Michael Townes Watson
Health Care for U.S. Kids Falls Short
An article one of this week’s Business Week journal would come as no surprise if you have been following the developments in Washington about SCHIP (the program that provides medical insurance for children who lack private healthcare insurance). The article states that healthcare for kids falls far short of being even adequate. What is surprising, however, is that the article addresses the quality of care not for children in the SCHIP program, but for all children, even those with private health insurance coverage. Here is the conclusion reached by researchers:
“It seems that even white, middle-class, well-insured children get poor quality health care more often than not. A large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that American children receive recommended health-care procedures only 46% of the time when they see a doctor.”
Notice that the conclusions are published not by some “litigation-hungry trial lawyer” or a “wild-eyed consumer advocacy group.” These are the conclusions published in the New England Journal of Medicine, based upon the research of the RAND corporation scientists, some of the most well-respected scientific researchers in the world. Additional conclusions published are these:
1. “…[N]o one, anywhere, is immune from poor quality of care [in the U.S.],” says lead researcher Rita Mangione-Smith of Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute.
2. “[C]hildren in the U.S. do not routinely receive regular weight and measurement checks.
3. Children do not get “widely recommended screening tests, or standard care for asthma and diarrhea.”
4. “Sixty-two percent of children were not screened for anemia in the first two years of life, although the test is recommended for all babies.”
5. “Only 38% of children received the proper care for acute diarrhea, one of the main causes of hospitalizations in children under age 5.”
The researchers blamed much of the care deficit on insurers, whom they said pressure doctors to spend only ten minutes on a regular checkup, leaving them little time to run all the recommended tests. "Until now, most people assumed that quality was not a problem for children," says Elizabeth McGlynn, associate director of Rand Health and a co-author of the study. "This new study tells us that's not true."
Ironically, another story from the same day reports that Senator John McCain, once considered a favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, has determined that his prescription for providing better healthcare for Americans includes “passing tort reform to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards.” This conclusion is based on what evidence? Could it be based on the study, also published by the NEJM, that the cost of the medical malpractice system comprises less than 1% of the total healthcare costs in this country? Could it be based upon the fact that the actual statistics from the National Practitioners Database (the Congressional-mandated data reporting on lawsuit payments by doctors and hospitals) demonstrate that insurance companies made up the “medical malpractice crisis”? Maybe he made his determination about lawsuits from the study published in the May/June edition of Health Affairs magazine, concluding that malpractice premiums constitute only a small portion of the expenses of physicians, even those in “high-risk practices such as neurosurgery and obstetrics. See here.
One thing that we must all be vigilant about is the continuing efforts of insurance companies to distort the facts about the healthcare that they control, finance, and propagandize about. If you don’t want to believe the trial lawyers because you think they have an agenda with which you do not agree, then believe the scientists who produced studies published for Health Affairs and the New England Journal of Medicine. Most of all, be wary of politicians who claim to have a fix for something that is nothing more than a myth.
Michael Townes Watson, author of America’s Tunnel Vision—How Insurance Companies’ Propaganda Is Corrupting Medicine and Law.