Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone really wants Betsy McCaughey to be the next secretary of health and human services. This is remarkable even coming from a dedicated pot-stirrer like Stone, because McCaughey is widely considered a fraud by liberal and conservative public health experts.
“I travel in the Trump campaign circles, Betsy, and your name does keep popping up as a potential secretary for health and human services. From my mouth to God’s ears,” Stone said on his radio show Saturday.
“I would be so honored to serve in a Trump administration,” McCaughey replied. “And I would be so thrilled to fix this broken system and really give people choices again, and much more affordable health insurance. The idea of passing a law that everybody has to buy this one-size-fits-all government-designed plan ― it’s like passing a law where the only car you’re allowed to buy is a four-door sedan. The assumption is you’re too stupid to put the top up if you pick a convertible or close the hatchback if you choose one of those.”
McCaughey was recently named to Trump’s team of economic advisers for, well, who knows. Although she served one term as lieutenant governor of New York, McCaughey is best known for a series of wildly untrue claims about the Affordable Care Act.
Critiquing her preposterous assertions again is a fool’s errand, but here goes anyway.
No, Obamacare is not the health insurance equivalent of requiring everyone to buy a four-door sedan. It’s more like requiring every make and model of car to have seat belts and functional brakes.
There are all kinds of different insurance plans available under Obamacare, as people who have actually shopped on the heath care exchanges can attest. Policies are divided into bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans, and private-sector insurers offer variations within each category. The system has, in fact, been criticized for allowing too many different options, resulting in a confusing process for consumers.
For McCaughey, the sedan analogy was a relatively tame exaggeration. She has never served in a federal administration at any point during her 68 years on earth for the simple reason that even hardline conservatives do not believe she is a credible expert. HuffPost wrote up everything you need to know about her last week:
In 1994, she claimed that Hillary Clinton’s health care reform plan would bar people from purchasing care outside the new Clinton system, which would cruelly ration treatments to curb costs. It wasn’t true. The magazine that published the article would later disavow it.
Here’s what she said about Obamacare in 2009:
“One of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is on page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory ― absolutely require ― that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner ... all to do what’s in society’s best interest or your family’s best interest and cut your life short. These are such sacred issues of life and death. Government should have nothing to do with this.”
Pretty scary! And totally untrue. Completely, 100 percent false. Zero correspondence with reality. But McCaughey’s nonsense took off. She made the same claim in op-eds for The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. When Sarah Palin picked up the idea, the mandatory meetings morphed into “Obama’s death panel.” Conservative media and Republican politicians went wild.
But it was all based on nothing. McCaughey’s influence enrages actual policy experts who read legislation and accurately dissect the implications of new programs. As the typically measured Ezra Klein put it in The Washington Post in 2009: “Betsy McCaughey is really just a horrible, evil, awful, lying person who wants to make the world worse for people because that’s her ticket to increased TV time. There’s no other way to put it.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.