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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5

This week, readers sent us comments on medical errors, car insurance mandates and the postal service.

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.

Insurance Kills?

It makes sense that persons who do not seek health care have a higher probability of premature death than those who do seek health care ["Dying from Lack of Insurance," Sept. 24]. The read did make me wonder about another statistic; I’ve read that medical errors cause about 95,000 deaths per year. If not seeking health care causes 45,000 deaths and seeking care causes 95,000 deaths, one might conclude that it would be safer to not seek health care.

While most of what I’ve written is tongue in cheek, I really would like to read an editorial by a mathematician describing the shortcomings of using statistics to analyze human behavior (i.e., too many variables).

Fran Godici
Oswego, N.Y.


Car Insurance Constitutionality

This issue of constitutionality ["Health Care Overhaul: Constitutional?," Oct. 2] is an interesting one to me, much more so because I happen to live in a state (California) that for many years has required by state law that every resident purchase automobile insurance (or deposit an enormous personal bond). If a state can require vehicle insurance but then not provide it, why can’t the federal government do likewise, especially if it is providing it?

Mark Craig
Sacramento, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: States require residents to have automobile insurance as a condition of being allowed to engage in an affirmative act that can be hazardous, in this case driving. Similarly, drivers must pass tests and get licenses. A health insurance requirement, opponents argue, would be imposed as a condition of merely existing in the United States. That’s an unprecedented mandate.


A Misattributed Quote

That chain e-mail you quoted in "Playing Favorites with Chrysler Dealers" [Sept. 28] contained another mistake.

The anonymous e-mailer wrote: "Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said, ‘All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ "

But as everyone else knows, that quote was originally from Edmund Burke.

Thomas Bohn
New Westminster, British Columbia

FactCheck.org responds: While this quote is indeed most commonly attributed to Burke, it seems likely that he didn’t say it either. Internet researchers have found dozens of variations of the quote on sites across the Web, but no specific citation to any of Burke’s writings.


SAVE Correction

From your web site ["Obama’s Health Care Speech," Sept. 10]: “Republican Rep. Dean Heller of Nevada proposed an amendment to the bill that would have required the use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program to check the citizenship of anyone applying for federal coverage or affordability credits. SAVE is the program used by Medicaid and similar entitlement programs.”

SAVE does not “check citizenship of anyone.” It verifies an alien’s status to participate in government programs.

SAVE primarily uses the individual’s alien registration number to verify their status.

Few, if any, citizens or illegal aliens have an alien registration number for SAVE to check.

Paul Hirth
Olathe, Kan.

FactCheck.org responds: Thanks for calling our attention to this. We’ve made that change in the article.


Postal Subsidies

Is the U.S. Postal Service subsidized by the U.S. government? And if yes, by how much per year?

Charles J. Rogers
Lynchburg, Tenn.

FactCheck.org responds: In theory, the U.S. Postal Service has been a self-supporting government entity since it was reorganized in 1970. According to a recent report by the USPS Office of Inspector General, it receives about $100 million a year from taxpayers to offset the cost of free or subsidized mailing privileges "to groups that Congress and the Administration agree deserve support from the taxpayers." The subsidy is currently limited to free mail for the blind and for official mail to overseas voters, the IG report states.

More Love for FactCheck

Today I made my first visit to FactCheck.org. I was so impressed! I love the even, factual tone of your analysis and the nonpartisan nature of your service. After reading just one article I already feel much more informed, with none of the "spin" from the major political parties. This site will be a regular stop for me.

Thank you for this service!

Mark Boylan
Boise, Idaho