“You can always tell if you’re succeeding by the viciousness of the opposition.”
— Dr. Quentin Young, PNHP National Coordinator
By Nicholas Skala. Updated by Chris Gray, July, 2010
As the movement for single payer expands, attacks on single payer in the media by the far right have increased. In addition to misleading articles and op-eds, several books attacking single payer by conservative pundits were published in recent years, including one endorsed by former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
The PNHP National Office has identified 20 right-wing think tanks that employ full-time health policy “scholars” to oppose national health insurance and advocate for health care privatization, deregulation and market-based reforms. These groups are funded with millions of dollars from wealthy far-right foundations such as the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the John Olin Foundation, the Adolph Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundations, which share an ultra-conservative social agenda.
The Right-Wing “Echo Chamber”: Although they masquerade as legitimate research institutions, most of these policy think tanks are little more than PR firms for those who want to obscure the facts about health care in America. Many, such as the Fraser Institute, produce bogus research and purposely avoid peer review. Instead, they provide “experts” with fancy titles to write editorials and appear on TV news programs to spread misinformation. Each of these institutions is funded by the same small group of ideological foundations, and it is extremely common for these “experts” to cite each other’s bogus research in their commentaries, giving the impression of wide scientific credibility for their views. Twenty of the top “think” tanks are detailed below. Members are encouraged to take the lead on behalf of PNHP in responding to misinformation spread by these and other groups.
1. American Enterprise Institute
Advocates: Privatization, Medicaid cuts, tax credits for the uninsured, teaching emotionally disturbed children to seek “self-reliance” rather than going to therapy.
Look Out For: “Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care” Joseph Antos, “Resident Scholar” John E. Calfee, “Senior Fellow” Newt Gingrich. Mark McClellan, M.D. “Resident Fellow” Thomas P. Miller
2008 Budget: $50.9 million
2. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
Advocates: This tiny group’s impressive name often confers false legitimacy onto its public statements. AAPS favors abolishing Medicare and is primarily devoted to spreading misinformation about single payer. Opposes HIPAA as government interference. Has made claims that HIV does not cause AIDS and a “gay male lifestyle” shortens life expectancy by 20 years. Also attempted to link abortions with breast cancer. Journal has claimed undocumented immigrants are carriers of disease such as leprosy.
Look Out For: Executive Director Jane Orient, M.D., “Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons”
2009 Budget: $1.1 million
3. Cato Institute
Advocates: Medicaid / Medicare privatization, FDA deregulation, HSAs, elimination of state mandatory coverage laws for insurance companies, increased managed care. “Health status insurance” – insurance to have money to afford high-risk health insurance. Phase out employer-sponsored health care in favor of individual market. Advocates purchasing insurance across state lines, from states with little regulation.
Look Out For: “Director of Health Policy Studies” Michael F. Cannon; “Director of Health & Welfare Studies” Mike Tanner.
2008 Budget: $20.1 million
4. Competitive Enterprise Institute
Advocates: Operates the “Death by Regulation” Project, which seeks to reduce or eliminate FDA regulations which “delay the availability of life-saving treatments.”
Look Out For: General Counsel Sam Kazman; “Senior Fellow” Gregory Conko; TV reporter John Stossel
2007 Budget: $5.3 million
5. Discovery Institute
Advocates: Main health policy business seems to be publicizing Fraser Institute (see number 6) research in editorials, but also notable for providing “experts” to criticize the scientific basis of Evolutionary Theory at meetings of Kansas’ public school board.
Look Out For: “Senior Fellows” Robert J. Cihak and Richard W. Rahn (also of Cato Inst.). Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity.
2008 Budget: $5.2 million
6. Fraser Institute
Advocates: Specializes in producing unreviewed crackpot studies such as “How Good is Canadian Health Care?” and the annual “Waiting List Survey.”
Look Out For: Anything even remotely tied to Fraser. Their research is so bad that not even pro-privatization Canadians bother to cite their work.
2008 Budget: $13.7 million
7. Galen Institute
Advocates: Privatization, tax credits for the uninsured, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, “competition in the health sector” and “incentive-driven health reform,” bills itself as “only free-market think tank solely dedicated to…putting individuals rather than corporate or government bureaucrats in charge of health care decisions.”
Look Out For: President Grace-Marie Turner; “Center for Consumer Driven Health Care” Director Greg Scandlen., Sewell Hinton Dixon, M.D.
2008 Budget: $814,000
8. Heartland Institute
Advocates: Privatization, health savings accounts, state-subsidized high-risk insurance pools, voluntary drug industry discounts for the uninsured, “consumer-driven health care,” deregulation of health insurance.
Look Out For: “Senior Fellow” Merrill Matthews Jr., “Fellow” Scott Whipple.
2008 Budget: $7.8 million
9. The Heritage Foundation
Advocates: Medicaid / Medicare privatization, tax credits for the uninsured, health savings accounts (HSAs), drug “discount” cards.
Look Out For: “Center for Health Policy Studies Director” Robert Moffit; “Vice President for Domestic Policy” Stuart M. Butler.
2008 Budget: $70.9 million
10. Hudson Institute
Advocates: Medical malpractice award caps, elimination of state mandatory-coverage laws, policy papers make numerous hostile references to abortion. Attacked WHO for allowing distribution of generic anti-retroviral drugs.
Look Out For: “Senior Fellows” Ronald W. Dworkin and Betsy McCaughey.
2007 Budget: $11.1 million
11. Institute for Health Freedom
Advocates: Essentially the total abolishment of Medicare and Medicaid, “consumer driven health care” and HSAs.
Look Out For: President Sue A. Blevins
2008 Budget: $236,000
12. Manhattan Institute
Advocates: HSAs and “consumer driven reform,” eliminating premium tax deductibility for employers, remedying the fact that “Americans tend to be over-insured.” Manufactures misinformation about Canada’s health system to undermine support for national health insurance in America.
Look Out For: “Senior Fellow” David Gratzer, M.D., Center for Medical Progress, Chairman Paul Singer
2008 Budget: $9.7 million
13. National Center for Policy Analysis
Advocates: Privatization and health savings accounts (NCPA runs the “consumer-driven health care project”), health debit cards, increased cost-shifting to patients.
Look Out For: President and CEO John C. Goodman, Ph.D.
2007 Budget: $4.1 million
14. Pacific Research Institute
Advocates: HSAs, tax credits, banning prescription re-importation (PRI extensively uses crackpot data supplied from fellow Bradley beneficiary the Fraser Institute).
Look Out For: Pacific CEO Sally C. Pipes; “Director of Health Care Studies” John R. Graham
2008 Budget: $4.0 million
15. Hoover Institution
Advocates: Recirculates material from National Center for Policy Analysis: uncited statistics praising the U.S. system and disparaging other health systems. Supports medical savings accounts, abolishing Medicare, Medicaid and elimination of employer-sponsored health care.
Look Out For: Michael W. McConnell, senior fellow
2008 Budget: Part of Stanford University; no data available.
16. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC )
Advocates: Seeks to oppose single-payer laws at the state level by pushing forward constitutional amendments to ensure private health insurance; also opposes universal health care in general, against the individual mandates. Spinoff of the Heritage Foundation that works in state governments.
Look Out For: Christine Herrera, health and human services director
2008 Budget: $7.0 million
17. Americans for Prosperity and the American for Prosperity Foundation
Advocates: Ran series of commericals of Canadian woman who claimed to be denied surgery for brain tumor when she never had more than a benign cyst. Attacked single payer and Canada’s system in the debate, pre-emptively excluding single-payer from the reforms.
Look Out For: Patients United Now (bogus shell group), Any Menefee.
2008 Budget: $14.4 million
18. Independence Institute
Advocates: Colorado “libertarian” group, behind anti-single-payer group “Patient Power Now” and “Center for the American Dream,” former board members include right-wing Republicans former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and overtly racist Rep. Tom Tancredo.
Look Out For: Linda Gorman, health policy researcher
2008 Budget: $1.8 million
19. National Center for Public Policy Research
Advocates: Puts out bogus information about allowing the government to negotiate drug policies for Medicare. Pushes for privatization of Medicare. Warns against single-payer “propaganda” and Sweden’s system.
Look Out For: Edmund F. Haislmaier, health care analyst. Amy and David Ridenour, health care “experts.”
2008 Budget: $8.6 million
20. FreedomWorks Foundation + Freedom Works, Inc.
Advocates: Founded by Charles Koch. Attacks Obama health plan as a government takeover of health care. Boasts of work to derail single-payer systems and “Hillary Care” in the past. Group is a fake grassroots organization, Wall Street-supported front group that helped set off the Tea Party movement. Social Security privatization, outreach for pharmaceutical donors. Attacks FDA to speed up drug approvals.
Look Out For: Dick Armey, Wayne T. Brough, Ph.D. Group is formerly known as Citizens for a Sound Economy.
2008 Budget: $7.4 million