Captain Courageous (a.k.a. Congressman Bill Foster) held a town hall last night. Of course this one was via telephone. Only one person could speak at a time, you couldn't hear any feedback from the other people on the line, and some, including myself, were only called into the town hall about 35 minutes into the one hour call. So, I didn't get to hear the whole thing. But it only took that remaining 25 minutes for me to catch at least one lie. He also said that "No Medicare benefits will be cut". We'll see how that one turns out.
One of the questions that I did hear came from a lady that had gone through a very tough time and had some medical debt. Captain Courageous used the opportunity to perpetuate one of the biggest lies in the debate about health care reform, that 50% of personal bankruptcies are caused by medical related debt. As the story line goes, we really need to clean up the national health care mess because too many people are going bankrupt. If only the benevolent arms of Uncle Sam could sweep us up and save us from the rotten doctors and hospitals, little Timmy's parents wouldn't have to go bankrupt (cue the violin music).
This, of course would be a compelling story if it were even close to being true.
The Congressman is perpetuating an erroneous study that was completed by Harvard professor Dr. Himmelstein and others that reported in the American Journal of Medicine that 62% of bankruptcies in 2007 were "medical". As always with studies like this, follow the money. Click here for a background on the Doctor and the study.
Dr. Himmelstein is the co-founder of "Physicians for a National Health Program", an organization that describes itself on its web site as "the only national physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program".
Let's look at studies that aren't complete by hacks for a nationalized health system, shall we?
The "Survey of Consumer Finance", published by the Federal Reserve showed that medical debt rose slightly from 5.5% to 5.7% from 2001 to 2007. A study that was completed by the Department of Justice examined over 5,000 bankruptcy cases between 2000 and 2002. It found that 54% of bankruptcies involve no medical debt and more that 90% have medical debt of less than $5,000.
What Dr. Himmelstein did was to use circumstantial "evidence" to prove that medical causes were the reasons for the bankruptcy. If anyone even mentioned medical bills - snap - their bankruptcy is "caused" by medical debt. If someone lost two weeks of work due to illness or injury there were counted as medically bankrupt, even if they had no medical debt. These "causes" were counted even if the overwhelming cause of the bankruptcy was due to other causes.
Congressman, if you want to lead a conversation about medical reform, and you want to have an audience of a couple of thousand people on the line, please don't perpetuate lies to your constituents. The problem with telephone town halls is that when the speaker throws out a lie like he did last night, there is no way that anyone can point out the lie. The people on the line that can only hear the Congressman filibuster through questions and there is no check on his distortions. Way to go, Captain Courageous.