Political Reporting Needs to Describe Their Experts Better: Healthcare Conflicts of Interest Edition

While it has been squashed by the release of presidential candidate Sen. Warren’s healthcare plan, there was a Politico story circulating about the problem healthcare poses to Warren’s campaign. If nothing else, that it became largely irrelevant a week later should tell you just how useful most campaign reporting actually is (hint: not very). But that’s not what this post is about.

The Politico story raised two issues. First, Warren’s credibility on healthcare was suffering because she had wavered on Medicare for All, and voters who like Medicare for All didn’t know what to make of her. Hopefully, her healthcare insurance plan takes care of that concern. Second, several Obama administration officials had concerns. That seems serious! Except Politico didn’t tell you what these officials are doing now. If Politico had, then the story stops being a ‘man bites dog’ story and is just a mundane ‘dog bites man’ story.

We’ll start with Cecilia Muñoz, who was Obama’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and then his Director of the Domestic Policy Council. Currently, she is employed by New America, a centrist think tank that opposes Medicare for All. I’ll posit she comes by her beliefs honestly, but the stated views of one’s employer should be noted.

We move on to Kathleen Sebelius, who served as Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary. What’s she up to these days? Well, among other things, she sits on the boards of directors of Devoted Health and Grand Rounds. Grand Rounds is a company that “gets you to high-quality doctors and top-rated medical facilities in your insurance network.” That is, it profits from the mind-boggling complexity of the healthcare insurance system. Devoted Health sells Medicare Advantage plans, which are the private insurance component of Medicare. Oddly enough, someone who gets paid by healthcare insurers that would be hit hard or disappear completely under Medicare for All doesn’t like Medicare for All! Very surprising! Also, seems relevant to readers.

Finally, we come to Nancy-Ann DeParle, who is described in the story thusly (boldface mine):

Nancy-Ann DeParle was the deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House when the title actually meant something. She is one of the officials most responsible for moving the ACA through Congress in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats had large majorities. DeParle is in the private sector now and she hadn’t been following the health care debate in granular detail. One day not long ago, she finally sat down with a cup of coffee, put on her reading glasses and read the legislative language of the Sanders bill. It was right there in the text: there can be no for-profit health insurance. She thought to herself, did any of the Democrats even read this thing?

The cornpone ‘cut of coffee’ notwithstanding, what’s DeParle up to these days? Why she’s “a partner at Consonance Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on investing in innovative health care companies in the lower middle-market.” Good for her! But what does Consonance Capital Partners do? Well, among other things, they’re involved in the consolidation of private companies that focus on the healthcare of not-so-well-off people (e.g., urgent care clinics). Not much left to consolidate under Medicare for All though. Sad!

They might be true believers in their opposition to Medicare for All, but all of them have vested professional and financial interests in seeing Medicare for All fail. That seems notable. Though I suppose the story “people who stand to lose their well-compensated jobs under Medicare for All don’t like Medicare for All” isn’t very exciting.

Always consider the source.

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1 Response to Political Reporting Needs to Describe Their Experts Better: Healthcare Conflicts of Interest Edition

  1. r. clayton says:

    Don’t forget Rahm Emanuel, who wrote the Medicare For All is a pipe dream op-ed in the Morning Call, which identified him as “former mayor of Chicago, Democratic congressman from Illinois and White House chief of staff” without mentioning he works for Centerview Partners, a Wall Street investment bank which works with health-care companies.

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