This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The Lewin Group is a national health care consulting firm based in Falls Church, Virginia, that in 2007 is wholly owned by the health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group acquired the firm in 2007.
The Lewin Group is the source of the most frequently-cited statistic invoked by those opposing health care reform in 2009: that nearly 100 million people will lose their employer-provided health insurance if a government-run public health insurance option is available. When citing this statistic, its source, the Lewin Group, is said to be a "non-partisan" firm that provides health care consulting.
Portrayal as an nonpartisan, independent firm
Despite its corporate ownership, opponents of health care reform often cite the Lewin group as an impartial, non-partisan or independent source of information. House Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia), has referred to it as "the nonpartisan Lewin Group." Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have called it an "independent research firm." Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, referred to the Lewin Group was "well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country." They do not mention, however, that the Lewin Group is owned by UnitedHealth Group.
The Lewin Group has a reputation as the "go to" firm for beleaguered organizations in need of reports and research to support controversial positions and issues. In one example, in 2005 the American Hospital Association hired the Lewin Group to study the causes of skyrocketing health care costs. The study results blamed increased hospital spending on the rising costs of goods, a workforce shortage and greater demand for hospital services, but did not mention health insurance company profits, stock values, shareholder returns, etc. (Aug. 29, 2005, p. 8).
Corporate ownership and legal troubles
Lewin Group is owned by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth called Ingenix that was accused by the American Medical Association and the New York attorney general of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied UnitedHealth and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the "reasonable and customary" doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care. In January, UnitedHealth agreed to a $50 million settlement with the New York Attorney General and a $350 million settlement with the AMA, covering conduct going back as far as 1994. 
Launch of the Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research
On July 16, 2009, the Lewin Group announced the launching of another group, the Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research, which touts the Lewin Group’s record of "independent analysis of health information technology." The Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research was formed to take advantage federal stimulus funds directed towards comparative effectiveness research (CER) for medical care. Lisa Chimento, senior vice president of the Lewin Group stated, “The investment of more than a billion dollars in federal funding to be used for CER through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 underscores the important role this kind of research will play in setting priorities to improve access to care, care outcomes and resource utilization across the nation.” The press release about the launch of the Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research reiterates the Lewin Group's claims of independence and impartiality: "The Lewin Group operates with editorial independence and provides its clients with the very best expert and impartial health care and human services policy research and consulting services."
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- ↑ David A. Platten, Newsmax.com Experts: Obama's 'Public Option' Insurance Will Abandon 100 Million Citizens July 21, 2009
- ↑ Devon Glass, InjuryBoard.com Republican's Use Private Insurance Front Group To Argue Against Health Care Reform Blog. July 24, 2009
- ↑ Cinda Becker Ingenix acquires Lewin Group; "Go to" consultancy boosts UnitedHealth's portfolio Modern Healthcare. June 18, 2007
- ↑ David S. Hilzenrath Insurer-Owned Consulting Firm Often Cited in Health Debate Washington Post. July 23, 2009
- ↑ Ingenix The Lewin Group Launches Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research Press release. July 16, 2009