Thursday, January 8

Surgeon General: Ixnay on the Gup-Tay

John Conyers and Paul Krugman are right. I myself have refrained from jumping up and down over potential Obama nominations (I'm Big Time Pro-Panetta), but Gupta is the wrong guy for what this country needs to fix it's devastated health care system. Yes, the position is largely ceremonial - but it does come with it's own Bully Pulpit and Gupta is the wrong kind of Bully. The pit-bull mean sh*t-for-brains kind.

From Tonights Countdown.

Although Chris Hayes of the Nation argues that "no one wants to expend political capital on this" - this is exactly the place where we really should make the rubber meet the road on healthcare.

The point is, very simply, that in his handling of Moore's movie Gupta displayed himself to be a condescending dickhead - who got his facts tragically wrong, accused Moore of being a liar, and when he was caught could barely bring himself to admit it.

A lot of people don't quite get it, they auto-cheerlead any take-down of Moore, Krugman has had to explain himself and gets right to it.

Update: Many commenters don’t seem to get the point. Gupta didn’t say “Michael Moore is an annoying blowhard”; he didn’t say “We question his interpretation of the evidence”; he said he “fudged the facts”. In other words, he accused Moore of lying. That’s a very strong accusation, which had better be backed by solid evidence. Instead, we had CNN misreading a number from Moore; CNN objecting to Moore using a projected health care spending number for 2007 instead of an actual number for 2005 (and the projection was right, by the way); CNN accusing Moore of not showing a number that was in fact right there in the movie. And Gupta did not apologize, except for the misread number.

I blogged this exchange between Moore vs Gupta, as well as the follow-up which was referreed by CNN's Larry King (Not exactly neutral ground).

Here's the meat of the disagreement as I previous wrote last year

- Gupta's CNN report charged that although Moore complains that America is only ranked 37th in Health Care by the World Health Organization (WHO) - it neglected to point out that Cuba's care which Moore touts is at number 39. Moore points out that this is clearly shown in the film and is even visible in the trailer.

- Gupta's CNN report argues that Moore overestimates the amount spent by America on heath care at 7,000 per person instead of their number which is $6029, and that they underestimate the amount spent by Cuba as being $25 when their number is $229. Moore counters with data from the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services which states the figures at $7,092 in 2006 and $7,498 in 2007, while the Gupta's data for Cuba is just flat wrong. SiCKO uses a BBC figure of $251, the WHO's figure is $229.

- Gupta's report claimed that Americans live longer than Cuba, Moore points out the the UN says they don't. (77.5 years for the U.S., 77.6 years for Cuba)

- Gupta's report claimed Americans have the highest patient satisfaction rating. Moore points out that this might be because they just don't know what there missing, and that patient satisfaction is just one of the factors included in the WHO report (where we placed 37th) and then again, the people who would have the biggest complaints the 47 Million people who are uninsured aren't being included in those surveys. Ask everyone (including ME and My WIFE who haven't had health insurances since 9-11) and Americas satisfaction rating will plummet I promise you!

- Gupta's report claims that Americans have shorter wait time for elective procedures than Germans, but Moore points out that this claim doesn't cover the average wait times for All Procedures in all six industrialized nations included in the study - of which America ranks next to last at number five, just ahead of Canada. All five of the other countries surveyed (Canada, U.K., Germany, Australia, New Zealand) have nationalized health care except the U.S.

- Gupta's report claims that SiCKO alleges that health care in these other countries is free, when it isn't - it's paid for via taxes and the tax rate in all the countries that rank ahead of us are all higher than ours. Moore counters that he never said it wasn't paid for by taxes. "France is Drowning in Taxes" he says, but also that Americans are going bankrupt trying to pay their medical bills. (And now so is the rest of teh country!) How's that for "drowning?" BTW I've been Bankrupt - it's not fun.

- Gupta's report claims that even after paying all those taxes, people in these countries still aren't satisfied with their care and that 15% still pay for private insurance. Moore counters that this figure is only 11% in the U.K., but that this doesn't replace their access and use of the existing system, it's just a supplement (PDF).

- Gupta claims that SiCKO - "Fudged the facts". Moore (correctly) calls this "Libel"

The key here is the really snotty arrogant attitude the Gupta has when he's shown time and time to be wrong by a mere layman like Moore.

Gupta V Moore on Larry King.

CNN has been Fox-Lite for a long time and this "debate" proves it.

I did a lot of work on this argument, if you really want to read what's going on between the lines in this battle I highly recommend you re-read my previous diary where I broke down each and every one of Moore's and Gupta's claims. Besides being real "facty", it's Snark-o-riffic.

In the process I made a discovery that I think is startling.

Let's get back to that 2003 UN per capita chart - the one Gupta berated Moore for not using - and add to it the percentage of GDP the that top ten nations spend both from private and public sources on health care with France added into the mix just for fun. (PDF Table 6, Page 301)

France just may be "Drowning in Taxes" (as Moore states) but they certainly aren't spending all of that money on their Health care system. The U.S. Pays far more on it's private health care system as an overall percentage of it's GDP than France does on it's Public System. Japan literally spends about half what we do on health care yet Japanese women have the longest average life expectancy in the world. Spin that Sanjay.

The idea that moving more and more our healthcare into a public sphere and out of the private system is going to be "horrifically expensive" is just a load of bunk. It's the private system that is simultaneously bleeding us dry and letting us die. Just like every other nation though, we're always going to have both a public and private system.

There are a lot of things that need to be corrected in our healthcare system, as consumer and customer of it I think the following is the bare-minimum we should accept.

Medicaid and Medicare, our two current "socialized" care systems, shouldn't be limited to this Emergency Only/Triage type of care where people are in the worst shape possible. We should allow anyone, anywhere, anytime to see any doctor as a walk-in for preventative care. If we did people would be far less likely to end up in an Emergency Room with conditions that have become chronic in the first place. In the long run, this would lower costs rather than raise them.

The second step would be to outlaw insurance companies from denying care without consulting a licensed on-staff physician, and to ban care-denial incentive pay. People shouldn't get bonuses for blocking someones access to treatment.

The third step would be to ban the exclusion of care for pre-existing conditions. (This is included in Barack's Plan) Free Marketeers like to present this view that people can simply "shop around" for the best price and quality of health care if they aren't happy with what they have - but that simply isn't true. If you have an ongoing chronic condition, most 80/20 plans won't accept you - so that choice is foreclosed to them. If people really could leave a lousy health care provider, the loss in revenue just might give them some incentive to improve. Right now that isn't the case - as it stands they have no motivation other than maximizing their profits on the backs of the American public and corporations.

Although I've seen reports where Gupta seems to have begun to accept a far more Moore-like position - getting repeatedly punked on national Tv can sometimes do that - what he hasn't shown is the temperment and understanding of the issues that millions of real Americans face day to day to become the nation's top Doctor.

Not even close.

Meanwhile, isn't Dr. Howard Dean looking for a new gig?