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CBS Disguises Single-Payer Group's 45,000 Deaths Claim as a 'Harvard' Study

Trying to boost the rationale for ObamaCare, Thursday's CBS Evening News ran two stories from far-left sources, but the network disguised the agenda behind both. Katie Couric announced that "while the debate goes on over the cost of insuring everyone, a new study reveals the cost of not doing it. The Harvard study says nearly 45,000 American deaths every year are linked to a lack of insurance." Neither she, nor reporter Jim Axelrod, noted that the report was really produced by Physicians for a National Health Program, "the only national physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program."

Next, Nancy Cordes touted "a rare sight - leaders from the nation's largest insurers sitting down to get grilled," without pointing out it occurred at a hearing held by the Domestic Policy subcommittee of the House's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a subcommittee chaired by far-left former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Cordes began by showing Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings demagogically demanding: "Which of you, if any, give bonuses for folks who deny coverage?" She followed with how "lawmakers accused the insurers of putting profits before customers, customers like two-year-old Sidney Gendernalik from Los Angeles who suffers from a rare syndrome known as infant spasms. From the moment Sidney was diagnosed at three months, her insurer, Riegle Medical Group, began denying treatments, tests, and drugs."

In the first story, with the numbers on screen credited to "Harvard Medical School" and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler identified on screen as with "Harvard Medical School," Axelrod reported Woolhandler "was part of a team that tracked more than 9,000 people for up to 13 years, comparing the health of those with insurance to those without. After factoring in education and income, smoking, drinking, obesity, researchers found the uninsured had about a 40 percent higher risk of death. In 1993, it was 25 percent."

Woolhandler is one of five signers of an "Open Letter to President Obama to Support Single-Payer Health Care" and the CBSNews.com online version of Axelrod's story provides a link to a PDF of the "study" - as posted on the Physicians for a National Health Program's site.

Axelrod began his story with the plight of a man who "didn't go to the doctor until he could no longer eat" and then learned he had "stage four stomach cancer," as if the lack of health insurance, which the man chose not to buy, prevented him from seeing a doctor and paying the full charge for a visit instead of just a co-pay amount.

[UPDATE: The New York Times also failed to note the advocacy group behind the study, Clay Waters documented on the MRC's TimesWatch site.]

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide these transcripts of the stories on the Thursday, September 17 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Now, turning to health care reform, President Obama campaigned for student support at the University of Maryland today. Speaking to about 15,000 people, the President called health care reform a defining struggle of this generation. And while the debate goes on over the cost of insuring everyone, a new study reveals the cost of not doing it. The Harvard study says nearly 45,000 American deaths every year are linked to a lack of insurance. We have two reports on the health care crisis beginning with Jim Axelrod.

JIM AXELROD: A year and a half ago, Daniel Duarte started dropping a lot of weight. Was that concerning you as you went from 290 to 240 to, did you realize something was wrong?

DANIEL DUARTE: Yeah, definitely.

AXELROD: Having quit his full-time job at a dairy to freelance in the catering business, gambling he wouldn't need the insurance, Daniel didn't go to the doctor until he could no longer eat. The diagnosis, stage four stomach cancer. Medicaid paid for his surgery last April. Would you be in a different place if you had health insurance?

DUARTE: Totally. I would have been able to go to a doctor, like, maybe last year.

DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: We found that 45,000 Americans are dying annually due to lack of health insurance.

AXELROD: Dr. Steffie Woolhandler was part of a team that tracked more than 9,000 people for up to 13 years, comparing the health of those with insurance to those without. After factoring in education and income, smoking, drinking, obesity, researchers found the uninsured had about a 40 percent higher risk of death. In 1993, it was 25 percent.

WOOLHANDLER: We've got lots of good treatments for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But we can't do anything for the patients if they can't afford to come to their offices.

JOHN GOODMAN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS: Well, I think this study is not well done.

AXELROD: John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis says the study results are exaggerated. Researchers don't know how the uninsured died or if they were uninsured the entire time they were being tracked. But even this critic agrees with the basic premise.

GOODMAN: I think you can't trust the results. Having said that, we ought to do something for the uninsured.

AXELROD: Of course, it's not getting any easier to provide health insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost of a family health insurance policy is now more than $13,000, having more than doubled this decade. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth-

NANCY CORDES: This is Nancy Cordes at the Capitol. It was a rare sight - leaders from the nation's largest insurers sitting down to get grilled.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Which of you, if any, give bonuses for folks who deny coverage?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm sorry, Congressman, without going back and doing research on that topic, I really could not give you a responsive answer to that question.

CUMMINGS: You don't know that? You don't know the answer to that question? Is that what you're telling me?

MAN #1: Yes, sir.

CORDES: Members of Congress pushed the top brass from Cigna, Humana, Aetna, and more to explain why premiums have shot up 131 percent in the past 10 years.

PATRICIA FARRELL, AETNA: For every dollar we take in we pay about, we make about five cents in profit, pay about 84 cents in medical claims.

CORDES: Lawmakers accused the insurers of putting profits before customers, customers like two-year-old Sidney Gendernalik from Los Angeles-

MARK GENDERNALIK, FATHER OF INFANT SPASMS SYNDROME PATIENT: That's one of her seizure events she's having right now.

CORDES: -who suffers from a rare syndrome known as infant spasms.

GENDERNALIK: She can have over 50 of these a day.

CORDES: From the moment Sidney was diagnosed at three months, her insurer, Riegle Medical Group, began denying treatments, tests, and drugs.

GENDERNALIK: There's a part of me that's lost an opportunity to be my daughter's father because I have to be out there spending time and effort battling one referral to the next, one authorization for a drug to the next. It's not, it's not right.

CORDES: The six executives insisted they support reform, to a point.

THOMAS RICHARDS, CIGNA HEALTHCARE: We believe if those reforms are enacted, then a government-run plan is not necessary.

BRIAN SASSI, WELLPOINT INC.: We would not have a level playing field since insurers are subject to taxes and other types of expenses.

CORDES: Even more notable than what the insurance companies said was the fact that they said it at all. Normally, they like to stay out of the spotlight and let their national lobby defend their practices.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center