My friend Jeremy Snavely at the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons sent me this.  The author, Eli Lehrer, states that the primary reason health care costs so much is physician salaries.  Followers of this blog are already fuming, aware of the true reasons for the high cost of care, the “not show a profit” hospitals, the politically connected giant insurance industry and of course our wonderfully accommodating federal officials over the years.  Our physician-owned surgery center is profitable charging amounts 1/10 of that charged by our “not show a profit” hospital friends across town.  Most insurance companies won’t even talk to us. This guy is not an idiot.  He knows this.  Why is he writing this trash? I think when I’m finished with him, you will see why.

While most can understand that the vast majority of the folks in congress are bought and paid for and can be counted on to operate in a manner consistent with the best interests of their benefactors, fewer people question the influences motivating folks like Mr. Lehrer.

For starters, Lehrer was a speechwriter for former senator Bill Frist, arguably one of the most corrupt individuals to ever sit in the senate.  Frist was actually “honored” in 2005 and 2006 as “one of the most corrupt members of congress” by the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.  Lehrer’s old boss was the heir and major stockholder for the healthcare giant HCA, one of the largest hospital chains in the world.  As such it should come as no surprise that Frist recently stated that had he still been in office, he would have supported Obamacare.  As this legislation benefits his company, HCA, this should come as no surprise.  This brazen conflict of interest when he was a senator is apparent in his voting record.  This was Lehrer’s boss and buddy.

After Lehrer’s stint with his old pal Frist, he landed a position as a manager at Unisys.  If you guessed that Unisys was a Health Information Technology company that made out like a bandit as a result of Obamacare, you go to the head of the class.

He is now president of “R Street,” a free market think tank in D.C.  Here’s a question for him and his “free marketeers.”  What should be the compensation of physicians in the U.S.?  As the free market has been thwarted in many ways in U.S. medicine, it is hard to know what a market clearing price for physician services or any other health care, for that matter, should be.  These market “disturbances” have benefitted and continue to benefit the organizations with which Mr. Lehrer is associated or those that support his work.  He claims to admire Hayek, whose opus, “The Road to Serfdom,” annihilates the central planning that Lehrer seems to admire.  Mr. Lehrer doesn’t really believe that U.S. physicians make too much and that this is the problem with the high cost of care.  What he does believe is that saying this is in the best interests of his buddies at the giant insurance companies,  HCA and Unisys, as writings like his provide a smoke screen for these true cost culprits.  I have no doubt that indicting physician compensation as the primary culprit of high health costs is deliberate misdirection on his part.

He quotes the American Hospital Association in his article to back him up, saying, “The American Hospital Association estimates that two thirds of all medical costs are attributable to wages and benefits.”  Maybe he is talking about the hospital administrators.  Maybe he’s conveniently forgotten about the million dollar nun running the Catholic Hospital Association.  I don’t think so.  The article outing this scandal was in The American Spectator, a publication to which Mr. Lehrer contributes.

The giant insurance lobby was so stoked about the formation of “R Street” the industry promoted their formation in articles and blogs.  ”R Street” formed when the Heartland Institute split up over the scam we know as global warming.  Hint:  the “R Street” bunch, headed by Lehrer, endorses the validity of global warming.  

Journalists and think tanks acting as shills for their corporate sponsors are a large and sleezy problem many people neglect to account for when asking Rothbard’s question, “cui bono,” or “who benefits.”  Seriously, who needs enemies when you have “friends” like Mr. Lehrer, masquerading as “free market” thinkers, chummy with the corporate D.C. cronies?  Looks like the phrase “free market” has gone Orwell on us too.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.