A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 28-August 3


This week, readers sent us comments on Facebook trolls, bias and the uninsured. 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.

Uninsured Quibbles

I just read this analysis, from June 24, on your site ["The Real Uninsured," June 24] and it really does not match up to the conclusion that you draw out of it.

In the end you conclude that the assertion that the real uninsured number is half of what is commonly talked about is "not supported by the evidence." And this after you spend most of the article explaining how the number is inflated. Clearly the actual number is significantly less than the "45.7 million" that is being thrown about.

This is disingenuous and by attaching this conclusion to that analysis you are enabling propagandists to further obfuscate the debate. The issue is not whether Sen. Thompson was off by 700,000 people, or nailing down exact numbers. The issue is being able to speak more accurately about the true number of people who are in dire need. In this respect you have done a disservice with this article.

You should issue a retraction of the last line of this article. Given the preponderence of evidence, it is very likely that the 45.7 million number is a red herring, and could be twice the number of people in real need. Not doing so would seem to be evidence of bias.

George Denecke
Buffalo, N.Y.

FactCheck responds: We came to a different conclusion in our article. The 45.7 million number is not a "red herring," but a Census figure that probably most accurately measures people who were uninsured at any given time during the year. And it is very unlikely that illegal immigrants and people who are voluntarily uninsured make up half that number, as Sen. Thompson claimed. We agree that it’s important to be able to speak accurately about the number of people in need, which is why readers of our article will find the figures for people uninsured all year, uninsured for at least one month of the year and uninsured at any given moment during the year.

 

More Above-Average Readers

I have followed the links from your article "Health Care Nostrums" to the Kaiser Family Foundation and their PDF "How Non-Group Health Coverage Varies with Income."

I must say, the average monthly premium for a family is only $280 seems extremely low. If I take the average of their range ($2,325 – $9,201 per year), I get $480.25 a month. I have been working and paying for insurance since the early 90s. I can not remember ever paying under $300 for family coverage with an employer-sponsored plan. Most plans back then covered 100% of the single premium, leaving us to cover the difference for the family premium. As of last year, employers have covered less and less of the single premium and our latest premium for employer-sponsored insurance was around $800 a month, only about $400 less than buying non-group coverage.

We have been watching the debate closely and really want something to be done. We also want to know the facts so that we can decide who is offering the best outcomes.

Reading the latest CBO report, "Additional Information Regarding the Effects of Specifications in the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act Pertaining to Health Insurance Coverage," it is very discouraging to find that the projected price of insurance premiums will not change much, even when competing with a public option. I hope I am misunderstanding the report, but it seems the best we can hope for is a stabilization of the health insurance market, which is a good thing, but not really going to help us afford $500 – $600 per month insurance premiums. That is assuming we will get the full 50% tax credit.

I still do not think I am understanding the report that well. Hopefully this will be covered on your site soon.

Thanks for all you do at factcheck.org. It is nice to have a place to put reality to all the overblown hype that is dispensed by most of our politicians.

Todd Williams
Odessa, Florida

FactCheck.org responds: The $2,325 to $9,201 per year range is for nongroup (individually purchased) insurance, which costs more per month than employer-sponsored insurance. The $280 a month figure is for families with employer-sponsored coverage.

For more letters from readers who pay higher than average premiums, see "Readers Talk Back on Insurance Costs," June 25. For more on possible changes to premium costs under proposed health legislation, see "CPR Administers Bad Facts, Again," Aug. 3.

 

Single-Payer Pitfalls

I enjoy your site very much and recommend it to others.

Thank you for pointing out that the bill does not demand encouragement of euthanasia ["False Euthanasia Claims," July 29]. My concern, however, is the practical reality that Barney Frank has indicated that the public option is just an incremental victory toward a single-payer system (i.e. Britain and Canada).

Every example we have historically of government run healthcare (e.g. Canada and Britain) has in fact resulted in the denial of treatments or drugs currently available in the U.S. because of the expense, regardless of the fact that a superior outcome would be expected. This will, by necessity, result in a greater impact on older Americans because as we age we naturally require greater care. In some cases, this will be a death sentence.

And it is particularly bad when specialized care is required. For example, the survival rate for prostate cancer is significantly greater in the U.S. than in Canada.

James Dunham
Granby, Conn.

FactCheck.org responds: The U.S. does have higher survival rates for prostate cancer than Canada does — 95.9 percent vs. 85.1, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Lancet. This may be due to factors beyond health care quality, as we discussed (in relation to U.K. survival rates) in two articles, "A Bogus Cancer Statistic" (Oct. 30, 2007) and "Bogus Cancer Stats, Again" (Nov. 8, 2007).

As for health care in Canada and the U.K., we’ve written about that several times, most recently in "Canadian Straw Man" on July 17.

 

Birth Certificate Sticklers

If FactCheck.org has ANY "pull" with [Hawaii Department of Health Director] Dr. Chiyome Fukino (and/or [Hawaii] Gov. Lingle) might they strongly suggest there be a further (amended) release of Dr. Fukino’s statement ["The Last Word? We Wish," July 28] that adds "II" to the child/person in question’s name AND includes the date and year of the birth of said person in Hawaii?

As we have all too painfully discovered, any "wiggle room" the Birthers can find to exploit/manipulate, they will – no matter how far-fetched and/or absurd.

Without the full legal name of the child/person (in this case, Barack Hussein Obama II) AND the date and year that child/person was born (in this case, August 4, 1961) in the statement, sure as you (or I) are born, the Birthers will insist the statement is about a different child/person born in Hawaii (one, coincidentally, also named Barack Hussein Obama), a person/child different than Barack Hussein Obama II, current president of the United States of America.

Maggi Stoner
Georgia

FactCheck.org responds: Alas, we have no "pull" with Dr. Fukino whatsoever, but perhaps she’s reading? Still, experience indicates that even an updated statement would have no effect on those who wish to believe that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.

 

In discussing the publication of Obama’s birth announcement, you said: "Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. " ["Born in the U.S.A.," Aug. 21, 2008]

However, there is a far more plausible explanation for why a false birth announcement would be made: to prove his U.S. citizenship for any reason other than running for president. While it’s incredibly unlikely a false birth announcement would be made as a prelude to a presidential bid, it is entirely reasonable to think one might be made to gain other benefits of citizenship, either real or perceived, such as to avoid deportation, or to give Obama voting rights when he got older.

I don’t believe any of the conspiracy theories, but I do think this analysis falls short of FactCheck’s standards.

Derek Tokaz
New York, N.Y.

 

FactCheck: Democrats, Republicans or Just Sane?

Do we have to add FactCheck to the list of media outlets that are little more than the media arm of the Obama administration? If you’re going to take apart an ad that says “you” could see an increase of 95% in your health-care premium and say it’s misleading because it only affects 14 million people, well hell, why not just say you’re going to be billed for the health care of 20 million illegal aliens? ["CPR Administers Bad Facts, Again," Aug. 3]

You seem to pick and choose what you want to pick apart. I always find it amazing when I see the Democrats pushing for one thing and then, shortly thereafter, a fact-check article comes out in support of what the Democrats are saying. I will be closely watching how you approach the new tact by the Democrats to attack the insurance companies.

Are you here to provide us with the facts or provide us with the propaganda?

Jim Temple
Royal Palm Beach, Florida

FactCheck.org responds: We do not say in the article that "only … 14 million people" will see a 95 percent premium increase. In fact, we say that experts we consulted doubt anyone would see an increase that high, and other independent studies found that premiums on average will go down under the leading proposals in Congress. The "20 million illegal alien" figure is also vastly inflated. There are half that many illegal immigrants total in the United States.

 

I have been reading through many of your articles and I have decided to never again read your website again. While many of your facts may be true, there seems to be a whole lot of bias coming from within your many pages. For one, nowhere did I see anything that was in support of Obama. I believe that if you truly want to escape bias you give readers both points of views. You should be giving us both things Obama missed or lied about, and things he was right about. Without this supporting section in your articles, you are doing no more than being a critic of our president. In turn you are being no more than a disagreeing and depressed Republican trying to make everyone else see your political viewpoint. I am looking forward to maybe coming on at a later date and seeing a supporting argument on all of your articles.

Mark Rowe
Sebastian, Florida

 

I applaud you – your website is my respite from all of the abundant nonsense that seems to be circulating lately. That’s all for now; PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE keep up the great work – the sane need a voice too!!!!!

Jay Duvoe
Titusville, Florida

 

Facebook Flames

The comments that accompany your notes on Facebook usually turn into a flame war between someone named Harvey Broadway and anybody he disagrees with. I’m not sure how this can be resolved without seeming like you’re censoring people. However, I think that Mr. Broadway is doing a great disservice to what you are trying to accomplish. Perhaps you could post a note about acceptable standards of decorum for the comments posted on your page. Given that Mr. Broadway seems to dominate the conversation and usually doesn’t have much to add beyond insults and unsupported accusations of bias, I would really appreciate it if you addressed this issue in some way. I’m sure there are many others who feel the same way.

Thanks for your time and keep up the good work.

Chris Devine
Waynesboro, Pa.