Sunday's "60 Minutes" report on the Medicare prescription drug bill and the lobbying and politics associated with it, which you can watch by clicking on the video box, has come in for criticism from a conservative group called The National Center For Public Policy Research.
A Question Of Corruption
In a press release, the Center criticizes "60 Minutes" for relying on a report (PDF) from the group Families USA. It claims the report falsely exaggerated Medicare drug prices because its data come from two relatively affluent counties.
"60 Minutes" producer Ira Rosen, who produced the segment, told me he stands by the story, saying that "Families USA data is represented nationally." I also spoke to Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack. Pollack told me that "the major plans that are providing prescription drug coverage are national plans. And the price data are similar from one area to another. If we literally did every county, we'd never get a report out. So what we've done is taken areas that we thought are representative – and checked to make sure that was true."
"Whenever we issue information like this, we know very well that this is going to be examined carefully," he added. "The drug lobby – PhRMA – has not criticized our data at all." PhRMA has criticized Family USA's decision to use the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a point of comparison, however, arguing that the VA system is fill of deficiencies. "60 Minutes" made the same comparison.
The Center also complained that "60 Minutes" identified Families USA as a non-partisan group, calling it "a left-wing organization with an agenda of increasing government involvement in health care."
"We are non-partisan – I want to be clear about that," said Pollack. "We have never supported or opposed any political candidate for any office, ever. I don't know how I could be more resolute about this. And indeed, our tax exempt status requires us to be." Pollack said that the vast majority of the group's finding comes from non-partisan foundations, though it has received a "tiny proportion of funding" from George Soros.