Message parlor

TPM catches Kaplan pimping paid-for insurance company “research” on the front page.

The article is by Ceci Connelly, who was at the center of the health care salon debacle.

There’s a pretty strong prima facie case for pay-to-play here.

36 replies
  1. 1
    TenguPhule says:

    Can we get honest whores on the Washington Post’s payroll and finally stop pretending?

  2. 2
    slag says:

    First the pastor sniffing now the straight out whoring. Wow. DC really is a one-industry town.

  3. 3
    Brian Griffin says:


    DC really is a one-industry town.

    note that it’s the one US city doing well in this recession. guess we’re seeing why…

  4. 4
    slag says:

    @Brian Griffin: I hear p0rn and booze are two relatively recession-proof industries. You’re right. That does explain a lot.

  5. 5

    I wish I could say I’m surprised.

  6. 6
    James says:

    What are you saying, pay-to-play, Doug? You mean Ceci Connelly? Can you elaborate?

  7. 7
    kay says:

    I’m glad it’s out, if it’s out.
    I had no idea about the Connelly connection to the salons, but I do read her pieces on health care, and I often see her presented as an expert. I drew my own conclusions, based solely on her work. She’s opposed to reform. I don’t even think it’s a close call, if you’ve read her coverage of this issue.
    If this has to be a game, I insist we identify all the players.
    She’s on the other side.

  8. 8
    Keith G says:

    Not Ceci Connelly. Wait, wait, don’t tell me!

  9. 9
    Ash says:

    I don’t know Price Waterhouse Cooper actually did anything other than vote tabulating for awards shows.

  10. 10
    jl says:

    I think that the article is not that bad. It does disclose the funding for the report. However it is guilty of blending what can be confirmed and what the report asserts into truthiness, as for example:

    “Though open to dispute, the analysis is certain to raise questions about whether Obama can deliver on his twin promises of extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans while also curbing skyrocketing health-care costs.”

    If you change the last part of that to “can deliver on his twin promises of extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans while also curbing skyrocketing health-care costs AND maintain high insurance and health plan industry profits”, that might even be an accurate statement.

    I think most of the statements in the article and in the AHIP letter are kinda sorta true, it is what is left out that is important, and that produces a slant in the Kaplan story.

    The PriceWaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institue has done very good research on health economics in the past. One, in the mid-nineties, found that technical efficiency in healthcare provision was about the same in the US and the UK, with Germany less efficient, which is not what you would expect from paid-for research for AHIP (but then, that report was not in fact paid-for research for AHIP).

    to see all publications from the Health Institute, look here:

    So, I guess some one should read the new report and compare it some previous reports. Did the Health Research group do it, something more like their tax avoidance branch write it up? How well documentedis it? And are there strategic omissions in what the report covers?

    Anyway, at some point health reform means going up against the big insurance companies and healthplans, because effective reform means completely changing the way they do business. Even if you want to keep private insurance for the financing, as Switzerland does, it would mean turning them into bascically a heavily regulated public utility for a uniform basic comprehensive plan for everyone. They would have to make Wall Street friendly profits solely on the supplemental insurance market. They fight that like death. No matter how much sugar Obama tried to add to make the medicine taste good.

    Maybe Obama’s plan was to do a rope-a-dope until there was too much momentum to stop legislation. In that case, we may be about to find out whether that strategy will work.

    Edit: forgot to mention that you may have to register to access the PWC Health Research Institute reports, if you are accessing for the first time.

  11. 11
    kay says:


    The Senate Democrats say the study is seriously flawed, because it omits cost-saving mechanisms in the bill.

    I don’t agree with you about the role of the Washington Post.

    The industry organization planned to release this tomorrow. It would have been their job to make it news. She’s done that for them. How is printing the conclusions, and their entire argument, front page news?

    She hasn’t given the other side a chance to do any kind of detailed analysis or rebut specific claims.

    She put out one side, two days before the vote. The Senate Democrats will be scrambling to rebut what she’s presented here.

    She gave the industry paper a big edge. I’d like to know why she did that.

  12. 12
    jl says:

    @kay: Good points, I overlooked the context of the story. But, I did fault it on blending farily obvious conclusions of the report with debatable debatable conclusions that produced an overall air of truthiness.

    Compared to other tricks the Kaplan Digest has pulled, the story is not so bad, but it is still bad, especially coming so shortly before the vote.

  13. 13
    bago says:

    Speaking of media…

    Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Liz Cheney attacked President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. “Well, I think what the committee believes is they’d like to live in a world in which America is not dominant. And I think if you look at the language of the citation, you can see that they talk about, you know, President Obama *ruling* in a way that makes sense to the majority of the people of the world,” said Cheney

    Talk about insight into the mind of a Cheney. Apparently the President *rules* the country, and is supposed to do so in a manner that doesn’t make sense to mose of the world.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    kay says:


    She sandbagged them. In what world is this even fair play? If I accept that she’s chosen sides, forget about acting as a “journalist”, it still sucks. You give prime real estate to present one side, prior to the other side even formulating a specific rebuttal? This was such breaking news she needed to get the whole industry argument out before the other side could read and respond?

    Media will be present this as “the CBO says….and on the other hand Price Waterhouse says…” We know that. The insurance industry connection will be gone in 12 hours.

  16. 16
    Zach says:

    As a scientist, it’s really disturbing to see results of a supposedly scientific study described without a description of the method. The article treats it like a he said/she said thing. I’d hope that if the study’s methods are transparent enough to write this piece, there wouldn’t be any question as to whether or not it included a reinsurance fund or what-have-you. Where’s the interview of a neutral third party to evaluate these claims… an academic economist specializing in health care or something?

  17. 17
    kay says:


    I think what I find most offensive is the three paragraphs she tacks on for cover. The cover for this “story”, what makes it “news” is the continuing saga of the Obama Administration and their struggles with insurers.
    Except she could have written that story without reprinting the press release the insurance lobbyist sent her. Which would have been fair. Because the Administration and Senate Democrats didn’t have a specific rebuttal yet. Two sides, Ceci.
    She could have held off 12 hours and written a story. Instead, she printed a press release and some bullshit cover-her-ass justification on the “debate” and the “hurdles”. It’s sleazy. I hope they got paid.

  18. 18
    jl says:

    @kay: Yes I agree. And that is why I specifically mentioned the ‘truthiness’ of the way the story was written as a problem.

    But rather than complain, I hope that some one who is familar with the details of the bills and the cost analyses can quickly respond in a constructive way.

    Since the report is not out yet, it would be irresponsible for me not to speculate, but I will stick to money and power rather than go to goats.

    The failure of the US healthcare system is now so obvious compared to many other high income countries (which have everything from private to single payer systems), that the opponents have been reduced to just kicking up dust.

    After putting pressure to weaken the cost reduction parts of the bill, and financing under publicized efforts to support GOP objections to comparative effectiveness research(‘death panel’ nonsense), at the very last minute they release a report that says ‘Oh my, the bill is weak on cost containment! This will be so expensive!” You don’t need a BS report so much as you need a bad faith strategy that works around the report. In fact it works better if it is a pretty good report in terms of playing what it does do straight, and is cooked up mainly in terms of what it leaves out.

  19. 19
    jl says:

    Maybe I am not so outraged because, in my mind, this moment would come sooner or later. It was not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’ and ‘how’.

    The US healthcare system is such a mess that the industry cannot simply run a heavy handed propaganda compaign like they did 15 years ago. The chances were too high that no one would believe it, and they would be loathed even more than they are now. Look at how the public preference for a public option has held up over all the scaremongering that has gone on over the summer.

    Sooner or later the insurance and health plan industry would try to completely gut reform. So, this is their second gambit, after the ‘grassroots’ teabagger and armed townhall meeting uproar during the summer.

    There will be a third, if this does not work, that will be rolled out during conference, since the House is probably hopeless from their point of view.

    Sooner or later, real health care refrom means the AHIP way of life comes to an end, whether we stay with private insurance or not. They know this, and they will fight to the bitter end, using whatever they think will work. If the Democratic party and Congressional leadership, and Obama WH, are not prepared for these last minute tactics, we have to push another few election cycles for competent brave and honest leadership.

  20. 20
    kay says:


    A neutral third party? In Washington Post health care coverage? Forget it. I’m convinced they run that paper on the cheap. Ceci has an email account for incoming press releases and Google. They’re not interviewing experts.

    Often, she’s too dispirited to Google. Her “background” on Medicare Advantage last week was one paragraph long.

  21. 21
    kay says:


    I agree with you, generally, and thanks for talking me off the ledge. Health care has driven me bonkers, I’m afraid. I wasn’t fond of insurance companies when this started, and it’s only gotten worse.

    If I get the gist of Ceci’s complaint here, she’s lobbying Baucus to insist that young and healthy enroll sooner than 2013, so profits will remain steady.

    “Savings will then be passed on to the consumer…”

    If so, that will be the first time in insurance history, but, okay, sure.

  22. 22
    jl says:

    @kay: Looks like Jon Cohn at TNR will be keeping tabs on this attempt at social engineering by AHIP and their paid researchers. Check TPM frontpage for a couple of updates (and hopefully plenty of updates over the next day or so).

  23. 23
    BDeevDad says:

    Slightly OT:

    A 4-month old was turned down by insurance for pre-existing condition — “obesity.”

    By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don’t take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Ash Can says:


    I hope they got paid.

    I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they did. This has been a theory of mine for some time, that there’s payola involved in publishing one-sided propaganda pieces and passing them off as straight reporting. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Connelly saw a nice little bump to her bank account for penning this piece, courtesy of the insurance industry. Maybe even a series of bumps; maybe they have her on retainer.

  26. 26
    Zach says:

    I just noticed this: “On Sunday, Democrats blasted the industry’s decision to release the report.”

    Really? All the quotes that follow are criticisms of the report itself, not folks wishing that it’d been kept secret.

    Although AHIP might have commissioned dozens of reports from different shops and released the worst offender. It would be nice to know if this is the case via actual reporting.

  27. 27
    kay says:

    @Ash Can:

    I can’t find any other newspaper putting this on the front page.

    I’ve written this before, but I ran the Washington Post (hah!) I would have focused on health care reform. It’s happening in DC. They (presumably) know all the various players. They coulda been the central source for information and debate, and that would have made a lot of sense. It would add prestige and seriousness to what has become a paper where powerful people and entities plant stories to push an agenda.

    They could have been to health care reform what the Wall Street Journal has been to the financial crisis. Actually adding value with information and depth. The WSJ auto industry crisis issue(s) were great. They interviewed hundreds of people. They collected their own data. They offered history and context.

    Instead the coverage is just embarrassing and agenda-driven. He said/she said. No original reporting or background information on any of the terms or players or policy, with the single exception of Ezra Klein’s work.

  28. 28
    Zach says:

    WaPo did have one excellent front page article on health reform from a consumer point of view… a what-does-it-mean-for-you kind of thing. It was maybe a month ago?

  29. 29
    kay says:


    Democrats were told by the lobbying group that the report was not near completion.
    The vote is in two days. Hence, release of the report. That’s part of why I think it’s sleazy. They didn’t want to give Democrats an opportunity to rebut effectively. The lobbying group passed it around on a weekend, and this tool obligingly promoted the conclusions for them.
    Newspapers complain about shrinking ad revenue. Perhaps they should stop running ads disguised as “news”, and ad revenue might pick up. Why pay for an ad when you can get them to run your ad free?

  30. 30

    […] Dougj notes that The Washington Post publisher invited health industry players to pay for access to Ceci Conolly and writes “There’s a pretty strong prima facie case for pay-to-play here.” […]

  31. 31
    kay says:


    I don’t understand why media didn’t start at the beginning. We’re reforming health care for a bunch of complicated reasons. They’ve completely abdicated responsibility to cover the crisis in health care, over the last 16 years, then they appeared with “reform” and offered no context.
    They’re presenting this as if Barack Obama is taking our well-oiled affordable health care machine and inexplicably tinkering with it. That’s not true. That isn’t what happened. Where are the stories on the current system? Where is the coverage of the problem? Isn’t that a rational place to start?
    I’m convinced it’s because media HAVE access to affordable health care, so don’t SEE the problem, although I can’t imagine why they’re secure in that, given the quality of their work.

  32. 32
    Zach says:

    @kay: I agree; just saying that there was a WaPo article that did just this; talked about some of the loopholes in coverage now, medical bankruptcies, getting dropped from coverage, etc.

    Also, I see what you’re saying about the timing of releasing the report (and releasing it to the WaPo before anyone could critique it); it’s just that the folks quoted in the article don’t complain about this (which is smart because it’d just come off as whiny, which is, I think, the point of saying that’s what they’re complaining about). A more accurate sentence would be, “On Sunday, Democrats blasted the report because it does not take many provisions of the bill into account and was drafted by a firm with little experience in health issues.”

  33. 33
    tc125231 says:

    @jl: Price-Waterhouse is capable of good work. That is NOT it’s goal.

    It’s all about billable hours with that crowd.

  34. 34
    tc125231 says:

    @kay: I agree with you completely. This is similar to Queen Noonan’s column that she had good healthcare –what was the problem?

    In fact, this is also why a lot of things in the US don;t get fixed –they don’t affect the ruling elites. Take public air transport for example….

  35. 35
    tc125231 says:

    we have to push another few election cycles for competent brave and honest leadership.

    You are kidding, right? There have been 14 electoral cycles since 1980. WHEN did we get competent or honest leadership?

  36. 36
    Zach says:

    Here’s a recent WaPo article presenting a sketch of one problem with the current system:

    One February morning, a courier arrived at the front desk of Bayonne Medical Center, trying to get to a patient’s bedside. His mission: to deliver a letter from New Jersey’s dominant health insurer warning that the patient would face a huge hospital bill if he did not leave right away.

    Here’s an article by Ceci presenting the problems with the current system – – of course it doesn’t criticize insurance companies at all.

    Here’s an article on rescissions – – and one on losing coverage – – and one on preventable deaths – – and on the reality behind the death panel myths – … these are all A01 articles.

    Basically, the Post does actually cover the issues. The problem is that they don’t bother to recall their previous coverage when presenting nonsense like this.

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  1. […] Dougj notes that The Washington Post publisher invited health industry players to pay for access to Ceci Conolly and writes “There’s a pretty strong prima facie case for pay-to-play here.” […]

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