Betsy McCaughey: Health Reform Would Force Americans Into ‘Low-Grade HMOs’

It was only a matter of time until Betsy McCaughey read the latest health care legislation and discovered, as she did some 16 years ago, a government conspiracy to deny Americans access to quality health care.

McCaughey, who has long characterized herself as a “consumer advocate,” helped topple President Clinton’s reform effort by claiming that it “will prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better…The doctor can be paid only by the plan, not by you,” she wrote. The false charge ricocheted across the media and helped drown Clinton’s efforts. It wasn’t until 1995 that James Fallows explained that McCaughey completely misinterpreted the Clinton legislation and ignored language protecting patient choice.

Sixteen-years later, McCaughey is still positioning herself as unbiased interpreter of legislative language. In a rash of recent media appearances, McCaughey has argued that “for people who are currently get their insurance from their employer because this [HELP] bill and the House bill both force employers to move their employees into low grade HMOs within five years.” Watch a compilation:

McCaughey, who claims to have read the 610 page HELP bill three times, cites passage 3101 of the HELP bill as proof of the supposed requirement. The section, which is titled AFFORDABLE HEALTH CHOICES FOR ALL AMERICANS outlines the choices of coverage. Lower income Americans could enroll in Medicaid and SCHIP, the currently uninsured could find affordable coverage from a menu of different plans offered through the health insurance exchange; Americans with employer-based coverage could continue in their current plans or, after a period of time, also buy coverage through the exchange (or ‘Gateway,’ as the HELP bill calls it).

Nothing in the section McCaughey cites — or the billrequires employers to move their employees into HMO plans. To the contrary, the passage on employers stresses that employers will have the choice to enroll their employees in a plan through the exchange. Under section (g), PORTALS TO STATE GATEWAY, the bill states, “A qualified employer may select to provide support for coverage of employees under a qualified health plan at any tier of cost sharing described 2 in section 3111(a)(1).”

Reading and re-reading the bill may have caused McCaughey’s eyes to also glaze over page 55 of the HELP bill, which explicitly protects Americans’ right to choose their own coverage:


On June 26th, Today, Media Matters for America wrote an open letter to cable news networks pointing out that “as the debate over health care reform proceeds, it is crucial that discussions and reports on the subject are accurate and fair. If the networks insist on hosting Ms. McCaughey to discuss health care, they have an obligation to their viewers to challenge and debunk her falsehoods.” Read the full letter here.