Reality Check on Health Care Comparisons

While the Canadian health care system is not on the table in this country and is not what I would like to see, the scare stories from the right are still ridiculous. Conservatives attack the Democratic proposals, which are quite conservative when compared to the health care plan in Canada, with warnings of becoming like Canada. An op-ed in The Ottawa Citizen provides a reality check, beginning with the title and subtitle: A reality check on a reality check. For years, Canadians have feared the American health care system; now Americans are being told to fear ours.

The column proceeds to debunk claims about a case used by conservatives as an example of Canadian care and compares this with actual health care in the United States:

Holmes has become the darling of conservatives and the stop-public-health-care movement in the United States. She’s testified before Congress, been on Fox TV as well as CNN, and her story is retold on hundreds of right wing blogs. She’s now doing a nasty TV ad for Patients United Now, a Republican-led group opposed to Obama’s reforms. You can see the ad at The group is spending almost $2 million on it to target politicians in Washington.

For a person living with cancer, the idea that someone’s care could be unreasonably delayed is truly scary. It also doesn’t reflect the experience I’ve had or the experiences that have been shared with me by so many other patients. Even CNN interviewed Doug Wright, a more typical patient in Toronto who is receiving very speedy treatment for his cancer.

Still, I found Holmes tale both compelling and troubling. So I decided to check a little further. On the Mayo Clinic’s website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it’s somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes’ “brain tumour” was actually a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, “Rathke’s Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts.”

There’s no doubt Holmes had a problem that needed treatment, and she was given appointments with the appropriate specialists in Ontario. She chose not to wait the few months to see them. But it’s a far cry from the life-or-death picture portrayed by Holmes on the TV ads or by McConnell in his attacks.

In Senator McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, one out of three people under age 65 do not have any health insurance. They don’t have to worry about wait times for hip or knee replacement or cancer surgery — they can’t get care. The media household income in Kentucky is $37,186 — not quite enough for the $97,000 bill at the Mayo Clinic. CNN didn’t mention that in its “Reality Check.”

As the debate on health care reform heats up the United States, it seems certain that Canada’s public health care system will be used, or more accurately misused, in the battle for hearts and minds. For years, Canadians have feared the American health care system; now Americans are being told to fear ours.

Sarah Palin’s Resignation Speech–A Dramatic Reading

I’ve already posted Jon Stewart’s commentary on Sarah Palin’s resignation speech. Conan O’Brian believes the speech is best interpreted as a poem. He had William Shatner come onto The Tonight Show to read the speech as it was intended to be heard (video above).

Obama’s Birth in Hawaii Confirmed Once Again

The Birther movement is an embarrassment for serious Republicans who realize this whole faux controversy is a gift to the Democrats.There is once again confirmation that Obama was born in Hawaii, but there’s no doubt that the conspiracy theorists will find a way to deny the evidence. The Honalulu Advertiser reports:

Hawai’i’s Health Department confirmed yesterday that it has President Obama’s original Aug. 4, 1961, birth certificate in storage, but the announcement is unlikely to satisfy conspiracy theorists who insist Obama was born in Kenya.

“We don’t destroy vital records,” Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said. “That’s our whole job, to maintain and retain vital records.”

The Health Department’s director reiterated yesterday that she has seen Obama’s birth records.

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai’i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” Fukino said in a statement. “I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008, over eight months ago.”

Fukino tried on Oct. 31 to put an end to the belief among so-called “birthers” that Obama was not born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital. The birthers insist that Obama was not born in the U.S. and is therefore ineligible to be president.

Despite Fukino’s statement yesterday — and several court rulings and statements by Hawai’i’s Republican governor, Linda Lingle, the issue continued to resonate from Capitol Hill to the blogosphere.

It is doubtful that this will convince those who believe Obama is not an American citizen. Conspiracy theorists can always come up with a new argument since they are not bound by reality and they typically consider any source of contrary information to be part of the conspiracy.

Birthers will continue to deny that the birth certificate is legitimate. We saw similar denial after the claims of the Swift Boat Liars in the 2004 election were proven to be politically-motivated fabrications. For years after John Kerry’s military records were both posted on line and reviewed by journalists many right wing blogs continued to post claims that Kerry’s military records were never released.

John Stewart Says Goodby To Sarah Palin

CBO Report Disputes Conservative Scare Tactics Regarding Public Option

Conservatives have been showing a strange lack of confidence in the free market. They generally take the line that private business is always far more efficient than anything done by government but they now claim that private insurance would not be able to survive if forced to compete with a public insurance option. We see examples that their arguments are wrong every day. George Bush set up Medicare Advantage plans to compete with the government-run Medicare program (although he also did give them large subsidies in return for their past campaign contributions). Federal Express, UPS, and other companies are doing well despite competition form the Post Office. A new Congressional Budget Office report also disputes conservative claims that the public option would force out private insurance:

A separate budget office report made public Monday found that a health care reform bill that includes a public option sought by Democrats would result in 3 million more people enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage by 2016, compared with what would happen under current laws. The report, responding to questions from Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, was not a final review, the office said.

Pelosi seized on its findings, declaring: “The CBO has … disputed claims made by the Republicans about what our legislation will do.”

Hoyer said the Republican claim that a public option would reduce health insurance choices also is wrong, according to the budget office analysis.

“Republicans are making ridiculous claims, frankly, about reform because they know that the status quo cannot be defended,” Hoyer said.

Glancing through the blogosphere I note a pattern with regards to conservatives paying attention to CBO reports. Many Republicans are ignoring this report as they also ignored the CBO reports before the Iraq war which showed that the war would cost far more than the Bush administration predicted.

Conservative blogs did heavily cover two recent reports which showed little in the way of cost savings in the Democratic health reform plans. There is certainly a strong argument, which I have made in the past, that the Obama administration has been overly optimistic about cutting costs. This is a bipartisan problem. George Bush went as far as to threaten Medicare officials with being fired if they testified before Congress about the real cost of his Medicare Part D plan.

The CBO reports are not really good measure of potential cost savings due to the way that their studies are conducted. The CBO can only include hard savings which are included in current legislation. They cannot include estimated savings from various restructuring of the health care system which are likely to result in savings  but which cannot be measured. They also cannot include savings which are promised by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries but which are not firmly written into law.