Monday, October 26, 2009

Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson's Use of Ficticious Number

Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida has found his calling: death demagogue.

First, he accused Republicans of wanting sick patients to "die quickly." Next, he likened health insurance problems to a "holocaust in America." Now, he's unveiling a new Web site,, in memory of the "more than 44,000 Americans (who) die simply because they have no health insurance."

Just one problem: The statistic is a phantom number. Grayson's memorial, like the Democrats' government health care takeover plan itself, is full of vapor. It comes from a study published this year in the American Journal of Public Health. But the science is infused with left-wing politics.

Two of the co-authors, Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, are avowed government-run health care activists.

Himmelstein co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program, which bills itself as "the only national physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program." Woolhandler is a co-founder and served as secretary of the group.

Sounding more like a organizer than a disinterested scientist, Woolhandler assailed the current health reform legislation in Congress for not going far enough: "Politicians are protecting insurance industry profits by sacrificing American lives."

How did these political doctors come up with the 44,000 figure? They used data from a health survey conducted between 1988 and 1994. The questionnaires asked a sample of 9,000 participants whether they were insured and how they rated their own health. The federal Centers for Disease Control tracked the deaths of people in the sample group through the year 2000.

Himmelstein, Woolhandler and company then crunched the numbers and attributed deaths to lack of health insurance for all the participants who initially self-reported that they had no insurance and then died for any reason over the 12-year tracking period.

At no time did the original researchers or the single-payer activists who piggybacked off their data ever verify whether the supposed casualties of America's callous health care system had insurance or not. In fact, here is what the report actually says:

"Our study has several limitations," the authors concede. The survey data they used "assessed health insurance at a single point in time and did not validate self-reported insurance status. We were unable to measure the effect of gaining or losing coverage after the interview."

Himmelstein et al. simply assumed that point-in-time uninsurance translates into perpetual uninsurance — and that any health calamities that result can and must be blamed on being uninsured.