Because of the overriding importance of healthcare and insurance reform in Missouri, three of our area representatives, Ron Richard, R-Joplin; Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City; and Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin; combined their considerable intellects to write a joint legislative report, which was posted Saturday on the Joplin Daily website.
"To help standardize costs, the Department of Insurance would be asked to establish 12 to 20 risk-reporting categories. Categories of higher risk would be matched with higher premiums. For example, the everyday work of a brain surgeon carries considerably more risk than your family physician."
It is amazing that these three legislators, carrying with them the bedrock values of southwest Missouri were able to come up with nearly the same wording used by Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, in his Capitol Report dated Feb. 17.
Jetton writes, "To help standardize costs, the Department of Insurance will be asked to establish 12 to 20 risk-reporting categories. Categories of higher risk would be matched with higher premiums. For example, the work of a brain surgeon carries considerably more risk than your general family physician."
Those two paragraphs appear to differ by only two words.
The comparisons, however, can be taken even further. The column written by the hydra-type collection of area legislators appears to have taken wording from Rep. Jetton's column, but Rep. Jetton's column is remarkably similar to one posted by Rep. Danielle Moore, R-Fulton.
Ms. Moore writes, "To help standardize costs, the Department of Insurance would be asked to establish 12 to 20 risk-reporting categories. Categories of higher risk would be matched with higher premiums. For example, the everyday work of a brain surgeon carries considerably more risk than the work of your family physician."
The wording of the Joplin-area trio's column is identical to that in Ms. Moore's column.
The identical and similar wording is not just limited to that paragraph. All three columns use the exact phrase: "That translates into more affordable and more accessible healthcare for all Missourians," though Jetton and Ms. Moore used that as the concluding line in their column and the Joplin-area legislators did not.
All three columns mention President Bush's State of the Union address early in their text.
In Ms. Moore's Feb. 3 column- "Specifically, the company should not raise a doctor's premium by more than 10 percent and cannot determine not to renew the doctor's policy without giving 60 days notice."
In Jetton's Feb. 17 column- "Specifically, the company will not be allowed to raise a doctor's premium by more than 10 percent, and they cannot decide to terminate the doctor's policy without giving him 60 days notice."
In Saturday's Richard/Stevenson/Ruestman column- "Specifically, the company should not raise a doctor's premium by more than 10 percent, and they cannot determine not to renew the doctor's policy without giving 60 days notice."
Those are not the only areas of these "columns" that are similar or identical, but they are enough to give you a clear idea of what is going on.
In past posts, I have decried this practice as plagiarism, but it is something far more insidious than mere plagiarism. These appear to be columns that are provided to the legislators at the taxpayers' expense, clearly to promote their re-election, and no effort is being made to describe them accurately.
Rep. Jetton explained how the capital reports system works in an e-mail to The Turner Report, which was posted Dec. 14. This is what he said:
"I remember being in school and the rules for copying. In the House, it is a bit different. We openly share our reports with each other. If a Rep feels like I wrote something that they agree with they are free to use it in their districts at the same time; if I like what they are saying and a agree with it I may use it in mine.
"Of course, we may change it slightly to better reflect our exact thoughts. I can assure you all the Reps have a mind of their own but many times we vote with each other on key issues and when we find a rep who is communicating the same thoughts and feelings on a issue we will use that report.
"We have given each other full authority to copy, change or do whatever the other rep wants to do with the different reports folks write. Another point is with over 2,000 different bills introduced each year on all different kinds of subjects there is no way one person can be an expert and write about each one. This way if one rep who is an expert in a certain subject writes about it and a Rep agrees or likes it can save them valuable time. We do the same when it comes to getting advice on voting on issues.
"I trust a fellow rep or constitute before I trust a lobbyist.
"Just thought I might try to clear this up. Each Rep only has one assistant who usually works on taking care of constituent problems and doesn't have time to write capitol reports for the Rep."
While readers of that Dec. 14 Turner Report (and this one) may understand that; a hoax is being perpetrated on readers of the Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, Joplin.com, Newton County News and other sources that print these legislators' "columns" verbatim. Communicating with constituents is a commendable concept and one which should be embraced by all elected officials, but that communication should come with their own words. Newspapers that play along with these so-called "capitol reports" are committing a fraud on their readers.