Monday, August 03, 2009

Mark T's Dishonest Posting

Mark left one of his patented tirades over at ECW, in response to Dave's comment about his lack of reading comprehension in regards to an earlier comment about World Health Organization study that Mark cites to. I know this seems convoluted, but it follows his usual pattern of first ignoring the original post in order to argue what he wants, and then he either makes up stuff, or quotes partisan and unreliable sources in his post without any qualms.
Actually, while Mark is amusing as he continues his endless stream of faux data in order to support his arguments it can lead to problems with the limits of debate. The problem with allowing such false information is that weaker minds are susceptible to the ruse and resistant to the truth. The old "a lie can get half way around the world before the truth get's its boot in the stirrup" certainly fits here.
First, let's start with his 52 million uninsured. Used to be the number was 47 million, but I assume a 5 million increase is helpful to creating the kind of panic Mark and Obama need to pass this God Awful bill, even though Obama just uses the 47 number. Even then, the numbers have been shown to be quite different than portrayed. For example, about 43% have incomes above 250% of the poverty level and choose not to buy insurance. There are 13 million who are illegal aliens and won't be covered under any plan currently being discussed. Throw in the numbers of people who are between jobs with coverage, but who regain coverage under the new employer and the number of chronically uninsured is less than 10 million. A very good statistical analysis of who is uninsured is found here.
But how could I be so callous about 10 million people, you might ask? Again the problem is one of ilnumeracy. There are approximately 306 million people living in American right now. 10 million seems like a large number until you figure out it is approximately 3.5% of the total population. So, let's go ahead and wreck the whole system and raise taxes on our grandchildren for the rest of their productive lives in order to feel good about ourselves.
Mark's next exaggerated assertion is that there are a million medical bankruptcies every year. A million sounds huge, and it would be if it were true.
As Megan McArdle points out, the report’s figures indicate that the number of medical bankruptcies dropped from almost 671,000 in 2001, to only 502,000 in 2007. That’s a drop of over 25% in six years.
Heavens, that is a heck of a lot less than a million every year. Now why would Mark use the inflated number? Could it be that he is wrong? Certainly he could be mistaken, but he is inevitably wrong on the high side. Could it be that he is deliberately distorting the data? Hard to say. But consistent errors are more indicative of an agenda than an argument.
Further on in his post, Mark uses the same tactic of old, that where he has been proved wrong and he resorts to "that's not what I said" when he changes the argument from health insurance to health coverage for everyone. Although if you look at the O'Neill study cited above, you will find that the uninsured get health care at a not unreasonable rate. For instance in screening for PSA, 55% of insured men have had one. But 36% of uninsured men have had one as well. Not bad for no insurance. Women, who seem to take more attention to their health than men get mammograms at a rate of 91.26% for insured women and 76% for uninsured women. And the list goes on. See O'Neill Table 9.
Predictably, Mark again shifts the argument to his pet peeve of medicine being for profit. I had pointed out to him that Blue Cross is a non-profit and would seem to fit his demand, but he rejected it out of hand because they are a "not-for-profit" organization instead. This distinction is significant under the tax code, but otherwise is a distinction without a difference. As I am sure that Mark knows.
Mark's next set of made up numbers come from the supposed fraud of Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $100-$500 Billion per year that could be saved by sending everyone to jail. $500 Billion is a lot of money, especially when Medicaid and Medicare total around $700 billion. Couldn't be more evidence of exaggeration now, could it? Now, these sorts of mistakes could be a product of misinformation that Mark relies on. But as noted by Dave, the use of misleading statistics doesn't enhance the argument in your favor.
While I believe that Mark is passionate in his endeavor to cover everyone with Canadian style coverage, he also ignores the problems with those "solutions." Honestly, if it was as easy as everyone says, why wouldn't it be done by now? Could it be that the chimera of the easy solution is just that? Could it be that rational people don't want to jump off of a cliff without knowing that the proposed reforms would work? Or could it even be that we can't even agree on what exactly the problem is at the moment, thanks in part to erroneous information that is clogging the argument?


Glenn said...

Dude, the challenge would be to find an *honest* posting from Toke-Arski.

Moorcat said...

The numbers you quote are misleading. Yes, the raw number of medical bankruptcies has decreased but that is because Bankruptcy laws themselves had changed and overall numbers of bankruptcies have dropped. Further the percentage of medical bankruptcies to the total number of bankruptcies in the US has increased.

While I find Mark T's argument style to be overdone (he freely admits to arguing just to get a rise out of people) and often without a basis in fact, please don't misrepresent a situation to prove him wrong. It weakens your argument. Mark will give you plenty of other inconsistancies to work with.


Steve said...

Actually Cat, the situation is even more complex. The Heritage study is where I got the information, and there were variances in the amount owing on medical bills that were included in the bankruptcy. The 2001 survey included anyone who had over $1000 in medical debt when they applied for BK, and the later survey had it over $5000. There are problems with the inconsistency of the questions yes, but it is not 1 million in any case.

moorcat said...

Oh, I am aware it is more complex and even more so when you consider that four different studies done within five months of each other came to different conclusions. The fact remains that the percentage of medical bankruptcies (regardless of what you use as a metric to determine what a medical bankruptcy is) is going up.

That said, I realised when I went back and read your original post that you were not trying to say that they weren't... you were responding to Mark T's assertion that there were over 1 million medical bankruptcies in the last year and that is patently false - regardless of what you use as a metric. I am kind of assuming that he used the "1 million" figure because it is a figure that will capture attention. I find the lesser figure rediculously high but I have an issue with the cost of medical care to begin with. Mark really should fact check more often.


WolfPack said...

From a Harvard study:

"Today's health insurance policies -- with high deductibles, co-pays, and many exclusions -- offer little protection during a serious illness. Uncovered medical bills averaged $13,460 for those with private insurance at the start of their illness. People with cancer had average medical debts of $35,878."

These amounts make it seem that many who go into BK must have been playing near the fiscal edge already or that that it was income loss not medical bills that drove them into bankruptcy. Not sure how you fix this problem but it surely doesn't look like health care reform is the fix all. Maybe just allowing more flexibility in a medical bankruptcies would be enough. Not every lifestyle can be maintained on the public dime through a tradgedy.

Read more:

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