Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bloggers condemn Families USA Report

Families USA, a liberal lobbying group launched a nationwide media campaign this month to push its agenda of universal health insurance. The campaign is based on propaganda that the lack of health insurance is contributing to an increase in pre-mature deaths. The press releases titled “Dying for Coverage…” are prepared separately for each state in order to peak local interest manipulating statistics on the number of uninsured people on state by-state basis as the basis for calculating a number of deaths for maximum media impact. The problem is that the re is no factual basis for the mortality calculations or for jumping to the conclusion that health insurance is the controlling factor in cases of inadequate health care. The majority of information published on this topic would directly contradict the Families USA opinions.

Surprisingly, a large number of mainstream media reporters picked up on the press releases and published stories that present the opinions without checking the background. These are a few headlines that appeared around the country:

“Lack of health insurance can be lethal for Alaskans”, 4/12/08, Anchorage Daily News

““Report: 460 Hoosiers die each year due to lack of health coverage”, 4/5/08, Lafayette Journal & Courier

““Deaths tied to lack of insurer: 1,000 in N.C. died for want of health plan, study says”, 4/5/08, Winston-Salem Journal

““Report: Thousands die from lack of insurance; Several Missourians of working age with no coverage die each week, study shows”, Springfield News-Leader

Normally the mainstream media would recognize this type of press release as a political spin and ignore it. We do not know whether reporters simply took the easy route of writing their story by reproducing the press release without gathering additional information or whether perhaps the writers personally support the efforts of Families USA. Some of the reporters indicate that they are covering only the published report, and are not implying that their article is a balanced news report on the topic. In either case, it is clear that the newspapers readers were not been as easily fooled.

Public comments on Web sites are sharply critical of the campaign. These are a few comments (without citations) posted by boggers on the newspaper articles:

“Lack of insurance doesn't kill people. Lack of treatment, lack of living a healthy lifestyle, lack of exercise, lack of a healthy diet.....those things are much more likely to kill someone. It might take some effort to find insurance or health care, but it's available”.

“Uninsured who live a healthy lifestyle will lead longer, healthier lives without the side effects from the pharmaceuticals that modern medicine uses as a band-aid. Modern medicine does not attempt to find the cause of a medical condition, but only treats the symptoms”.

“merely having health insurance is no guarantee that you will be able to seek out treatment”.

“the affordability of health care is not directly related or controlled by employment status, income or insurance”.

"5 out of 6 people who die prematurely do have health insurance! What does that say about the importance of health insurance in causing deaths?"

We did not reproduce any of the more crudely worded criticisms but a strong majority of bloggers found the report objectionable. Other comments pointed out that we have long known that 80% of our nation's health care costs are directly tied to five behavioral factors – smoking, over-eating, lack of exercise, lack of stress management, and poor nutrition. There is no indication that there is any connection between health insurance and these five key behavioral issues. Other writers pointed out that no one in America who actively seeks treatment is denied basic health care – regardless of their ability to pay. Every state has adequate welfare type health care for those who are willing to spend their own money before requesting public assistance for medical expenses. Free basic medical treatment clinics and hospitals that provide free care based on demonstrated financial need operate in most geographical areas.

The consistency of the theme of the strong majority of these public responses indicates that Americans are increasingly aware that additional regulation of health insurance without addressing the underlying health care affordability issues is pointless and will only cause further harm. The most comprehensive public opinion studies including a massive survey by the AFL-CIO covered in U.S. News and World Report in March 2008 indicates that the majority do not support mandated health insurance or additional government intervention in health insurance.

At, we consider ourselves to be activists in the health care reform movement and we support the lobbying efforts of many reputable organizations like America’s Health Insurance Plans, Kaiser Foundation and and we would financially benefit from national health insurance reforms, but we feel that it is ethically necessary to distance ourselves from the intentionally deceitful strategies of Families USA. This type of propaganda will not help promote a solution to the national health care affordability crisis.

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