Earlier this week, AHIP caused quite a ruckus when it released a report critical of the Baucus plan and its costs. The insurance group had hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to write the report, which concluded that premiums would increase under the plan. A number of experts proceeded to debunk the report’s findings, the White House and reform advocates were infuriated, and the firm (PwC) later issued a statement clarifying its methodology.
My question: who actually wrote the report? We know it came out of PricewaterhouseCoopers shop of “experts,” but it lists no authors. Which individuals actually worked to put this thing together? Were they too ashamed to identify themselves?
You’ll notice that this November 2008 healthcare reform report from PricewaterhouseCoopers lists a lot of names at the end. So it’s not standard practice to issue authorless reports into the void.
I’m particularly interested in the authorship question because Baucus’s chief tax aide, Cathy Koch, used to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Koch is likely to have crafted the tax/financing schemes at the heart of the Baucus proposal. She was a lobbyist at the firm until 1999, when she joined Washington Council Ernst & Young (as we’ve detailed in earlier posts, she lobbied for insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as an insurance industry front group, before going back to work in the Senate).
Did Koch’s former colleagues turn around and criticize the very financing schemes that she had designed?
It’s impossible to say, since the authors of the report aren’t identified. And at a large firm like PwC, there’s sure to be lots of turnover.
But if I were to identify the group that I believed to be behind this report (none is listed on the report itself), I’d pick the National Economic and Statistics Group, which “provides economic analyses of legislative and regulatory proposals” for PwC. That sounds about right. Two of the individuals listed on that page, Drew Long and Jack Rodgers, are also listed on the November healthcare report mentioned above.
As it turns out, Koch worked alongside both Long and Peter Merrill, the head of the group, as a PwC lobbyist in the late ’90s. Analyst @sundin has been putting together research on that group, and has found that many of them used to work as staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, as did Cathy Koch.
Did Koch’s former colleagues betray her?
That’s one possible explanation. But if I may…
The standard take on the AHIP report was that it was poorly executed and badly timed, a huge miscalculation by the insurance industry. I’m not sure that’s the case.
Last month, Congressman Raul Grijalva told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that he believed that the Baucus proposal “has no legitimacy in this debate. It’s an insider product. It’s there to protect the industry.” Goodman had just spent several minutes detailing the Baucus staff’s connections to the insurance industry (including Cathy Koch, using LittleSis research), hence the word “insider.”
By attacking that legislation with its own analysis, AHIP and PricewaterhouseCoopers teamed up to do what no one else could: they made the Baucus plan look like it was too hard on the insurance industry. They staked out a position so far to the right of the Senate Finance plan — never mind the public option — that they made the Baucus crew look eminently reasonable.
I’m not saying this was the insurance industry’s strategy. But such a strategy is standard in the world of lobbying and politics — especially in the world of well-funded corporate lobbies.
The authorship question is also interesting. The John or Jane Does who authored this report might decide to enter government ten years from now. At that point, they will have a respected consulting firm on their resume, but no record of involvement in this fiasco. The author, shielded by the corporate security blanket, will be wholly unaccountable for their deceptive, dishonest work on behalf of big money and power. And they’ll be writing our laws.
Just like Cathy Koch.