Some WCRI attendees thought my public criticism of former Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) was inappropriate (many did not).
Here’s why I called him out.
First, in talking about disability, Coburn asserted that SSDI – Social Security Disability Income – participation has exploded due to Democratic policies and politics. He said 25 million Americans are now covered by SSDI. That is flat-out wrong.
I questioned him publicly about his figure, asking where he got it. He immediately backtracked, saying it may be 22 or 25 million. I responded that, according to a quick google search, the actual number was less than 15 million.
Coburn had blamed the opposition party for a huge growth in SSDI that NEVER HAPPENED. He either made up the number of SSDI beneficiaries, was misled, or lied.
The real number, according to expert Yonatan Benshalom of Mathematica, is 9.8 million. Yonatan’s source is here. [Thanks Yonatan]
Why this matters
If Coburn’s false claim was allowed to stand, many in the audience may have left WCRI believing it. As policymakers, regulators, and thought leaders in workers comp, they would then have perpetuated the myth. That would lead to wrong decisions, lousy policy, and “solutions” for problems that don’t exist. For example, lawmakers may have sought legislation requiring an MSA-type allocation to indemnify SSDI for occupational disability from work comp insurers.
A more complex issue involves Coburn’s false assertion that the ACA was rammed thru “without any Republican input.” I noted that:
- The ACA’s core design came from the conservative Heritage Foundation
- The Gang of Six – half Dems, half Reps, met multiple times while ACA was being written – the Republicans were Enzi, Snowe, and Grassley, all of whom dropped out of the Gang under pressure from Republican Minority Leader McConnell.
- As a results of those meetings and other dialogue, multiple components of ACA were added or changed in an effort to garner Republican support including:
- removal of any public option
- addition of the Cadillac Tax
- reduction of the penalty for uninsurance
- removal of funding requirement for abortion services
- allowance for “religious” health insurance
Responding to my statements, Coburn said since he “was there”, he knew more about this than I did. He said was part of the Gang of Six – which he wasn’t. He WAS involved in a previous version of the “Gang” that dealt with tax reform –– but he was not involved in the Gang’s healthcare discussions. [I was peripherally involved via discussions with Congressional staffers and a meeting with Sen Ron Wyden (D OR) about reform]
There are many sources that refute Coburn’s false statements; here’s one.
For those interested in the real story, an excerpt:
[Senate Finance Committee] Chairman Max Baucus (D MT), in the spring of 2009, signaled his desire to find a bipartisan compromise, working especially closely with Grassley, his dear friend and Republican counterpart, who had been deeply involved in crafting the Republican alternative to Clintoncare. Baucus and Grassley convened an informal group of three Democrats and three Republicans on the committee, which became known as the “Gang of Six.” They covered the parties’ ideological bases; the other GOPers were conservative Mike Enzi of Wyoming and moderate Olympia Snowe of Maine, and the Democrats were liberal Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and moderate Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
The false narrative that Democrats rammed thru ACA without any Republican involvement has become accepted fact by many who haven’t read anything but headlines. Coburn’s false statements perpetuated that nonsense, and he deserved to be called out publicly for them.
There’s a bigger problem here – ideological blinders worn by some make it seemingly impossible for those individuals to accept facts. Fact-free discussions, or, even worse, decisions based on beliefs that are the opposite of reality lead to bad public policy.
What does this mean for you?
The people who attend WCRI are enormously influential in our little industry. They will determine the future of workers’ comp, how employees are treated and who will pay for that treatment.
They deserve to hear the truth.
PS – to the several anonymous commenters – as I’ve stated here numerous times, I don’t publish anonymous comments from cowards afraid to identify themselves.