Well, hell, Nick Kristof got away with it. Why not play it some more?
On the heels of Kristof’s bogus health care horror story accusing Demcare opponents of letting Uninsured Americans Die (never mind that his poster child was already insured and getting treatment), more liberals in the media are playing the Murder Card.
Here’s Ezra Klein indicting Joe Lieberman for his “willing[ness] to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.”
And here’s Kirsten Powers in full Chicken Little mode: “Americans will die if we don’t provide universal health insurance.”
The fear-mongers rely on studies that echo the single-payer activists’ bogus no-universal-coverage=death health statistic that won’t die, which I deconstructed here.
John Goodman at NCPA has a thorough analysis of the literature. Here’s an excerpt, but be sure to read the whole thing:
Last year, a report by Families USA made the astounding claim that 6 people die every day in Florida because they are uninsured. Seven die every day in Texas, 8 in California, and 25 in New York.
How was Families USA able to tally up all that carnage with such pinpoint precision? As one of us previously explained, these claims are based on a 15-year cascade of studies — each repeating the errors and misinterpreting or mischaracterizing the findings of the previous one and ultimately relying on data that is 37 years old.
It begins with a paper by Peter Franks et al. published in Journal of the American Medical Association in 1993, estimating that being uninsured increased the probability of death by 25%. Although the subjects were interviewed only once, for the study’s inference to be meaningful, one is forced to make the unverified assumption that the uninsured stayed uninsured for a full 19 years!
Continuing the saga, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) uncritically used the Frank’s result to claim that 18,000 deaths a year in the U.S. are attributable to a lack of health insurance. The Urban Institute updated the IOM report, and Families USA updated that report.
Not to be outdone, the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) repeated the exercise (with all its methodological sins) and boosted the tally to a 40% increase in the probability of dying for the uninsured. That produces a whopping 45,000 premature deaths every year — almost as bad as the Vietnam War. And, yes, we get a state-by-state breakdown. There will be 5,302 deaths attributed to uninsurance in California this year. There will be 75 in Wyoming, etc., etc. There is even a minute-by-minute tally: “The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance,” says David Himmelstein, one of the authors. “Now one dies every 12 minutes.”
As in the previous incarnations, the researchers interviewed the uninsured only once — and never saw them again. A decade later, the researchers assumed the participants were still uninsured and, if they died in the interim, lack of insurance is blamed as one of the causes.
Yet, like unemployment, uninsurance happens to many people for short periods of time. Most people who are uninsured regain insurance within one year. The authors of the study did not track what happened to the insurance status of the subjects over the decade examined, what medical care they received or even the causes of their deaths.
Also, before you go into mourning too quickly, be aware that when former Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) June O’Neill and her husband Dave used a similar approach they found that the involuntarily uninsured (low-income people) were only 3% more likely to die over a 14-year period than those with health insurance. There was no statistically significant effect on the “voluntarily uninsured” (higher-income people).
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