Monday, November 5, 2007

Questionable Claims in the Health Care Debate

On Monday, October 29th, Presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani debuted a new campaign advertisement centering on health care. Using his own experience battling cancer as the basis of the ad, he drew an unfavorable comparison between American health care and its government run counterpart in the United Kingdom. It was this comparison and the questionable statistics it contained that began to draw fire, as John Whitesides, a political correspondent for Reuters reports:

Giuliani, who has suffered prostate cancer, has taken criticism from British and U.S. health officials for saying in a radio ad this week the U.S. survival rate for the disease was 82 percent while the survival rate under Britain's "socialized medicine" was 44 percent.

Health officials in both countries say the most recent statistics show five-year survival rates for prostate cancer are 99 percent in the United States and 74 percent under Britain's National Health Service.

Giuliani told reporters he was using statistics from 2000 and said "those statistics have changed slightly today" -- but he did not back away from the broader comparison.

This thirty percent variance has raised eyebrows both at home and abroad. The British reaction reported in this same Reuters article is hardly surprising in light of difference.

British Health Secretary Alan Johnson said on Thursday Giuliani's figures were wrong and complained about his attacks on Britain's National Health Service.

"The British NHS should not become a political football in American presidential politics," Johnson told The Times newspaper in London.

Cancer survival rate statistics depend on the number of cancers that are detected and when they are reported, and therefore may not necessarily reflect how well a health-care system performs at preventing cancer deaths overall.

The Times said roughly the same proportion of men -- 25 out of 100,000 -- died of prostate cancer in the United States and Britain each year.

John J. Thyng, Jr., The State Director of New Hampshire for Health Care, attacks the ads in his blog on the Huffington Post:

As early as the day the ad was released -- Monday, October 29th -- ABC News reporter Rick Klein reported that "the data Giuliani cites comes from a single study published eight years ago" and "is contradicted by official data from the British government."

As reporters asked more questions, the Giuliani campaign refused to admit their mistake.

When we issued a call for the ad to be taken down, his campaign still refused.

But we're not backing down. The next time Mayor Giuliani is in town we intend to deliver the message that we expect the campaigns to present strong, accurate statistics when making the case for how they will ensure access to quality, affordable health care for every American.

Health Care Voters will be there to call on him to remove the ad, and to remind him that 67,000 people intend to vote for a Health Care President - one who presents real facts, and doesn't use falsehoods to deflect attention from the lack of any personal ideas about how to fix the health care crisis.

Further analysis of this story is easily found on the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and Salon.Com websites.

SOURCE: "Giuliani Takes Another Shot at British Health Care" 11/02/07
SOURCE: "Rudy Needs to Pull His Dishonest Health Care Ad Now" 11/02/07
photo courtesy of Traveler54, used under this Creative Commons licence

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