Big Labor Accuses Conservative Group of ‘Swift-Boating’ Obama’s National Health-Care Plan

By Matt Cover | May 12, 2009 | 6:50 PM EDT

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

( – The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) accuses the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) of “swift-boating” President Obama’s health-care agenda in new ads which highlight what CPR says are the downsides of government involvement in health care.
CPR, founded by former Columbia/HCA Healthcare Association CEO Rick Scott, is a nonprofit group that advocates for health reform based on conservative principles and is opposed to government-run health care, which it says would put the government in charge of Americans’ health care, according to the group’s Web site.
SEIU accuses the group of running “false and misleading” TV and radio ads about the consequences of increased government intrusion into the nation’s health care system.
“Scott's ad contains blatantly false statements and misleading excerpts of interviews with health care professionals,” the union said in a section of its Web site.
The union accused Scott and CPR of mischaracterizing the views of two doctors, Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, and British oncologist Dr. Karol Sikora. SEIU claims that neither man is opposed to universal health care, stating that CPR twisted the doctors’ words in its ad campaign.
“The advertisement further deceives viewers by blatantly misrepresenting the positions of two physicians,” the SEIU states in a letter to stations airing the ads. “While the advertisement paints both as opponents of any role for government in health care reform, in reality, just the opposite is true.”
But Scott said the Conservatives for Patients' Rights ad never suggested the doctors did oppose government health-care -- it portrayed the comments only as being those of British and Canadian doctors and patients discussing, in their own words, their experience with government-run health-care systems.
Scott said his ad does not oppose “any role for government,” but does say any proposed reform which would give government control over health care decisions– “the first step,” he said, “towards socialized medicine.”
In the group's latest ad, Scott said, CPR had outlined the group’s four principles of “choice, accountability, competition, and personal responsibility,” saying Congress should keep those principles in mind as it considers health-care reform.
“With Congress starting in on health-care, let’s remind the politicians Americans know what works,” the ad, titled “The Four Pillars of Health Care Reform,” says. “Let’s have real reform that puts patients first.”
The labor union also accuses CPR of “misleading” television viewers about a new federal council created as part of congressional Democrats’ $787 billion stimulus spending bill – the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.
“Mr. Scott makes a specific claim: ‘Not only could a government board deny your choice in doctors, but it can control life and death for some patients.’ This statement is demonstrably false,” the union said.
Scott, meanwhile, said his ad discusses the potential effects of the establishment of a government health board, saying the Comparative Effectiveness Council is “the first step in government health care” -- not that it would control health decisions.
Specifically, the ad states: “It’s (the Council is) not so innocent, it’s the first step in government control over your health-care choices,” Scott says in the ad. “Not only could a government board deny your choice in doctors, but it can control life and death for some patients.”
Igor Volsky, a policy analyst for the liberal Center for American Progress, told that the CPR ads miss the point by focusing on something that liberals aren’t arguing for: a single payer, government-run health-care system.
“When it comes down to it, they’re really establishing straw man arguments against a non-existent health plan, rather than engaging the Democrats on the substance of what they’re proposing.”
Volsky said that Obama’s public option was intended to foster competition among private insurers by giving people an alternative to insurance companies, not to replace private medical coverage.
“Nobody in Congress is seriously proposing a single-payer plan. What we’re talking about is building on the pillars that work, that means building on the employer-based healthcare system and, yes, creating a new public plan, so that Americans have a choice.
“The goal of the public plan is to restart competition in health insurance markets. It would increase competition in health insurance markets by holding private insurers accountable by injecting transparency into the market.”
But Scott, however, said the “public plan” being discussed in Congress is an open doorway to a single-payer system – with the government eventually becoming the payer – and calling the shots.
"A public plan, where the government would compete with private plans, is just a step towards a single-payer system, which is the Canadian and UK systems," Scott told
It is impossible, Scott said, for there to be “fair and equal competition” for private insurers once government is involved, explaining that government never “sets the rules” with anyone but itself in mind.
"The government is going to make all the rules,” he added. “It's going to be politicized, which will mean that it will have too many bells and whistles so it'll be too expensive, so they'll say 'No we can't charge that much, so we'll subsidize it.’ So absolutely it won't compete with the private insurers, it'll run them out of business."
Meanwhile, Scott warned of the unintended consequences of any government-run health option.
“It’s easy for bureaucrats and politicians in Washington to talk about government-controlled health care, but when they finally realize that real mothers and daughters, fathers and sons will be affected by delays, waiting lists and rationing thanks to insensitive bureaucrats, perhaps they will come to their senses,” he added.
CPR’s ads have run on selected outlet across the country, including CNN and FOX News in the Washington, D.C., market, and on radio talk shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. The campaign has also targeted readers of the Web sites Politico, Real Clear Politics, National Review Online, and Fox News Web sites. The second phase of the campaign will focus on the effects of nationalized health care.
Calls to the SEIU were not returned.