A Bad Day for Bad Science


After taking a whipping over changng a negative health report into a positive one, The NY Times says the Bush Admin has decided to change it back.

The theme of the original report was that members of minorities “tend to be in poorer health than other Americans” and that “disparities are pervasive in our health care system,” contributing to higher rates of disease and disability.By contrast, the final report has an upbeat tone, beginning, “The overall health of Americans has improved dramatically over the last century.”

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The reversal comes in response to concerns of Democrats and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee. They are pushing separate bills to improve care for members of minorities.

“African-Americans and Native Americans die younger than any other racial or ethnic group,” Dr. Frist said. “African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans are at least twice as likely to suffer from diabetes and experience serious complications. These gaps are unacceptable.”

In response to this high-level tongue-lashing, the original report is now going to be published as originally written. This is all well and good. It’s a positive step. We like it. But get a load of HHS-Sec Tommy Thompson’s unmitigated gall:

Mr. Thompson said that “some individuals took it upon themselves” to make the report sound more positive than was justified by the data.

He’s decided to blame unnamed “individuals” and claim that they did it on their own. Who’s he trying to kid and exactly how gullible does he think we are? Some faceless clerks took it into their own heads, without authority, in this the most authoritarian Admin in history, to risk their careers by re-writing a key report in a way that their changes just happened to justify Bush budget cuts?

President Bush’s budget would cut spending for the training of health professionals and would eliminate a $34 million program that recruits blacks and Hispanics for careers as doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Tommy must think we’re all morons. Fortunately, the NYT reporter, one Robert Pear, nailed down at least one of the people probably responsible.

Among those who wanted to rewrite the report was Arthur J. Lawrence, a deputy assistant secretary of health and human services.”The present draft remains highly focused on the health care system’s supposed failings and flaws,” Mr. Lawrence said in a memorandum to Mr. Thompson last fall. “In short, the report lacks balance.”

Mr. Lawrence said that geography, income and other factors could be more important than race. For example, he said, whites in rural northern Maine may have worse heart problems than blacks in big cities. In addition, he said, the report should place more emphasis on “personal responsibility for one’s own health status” and on “problems with the medical malpractice system. (emphasis added)

Lacks balance. Oh, that again. Those damn liberal scientists, anyway. They always insist on using evidence instead of faith, and they clearly don’t believe in “balance.”

Lawrence’s whole line of argument is so incredibly thin that a sheet of paper would look like a cement slab by comparison, yet the report was changed along exactly those lines. Mr Lawrence is NOT a faceless “individual” but a Deputy Asst Secretary, a position of some responsibility only two steps removed from Tommy himself, so the decision to whitewash the report in order to cover Bush’s ass was made at a pretty high level. And Tommy wants to pretend he never approved it and didn’t know anything about it?

OK, Tommy, and my daughter had no idea how the cookies I had put aside for my lunch found their way into her school backpack. Some faceless “individual” must have put them there, and she was entirely innocent. Uh-huh. Sure.

What a maroon. How did Wisconsin stand him all those years?

Here are some of the statements that were purged:

¶”We aspire to equality of opportunities for all our citizens. Persistent disparities in health care are inconsistent with our core values.”¶”Disparities come at a personal and societal price.”

¶”Compared with whites, blacks experience longer waits in emergency departments and are more likely to leave without being seen.”

¶When hospitalized for heart attacks, “Hispanics are less likely to receive optimal care.”

The original report included a stark, prominent statement that “black children have much higher hospitalization rates for asthma than white children.” The final version included the data, without comment.

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