Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment.
This morning I watched This Week, where Senators Hatch and Specter were debating health reform. Senator Hatch, desperate not to be pinned down defending or criticizing Governor Palin's "death panel" thing, launched into a stream of his own talking points about nameless, faceless bureaucrats and the public plan. Here is the ABC transcript:
TAPPER: And, Senator Hatch, let me go to you. Speaking of dominating the political process, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin referred to a provision in the House bill as a death penalty--as a death panel, rather. Your colleague, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, said this in response to Senator--to Governor Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURKOWSKI: It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that, you know, there's--there's -- these end-of-life provisions, these death panels. I'm so--quite honestly, I'm so offended at that--that terminology, because it absolutely isn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Senator Hatch, who's right, Governor Palin or Senator Murkowski?
HATCH: Well, Jake, I don't think I'm going to make that decision. You know, there are many different people who have many different opinions on what is meant by these programs.
But what I do know is that the Democrats want a government plan, where the government will take over health care. ...
They want to move, according to the Lewin Group, up to 119 million people into Medicaid. If that happens, it would destroy the--the health insurance programs throughout the country. Eight of ten Americans really--really want their health insurance coverage. They don't want to lose it.
Jake Tapper hit back, noting that the Lewin Group is owned by UnitedHealth Group. The real problem isn't that the Lewin Group might be biased. Their report just doesn't say what Hatch said it does. On pages, um, 1 and 2, the authors clearly indicate that this analysis is based on quite different provisions from what is proposed in the various Senate and House bills.
To my knowledge, the Lewin Group has not analyzed the current legislation. Another nonpartisan entity, the Congressional Budget Office, actually has. Under the House bill, CBO estimates that "about 9 million or 10 million" people would enroll in the public plan. Rather than killing the private insurance market, the House bill would actually increase the number of Americans who hold private employer-based coverage by about 3 million. And by the way, the public plan is quite different from Medicaid.