Free-market cheerleaders have long relied on the flowchart to push their notion that government intervention makes a hash of things. Republican flowcharts helped knock the wind out of Clinton’s proposed health care reforms in the 1990s. And so it’s no surprise that opponents of President Obama’s health care reforms are once again pulling out charts.
Long before the Republican leadership released its flowchart of the plan put forward by House Democrats, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce unveiled its own chart comparing current regulation of health insurance plans to the confusion they claim would result from the House reform bill.
But a quick look at the Chamber analysis reveals links to the health insurance industry. To develop its chart, the Council turned to Leading Edge Policy and Strategy, a one-man shop run by Nandan Kenkeremath, a lobbyist and former Republican staffer at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. After concluding a 17-year career with the committee in 2008, Kenkeremath in January 2009 registered as a lobbyist for United Health Group, the largest U.S. health insurer.
Reached for comment, Kenkeremath said his United Health Group link does not pose a conflict of interest or detract from the validity of the Chamber chart. Kenkeremath said he never lobbied on heath care reform legislation for United Health Group, although he added he is open to the possibility. Instead, he said, his one-month United Health project involved writing amendments directed at Obama’s economic stimulus plan.
“I don’t even think they think of me as a lobbyist,” Kenkeremath said, adding that his company focuses on policy work. “I registered out of an abundance of caution.”
Avram Goldstein, a researcher for the advocacy group Health Care for America Now, was not surprised at the link. “The insurance industry pays third-parties, shills, to keep its fingerprints off this work. It’s effective and it’s scaring people,” he said of the charts.
A spokesman for the Chamber declined to comment on the United Health link, saying its health policy experts were on vacation.
A section of the health insurance flow chart released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Click for expanded view.