An Experiment in Scotch

"I write to discover what I believe." Michael Lopp on Twitter

The State Of Health Care Reporting Is Sad

The front page arti­cle on CNN right now, if read uncrit­i­cally, would have the dear reader to believe that if you are unin­sured in Amer­ica, you are “at mor­tal risk” of dying pre­ma­turely and that 45,000 peo­ple die every year for the sole rea­son that they don’t have health insur­ance. Read more closely and you real­ize that all of the above is based on a study writ­ten by physi­cians who founded a pro­gram that sup­ports government-backed “single-payer” health cov­er­age and that is based on such hard data as “What all three of these peo­ple have in com­mon is that they expe­ri­enced symp­toms, but didn’t seek care because they were unin­sured and they wor­ried about the hos­pi­tal expense, accord­ing to their families.”.

Look, maybe we need sin­gle payer health care in this coun­try. Maybe we don’t. But how in the holy hell will any of us be able to decide if we are to base our deci­sions on crap­tas­tic report­ing like that linked above? Let us assume for a minute that it really is true that not hav­ing health insur­ance increases your risk of dying by 40%. Accord­ing to the CDC, the age group mea­sured in the study has a 1 in 305, or .32% of dying from cause whether you have health insur­ance or not. Acknowl­edg­ing that the data is a lit­tle messy, if you say the unin­sured have a 40% greater chance of dying, they are up to a whop­ping .46% chance of dying. For this, we’re going to com­pletely rewrite how we han­dle health care in this coun­try and hand it all to the gov­ern­ment, keeper of things like Social Secu­rity and the reg­u­la­tion of Bernie Madoff?

This is the way report­ing is going on CNN and other major media out­lets. It’s all scream­ing and histri­on­ics. This arti­cle is rid­dled with the three ter­ri­ble sound­ing anec­dotes, blam­ing their deaths on not hav­ing health insur­ance and being afraid to go to the hos­pi­tal ignor­ing any other pos­si­ble expla­na­tion like a free­lance cam­era­man who by his wife’s own admis­sion never com­plained about any­thing. Yet his death must have hap­pened because he didn’t have health insur­ance. Color me uncon­vinced which is the color black like my sad, cyn­i­cal heart.

Here’s another good one: one of the authors of the study, again who cre­ated a foun­da­tion to sup­port sin­gle payer gov­ern­ment spon­sored health­care, says that not hav­ing health insur­ance has become lethal. Guess what? Hav­ing health insur­ance is lethal too! Every­one dies. Hav­ing health insur­ance does not guar­an­tee that every­one will sud­denly start tak­ing care of them­selves and going to the doc­tor on a reg­u­lar basis any more than hav­ing auto insur­ance ensures that every­one will sud­denly start dri­ving the damn speed limit.

Seri­ously, health care is not a fun­da­men­tal human right. It just isn’t. In the long run, maybe it’s cheaper and bet­ter to have a sin­gle payer sys­tem and maybe it isn’t. But report­ing like this CNN hit piece isn’t fur­ther­ing the debate. It’s the sad state of big media today that we have to believe stuff like this is front page news.


  1. Wait!? Peo­ple with health insur­ance are dying!@?!?!? Those evil cor­po­rate health insur­ance swine, enslav­ing the peo­ple to feed their profit greed.

  2. yep, peo­ple who have health insur­ance are dying. and going slowly broke while doing it. whether we need a sin­gle payer sys­tem or not, whether health insur­ance is a right or not, the sys­tem is jacked up, and shock­ingly, the evil cor­po­rate health insur­ance swine, enslav­ing the peo­ple to feed their profit greed, have plenty to do with that. that’s far from the only con­trib­u­tor to the prob­lem, but atti­tudes like that one aren’t going to fix things any faster than report­ing like CNN’s.

  3. to be clear, my com­ment isn’t pointed at the orig­i­nal post. i couldn’t agree more. maybe i should start using those stu­pid twitter-style ‘@’ tags…or just keep my trap shut.

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