Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Health Care for Alaskans: An "Informational" Publication

An insert with the above title (minus the weasel quotes) in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Sunday edition appears, at first glance, to be a special medical issues insert created by News-Miner staff. Article bylines read "Staff Report", with the exception of an article on the last page entitled "Certificate of Need hinders health care innovation," which is written by Michael Morrisey and Michael Ciamarra.* It is on the bottom of this last page, and this page alone, that a small notice reads, "Paid for by the Alliance for Healthcare in Alaska, 1275 Sadler Way, Fairbanks, AK 99701," thus revealing that the 8-page newsy-looking insert is in fact a paid advertisement. The staff "reports" are in fact opinion pieces, and are riddled with false and misleading statements.

Articles in this advertisement include:

• "Nation faces crisis due to physician shortage," which falsely claims that physician shortages "will only be exacerbated with universal health care"; and that "It is well documented that many Canadians wait an inordinate amount of time for their much-needed medical and surgical care," and "end up coming to the United States for their treatment".

• "Alaska's healthcare system locked in textbook 'monopoly'," laughably states, "It is important to understand that the health care system in America is second to none." This is flatly false, unless one is extolling its virtues as a money-making machine for insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

• "Competition necessary for industry to flourish," is a summarization of a presentation by Mark J. Botti of the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice in February 2007, "Competition in Healthcare and Certificates of Need." It extolls the virtues of competition in health care and argues against the need for Certificates of Need laws.

• "Breaking down 'Certificate of Need'" (subtitled "Program designed to aid patients in health care community now contains flaws, causes more harm than good"), provides a timeline graph of the number of states with CON laws and takes the form of arguments and rebuttals on the CON issue.

• "Certificate of Need hinders health care innovation,", which describes problems in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina's CON laws.

Quite clearly, the sponsors of this multipage advertorial want Alaska's Certificate of Need law overturned, as requested by Governor Palin (although this action was NOT recommended by the Alaska Health Care Strategies Planning Council she created to advise her). Unfortunately, the Alliance for Healthcare in Alaska appears willing to promulgate nonsense in order to do it.

*Ciamarra is vice president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a right-wing conservative think tank, described by the U of Alabama College Republicans as "the largest and most influential Conservative think tank in the state of Alabama."

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