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Too much misinformation in health reform debate

I am writing in response to a letter to the editor appearing in Sept. 23 Bemidji Pioneer from Kristen Lopez Eastlick at the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C. She is disputing the accuracy of the number of 47 million uninsured Americans being put forward in the debate over health care reform. I would like to make the following points.

- She quotes a study that reports the half of the households are "voluntarily uninsured" with an average income of $65,000. The term "average income" can hide the reality. If Bill Gates walks into a soup kitchen offering food to unemployed homeless suddenly the "average" person in the room is now a millionaire! However the majority are still poor.

- The Web site for the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C., says that it is a "non-profit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth." From, I found that "Employment Policies Institute is one of several front groups created by Berman & Co., a Washington, D.C., public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman, who lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries." In its annual Internal Revenue Service return, EPI states that it "shares office space with Berman & Company on a cost pass through basis." So, in fact, EPI is a propaganda organ for a Washington lobbyist and hardly an unbiased source for information. I would guess that EPI sent hundreds or thousands of copies of this letter to newspapers throughout the country seeking free press to spread this misinformation.

- EPI has been opposed to health care reform for a long time as seen in its 1994 press release (written by R.J. Reynolds, a major tobacco company) that predicted the loss of 2 million to 3 million jobs if the Clinton Health Care Plan was enacted. Most people now recognize that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

The debate about health care reform is very important to be distorted by false "facts" presented by those who don't want to change the current system which by all reports is the most expensive per person in the world and unfortunately not the best overall.

Gerald Manley