While Rush Limbaugh has taken credit for spreading the health IT falsehood, the real mastermind behind the story may be Betsy McCaughey, Gov. George Pataki’s (R-NY) Lieutenant Governor during his first term and an Adjunct Fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute.
McCaughey wrote the Bloomberg editorial that sparked the Fox News coverage and as the Atlantic’s James Fallows notes in his article about why President Clinton’s health reform efforts failed, she’s quite the trouble maker:
Much of the problem for the plan seemed, at least in Washington, to come not even from mandatory alliances but from an article by Elizabeth McCaughey, then of the Manhattan Institute, published in The New Republic last February. The article’s working premise was that McCaughey, with no ax to grind and no preconceptions about health care, sat down for a careful reading of the whole Clinton bill. Appalled at the hidden provisions she found, she felt it her duty to warn people about what the bill might mean. The title of her article was “No Exit,” and the message was that Bill and Hillary Clinton had proposed a system that would lock people in to government-run care. “The law will prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better,” McCaughey wrote in the first paragraph. “The doctor can be paid only by the plan, not by you.”
Fallows goes on to explain that “these claims…were simply false”:
Her shocked claim that coverage would be available only for “necessary” and “appropriate” treatment suggested that she had not looked at any of today’s insurance policies. In claiming that the bill would make it impossible to go outside the health plan or pay doctors on one’s own, she had apparently skipped past practically the first provision of the bill (Sec. 1003), which said, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services.”
You get the picture. By cherry picking certain words in the bill that neatly conform to a conservative narrative about comprehensive health reform, McCaughey sparks outrage and instantly becoming the darling of the right. In a throw back to her earlier work, Fox News packaged her editorial — which they described as an article — as an archeological discovery for the ages.
Then and now, facts don’t matter. And this time around, McCaughey has Fox News to broadcast her findings far and wide.