Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

If you watch or listen to Democracy Now! you know about the latest study on insurance and mortality in US adults. It's no big deal, just some wacky research indicating that tens of thousands of people (45,000 actually) in the US die every year because they don't have health insurance.

NPR is definitely challenged when it comes to counting, math and timekeeping - though they are the gold standard for tallies that comfort the powerful and celebrate death from the skies. But some numbers are just so confusing and troublesome, why deal with them at all - especially if it might ruffle the death health insurance industry? Consider the old, way-back-then study of 2002 from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which determined that, in the US, 18,000 people a year die from lack of health insurance, or the Urban Institute 2008 update that raised the mortality estimate to 22,000. And now in the thick of the health insurance reform debates and policy maneuvers, there is a new study doubling the mortality estimate to 45,000.

So how has NPR done on covering these deadly numbers? Lets consult the NPR death panel search engine:

On the 18,000 fatalities:
On the 22,000 figure:
On the 45,000 figure:
To be fair to NPR - 45,000 is a pretty puny number compared to that big, scary TRILLION number which does get lots of attention from the journalists at NPR when it comes to health care.


larry, dfh said...

Yeah, tom ashbrook Firday had a health care discussion, and just to make sure it never got anywhere, he had michael gerson on to play hide the reality salami. Most of the callers in fact called him on it. I wrote a comment, accusing tom of having a stupid format to his show. I do think that it is intentional that so much time is wasted on the liars; that gives less time to the issues, and only confuses the public, giving the insurance industry senator from Montana cover to ram their plan through. In these discussions, the 'sane' voice spends an inordinate amount of time refuting the bullshit. That's the whole purpose of the format, really. Amy Goodman will often have opposing view representatives on her show, but it's not for the purposes of killing time. Npr is very dishonest in the method in which they present opposing (ie. red herring) views.

bg!pnk!fzzy!bnny! (iiuu) said...

This reminds me of Wolf Blitzer (gee, someone with a finger on the pulse of the planet and an ear on the hum of the cosmos, one might think) getting his arse handed to him on a recent Celebrity Jeopardy by a mere late-nite talk-show toadie, Andy Richter; pretty much all softball questions too!

ropagop said...

Numbers can be so numbing and distract from the dumbing down of NPR's aural audience. Plus, everyone know Murkins are maths challenged, so attempting to convey the content of such a discouraging report can only get people's ossicles in a tangle.

Consider what the report says:

Note that DU, or the number of deaths among the uninsured, is calculated through two steps. First, the IOM methodology ascertains the number of deaths among the uninsured as if everyone
in the age cohort had insurance. That number is X (or the total number of deaths if everyone in the age cohort had insurance) times PU (or the proportion of people in the age cohort who lack insurance).

NPR understands how terrifying the use of abstractions such as "X" is for the average Murkin listener and is considerate enough to keep these from crossing the paths of nascent tympanic membranes of the tender naifs who need numbing.

Second, the number of deaths as if the uninsured had insurance is multiplied by 1.25. This yields an estimate of the actual number of deaths among the uninsured, reflecting the 25 percent higher mortality rate among the uninsured
found by the above-described research.

¡Oh horrors! Percents? What, do they think we've got PhD's in Thinkology, like that moist flushable scarecrow Simon?

Using the IOM’s analysis of 25- to 34-year-olds to illustrate this calculation, mortality estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed that 40,548 adults age 25–34 died in 2000. Accordingly, for this age group, DT = 40,548. At the time of the IOM report, data from the CPS reported that 79 percent of adults age 25–34 were insured and 21 percent were uninsured in 2000, providing the values for PI and PU, respectively. Using these figures in the above formula produces the equation:

40,548 = (.79*X) + (.21*1.25*X) = (.79*X) + (.26*X) = (.79+.26)*X = 1.05*X

Such malleus treatment of the tympanic cavity can only lead one through the Labyrinth to Phlegethon (river of blood) and across the Styx to Dis and a state of final, endless, hopeless suffering. You wouldn't want that, would you? Thank goodness we have NPR who gwine proteck us!

It's not in Numbers that Esau sells his birthright for a mess of pottage, is it?

Anonymous said...

This is another case of NPR making use of one of the classic propaganda techniques; card stacking.

With NPR, it is no tso much what they report that you have to watch, but what they FAIL (purposely) to report.

The folks at NPR (Steve Inskreep, Meeeeshell Norris, Don BeGonyea!, Cokie Finokee Roberts, Mara Liarson, et al) have card stacking down to a science.

They are very sly. Card stacking is the hardest to prove. It's seay to prove someone is wrong on their facts but much harder to prove that they are purposely omitting critical information, which NPR does on a regular basis.

It is NO accident.

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