A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Aug. 11-Aug. 17


This week, readers sent us comments on Canadian health care (again), Obama’s thoughts on a single-payer system and AARP’s support of a health care overhaul.

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.

 

Canadian Coverage

If you would like to be truly factual in your analysis of "Dying on a Wait List?" you should understand several things about Ms. Holmes’ case [See "Dying on a Wait List?" Aug. 6.]

First, [the article] seems to stress the point that Ms. Holmes’ lesion was benign. A "benign" mass within the cranial cavity does not necessarily mean it is not potentially lethal. Benign, slow-growing lesions within the cranium become lethal once they reach a size that increases intracranial pressure to the point that the brain is literally pushed out of the base of the skull. The brain accommodates slow growing, "benign" lesions up until a critical threshold when a patient decompensates and dies within a matter of hours. The patient may have minimal neurological signs up until the critical moment. Please don’t minimize Ms. Holmes’ claim just because this lesion was considered pathologically benign; it does not mean that it was clinically benign.

Second, pressure damage to the optic nerve is potentially irreversible. Ms. Holmes is lucky her vision returned following surgery. With the loss of vision described in your article, it would be difficult to predict at what point her visual loss would become irreversible. Delaying her surgery would only gamble with the permanent loss of her sight.

There was no reason to delay treatment intervention in a patient with impending blindness other than rationing care through an overburdened health care system.

Peter A. Fotinakes, M.D.
Associate Professor of Neurology, Retired
University of California, Irvine
Orange, California

 

A small matter but health care in Canada is a provincial responsibility, although each provincial plan is financially supported by the federal government [See "Canadian Straw Man," July 17]. Shona Holmes, who has gone to such great lengths to misrepresent the health care system in Canada, is suing the Ontario provincial government (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) not the "Canadian government," as your otherwise excellent report states.

Wayne Harding
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

There is such irony to this article for me. In 1978, at the age of 19, I went to Montreal, Canada, from New York to be operated on for a pituitary tumor similar to this woman’s. At the time, in the United States they were not doing the procedure through the nose, which was a direct access to the pituitary. People were coming from all over the world to the neurosurgeon, Dr. Jules Hardy. If it wasn’t for the Canadian research and development I wouldn’t have had the quick recovery, tumor removed and no vision impairments etc!! I also had to wait for approval from the FDA for a specific drug for the tumor that was being used in Europe and Canada. … Thank you Canada!!

Keep up the good work Factcheck!

Susan Belcher
Fredericksburg, Va.

 

Single-Payer on His Mind?

I just read your most recent e-mail regarding Obama not wanting single-payer health care. You stated that Obama has stated that he is not in favor of such a program. I know that is what he is saying now, but are you ignoring what he has said several times in the past which has been well documented? He has stated in various venues that he DID favor single payer. Do you really think he has changed his mind??

I would very much appreciate an answer. I am concerned about your position because I have gone to your Web site several times to get the correct information. Now I’m wondering if my faith in your accuracy is well placed.

Michael G. Melton
Santee, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: We have addressed (as early as last October and as recently as Aug. 5) the fact that Obama had said in 2003 that he was in favor of a single-payer system. His statements have changed since. While campaigning for president, he said he wanted to build on the system we have now and that he only would be in favor of a single-payer system if "starting from scratch." Judging whether he has really changed his mind would be pure speculation. We can’t read politicians’ minds to determine their intent. We only have their words, and they can change their positions.

 

What’s a Record?

Regarding your fact-check on “Insurance Companies’ Record Profits,” [see "Broken Record on Record-Breaking Profits," Aug. 11] I’m somewhat confused. Perhaps someone has misinterpreted and/or misused the word “record.” Obviously in this case the word is meant to mean that the company in question has exceeded their usual earnings. But a more general interpretation would suggest that they simply have, in general, very high earnings. After all, if the insurance company mentioned has moved up in the Fortune 500 listing, or is even on that list at all for that matter, would infer that they are VERY profitable, which is what I believe the DCCC was trying to convey. Thus, when “fact-checking,” please allow a little latitude and take the full intent of the statement into account and not just a single word in that statement. I know it’s a fine line and a slippery slope. I just don’t want you to unintentionally send a wrong message that would further justify the opposition’s position.

Bob Granse
Hollister, Calif.
 

 

Mincing Words

Come on now. AARP has produced several commercials endorsing health care reform [see "Obama Wrong on AARP Endorsement," Aug. 11]. Now AARP and Factcheck make it appear Obama is wrong since they haven’t endorsed any specific bill. Well, if you look at his statement he technically didn’t claim that they did. Two can play that game!

Tom Walker
Costa Mesa, Calif.

 

Too Strong a Ruling

I’ve enjoyed your site for years and believe you provide a great public service. But I have to take strong issue with your response to the CPR ad, titled “CPR Administers Bad Facts, Again” [Aug. 3].

The ad makes 4 assertions. You dispute two of them: 1) “Add a trillion to deficit”, and 2) “Raise your premiums up to 95 percent if you buy coverage.” Regarding the premium claim, you state the ad is “misleading” because the on-screen graphic is “easy to miss.” Except it’s not – the text is bold, large, and EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE as all the claims in the ad. Your complaint seems to rest on the announcer omitting it from the voiceover, which is snarky at best. If that’s your new standard for political ads, you’ll need to go back and revise a lot of prior articles.

You then go on to say the claim is simply “false” because only 14 million (5%) buy private insurance, but you provide no citation for those figures. The Census Bureau estimated 27 million people were covered by direct-purchase insurance in 2007. That’s 10 percent, and covers a whole lot of people, including my own family. You also address the premium increase portion of the claim, but only cite those who believe there will be declines. There is strong, healthy disagreement among professionals on this point. Not mentioned, for example, are the generous “benefit standards” in the House bill, which will drive up costs relative to many if not most individual plans. There’s a reason health insurance costs triple in NY state – every procedure under the sun is covered, and the benefits keep expanding.

Regarding the deficit claim, the CBO estimates stop after just 10 years, in 2019. Also, the letter states that administrative costs are not included, likely quite significant. The tables clearly show the deficit contribution growing each year through 2019 – is it your position that this will suddenly drop to zero in 2020? Even if one assumes the deficit growth levels out in 2020 at $120 billion/year for the Senate bill, the net deficit impact still reaches $1 trillion quickly, just in 14 years instead of 10. And on that, you hang your hat and declare an ad’s claims “false”? That seems too strong for a fair-minded fact check.

Bill Sornsin
Seattle, Wash.

FactCheck.org responds: The writer is correct that Census puts the percentage of those who buy insurance on their own on the private market somewhat higher than the 5 percent figure we cited, based on other health care experts. However, the Census figure comes to 8.9 percent, not 10 percent as he stated. Our 5 percent figure comes from The Commonwealth Fund whose study we cited in the article (see Exhibit 10). (The Kaiser Family Foundation also puts the figure at 5 percent for 2007.) Whatever the precise percentage, our point was that the ad’s claim only applies to a small fraction of those who view it, a point the announcer failed to mention.

Furthermore, the independent, comprehensive studies we cited found premium costs would go down on average, not up. The only "healthy disagreement" we find with that view comes from the insurance industry group that sponsored this ad.

 

Thank You Notes

As someone who supports the president but who has not "drunk the Kool-Aid" completely, I thank God (or whomever) for you people. Weeding through the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle and on the parties’ respective news organs (MSNBC and Fox) can be exhausting, frustrating, and disillusioning.

Thank you for all you do to keep public debate rooted in fact and reality.

Michael Conroy
Chicago, Ill.

 

I wanted to thank you for your work and getting the facts straight. I actually just learned of your Web site and I will be reading a lot more in the future and will be forwarding the facts to others as the vicious rumors are being sent around the World Wide Web.

Janis Breed
Mesa, Ariz.