20/20 lacks vision on Stossel health care special

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Just watched John Stossel’s special, “Whose Body Is It Anyway? Sick in America,” on the ABC News 20/20 program.


Simplistic. Superficial. Shallow. Superfluous.

Just one example: he used laser eye surgery and cosmetic surgery as two examples of how the competitive marketplace can bring health care costs under control. No discussion of quality. No discussion of evidence. No discussion of overuse.

No discussion about some of health care’s true challenges: management of diabetes, chronic heart or lung disease, care for the elderly, care for anyone with multiple chronic conditions.

I wasted an hour.

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September 17, 2007 at 12:03 pm

Actually, he made a host of excellent points against socialized medicine and gave plenty of examples from the existing plans in Canada and Europe. I’ve had a dubious privilege of experiencing it myself and have plenty of relatives and friends who still have to suffer through it. The grass is always greener…..

The Publisher

September 19, 2007 at 8:24 am

Last week, before the 20/20 special, Stossel had a commentary in the Wall Street Journal along similar lines as the TV special.
Note the followup letters to the editor in today’s Wall Street Journal about that commentary:
In regard to John Stossel’s Sept. 13 editorial-page commentary “Sick Sob Stories”: By focusing on the narrow subject of bone marrow transplantation, Mr. Stossel is missing the big picture of the major problems in health care in the U.S.
He fails to comment on the fact that there are 47 million people in the U.S. who do not have any health care. While promoting health care for profit, he neglects to mention that 31% of health-care costs in this country are for administrative salaries and advertising. Salaries of HMO executives (along with their lawyers and lobbyists) are obscene. The previous CEO of United Health Care made $1.6 billion (including back dated stock options) last year. This is not where health-care dollars should go. The current for-profit health-care system is not working.
J. David Gaines, M.D., FACP
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine
Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, Conn.
…Mr. Stossel has the right headline, “Sick Sob Stories,” for his piece but the wrong conclusion. Government-run health care is not the enemy. Market-based health care is not the enemy. The high rate of uninsurance, the U.S. method of rationing, is the enemy.
Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Institute for Health Policy
School of Public Health
University of Texas
Health Science Center at Houston
It’s ironic in the extreme that this was published the same day as the story about a woman whose cancer treatment wasn’t covered because she was diagnosed at the wrong clinic. Mr. Stossel rails against the “evils” of government-run health care, saying that it results in people “getting less of the care that is absolutely necessary.” We obviously don’t have a government-run system in the U.S., but that still didn’t help Shirley Loewe get the care that was absolutely necessary for her.
Profit, Mr. Stossel says, is the source of scientific innovation and medical breakthroughs. Unfortunately, all those scientific innovations are worthless if they don’t reach the patients who need them.
Rebecca A. Drayer, M.D., M.Sc.
Clinical Instructor of Medicine
University of Rochester
School of Medicine
Rochester, N.Y.


September 19, 2007 at 8:16 pm

The issue should not be privately run vs. publicly run. Canadian government run health care is no picnic either.
The problem that both systems have is that there is no accountability for the costs. Whenever the end user of a product has no incentive to be economical, the cost of delivering that product will spiral out of control. Cost control is the core issue.
Americans deal with this by excluding a segment of the population (the uninsured). The Canadians deal with it by rationing and delaying care. Both of these methods often have devastating results on the helpless patient.