The old adage, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are” is very instructive in helping gauge the value of two opinion pieces recently published in The Advocate: “Louisiana’s ‘Obamacare’…” — Stephen Parente, June 28, Page 9B; and “Cassidy a formidable foe …” — Quin Hillyer, June 29, Page 7B.
On the face of it, both opinions are those of outsiders, not directly involved in Louisiana politics and, thus, assumed to be objective. But the contents of both articles arouse suspicion, for the first is a severe thrashing of “Obamacare,” indeed, a “hatchet job”; while the second is the softest of “puff” pieces in favor of Bill Cassidy, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.
This raises the questions: Who are these people who opine thusly? And can they be trusted to critique objectively?
Parente is, indeed, a professor. He holds the Minnesota Insurance Industry Chair of Health Finance. As far back as 2008, when he advised John McCain in his run for the presidency, Parente attacked Obama’s views on health care, specifically Obama’s coolness toward medical savings accounts, which McCain favored. Such savings accounts were being pushed, very aggressively, by OptimumHealth, a “bank” wholly owned by an insurance company in Minnesota, the United Health Group. So much for objectivity!
Since the Affordable Care Act became law, professor Parente has been an unrelenting foe. In the last two years, he has loosened a torrent of articles cloned from a central conceit, i.e., that “Obamacare” will produce an increase in the number of uninsured persons due to a wholesale reduction in employer-provided coverage and the failure of Medicaid to provide for the uninsured “near-poor.” Parente arrives at his conclusions by using the projections of a “micro-simulator model,” which he fails to identify but which he crows “was funded by both private and government sources.” His model’s predictions are flatly contradicted by the Congressional Budget Office, which says the uninsured will decrease by 12 million.
Hillyer, who paints a beatific picture of Cassidy, also is a person of dubious objectivity. He served as chairman of the Louisiana Young Republicans, worked on various Republican campaigns, served as Bob Livingston’s press secretary and most recently (2013) was a failed congressional candidate in a Republican primary in Alabama. Could he be expected to be impartial?
So, is “Obamacare” doomed to failure, bringing misery and disappointment to all Louisianans? And is Cassidy a secular saint, the new Albert Schweitzer? Both points can, and should, be debated rationally. But in my opinion, Messieurs Parente and Hillyer have disqualified themselves as arbiters in the discussion.