Wednesday, March 23, 2011


In The Wall Street Journal today, Senator Ron Johnson, the teabag hero who beat Russ Feingold, uses his daughter's early-1980s heart condition to slam health care reform:

... Some years ago, a little girl was born with a serious heart defect: Her aorta and pulmonary artery were reversed. Without immediate intervention, she would not have survived....

She wasn't saved by a bureaucrat, and no government mandate forced her parents to purchase the coverage that saved her. Instead, her care was provided under a run-of-the-mill plan available to every employee of an Oshkosh, Wis., plastics plant.

If you haven't guessed, this story touches my heart because the girl is my daughter, Carey....

I don't even want to think what might have happened if she had been born at a time and place where government defined the limits for most insurance policies and set precedents on what would be covered....

Notice Johnson's reference to "every employee of an Oshkosh, Wis., plastics plant." Here's the thing he doesn't mention and clearly doesn't want his readers nationwide to realize: he wasn't just an employee -- he was an owner of the company, called Pacur, which (depending on which story you believe) was either founded in 1977 by some of his in-laws or founded in 1979 by Johnson with an in-law. (It's clear that the company was named for Johnson's brother-in-law, Patrick Curler, and had one of his father-in-law's companies as its only customer for quite some time.)

Last July, while campaigning, he also used his daughter's health problems to score political points. At that time he didn't merely say that the health plan that covered his daughter was available to every employee -- he said everyone at the company had the same plan:

Johnson said his family pushed for cutting edge medical care.

"You sometimes have to go outside of where maybe you're first going to find these very advanced centers and that's what we had to do."

Johnson said the insurance plan of his Oshkosh plastics manufacturing plant was not with a health maintenance organization (HMO) and did not carry the restrictions on providers and procedures typical with HMOs.

"I always made sure at Pacur, we'd have the type of fee-for-service that allowed that."

Johnson said the company's plan was market competitive and not a "Cadillac" plan. As company president, Johnson said he has the same health insurance plan as other employees.

(Or perhaps he's saying that he has the same plan as just some other employees -- the ones who can afford it.)

So what's the story? And if everybody at Pacur is covered by such a swell plan, why was it being reported last year that five Pacur employees with children were on BadgerCare, Wisconsin's government-run plan for uninsured workers?

Johnson pats himself on the back for offering a good health plan at Pacur. But what do you if you work someplace where such a plan isn't offered? And what do you do if you're not the boss, and you're not married to the boss's daughter (or, in this case, the daughter of the boss at your #1 client)? How do you get the kind of care Ron Johnson's daughter got? Can you even get care at all?

Johnson has done very well in life. He's not looking out for your interests. He's looking out for the interests of people like himself.


Ron Johnson doesn't like government programs -- but it's been reported that his very job at Pacur was created under a federal government grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and that a rail spur directly to the Pacur plant was also built with a HUD grant. Oh, and meanwhile, Pacur paid zero in state income taxes from 1997 through 2008.


(UPDATE: Header typo fixed.)

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