Congratulations to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom!
Ezra Klein on Health Care: The Insurance Industry's Deceptive Report

Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned-and-Smoking Watch

You know, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post could actually try to do her job if she wanted to.

Today Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post carries a lot of water for the lobbyists. What she writes:

Insurance Group Says Health Bill Will Mean Higher Premiums: After months of collaboration on President Obama's attempt to overhaul the nation's health-care system, the insurance industry plans to strike out against the effort on Monday with a report warning that the typical family premium in 2019 could cost $4,000 more than projected.

The critique, coming one day before a critical Senate committee vote on the legislation, sparked a sharp response from the Obama administration. It also signaled an end to the fragile detente between two central players in this year's health-care reform drama.

Industry officials said they intend to circulate the report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers on Capitol Hill and promote it in new advertisements. That could complicate Democratic hopes for action on the legislation this week.

Administration officials, who spent much of the spring and summer wooing the insurers, questioned the timing and authorship of the report, which was paid for by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry trade group...

A correspondent emails me what Ceci Connolly does not write:

In the early 1990s, Price Waterhouse did similar handiwork on behalf of Big Tobacco, serving up allegedly hard data to bolster arguments that a new excise tax on tobacco (a proposed mechanism to fund Clintoncare) would destroy hundreds of thousands of good American jobs. Dire predictions. But a subsequent review of Price Waterhouse’s methods by an independent team at Arthur Andersen revealed that Price Waterhouse’s “grossly exaggerated” and “one-sided analyses” were so “flawed” as to produce “patently unreliable results.”

Some quotes: “The PW Report relied on methods and assumptions that create false and misleading results.” “There are serious methodological problems and errors of omission (one-sided analyses likely to lead to misinterpretation) in... the PW Report.” “The PW Report... attributes 161,601 mining and construction jobs to the tobacco industry. This is approximately equal to the entire employment of the coal mining industry.” “These and other serious flaws in the Price Waterhouse Report and the Tobacco Institute Estimates build upon one-another in a cumulative fashion to present grossly exaggerated and misleading estimates.” “The cumulative effect of PW’s methods... is to produce patently unreliable results."

Jon Gruber of MIT's first reaction to AHIP/PWC is: "highly implausible."

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Shut the Washington Post down by 2012