How Malcolm Gladwell Shilled for the Health Care Lobby ... and Got Away with It
The following is an excerpt from The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell, a new book by investigative journalist Yasha Levine.
On the morning of June 22, 2012, Malcolm Gladwell addressed a large crowd of health insurance professionals assembled at the Salt Palace Convention Center in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah. The event was part of a four-day conference put on every year by America's Health Insurance Plans, the powerful health insurance mega-lobby better known as AHIP. That year, the conference's theme was the Supreme Court decision on President Obama's healthcare reform law:
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Gladwell was part of a lineup that included Chief Medical Officer of WellPoint Inc, as well as former Bush Administration spokesman Ari Fleischer. But Gladwell received top billing. He was scheduled to wrap up the last day of the conference, so he could work his magic and send health insurance professionals home feeling happy, entertained and ready for another grueling week at the office.
What exactly is AHIP? Well, it's another one of those bland acronyms that conceals something sinister and awful—well, awful for everyone but a handful of health insurance plutocrats and the corporate speakers who rake in sweet fees at its events.
AHIP is a powerful lobby organization defending the interests of the health insurance industry that fights against universal healthcare and basically against anything that might bring America into line with the civilized world's approach to healthcare. It represents roughly 1,500 for-profit health insurance companies in the U.S. and is notorious for a bottomless lobbying budget, as well as cutthroat and manipulative public relations campaigns. In recent AHIP has done perhaps more than any other corporate group to crush meaningful healthcare reform in America. To give you an idea of just how serious they are, it was recently revealed that AHIP gave the Chamber of Commerce over $100 million to lobby against government-run health insurance during Obama's push for healthcare reform. That's on top of spending huge amounts of money on astroturf campaigns and public relations offensives to smear anything advocating universal healthcare, such as Michael Moore's film Sicko.
In other words: AHIP fronts for and represents companies that make money by denying medical care to the sick.
And that's alright by Gladwell. His history of fronting for Pharma and Big Tobacco has shown clearly shown that he has no qualms about working for industries that profit off misery, pain and death. The 2012 AHIP conference was not the first paid gig that Gladwell's did for the health insurance industry. He had spoken at an AHIP conference at least once before in 2005 and, in his vague disclosure statement, signaled that he had done many similar engagements over the course of his career, writing that he had given talks to “groups of doctors, hospitals, insurers, as well as Pharmacy Benefit Managers and groups funded by the National Institutes of Health.”
The fact that AHIP and other health insurance organizations routinely paid Gladwell tens of thousands of dollars to entertain them at their corporate events does not come as a surprise. Gladwell's connection to the for-profit health insurance industry goes back to his training at the National Journalism Center, an organization that had been attacking healthcare reform as one of its core objectives. A 1996 Philip Morris memo happened to mention its work with the National Journalism Center on fighting healthcare reform: