Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

During his New Hampshire town hall meeting on health care reform in mid-August, Obama explained that under his plan, people who lack health insurance would be able to purchase it in a new exchange that offered a similar “menu of options that I used to have as a member of Congress.” Obama said that by creating a big pool of potential customers, the exchange would allow the uninsured and even small businesses to shop around, easily compare various private health care plans and get a better deal than they could on their own.

Most of the health care reform bills circulating in Congress contain some form of this concept. The exchange, in fact, is now the centerpiece of proposed plans drafted mainly by Democrats. It’s a curious development, because the concept was largely popularized by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank best known in recent years for advocating Social Security privatization during the Bush administration. Its track record ought to make Americans more wary of Obama's proposals than any talk of "socialized medicine."
 

Surgeon General Pick Worked For Burger King

When President Obama first nominated Alabama doctor Regina Benjamin as surgeon general, critics charged that the nominee was too fat to serve as the nation's leading public health advocate. Those same critics will no doubt find more ammunition in today's Washington Times, which reports that Benjamin has financial ties to big-time fast-food corporations—the scourge of public health advocates everywhere. According to the Times,  Burger King paid Benjamin about $10,000 to serve on an advisory board, where she supposedly advocated for healthy improvements in the company's food offerings. Given that the company's new "Angry Triple Whopper" contains nearly 2,000 milligrams of sodium, 91 grams of fat and 1360 calories, it's hard to see how much influence Benjamin had.

The Times homes in on Benjamin's ties to the fast-food giant, but buried in the story as well is the news that Benjamin received $20,000 for sitting on an advisory board at ConAgra, one of the nation's biggest processed food companies, maker of Slim Jims, Fiddle Faddle, the ever-popular Manwich sloppy Joe sauce.  NYU prof and nutrition guru Marion Nestle told the Times that the corporate food payments were hugely problematic for someone whose job it should be to encourage the public to shun those companies’ products. "Fast-food companies are not public health agencies; their job is to sell fast food - and the more, the better," Dr. Nestle said. "For me, this would represent an impossible conflict of interest."

Big Business' Health Care Offensive

Yesterday, the world's biggest business asociation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, launched a $2 million ad campaign designed to "protect employer-sponsored health care." The campaign, aimed at fending off any proposal to create a "public option" for insurance coverage, represents the opening salvo in the business community's attack on health care reform. (See one ad below.)

Until now, most of corporate America has remained on the sidelines while liberal groups and unions have jammed the airwaves with ads attacking conservative Democrats opposed to the public plan option. Virtually the only ads opposing the public option so far have come from  Rick Scott, a rich guy who made his money running a hospital chain guilty of epic fraud. Part of the business groups' reticence has come from disagreement on the various reform proposals, but also from an admonition from the White House and Sen. Max Baucus threatening to ban them from the bargaining table should they run attack ads before any bills were even in play. Now that the bills are on the House floor, the advertising floodgates are apparently swinging open.

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