How will the Huffington Post turn around its much-criticized health coverage? With a doctor who consults for the likes of McDonalds, PepsiCo and Mars Inc., the candy maker. Dr. Dean Ornish is already at work plugging his clients.
Ornish's appointment as HuffPo medical editor was first reported in Salon two weeks ago; HuffPo issued a formal announcement today. Ornish's practice of taking money from people who make terrible, unhealthy food is controversial but not unprecedented; Ornish's clients no doubt appreciate the title of his book Eat More, Weigh Less, if not the content, which says to avoid meat and simple sugars. The Harvard-trained medical professor is at least open about his deals; his latest HuffPo column openly admits taking money from Safeway, then quicky urges Congress — under lobbying by Safeway CEO Steve Burd — to emulate the grocery chain's health plan.
Safeway cut costs partly by incentivizing patients to exercise and quit smoking. But Ornish never mentioned its less pleasant side: the plan shifted costs to patients, spiking deductibles and requiring people to pay 20 percent "coinsurance" when they got sick. The net impact was to raise costs for many diseased people who, through no fault of their own, were not well enough to meet Safeway's incentives. These problems have all been outlined by one Dr. Don McCanne, who you might know from such websites as.... the Huffington Post. Let's see if the good doctor contributes there again.
(Pic: Huffington and Ornish at Huffington's 2004 book party. Getty Images.)