Gorman Skewers Bogus Families USA Health Claims

Families USA is a “non-partisan” outfit that is a partisan fighting for government-controlled health care. It advocates policies that would harm families and that run contrary to the USA’s heritage of liberty. The organization is built on deception and it uses bogus claims to advance its agenda.

Back in February, Linda Gorman and I pointed out that a Families USA “study” regarding the magnitude of costs shifted from the uninsured to the insured is deeply flawed. We wrote:

Those who advocate an individual mandate throw up all kinds of numbers to support the wild claims that the proposal would save everyone money. A Jan. 8 article from The Denver Post claims that “Coloradans who have insurance spend an extra $950 each year to cover the costs of those who show up at the hospital without insurance.”

The article attributes the number to state Rep. Anne McGihon, who said that the figure comes from Partnership for a Healthy Colorado. Partnership for a Healthy Colorado, in turn, says it got the figure from Families USA, which published a paper in 2005. That paper’s estimates were unable to accurately predict the percentage of uninsured residents in Colorado. The paper also grossly overestimated at least some costs of uncompensated care.

The Lewin Group, the modeling firm hired by the commission to collect information about Colorado, reported total Colorado expenses for the uninsured of about $1.4 billion. Of that amount… leftover uncompensated costs, the ones that are not paid by any identifiable source, total $239 million. Divide $239 million by Colorado’s 2.8 million insured residents, and the result is a maximum likely cost-shift of about $85 per insured individual per year.

To “fix” the problem of $239 million in cost-shifting, the [Commission for Healthcare Reform] proposes to increase health spending in Colorado by more than $3 billion…

Then, on May 2, Gorman posted an article to John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog regarding Families USA’s claims about insurance and mortality:

In the series of reports, called “Dying for Coverage,” Families USA purports to show how many people are killed by a lack of health insurance in each state. For example, they claim 6 people die every day in Florida because they are uninsured. Seven die every day in Texas, 8 in California, and 25 in New York.

How is Families USA able to tally up all this carnage with such pinpoint precision? As it turns out, these claims are based on a 15-year cascade of studies – each repeating the errors and misinterpreting or mischaracterizing the findings of the previous one and ultimately relying on data that is 37 years old. …

[T]here is no point at which anyone from Families USA actually examines a medical record. There is no interview with any doctor, any patient or any family of a deceased patient. There is only algebraic mumbo jumbo in support of an unsupportable claim.

Gorman explains the problems with Families USA’s claims in greater detail in the article.

Gorman’s criticism follows one by Michael Tanner, who explains, “The Families USA study was not a traditional ‘double blind’ experiment with a control group and a treatment group.” Tanner offers additional evidence discrediting the Families USA claims.

As I have reviewed, Brian Schwartz discovered that a summary of State Senator Bob Hagedorn’s bill 217 cites the bogus Families USA study.

Finally, on May 3, the Rocky Mountain News published Gorman’s letter regarding Families USA’s claims about Medicaid. Gorman points out that an earlier article from the Rocky, “Report ties Medicaid cuts to job losses,” “simply repeated the substance of a press release from Families USA.” Gorman continues:

…What the Bush administration is proposing is a slightly smaller budget increase, about 7.1 percent rather than 7.4 percent. The 2009 budget numbers are available on Page 61 at http://www.hhs.gov/budget/ 09budget/2009BudgetInBrief.pdf.

If Families USA were a real family making $50,000 a year, these budget numbers would be the equivalent of having an expected windfall of $53,700 reduced to $53,550.

Families USA is known for approaching health care with a well-defined ideological slant and for producing lousy numbers on all manner of health-care issues. One hopes that, next time, the Rocky will take the Families USA reputation for inaccuracy into account, and that it will check before it unquestioningly reproduces their press releases as news.

It would also be pleasant if Colorado legislators would refrain from basing state policy on Families USA’s misinformation campaigns.