Thursday, March 5, 2009
Health care reform needed but Obama, advocates must be honest in their portrayals of problem
ABC News says that President Barack Obama today misrepresented the truth about the severity of health care costs on American families.
Obama said there was a bankruptcy due to medical costs every 30 seconds. ABC News says he was way off.
In addition, the figure of 48 million used to describe the number of uninsured Americans needs more clarification. The Heritage Foundation says that 30 million actually are without health care. The remainder have access to it but don't sign for whatever reason. I have seen no one dispute the Heritage Foundation contention.
I believe in universal health care for the savings it will ultimately produce for all health care consumers. We've got the stop the money grubbers in the health care industry by forcing collective change.
I also believe no American should live in fear of being without the care to save their lives. I know such fear as a leukemia survivor so far.
But the issue must be represented accurately. Obama failed to do that today at a gathering meant to show the nation the extent of the problem. He hurt more than helped.
President Obama’s kicking off his health care reform today in the worst possible way: with a mischaracterization of data.
“The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds," Obama said at the opening of his White House forum on health care reform. The problem: That claim, based on a 2001 survey, is simply unsupportable.
The figure comes from a 2005 Harvard University study saying that 54 percent of bankruptcies in 2001 were caused by health expenses. We reviewed it internally and knocked it down at the time; an academic reviewer did the same in 2006. Recalculating Harvard’s own data, he came up with a far lower figure – 17 percent.
A more recent study by another group, approaching it another way, indicates that in 2007 about eight-tenths of one percent of Americans lived in families that filed for bankruptcy as a result of medical costs. That rings a little less loudly than “one every 30 seconds.”