Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rebutting Claims About Insurance and Death

The April 23, 2008 Rocky Mountain News has published the following OpEd by Michael Tanner, rebutting the flawed Families USA study blaming 360 Colorado deaths each year to lack of health insurance. Here are some excerpts from Tanner's article:
Flawed health-care study poses own risks

...While it is almost certainly true that, all things being equal, it is better to be insured than uninsured, a greater danger is that this deeply flawed study will stampede policy-makers into taking action that will put far more Coloradans at risk.

The Families USA study was not a traditional "double blind" experiment with a control group and a treatment group. Rather, it is a retrospective analysis, which compared the rates of people who died with insurance to those who died without insurance. Since the proportion of people without insurance seemed to be higher than those with insurance, they extrapolated likelihood to project excess deaths due to lack of insurance. But there are just too many outside variables to make such interpretations valid.

...Similarly, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year found that, while far too many Americans were not receiving the appropriate standard of care, "health insurance status was largely unrelated to the quality of care."

Of course this does not mean we should be indifferent to efforts to try to expand insurance coverage. We all want more Coloradans to be insured. However, Families USA's call for greater government control of our health-care system is a cure far worse than the disease.

One thing we know for certain is that government-run health-care systems frequently deny critical procedures to patients who need them. For example, at any given time, 750,000 Britons are waiting for admission to National Health Service hospitals, and shortages force the NHS to cancel as many as 50,000 operations each year. And in Canada, more than 800,000 patients are currently on waiting lists for medical procedures. According to Canada's Supreme Court, many of these individuals suffer chronic pain and some will die awaiting the treatment they've been promised.

Even in this country, excessive government regulations on health care cost lives. A study by Christopher J. Conover with the Center for Health Policy, Law and Management in the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University found that as many as 22,000 Americans die each year from the costs associated with excess regulation.

Indeed, if Families USA is truly concerned with expanding the number of Coloradans with health insurance, they might start by attacking some of those regulations that make health insurance so expensive...