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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Hitting Grassley With Inflated Numbers

Two liberal groups, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are airing an ad that faults Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley for not supporting a "public option" as part of any proposed health care legislation. But their ad uses inflated figures.

Grassley has spoken out against including a "public option" as part of a health care bill. The ad implies that he’s done so because he’s "taken over $2 million dollars from the big health and insurance industries that oppose reform." It puts the figure at $2,900,537 dollars, according to a graphic shown on screen. PCCC told us that the figure is calculcated by adding up the contributions made to Grassley from the insurance, health professionals, pharmaceuticals, hospitals/nursing homes, and health services/ HMO industries, as recorded by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The addition checks out, but the claim is misleading.

To start, not all of those industries used to tabulate that large figure "oppose reform." In fact, some have been vocal proponents of passing a health care bill, even including a new federal "public option" insurance program. The "health professionals" field includes doctors and nurses, for example. And the American Nurses Association has supported the president’s proposals and endorsed both the House and Senate bills containing a "public option." The ANA says: "The public plan option could bring positive competition to bear on the private insurance market, encouraging patient-centered, value-driven health care delivery, creating a win-win for those whom the healthcare system is supposed to serve, the people of the United States." As for doctors, the American Medical Association, a professional membership organization for doctors, has endorsed H.R 3200, the House health care bill that includes a public option.

Also, the pharmaceuticals industry through its trade association, PhRMA, has issued statements in support of a "comprehensive healthcare reform bill." PhRMA has even put its money where its press releases are by joining a coalition of labor unions, hospitals and others in airing television ads in support of "reform."

The ad’s sponsors also fail to mention that the $2.9 million total covers the last 20 years. The net effect is to give a somewhat inflated notion of the contribution totals and their importance. It’s a trick we’ve found other groups using in the past. Grassley has raised a total of more than $20 million from all sources. So even if the $2.9 million really did all come from opponents of a "public option," it would amount to a little more than 14 percent of his total.