Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who is Grace-Marie Turner?

Today's As I See It in the Telegram and Gazette featured an article by Grace-Marie Turner.  I'm constantly frustrated by op-ed pieces like this because there is limited context regarding the author, who they work for, what expertise they have on a specific issue, and most importantly, if they aren't local, why are they in the T&G?  Once again, the Op-Ed page fails to let us know who Grace-Marie Turner is, so I dug a little deeper.  Here are the results.
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According to her bio at the end of the article:
"Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit research organization focusing on patient-centered solutions to health reform. She can be reached at P.O. Box 320010, Alexandria, VA, or at turner@galen.org."
Here is an interview conducted by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest:

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Here is an interview conducted by ALG News:


It all sounds reasonable, until you realize who is interviewing Grace-Marie Turner, and who she works for.  Take a moment to read Sourcewatch.org's page on CMPI.  Mrs. Turner's interview denouncing the danger of imported, cheaper drugs for Americans takes on a whole new life when you realize she is being interviewed by a front group funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

As for ALG News?  Here is Sourcewatch.org's page on Americans for Limited Government (ALG), funded by Howard Rich, the subject of a September 2006 piece on PBS's Now.  (In a stunning coincidence, the front page for ALG links to Defundpublicbroadcasting.org.)  ALG was in Massachusetts as recently to search for voter fraud during the January 2010 special election.  ALG is an astroturf organization designed to push one very wealthy man's view on politics into the mainstream, whether or not these points are valid.  Here's an interesting website on Howard Rich's role in South Carolina politics, despite living in New York.
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So what is the Galen Institute?  According to their About Us page, the Galen Institute believes:
"-Consumers and their physicians should have authority and responsibility over health care decisions; The vibrant free market will encourage research and innovation and provide better access to new medical technologies; and A market that supports innovation will lead to lower costs, expanded choice, and increased access to better medical care."
According their web page, the Galen Institute is funded by:
"[a]variety of sources, including philanthropic foundations, individual donors, and companies both inside and outside the health sector."
According to Powerbase.org's page on The Galen Institute, they received funding from the following grants:

-The Scaife Foundations, the umbrella for multiple foundations, which is "Financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune. At one time its largest single holding was stock in the Gulf Oil Corporation. Became active in funding conservative causes in 1973."

-Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which supports "[the] organizations and individuals that promote the deregulation of business, the rollback of virtually all social welfare programs, and the privitization of government services."
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Do you really think that the Galen Institute would write an Op-Ed that would favor individuals getting access to health care that was efficient and cheap?  Or would they write an Op-Ed in favor of a busted system that denies care, jacks rates, and does it's very best to deny care if it is too expensive?  Here's Ms. Turner's money quote from her op-ed:
"ObamaCare imposes a battery of new rules on insurance plans, dictating that they must spend a certain percentage of premium payments on medical care vs. administrative costs. But many firms simply can’t meet the test, for a number of reasons."
Her problem is the new health care law mandates that 80 to 85 cents of every dollar spent by these plans go directly to actual health care, and not administrative costs or profits.  What are the reasons they can't comply?  Is it because she is funded by for-profit companies that don't want to lose their profit margin?

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If you follow their past behavior, the Galen Institute did their best (along with the rest of the for-profit heath care system) to undermine Michael Moore's Sicko.  That's fine, not everyone agrees with Mr. Moore or his movies.  But recently, Wendell Potter, a former CIGNA public relations guru, wrote a book called Deadly Spin: An Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Americans and Deceiving Americans.  In it, he details how the industry has resisted any sort of reform through astroturf organizations, misinformation, lobbying, and in Michael Moore's case, even researching his family.  I highly recommend Michael Moore's face to face discussion with Wendell Potter: Part 1, Part 2.  In light of Mr. Potter's revelations, can we really trust a tax exempt foundation like the Galen Institute to be objective when reporting on an industry that finances its own existence?
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You would think that the Telegram would reveal the Galen Institute's connections, but they followed the lead of other papers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner.  Other papers like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Juneau Empire identify Grace-Marie Turner in a more responsible manner:
"Grace-Marie Turner is president and founder of the Galen Institute, which is funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries."
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I wish the Telegram and Gazette was that responsible.  (Although if they weren't, I wouldn't have anything to write about today!)

5 comments:

zed said...

Well done, that's excellent info, thank you. People need to see where that kind of propaganda comes from. You should have linked to your blog from the Telegram comment.

Nicole said...

Thanks for this, Sean. Really, really great.

Tracy Novick said...

Excellent job, Sean. I had to admit that I had my suspicions on this one, but I sure didn't do the digging you did!

Sean Dacey said...

And of course, my emails to the T&G have been ignored. I guess expecting a response within 24 hours from anyone in charge would be too much to expect.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it took all of 10 minutes to research funding for the Galen Inst. Congratulations! Now let's hear why you think her free market ideas about health care are wrong. Can you handle that son?