Lobbyists were heavily involved in the writing of opinion columns critical of “Medicare for All” by state lawmakers, according to The Washington Post, which cited emails obtained by the newspaper.
Montana state Rep. Kathy Kelker (D) and state Sen. Jen Gross (D) both acknowledged in interviews that lobbyist and consultant John MacDonald provided proposed language for their respective columns, according to the Post.
Gross told the newspaper that MacDonald reached out to her on behalf of the industry group Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which is funded by hospital groups, drugmakers and private health insurers, among others.
The advocacy group Medicare for All Now obtained industry emails detailing messaging against the proposal through a Freedom of Information Act request and provided them to the Post.
The emails show MacDonald apparently excising three paragraphs from Kelker’s piece that concede the U.S. spends more on health care per capita than other developed nations, and also removed a graph depicting the differences in per capita spending between the U.S. and several European nations with universal health care.
“I know most newspapers are going to have trouble formatting the graphic you provided and will likely ask us to hold off on that,” MacDonald told Kelker in a June email. “The client had trepidations that it might also come across to the ‘less-discerning’ reader that because foreign single-payer markets cost patients less, they are superior.”
An aide to Ohio state Sen. Steve Huffman (R), meanwhile, confirmed in an interview that Ohio-based lobbyist Kathleen DeLand helped him write an op-ed criticizing Medicare for All, according to the Post.
In a statement to The Hill, Huffman’s press secretary, John Fortney, criticized the Post’s story.
“The Washington Post, the home of inside the beltway, left leaning lobbyist driven coverage, actually thought this was a story,” said Fortney, who accused the Post of omitting part of his statement in which he said “quoting the director of a single payer healthcare organization, is the same as quoting the director of a special interest, or lobbying group. It is the definition of being hypocritical.”
None of the op-eds in question reportedly disclosed the lobbyists’ involvement.
“These secret emails blow open what I saw firsthand and revealed as a health insurance whistleblower: These companies and their lobbyists will stoop to whatever it takes, no matter how grotesque, to deny people the lifesaving coverage they need,” Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive who is now president of Business for Medicare for All, told the Post.
“This is just the latest reason we need to reform this broken system where greedy corporations determine who can get medical treatment in America.”
The Hill has reached out to MacDonald, DeLand, Kelker and Gross for comment.