From THE PLATFORM at stltoday (Editorial):
As chairman of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield [MO], knows a thing or two about health care. But some of what he knows just isn’t true.
“I’m 59,” Mr. Blunt said last week during a meeting with Post-Dispatch reporters and editors. “In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.”
We fact-checked that. At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.
“I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air,” Mr. Blunt said in a subsequent interview. It came, he said, from testimony before the House Subcommittee on Health by “some people who are supposed to be experts on Canadian health care.”
“I had been given that example. I was told that 59 is the cutoff,” he said. “I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I won’t use that example any more.”
[...] he’s not the only Republican leader who has his facts wrong about British and Canadian health care. And some of his colleagues are a bit less contrite.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recently claimed that in England, Sen. Ted Kennedy would have been denied treatment for his brain cancer.
The English National Health Service says that’s not true. The head of a related health agency complained about “untrue or misinformed” comments. And the president of the British Medical Association decried such “jaw-droppingly untruthful attacks.”
It shouldn’t matter. None of the health reform plans being considered by Congress would create an English- or Canadian-style health system here. But opponents of reform sometimes are careless with the facts about U.S. health care, too.
For example, Mr. Blunt was asked how long an uninsured American would wait for a hip replacement.
“If they go to the emergency room, I think they can get that done,” he said. Emergency rooms don’t do hip replacements, which require both hospital care and weeks of rehabilitation. They do emergency surgery, necessary to save a life.
Seriously, kids, is there anyone among us who really thinks that you can get a hip replacement in the E.R.? Has this idiot ever been in an Emergency Room? Has he never watched a medical drama on TV?
In the same interview, Mr. Blunt minimized the number of people without health insurance — in part by maximizing the number who are illegal immigrants.
“Ten to 12 million of them are in the country illegally. Everyone sort of agrees on that,” Mr. Blunt said. It’s a common refrain by opponents of reform.
In fact, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number of uninsured who are immigrants — both legal and illegal — at about 9 million.
The National Institute for Health Care Management, another nonpartisan group, estimates that about 5.6 million illegal immigrants are among the 45.7 million people who were uninsured in 2007.
Mr. Blunt says his figure, which he later lowered to “about 8 million” is based on a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
Alas, that’s not exactly what the CBO document says. It says 17 million people in America still would be uninsured 10 years from now if the House health reform bill is approved. About half of those people would be illegal immigrants. It also says that 37 million who would otherwise be uninsured would have insurance coverage under the House plan.
Health policy is complicated, no doubt about it. Not everyone understands it. But everyone, particularly responsible political leaders, at least should try to get the facts straight.
(If any of you kids were observant enough to notice that the woman on the newspaper at the bottom has been replaced but can’t figure out who the replacement is, it’s Michele Batshit Bachmann. Just because.)