Monday, July 16, 2007

Dr. Gupta's Bias

Dr. Gupta's Bias
Submitted by Bill Scher on July 11, 2007

Michael Moore and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta faced off yesterday on Larry King Live, following Moore's on-air criticism of Gupta's anti-SiCKO piece which accused Moore of "fudg[ing] some facts."

Moore, on his website, is ably taking Gupta to task on the factual points.

And as Huffington Post’s Rachel Sklar notes, during Larry King Live, “Moore cites his source for every statistic offered ... yet Gupta ignores it, all of it, including Moore restating, again, that all of this was available in this email [sent by Moore’s team to CNN] from June 28, 2007.”

But what was most striking was when Gupta showed the heart of his bias, a bias against having our government guarantee universal health care.

Gupta says to Moore, “You criticize the government so soundly. But you're willing to hand over one of our most precious commodities, our health care in this country, to the government.”

Moore rebutted, “I actually love our government ... It does a great job of administrating Social Security ... the problem is who we've put in power who holds office.”

Then in response, Gupta made a completely misleading attack on Medicare:

Michael, one of the best examples of health care, at least some sort of universal health care, would be Medicare. I think you would agree with that.

It's going to go bankrupt by 2019. It's going to be $28 trillion in debt by 2075...would you say that this is going to be still a working system 20 years from now?

Is this some evidence that our government can’t be directed to fix our broken health care system? Economist-blogger Dean Baker doesn’t think so:

CNN’s health care analyst is now telling people that Medicare is going bankrupt. What does this mean?

Medicare’s costs are projected to exceed its revenue and drain the surplus from its trust fund in a bit over a decade, but this has been true at several points in the past. Did Congress tell tens of millions of beneficiaries to get lost? No, Congress appropriated the money needed to keep the program going...

...If Dr. Gupta meant to imply that Medicare, as a government program is uniquely inefficient, then he is way off the mark. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Table 13) per beneficiary costs have risen in nominal dollars by 519.5 percent since 1980. By contrast, the cost per enrollee of private insurance has risen by 676.6 percent over this same period.

That gets at the heart of Gupta’s bias.

The pressures on Medicare’s finances are not the fault of our government, but of skyrocketing health care costs across the board.

Yet Gupta’s cherry-picks his facts to attack a government guarantee of universal care, and raise the prospect of dismantling Medicare, just like how conservatives sought to do the same with Social Security.

Health care costs are a major problem, but as Baker notes, “Eliminating Medicare would raise health care costs, not lower them.”

Whereas directing our government to ensure universal health care, as Medicare already does for seniors, can contain costs by pooling risk and maximizing bargaining power.

In the Health Care for America plan -- a Medicare-style public plan for those under 65 which would compete with private insurance – policy architect Jacob Hacker writes:

Because Medicare and the Health Care for America Plan would bargain jointly for lower prices and join forces to improve quality, they would have enormous combined leverage to hold down costs. Cross-national evidence and the historical experience of Medicare show conclusively that concentrated purchasing power is by far the most effective means by which to restrain the price of medical services...

...Other nations spend much less for the same medical services than we do because their insurance systems bargain for lower prices. And though Medicare covers less than a seventh of the U.S. population, it has still controlled costs substantially better than the private sector, especially since the introduction of payment controls in the mid-1980s.

When was the last time you saw a mainstream media report that merely raised the possibility that our government’s Medicare plan does a better job at containing costs than private insurance companies?

There is one thing said by Gupta that I have no disagreement with: “It makes it very hard to advance the argument if you're not getting the numbers right.”

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