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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 7 – July 13

This week, readers sent us comments on our recent Ask FactCheck about the U.K.’s and Canada’s health care systems, along with requests to leave the comedy to Jon Stewart and to spend less time on chain e-mails, more on facts about daily news events.

In the FactCheck Mailbag we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


It Isn’t Ironic

In this article [See “Pushing for a Public Plan”], you point out that [Health Care for America Now] mislabels the $119 million that health insurance CEOs receive as "bonuses." Point taken, but a minor point it is: Honestly, what difference does it make what form that compensation comes in? The real point is that a public plan would not enrich anyone to that degree, whether through salaries or bonuses.

What’s worse, you then go on to say that no one would deny that health insurance company CEOs make very "healthy" salaries. Healthy for who? Certainly not for the American public. If you’re going to split hairs — and I realize that’s your mission — please don’t follow it up with snide adjectives like that, which could easily be appropriated by Fox News or the like to suggest that FactCheck.org sees nothing wrong with executive compensation in the American healthcare system.

Long story short, I appreciate your nonpartisan stance. But please leave the irony to the professionals on "The Daily Show."

Anthony Wells


British Health Care

Thanks for busting that particular myth. [See our Ask FactCheck on “Is it true that persons older than 59 can’t get heart surgery in England?" We found: “There’s no such prohibition on heart operations in England, as a chain e-mail claims.”]

To further undermine similar stories, my father is 76 (this week). He had a kidney transplant three years ago on the NHS [National Health Service].


Dr. David England
Liverpool, England


That chain letter on heart stent availability in England got posted on a local community forum I frequent, so I ended up doing my own investigation on it. The falsehood’s beginning lies in an actual ban on "drug-eluting" heart stents that was later repealed. See http://www.bcpa.co.uk/NICEupdate.htm

Stacey Borsody

FactCheck.org responds: Thanks for this information. It’s certainly possible the e-mail’s false claim originated with this. It’s hard to know, since the e-mail is anonymous. According to this article by the British Cardiac Patients Association, the board that approves drugs and treatments in the U.K. had recommended in a preliminary decision in August 2007 that drug-eluting stents not be used, but that decision was reversed in February 2008.


Thanks again for debunking these scurrilous claims about the British National Health Service. I’d add a couple of points of clarification for your next article.

The British health care environment includes private health insurance plans. One can take the NHS option, and buy top-up insurance (sometimes known as queue-jumper insurance), or one can buy private insurance and always go to private doctors and hospitals. Even in the latter case the NHS is still available. The key difference is that the NHS is paid for by taxes – and amount substantially less than I pay here in the U.S. for partial health care, and zero/minimal preventative care.

Substantial savings accrue in NHS from not having all the billing processes. Apart from not requiring citizens to have a PhD in battling insurance companies, doctors can focus on making people well. Many people take undue advantage of the easy access to medical care. It is said that people actually visit the UK to have ailments treated without cost. I’m sure many slip through the simple safeguards but the cost of this is negligible compared with the savings of a zero billing system. But in any case having the citizenry shoulder the bill for this fraud is simply one of the costs of a civilized system. After all we allow foreigners to walk our streets, use lavatories, call a policeman — and all without charge because it is cheaper and the consequences are less dire, when we have a simple and uniform scheme.

There! Got that off my chest. Keep up the good work.

Mik Lamming


Just the Facts, Please

I appreciate you fact-checking all of these numerous erroneous e-mails, but why don’t you spend more time on actually giving us facts about regular everyday news events.

There are so many news stories from the major networks that need to have the facts proven one way or the other. And there is so much info from both sides of the Republicans and Democrats, that you could spend a lot of time getting to the truth on that. Or how about just stating facts in general. I think most people probably don’t know how much the U.S. budget is now compared to previous administrations, or how much the deficit is, or how much things are going to costs us in the future for all these programs.

Sometimes we just need to be educated on actual facts that are already out there, and not someone’s rumor or innuendo.

Charles G.
Atlanta, Georgia


The Sort-of Insured

One of the more disquieting features of the private American insurance for health and disability is that even when a person (or family) appears to have coverage, when they file a serious claim they are denied and if they choose to litigate the denial, this process takes years. So they are effectively uninsured even though they would show up in figures as having insurance. [See "The ‘Real’ Uninsured"]

My case is an example. I had disability insurance coverage for several years and a serious illness forced me to stop work. I submitted a claim to the insurance carrier and they denied it. The plan was an ERISA plan so seeking relief was especially painstaking. I repeatedly submitted more information since they claimed that “insufficient evidence of disability" was shown. That did no good. I was examined by two doctors of my choice, one a well-known specialist in the field. It did no good. Social Security approved my disability status on first try (not common) and their standards of disability are known to be stringent.

To get any relief I had to bring a lawsuit. … Two years later, we settled. In the meantime I had been examined by four different specialists ALL of whom agreed I was disabled, but the insurer still denied the claim. In settling, as I did, I had to pay the lawyer out of my award (ERISA does not require the defendant to pay lawyers’ fees if they lose). In fact, the most the insurance company would ever have had to pay is what they would have paid had they made good on the policy in the first place. As it was, I ended up, after over three years, after lawyer fees, with about thirty cents on the dollar. Victory for the insurance company. The only way it could have worked better for them was if I had died.

Was I insured?

John Dowd
Boulder Creek, Calif.


Thank You Note

Just a quick note to give kudos to your organization. It has settled many arguments with regard to the legitimacy of certain e-mails and information I have received. Your organization provides a much needed service in this Internet age.

Mark Skowronski
Irvine, Calif.