other sources I checked, so please accept my apologies and   retraction, along with this explanation, the story transcript from last nights’ Countdown, featuring an interview between Mr. Olbermann and Laurence O’Donnell.

OLBERMANN:  If you watched the wrong program on cable news network or just about any program on fixed news this week, you might have heard that the stimulus bill contained a secret provision, creating a new government bureaucracy empowered to overrule your doctor‘s decisions about your health.

Our fourth story tonight: A health report—the anatomy of a smear.  On Monday, “Bloomberg News” ran a commentary by former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey, among her claims—the bill would create, quote, “one new bureaucracy,” the national coordinator of health information technology, to reduce costs and, quote, “guide,” unquote, your doctor‘s decisions.

A national coordinator of health information technology secretly slipped into the stimulus bill.  Scary!  Scary enough for red type at the Drudge Report.  The government is telling your doctor what to do.  Scary!  Scary enough for comedian Rush Limbaugh to flog it on his radio show.

With Rush and especially, Drudge, transmitting the fear virus, CNN and fixed news quickly succumbed.


BETSY MCCAUGHEY, FMR. LT. GOV. OF NEW YORK:  But the bill goes much further on page 442.  It explicitly says that the government will be delivering information to your doctor at bedside, quote, “to guide decisions at the time and place of care”—at the time and place of care.  So, in fact, this is going be a two-way system.  Your medical treatments will be stored in the medical database but the government will also be communicating with your doctor at the time and place of care.


OLBERMANN:  There is a reason she is no longer lieutenant governor of New York.  First, the information was not, quote, “to guide decisions.”  It was, quote, “to help guide medical decisions.”  And information is not provided at bedside but made available so that your doctor will have it whenever he or she has to make decisions.

Here is the full relevant passage, not the cherry-picked one from the former lieutenant governor.  The health coordinator‘s office, quote, “provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care.”  To CNN‘s credit, its medical correspondent challenged McCaughey‘s claim but the network itself still dignified debate over it as controversy.  Lou Dobbs didn‘t even go that far.

On the new national coordinator of health information, meet David Brailer, hired in 2004 by President Bush as the national coordinator of health information.

But if the anatomy of this smear reveals the tendons of Rush and Drudge, maybe more the guts, connecting blatant lies about stuff anybody could check out online, to a circus on FOX and even a, quote, “controversy” on CNN—what about the evolution of the sneer?

Betsy McCaughey is an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a think tank funded by—wait for it—drug companies, drugstore chains and biomedical suppliers whose former trustee once ran the same health insurance group whose “Harry and Louise” ad helped to torpedo health care in the ‘90s.  McCaughey herself wrote to pharmaceutical trade group, PhRMA, quote, “Asking PhRMA to support my work at the Hudson Institute because my writings on healthcare policy can make a substantial difference in public opinion and in the nation‘s capital.”

And on that note, joining us now, Lawrence O‘Donnell, a contributor at, at a front row seat as “Harry and Louise” did their thing when he was chief of staff of Senate Finance Committee under Senator Moynihan.

Good evening, sir.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Good to be with you, Keith.  And Betsy McCaughey emerged as a healthcare policy analyst back then during the Clinton healthcare bill with a big article she did trying to pick that one apart.

OLBERMANN:  I was just going to say: Does any of this sound familiar –

Betsy McCaughey basically offering herself up to sell crap on behalf of the big pharmacological interests?

O‘DONNELL:  I was wondering when she was going to emerge this time around, Keith.  And now we have it.  But her scholarship, and that is a far too dignified word to use for her “Bloomberg” piece, couldn‘t be more ridiculous this time around.  As you pointed, she‘s shocked that this bill creates a position that has been up and running for years now.  And then she goes on to make—to pretend that there is—that the government isn‘t already making coverage decisions.  It does.  And she condemns Tom Daschle‘s book for suggesting that the government should do it more carefully and on a more streamlined way and then pretends to quote from it when she‘s quoting two or three words at a time.

I just want to read one quote from Daschle‘s book that doesn‘t appear in her coverage, and this is what he‘s concerned about in the book.  He says that, “Under Medicare, national coverage decisions are made the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, but CMS which does weight cost effectiveness only hands down about two dozen decisions a year.  The remaining 90 percent of Medicare coverage decisions are issued by roughly 50 fiscal intermediaries and insurance carriers scattered around the country.”

Tom Daschle would like to streamline that.  Betsy McCaughey apparently thinks that‘s just fine.

OLBERMANN:  I think we can—we know the answer about this relative to Drudge and FOX.  But “Bloomberg News” and CNN—did any of them have red flags to question McCaughey‘s level of credibility or at least potential conflicts of interest or even, as you pointed out, just the narrow focus of her history stepping in on behalf of big pharma in any kind of medical issue?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Matt Drudge leans right, we all know that.  So, he‘d love this kind of article coming out.  And, of course, he ran with it very quickly, and Rush keys off of Drudge.  It‘s pretty easy to sit there and keep Drudge‘s page up there to get through his three hours every day—and neither one of them know anything about health care policy.  They certainly don‘t know more than Betsy McCaughey.  They know dramatically less.  And so, they saw what they needed in there, the red meat they needed to run with it.

And I don‘t think the people at CNN making the decisions about what goes on on the air even understand Betsy McCaughey‘s history in this territory or how empty that article was.  I mean, they clearly didn‘t.

OLBERMANN:  You think Rush would know everything anybody could know about big pharma.  Well, we‘ll just skip the rest of that.  But ultimately, what is that industry‘s interest in killing the stimulus?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it‘s a heavily-regulated industry.  What they‘re—the thing they fear the most and I had a lot of dealings with them in the finance committee, the thing they fear the most is price regulation.

OLBERMANN:  All right.

O‘DONNELL:  And that‘s the thing that they know Americans are most nervous about is the cost of their products.  And so, they will almost always come out against any kind of healthcare reform that‘s coming down the road, because at some point in the legislative process, they fear a heavier regulation on them getting into that bill.  And they are right to fear it.

And so, what is shocking about tonight‘s report, Keith, and you revealed something that I did not know, was that Betsy McCaughey had sold out, in writing, to the pharmaceutical industry, begging them for money long before she sat down to write this op-ed piece which does serve their interest, because what she is setting up here this week is not the campaign against the stimulus bill, the campaign against Obama healthcare reform.  She is out to kill it, very clearly.

OLBERMANN:  Well, at least her political identification and her fact that she‘s basically paid by extension employee of the pharmacy industry, pharmacological interest industry has been established.

Our own Lawrence O‘Donnell, thank you, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

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2 Responses to Erratum: Stimulus Package Contains Potentially Deadly Medicine

  1. leftcoastlibrul says:

    Interesting stuff. Just found your blog through AlphaInventions.

    One of the most telling and disturbing trends I’ve found concerning our healthcare is that while most US citizens think that we have “the greatest healthcare system in the world,” it’s fairly clear to anyone who spends any amount of time in it (either as a patient or a provider) that it’s hopelessly broken. The medical conferences I’ve attended overseas all pretty much carry the same opinion. “Whatever you do, don’t do it THAT way (pointing at the US as an example).”

    Whenever someone espouses the propaganda opinion (as did Rudy Giuliani on his doomed presidential run), I have to wonder what they’re smoking to ignore all the facts.

    Thanks again for the post. Keep it up.

  2. Paul Sonderman says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting. My blog is very new, so I appreciate you taking the time to check it out.

    I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that the system is broken on so many levels. I do a lot of poverty work and between Care Source and Medicaid, if our poor are proactive, can get to a facility and follow instructions, care is generally good and affordable (aka “free”). My eldest son, borrowing to complete his MA-Ed “aged out’ of my wife’s school system employer “provided” plan and we had to sign him up for something, which wound up being Anthem/Blue cross.

    He’s healthy but developed a GI problem that went undiagnosed. While he was never without coverage, Anthem is refusing payment for all tests related to his diagnosis, still absent, determining it a “pre-existing” condition. SYMPTOMS, mind you, not a diagnosed “condition”. All requisite tests were documented by approved, “in-system” providers who issued a “statement of medical necessity”. Still, they refuse payment.

    The potential damage to us? About $9k. We appeal, but so far have gotten nowhere. Funny, they never fail to mail bills to collect his premium. It’s beyond description. Should our appeal fail, we’ll have to raid IRAs, which are at historic lows, pay interest on the “income,” along with a stiff early withdrawal penalty. Total damage could be $14k…(that we just don’t have).

    And this is mild compared top many anecdotes. Our “health care” IS superb, however the system through which we obtain it is a veritable house of horrors!

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