Friday, March 6, 2009

Well, Look Who's Catching Up

One of the most disturbing things about the current administration and those who rule the Congress is their continuing, unfettered use of bogus statistics. The problem is that, like the so-called "global warming" crisis, their statistics and conclusions are often completely untrue, but their continued repetition with media complicity causes them to be accepted as gospel.

So it is with the One's claim that medical costs cause a bankruptcy "every thirty seconds.' Put simply, this is absolutely untrue, a fact discussed at length by Gary Langer, who is the director of polling for . . . wait for it . . . ABC! As Langer recounts:

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.”

How is this error possible? As usual, it's all in the definitions:

A good part of the problem is definitional. The Harvard report claims to measure the extent to which medical costs are “the cause” of bankruptcies. In reality its survey asked if these costs were “a reason” – potentially one of many – for such bankruptcies. Beyond those who gave medical costs as “a reason,” the Harvard researchers chose to add in any bankruptcy filers who had at least $1,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses in the previous two years. Given deductibles and copays, that’s a heck of a lot of people. Moreover, Harvard’s definition of “medical” expenses includes situations that aren’t necessarily medical in common parlance, e.g., a gambling problem, or the death of a family member. If your main wage-earning spouse gets hit by a bus and dies, and you have to file, that’s included as a “medical bankruptcy.”

Just so it's clear -- if you (a) have $1000 in unreimbursed medical expenses (not necessarily unpaid), (b) listed medical costs as one of the reasons -- not the sole reason or even a primary reason -- for filing, (c) filed because of a gambling problem, or (d) filed because your spouse, the primary wage earner, died suddenly, you filed because of our health care system!

If you define "medical" as "related to human life," everything is medical.

These definitional issues are recurring problems with government generally and Democrats specifically. Few people will read or hear Mr. Langer's dissection of the One's distortions, but many have heard and will repeat the One's ludicrous assertions. As long as he gets to define the terms of the debate and cherry pick the data, the media will march with him in lockstep and we will all suffer the dire consequences, starting with a "down payment" of $640 billion toward socialized medicine.

Still, it's nice to see someone from the media catching up to something we used to refer to as "the truth."

No comments:

Post a Comment