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PHARMA/HEALTH PLANS: Responding to propaganda with idiot propaganda

Michael_moore_2Michael Moore dissects U.S. health care. So the first excerpts of "Sicko" have been shown, and the spin from the industry is already quite remarkable.

We can’t control what a major Hollywood entertainer does," said Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. "Our focus remains on a positive agenda of high-quality health care for more Americans."<SNIP>

Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the trade group Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, said industry officials were "freaking out and pulling their hair out" when they first got word of Moore’s documentary. They have since calmed down, Johnson said. "Michael Moore is a political activist with a track record for sensationalism. He has no intention of being fair and balanced," Johnson said.

Because when you think of health insurers the very first thing that comes to mind is them creating a "positive agenda of high quality health care for ‘more’ Americans" and of course when you think of  big Pharma, "fair and balanced" is exactly what popped into your head.

My suggestion is that until they can put together a fact-based rebuttal–we know that Moore plays fast and loose with the facts–both those organizations should shut the hell up. Otherwise the focus may shift to their not-entirely-glorious track records of telling the truth in public.

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7 replies »

  1. Matt, my point wasn’t that they weren’t spinning, but that the spin merited the description “quite remarkable.”
    Because they didn’t ratchet up the vitriol, and gave the same sort of positive spin they always give, I thought it was quite unremarkable.

  2. Not spin?
    Who honestly (even working for AHIP!) can say with a straight face that health plans’ “focus remains on a positive agenda of high-quality health care for more Americans.” C’mon kids

  3. “Am I the only one who thought the responses of AHIP and PHARMA were actually kind of tame, biolerplate material?”
    No. Actually, you’re right. I’m not sure this quite qualifies as “remarkable spin” as Matthew puts it.
    I’m guessing this is the equivalent of an official “Harumph, we’ll wait and See” from them …
    I’m a bit more interested in the topics that Moore settles on. It’s kind of a big picture question: if I was making a documentary about this stuff, what would I focus on?
    The FDA and Congress?
    The medical device industry?
    HealthSouth?
    Tenet?
    There are far too many good candidates!!!

  4. Am I the only one who thought the responses of AHIP and PHARMA were actually kind of tame, biolerplate material? Those responses are a long way from the kind of hatchet job I expect an industry group to produce when threatened. I’m sure there is worse to come.
    Incidentally, perhaps those spokespeople aren’t worrying as much as they used to because Moore said the following on his website recently:
    “But like my other movies, what we start with (General Motors, guns, 9/11) is not always what we end with. Along the way, we discover new roads to go down, roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas — and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with. That, I can say with certainty, is happening now as we shoot “Sicko.” I don’t think the country needs a movie that tells you that HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies suck. Everybody knows that. I’d like to show you some things you don’t know. So stay tuned for where this movie has led me. I think you might enjoy it.”
    Could it be that he’s discovered a lot more shenanigans on the provider side than he realized, and decided to focus his attention there? If that happens, we can expect the next industry groups to dismiss Moore as a propagandist will be the AMA and AHA.

  5. I was interested to read just today that United Healthcare will no longer pay for Nexium because other proton pump inhibitors are just as effective at far lower cost. Instead of just making it available for a slightly higher co-pay than a generic, they’re kicking it off the covered list. I think they’re onto something here. This move alone should cut their drug costs by $150 million per year which will be reflected in lower (than otherwise) premiums for their customers, Dr. Maguire’s ultra rich stock options notwithstanding.

  6. Matthew– I have read your various “adventures” in healthcare wonderland–purchasing insurance, being turned over to a collection agency, your knee surgery etc. I often don’t know whether to laugh, scream or cry.
    I can’t imagine Michael Moore can exagerate or fabricate anything more absurd than our current healthcare mess. Our expensive fragmented healthcare mess kills and injures real people, it also does marvelous and wonderful miracles. We should all remember “first do no harm.”
    Lynn Bailey
    Healthcare Economist

  7. I’m not a Moore fan, but Pharma deserves everything he can
    dish to them. There are solutions to this issue. What draws
    my ire is the industry is one of the most profitable in the
    world, even AFTER deducting for its high R&D, advertising,
    and remarkably high executive salaries. This, all while
    politicians extend their patents by 3 years (to 20) to lock
    our generics, and all while patents divert ridiculously high
    funds from families to the drug companies. The docs on this
    thread can probably add a lot more horror stories than I. In
    my mind, what we have allowed is criminal. I’d like to see a
    complete revamp of the drug research program. Since the
    taxpayers are paying one-third the costs anyway, through NIH
    funding, let’s have the taxpayers fund 100% of drug
    research, own the patents themselves, and license the right
    to make the drugs to at least three qualified manufacturers
    to market the product throughout the world.Drug companies
    can still create ideas and run tests on animals, but if
    successful they’d have to turn the idea over to the NIH who
    would first assess it and then contract out the patient
    trials to a nonconflicted medical university and scientific
    team. The originating drug company would receive royalties
    but not have sole rights to market.
    That’s what the Neocons would call "free-market" (wink,
    wink).
    We’d need other rules too:

    I don’t like royalties on the final product because
    they are regressive and only affect the sick, so I’d
    license them royalty-free (except for those going to the
    originating company).
     

    If a company decided to do an end-around and avoid
    this system, a 20% tariff would apply to all imported
    drugs and they’d nonetheless not receive US patent
    protection.
     

    All advertising would be prohibited, except for that
    directed to physicians. (Unless advertising carried the
    NIH license info so patients could opt for a competitive
    product of the same formula).
     

    Remove Medicare restrictions and let them bargain
    for the lowest price from the three manufacturers.
     

    Prohibit drug companies from selling outside the US
    at a price lower than their US price.
     

    Prohibit physicians with a conflict of interest from
    sitting on the FDA and NIH approval boards.

    Controversial? Of course. Get the money out of the
    political system and it won’t be. It’ll be be fixed
    virtually overnight.

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