Health care reform seems a long way from climate change but they share something very important in common: well funded interest groups that want to keep things just the way they are.
Take the Manhattan Institute. They are railing against proposed health care reform, churning out a dizzying number of reports and op-eds about why “Obama-care” is wrong for America. They also expend abundant effort slagging climate science, last year feting Danish doubter Bjorn Lomborg. The Manhattan Institute received $235,000 from ExxonMobil, as well as funding from various other conservative organizations.
Or the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog that has received $257,500 from ExxonMobil, and regularly gripes about how biased the US media is towards the “theory” of climate change, or the need to overhaul the health care system.
Other groups working hard to derail Obama’s health care platform include the notorious Heartland Institute. Desmog Blog readers will remember their remarkably unethical efforts to associate unwitting climate researchers with their propaganda campaign against climate science.
Mr. Ferrara is truly a multi-talented researcher. Not only is he apparently an expert on health care and medical policy, he has also spilled buckets of ink hectoring the scientific community for their slap dash research on climate change.
Just this spring Ferrara was holding forth in the national press that the “UN’s global warming reports involve shoddy science skewed to favor the theory of man-made global warming…despite growing evidence from first-rate, blue chip scientists who are increasingly concluding that humans have little effect on global temperatures…”
Who knew that one man could know so much? It’s amazing what they teach you in law school.
So why are the same groups that oppose reducing carbon emissions also fighting against health care reform? Perhaps the best explanation is that great unifier, money.
An interesting case study is the newly minted astroturf group Conservatives for Patients Rights - founded by Richard L. Scott, a man who has a rather vested interest in keeping US health care in private hands.
In 1988, Scott co-founded the Columbia Hospital Corporation (Columbia/HCA). He and his business partners aimed to transform US health care by “doing for hospitals …what McDonald’s has done in the food business and what WalMart has done in the retailing business.”
Scott apparently intended to own 25% of the nation’s hospitals and predicted that rash of closures might clear the field of unprofitable ““teaching hospitals and children’s hospitals” – increasing market share for Columbia/HCA.
This fixation on the profit motive was illustrated in 1995 when one quarter of Columbia’s administrators were earning bonuses equaling at least 80 percent of their salaries.
Scott apparently wondered out loud, “Do we have an obligation to provide health care for everybody? Where do we draw the line? Is any fast-food restaurant obliged to feed everyone who shows up?”
By 1997, Columbia/HCA was the largest health care provider in the world with annual revenues of $23 billion.
That July, they were also raided by the FBI in five states and later convicted of fourteen felony charges relating to Medicare fraud and doctor kickback schemes. Columbia/HCA eventually paid $1.7 billion in fines – the highest in US history at the time. Three HCA executives were indicted, and Scott was ousted as CEO by the board of directors – with a $10 million severance package and more than $300 million in stock.
Since then he formed an investment company, Richard L. Scott Investments, with a thick portfolio of private health care ventures. In 2001, Scott also co-founded Solantic, a chain of medical clinics that this year raised $40 million in private equity.
Scott has ambitious plans for Solantic to become a national brand of emergency medical clinics with 35 clinics open by the end of the year with $100 million in annual revenues, and potentially “a thousand locations”.
Fast-forward to 2009, one month after Obama was sworn in, when Scott founded Conservatives for Patients Rights with $5 million of his own money and $15 million more from undisclosed sources. According to the WSJ, this campaign is aimed to “pressure Democrats to enact health-care legislation based on free-market principles.”
So what do the voices shrilly opposing health care and energy reform have in common? Money. Both stand to lose big if Obama succeeds in enacting the agenda the American people elected him to do.
Keep that in mind the next time you see an expensive ad telling you to fear efforts to make our health care more accessible, or our energy more sustainable.