Another moment during the debate on the transparency bill, AB2967(Lieber) was when Assemblymember Ted Gaines questioned a key supporter of the bill, Laurie Sobel from Consumers Union, and asked “isn’t this something that you should be doing?”
It’s not a uncommon question for those who work at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine–one of the one of the most read magazines in the country, and one of the most trusted. I’ve been proud to work alongside them in different roles in my decade-and-a-half of consumer advocacy.
Laurie had an answer: she thanked the Assemblymember for the confidence, but that as much as Consumer Reports would be happy to provide the same kind of evaluation of doctors and hospitals as they do for cars and ceiling fans, with the trademark circles, there’s a limit to what they can do without this bill in place.
Most tellingly, no independent group can mandate reporting of doctors and hospitals, and it’s hard to provide a meaningful and complete report with the largely voluntary reporting systems we have now. This is a governmental function. There might be a role for CU or other advocates in analyzing the data, but we need the government to collect it and appropriately categorize it.
There’s often been several times in just the last few years when policymakers who oppose legislation to set consumer standards or provide more consumer information will say on the floor of the Assembly that this should be the role of Consumer Reports, not government. Yet these same policymakers never seem to follow the position of the actual publisher of Consumer Reports.