Déjà vu alert: Betsy McCaughey is pushing misinformation about health care legislation in Congress again.
Back in 1994, McCaughey wrote a New Republic article that popularized the false claim that people would not be able to purchase health care services outside the Clinton administration's proposed system of managed competition. The premise was that she had read the entire 1300+ page bill and discovered this coercive requirement, but she failed to mention the provision stating that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting ... [a]n individual from purchasing any health care services." (Incredibly, her article won a National Magazine Award and she went on to become lieutenant governor of New York.)
It's hard to understate the damage that McCaughey's article inflicted on the Clinton health care plan. The next week, former TNR editor Michael Kinsley slammed McCaughey's piece in his own column in the magazine, and subsequent reporting by James Fallows and Mickey Kaus showed it to be riddled with a number of false and misleading claims. By then, however, her claims had been repeated and disseminated throughout the national media. Hendrik Hertzberg, a former TNR editor now at The New Yorker, told me in previous reporting that "No Exit" was "the low point in the magazine's history since it stopped being sympathetic to the Soviet Union" and Fallows recently nominated her for "Most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person" during the 1990s.
For all of these reasons, it's disturbing to see McCaughey being given airtime on CNBC to promote new misinformation about the Democratic health care plan being developed in Congress. In this case, as Media Matters reports, she's falsely claiming that "the Democratic legislation pushes Americans into low-budget plans." And again, she's using the gimmick of pushing strained interpretations of specific provisions in the legislation ("That's Section 3101") while ignoring other provisions that directly undercut her arguments ("No individual shall be compelled to enroll in a qualified health plan or to participate in a Gateway").
Earlier this year, McCaughey tried the same close-reading gimmick with the stimulus bill, falsely claiming to have discovered that it will create "[a] new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology [that] will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective," leading to "rationing" for seniors.
How many times will we let McCaughey get away with this? It's time to cast her out of public discourse and shame anyone who gives attention to her claims.
Update 6/19 9:40 AM: McCaughey has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal making the same false claim. Under the Kennedy bill, she writes, "you must enroll in a 'qualified' plan or face a fine even if you and your employer are paying the entire cost of the plan you already have (section 161)." Again, the provision described above, which states that "No individual shall be compelled to enroll in a qualified health plan or to participate in a Gateway," is omitted. As TNR's Jonathan Cohn writes, "She has forfeited the right to be taken seriously, particularly when it comes to health care."