Opposition Grows From the Left Against Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General

by on January 8, 2009 · 2 comments

in Economy, Election, Health, Media

Dr. Gupta on CNN wrongly accused Michale Moore of ‘fudging the facts’ in the movie “Sicko”; Rep. Conyers spurs Congressional opposition to Obama’s nominee

by Sam Stein / The Huffington Post / Jan. 8, 2009

Rep. John Conyers has written a letter to Democratic colleagues urging them to join him in publicly opposing the nomination of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General.

Conyers, the veteran Judiciary Committee chairman, writes that Gupta “lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance,” and requests that fellow Democrats join him “in signing a letter to President-Elect Barack Obama that Dr. Sunjay Gupta not be nominated for the post.”

Here’s the bulk of the Dear Colleague letter:

I join in opposition with respected Noble Peace Prize award wining economist Paul Krugman, who has very serious concerns with having Dr. Gupta be the nation’s Surgeon General. […]Also, there are highly experienced medical professionals who question whether Dr. Gupta has the necessary experience or even the medical background to be in charge of some 6,000 physicians or more who work in the United States Public Health Service. Gerard M. Farrel, Executive Director of the Commissioned Officers Association, stated in the January 7, 2008 Washington Post that Dr. Gupta will certainly face a “credibility gap” because he never served in the National Health Service Corp, and furthermore, does not have the “experience or qualifications to be the leader of the nation’s public health service.” Clearly, it is not in the best interests of the nation to have someone like this who lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance to some of the poorest and most underserved communities in America.

Conyers’ letter represents one of the first critical takes on the potential Gupta nomination to come from the Hill. In most quarters, reports about the CNN medical correspondent have been greeted as a smart, if not provocative, pick. Howard Dean, a doctor himself, noted that Gupta’s responsibilities would be much the same as those in his current job: explaining medical issues of public concern in a manner that the public could understand.

Outside of government, however, some have begun questioning whether the CNN correspondent has the proper qualifications to be Surgeon General. Krugman, in his post noted that Gupta accused filmmaker Michael Moore of inaccuracies, “when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.” Gupta and CNN would later acknowledge making a mistake and apologize on air. Others have questioned whether he is the right conduit for Obama’s health care agenda, and whether or not he has ethical conflicts of interest stemming from the corporate sponsors of his show.

But while Conyers and these individuals have doubts, it’s unclear whether the post of Surgeon General will elicit much of a fight, since no Senators (who must confirm the nomination) have spoken critically of Gupta.

_________________

Michael Moore’s Response to Dr Sanjay Gupta’s Accusations of “Fudged Facts”

‘SiCKO’ Truth Squad Sets CNN Straight

by Michael Moore / originally published July 10, 2007

[In response to Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s biased reporting on ‘SiCKO’ during the July 8th, 2007 broadcast of… The Situation Room (VIDEO)]

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN: “(Moore says) the United States slipped to number 37 in the world’s health care systems. It’s true. … Moore brings a group of patients, including 9/11 workers, to Cuba and marvels at their free treatment and quality of care. But hold on – that WHO list puts Cuba’s health care system even lower than the United States, coming in at #39.”

THE TRUTH:

  • “But hold on?” ‘SiCKO’ clearly shows the WHO list, with the United States at number #37, and Cuba at #39. Right up on the screen in big five-foot letters. It’s even in the trailer! CNN should have its reporter see his eye doctor. The movie isn’t hiding from this fact. Just the opposite:
    CNN hides the facts on Cuba


    But ‘SiCKO’ puts the facts right up front

  • The fact that the healthcare system in an impoverished nation crippled by our decades-old blockade (including medical supplies and drugs) ranks so closely to ours is more an indictment of the American system than the Cuban system.
  • Although Cuba ranks lower overall than the United States, it still has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life span. (see below)
  • And unlike the United States, Cuba offers healthcare to absolutely everyone. In an independent Gallup poll conducted in Cuba, “a near unanimous 96 percent of respondents say that health care in Cuba is accessible to everyone.” (“Cubans Show Little Satisfaction with Opportunities and Individual Freedom Rare Independent Survey Finds Large Majorities Are Still Proud of Island’s Health Care and Education,” January 10, 2007.
    http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brlatinamericara/
    300.php?nid=&id=&pnt=300&lb=brla
    )

CNN: “Moore asserts that the American health care system spends $7,000 per person on health. Cuba spends $25 dollars per person. Not true. But not too far off. The United States spends $6,096 per person, versus $229 per person in Cuba.”

THE TRUTH:

  • According to our own government – the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Health Expenditures Projections – the United States will spend $7,092 per capita on health in 2006 and $7,498 in 2007. (Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures, National Health Expenditures Projections 2006-2016.
  • As for Cuba – Dr. Gupta and CNN need to watch ‘SiCKO’ first before commenting on it. ‘SiCKO’ says Cuba spends $251 per person on health care, not $25, as Gupta reports. And the BBC reports that Cuba’s per capita health expenditure is… $251! (Keeping Cuba Healthy, BBC, Aug. 1 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/5232628.stm ) This is confirmed by the United Nations Human Development Report, 2006. Yup, Cuba spends $251 per person on health care. (http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/statistics/indicators/52.html). As Gupta points out, the World Health Organization does calculate Cuba’s per capita health expenditure at $229 per person. We chose to use the UN numbers, a minor difference – and $229 is a lot closer to $251 than $25.

CNN: In fact, Americans live just a little bit longer than Cubans on average.

THE TRUTH:

  • Just the opposite. The 2006 United Nations Human Development Report’s human development index states the life expectancy in the United States is 77.5 years. It is 77.6 years in Cuba. (Human Development Report 2006, United Nations Development Programme, 2006 at 283. http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/pdfs/report/HDR06-complete.pdf)

CNN: The United States ranks highest in patient satisfaction.

THE TRUTH:

  • True, but even when the WHO took patient satisfaction into account in its comprehensive review of the world’s health systems, we still came in at #37. (“World Health Organization Assesses The World’s Health Systems,” Press Release, WHO/44, June 21, 2000. http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-44.html ).
  • Patients may be satisfied in America, but not everyone gets to be a patient. 47 million are uninsured and are rarely patients – until it’s too late. In the rest of the Western world, everyone and anyone can be a patient because everyone is covered. (And don’t face exclusions for pre-existing conditions, co-pays, deductibles, and costly monthly premiums).
  • It’s not that other countries are unhappy with their health care – for example, “70 to 80 percent of Canadians find their waiting times acceptable.” (“Access to health care services in Canada, Waiting times for specialized services (January to December 2005),” Statistics Canada, )

CNN: Americans have shorter wait times than everyone but Germans when seeking non-emergency elective procedures, like hip replacement, cataract surgery, or knee repair.

THE TRUTH:

  • This isn’t the whole truth. CNN pulled out a statistic about elective procedures. Of the six countries surveyed in that study (United States, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Australia) only Canada had longer waiting times than America for sick adults waiting to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a medical problem. 81% of patients in New Zealand got a same or next-day appointment for a non-routine visit, 71% in Britain, 69% in Germany, 66% in Australia, 47% in the U.S., and 36% in Canada. (The Doc’s in, but It’ll be AWhile. Catherine Arnst, Business Week. June 22, 2007 http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2007/
    tc20070621_716260_page_2.htm
    )
  • “Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins health policy professor who has spent his career examining the world’s healthcare, said there are delays, but not as many as conservatives state. In Canada, the United Kingdom and France, ‘three percent of hospital discharges had delays in treatment,’ Anderson told The Miami Herald. ‘That’s a relatively small number, and they’re all elective surgeries, such as hip and knee replacement.’ (John Dorschner, “‘SiCKO’ film is set to spark debate; Reformers are gearing up for ‘Sicko,’ the first major movie to examine America’s often maligned healthcare system,” Miami Herald, June 29, 2007.)
  • One way America is able to achieve decent waiting times is that it leaves 47 million people out of the health care system entirely, unlike any other Western country. When you remove 47 million people from the line, your wait should be shorter. So why is the U.S. second to last in wait times?
  • And there are even more Americans who keep themselves out of the system because of cost – in the United States, 24 percent of the population did not get medical care due to cost. That number is 5 percent in Canada, and 3 percent in the UK. (Inequities in Health Care: A Five-Country Survey. Robert Blendon et al, Health Affairs. Exhibit 5. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/21/3/182)

CNN: (PAUL KECKLEY-Deloitte Health Care Analyst): “The concept that care is free in France, in Canada, in Cuba – and it’s not. Those citizens pay for health services out of taxes. As a proportion of their household income, it’s a significant number … (GUPTA): It’s true that the French pay higher taxes, and so does nearly every country ahead of the United States on that list.”

THE TRUTH:

  • ‘SiCKO’ never claims that health care is provided absolutely for free in other countries, without tax contributions from citizens. Former MP Tony Benn reads from the NHS founding pamphlet, which explicitly states that “this is not a charity. You are paying for it mainly as taxpayers.” ‘SiCKO’ also acknowledges that the French are “drowning in taxes.” Comparatively, many Americans are drowning in insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays and medical debt and the resulting threat of bankruptcy – half of all bankruptcies in the United States are triggered by medical bills. (Medical Bills Make up Half of Bankruptcies. Feb. 2005, MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6895896/)

CNN: “But even higher taxes don’t guarantee the coverage everyone wants … (KECKLEY): 15 to 20 percent of the population will purchase services outside the system of care run by the government.”

THE TRUTH:

  • It’s not clear what country Keckley is referring to. In the United Kingdom, only 11.5 percent of the population has supplementary insurance, but it doesn’t take the place of NHS insurance. Nobody in France buys insurance that replaces government insurance either, although a substantial amount buys some form of complementary insurance. ( Private health insurance and access to health care in the European Union. Spring 2004.

CNN: “But no matter how much Moore fudged the facts, and he did fudge some facts…”

  • This is libel. There is not a single fact that is “fudged” in the film. No one has proven a single fact in the film wrong. We expect CNN to correct their mistakes on the air and to apologize to their viewers.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar dougbob January 8, 2009 at 7:12 pm
avatar watchdoggie January 13, 2009 at 9:11 pm

I say ‘draft Michael Moore as General Surgeon!’

Reply

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