Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Corporate astroturf liars have no intellectual integrity

I watched a commericial earlier today from the Independent Women's Forum saying that women will die of breast cancer if health insurance reform ("nationalized healthcare" according to the commericial) is passed.

Michelle Cottle dissects this latest dishonorable meme from corporate sponsored opponents of reform.

The Independent Women’s Forum is closely linked to Americans for Prosperity, a major organizer of anti-Obama tea parties and town hall protests. (According to Sourcewatch.org, the two groups shared the same address and most of the same operations staff until last year). So the effort to link health-care reform to breast cancer death is coming from the same people who’ve previously compared health care reform to the Holocaust. The new tack sounds slightly more reasonable, and it’s developing legs.
Cottle goes on to point out this is an odd argument to make for reasons that will be apparent in a moment.

The entire argument about breast cancer and health care reform is based on a comparison of survival rates in the United States and England. There’s little question that breast cancer treatment is better in the U.S. Last summer, The Lancet Oncology Magazine published a comprehensive international comparison on cancer survival. It found that five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, American women had an 83.7 percent chance of survival, while those in England had only a 69.8 percent chance. England, which lags behind the U.S. in screening, has a government-run health program, while the United States does not. This is being interpreted as proof that government-run health care leads to more cancer deaths. And that is a dishonest distortion.

Leave aside, for a moment, the fact that no one is proposing single-payer health care in the United States—much to the despair of many liberals. Several countries with socialized medicine have breast-cancer survival rates that are barely distinguishable from our own. According to the Lancet study, Canada’s five-year survival rate is 82.5 percent, and France’s is 79.8 percent. (Both countries also have less breast cancer overall -- indeed, for reasons no one quite understands, the United States has among the highest breast cancer incidence in the world. French women are more likely to survive colon and rectal cancers than American women, though again, the differences are quite small. Meanwhile, the Lancet study shows, one country has a higher breast-cancer survival rate than the United States—Cuba.
As Cottle points out, this doesn't mean that Cuba's higher rate can be attributed to better treatment, but using the type of reasoning employed by Independent Women's Forum, this should mean unless we adopt Cuba's health system we're dooming women to die of breast cancer.

Another terribly frustrating bit identified in the article is the story of Bob Collier, a Georgia man written about by the New York Times, who opposes health insurance reform because he fears that his wife, who survived breast cancer by early detection and treatment, would have been put on a waiting list if reform happened. The NYT writes that Collier and his wife are committed conservatives who get much of their news from Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge. And these Limbaugh/Drudge/Fox informed opponents of health insurance reform were nearly left with 63,000 dollars debt from hospital costs after their insurance decided to not cover Mrs. Collier.

[H]orror stories about the rationing of cancer care by the American insurance industry abound. In an almost grotesque irony, it turns out that Mr. Collier’s wife endured one of them. Their insurance refused to cover Ms. Collier’s radiation treatments, leaving them owing $63,000 that their hospital eventually wrote off.

This is not uncommon—breast cancer survivors, including those with insurance, are regularly bankrupted by the cost of their treatment. That’s one reason the major breast cancer advocacy organizations strongly support health care reform.

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