Friday, July 13, 2007

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Moore: Some more Thoughts

GUPTA: "Well, I mean, he pulls $251 from this BBC unsourced report ... Where you pulled the $251 number was a BBC report, which, by the way, stated that the per capita spending in the United States was $5,700. You chose not to use the $5,700 from one report and chose to go to a totally different report and you're sort of cherry picking data from different reports ... Well, why didn't you use the $5,700 number from the BBC report?"

Moore: Actually, the number 'Sicko' cited for per capita Cuban spending on health care - $251, a number widely cited by the BBC and other outlets - comes from the United Nations Human Development Report, helpfully linked on our website. Here it is again:
That UN report does list American health care spending as only $5,700, but it's a few years old. Since then, the U.S. government has updated it's projections for health care spending, to $7,498 in 2007. So we used that number. It's the most recent, and comes right from the Department of Health and Human Services. If the Cuban government gave a figure on 2007 projected health spending, we'd have used it.

Again, when making a comparison such as this you use a source that has figures for both. Otherwise one is open to the charge that one is comparing apples to oranges. By arguing a point on which he is clearly wrong, Moore focused attention away from the fact that he was right about the larger point. Cuban spends a fraction of what the US does on healthcare, but its health indicators are in some ways better than the US. Why is this?

Gupta was also right about Moore’s use of 2007 numbers. The 2007 numbers are estimates and estimates are not the same as solid figures and one has to note the difference. But this is minor point.

All and all, what I said before stands. Moore should have conceded these points and moved on to another comparison. Namely, Moore should have looked at the rate at which health care numbers are raising in the States in absolute terms. $7400 is long way from $5700 in a few short years and would represent a staggering increase in any other country.

GUPTA: "The point is, though, and I think you would have to concede this point, Michael, that you are trying to lead people to believe, again, people who are really concerned about this issue, that it is free in these other countries. And that is what I think is - (MOORE): It is free. (GUPTA) It's not, Michael."

Moore: “Sicko' doesn't hide from the obvious fact that higher taxes are needed to pay for free, universal health care. Former UK MP Tony Benn reads from the National Health Service founding pamphlet, which explicitly states that "this is not a charity. You are paying for it mainly as taxpayers." And 'SiCKO' also acknowledges that the French are "drowning in taxes," a line that clearly stuck with Gupta since he used it himself during the broadcast.

The medical care in countries with socialized medicine is still free. Gupta doesn't seem to grasp that. Here in America, when you go to the library and check out a book, it's free. When the fire department puts out a fire at your house, it's free. In Canada, when you go into the hospital for chemotherapy, it's free. You don't walk out with a bill. Yes, citizens pay higher taxes in countries with socialized medicine, but they don't pay the premiums, co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket medical costs that we face in America. Moreover, in other industrialized countries citizens are not bankrupted by huge bills during a medical crisis – as is the case in America, where the leading cause of bankruptcy is medical bills. (Medical Bills Make up Half of Bankruptcies. Feb. 2005, MSNBC.

Moore successfully undercuts Gupta’s point. That said, Moore does seem to run two senses of the “word” free together in Sicko. Not to be too cheeky about it but one does not need to “pay” higher taxes for something that is “free”.

Throughout Gupta get on saying that “I get it Michael”, but I kept on waiting in vain for Moore to retort that “no you do not get. You concede that Americans health care system is broken, but are unwilling to concede that the route every other developed nation has chosen, namely some form of universal health care, is superior to ours. What you have implied again and again is that while our system is surely broken, so is everybody’s. This is a false equivalency. Yes the French medical system, for example, has its problems, it is hard to imagine a health care system without some, but their health care system is better than ours and this also holds for every other Western country. We pay far more than anyone else and get less out.” Maybe next time.

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