Single-Payer Group's "45,000 Deaths" Claim Disguised as From "Harvard" Study

"The Cost of Doing Without," a short health-care story by Reed Abelson, used an unidentified left-wing study to argue that a lack of health insurance causes 45,000 deaths a year in the United States.

Abelson's brief was based on a longer post at the paper's "Prescriptions" blog:

As the White House and Congress continue debating how best to provide coverage to tens of millions of Americans currently without health insurance, a new study (PDF) is meant to offer a stark reminder of why lawmakers should continue to try. Researchers from Harvard Medical School say the lack of coverage can be tied to about 45,000 deaths a year in the United States - a toll that is greater than the number of people who die each year from kidney disease.

"If you extend coverage, you can save lives," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard who is one of the study's authors. The research is being published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health and was posted online Thursday.

The Harvard study found that people without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance - as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The risk appears to have increased since 1993, when a similar study found the risk of death was 25 percent greater for the uninsured.

Reacting to CBS News' equally unquestioning coverage, the Media Research Center's Brent Baker discovered the impressive Harvard imprimatur was misleading: The report was actually produced by the group Physicians for a National Health Program, which describes itself as "the only national physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program." Woolhandler is one of five signers of an "Open Letter to President Obama to Support Single-Payer Health Care." Neither the Times nor CBS noticed.