(Ed. note - Logan already posted on this, but it's worth a second look .) Ah yes, I'm not surprised that psychiatrist David Gratzer testified this
July 11, 2009

(Ed. note - Logan already posted on this, but it's worth a second look .)

Ah yes, I'm not surprised that psychiatrist David Gratzer testified this week that the Canadian healthcare system is just awful and how the poor deprived Canadians are simply pouring across the border to the Mayo Clinic to get specialized medical care.

Oddly enough, he forgot to mention that the Canadian government was not only sending them across the border, they were picking up the check. Yes, it's a system so awful, even Canadian conservatives defend it.

How gratifying it was, to see Dennis Kucinich lay the smackdown on this guy.

Dr. Gratzer has been a prominent freemarket advocate since his college days and has been riding that gravy train ever since. He is especially beloved of freemarket conservatives because of a piece he wrote two years ago that hit the wingnut sweet spot: "The Ugly Truth About Canadian Health Care."

He's a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a "non-partisan" think tank funded by the usual partisan suspects:

The Manhattan Institute received $19,470,416 in grants from 1985-2005, from foundations such as the Koch Family Foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc., the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Foundations, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The Manhattan Institute does not disclose its corporate funding, but the Capital Research Center listed its contributors as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Exxon Mobil, Chase Manhattan, Cigna, Sprint, Reliant Energy, Lincoln Financial Group Foundation, and Merrill Lynch.

So I think you can see where he's coming from. And really, what could make the right wing more excited than a Canadian doctor, criticizing the Canadian health care system?

Just recently, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall St. Journal which Media Matters debunked, and is famous for pushing HSAs (health savings accounts), which are sort of the health care version of privatizing Social Security. (Naturally, wingnuts love them!)

You're probably not aware that for the past decade or so, right-wing American groups have been pouring a lot of money into Canada to undermine their health system. (Can you guess why? I knew you could! So American health care corporations can make a killing there, too!)

Dr. Gratzer's biggest thing is hammering away on wait times - even though the long wait times are mostly for non-urgent care. (You can read a rebuttal about many of the common myths here.) He also thinks the way to bring down the cost of prescription drugs is... to cut back on those pesky FDA requirements!

While serving as an adviser to Rudy Giuliani's campaign, he was called out by Factcheck.org and others for supplying a bogus cancer statistic Rudy used in an ad:

Rudy Giuliani's latest radio ad, which began airing in New Hampshire this week, draws a stark picture for anyone diagnosed with prostate cancer in England. "I had prostate cancer, five, six years ago," the Republican presidential candidate says in the ad. "My chance of surviving prostate cancer, and thank God I was cured of it, in the United States, 82 percent. My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England, only 44 percent under socialized medicine.”

The pushback was fast and furious:

"You would get an F in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins if you did that calculation," said Johns Hopkins professor Gerard Anderson, whose 2000 study "Multinational Comparisons of Health Systems Data" has been cited by Gratzer as a source for his statistics.... Five-year prostate cancer survival rates are higher in the United States than in Britain but, according to Howard Parnes of the National Cancer Institute, this is largely a statistical illusion.... Both Anderson and Parnes say that it is impossible, on the basis of the available data, to conclude that Americans have a significantly better chance of surviving prostate cancer than Britons.

British health officials were also quick to point out the error:

The Office for National Statistics says that the five-year survival rate from prostate cancer in Britain is 74.4 per cent.

Mr Giuliani’s campaign did not give an immediate response. But a spokeswoman has previously insisted that he would continue to repeat the statistic and run the advertisement. She said the 44 per cent figure came from an article in a “highly respected intellectual journal” published by the right-wing Manhattan Institute, which he had read because “he is an intellectually engaged human being”.

The article’s author, David Gratzer, who is an adviser to Mr Giuliani’s campaign, has acknowledged to The New York Times that the statistic is seven years old and “crude”.

He said that it came from the Commonwealth Fund, which specialises in health policy issues. But the same organisation has since issued a statement accusing Dr Gratzer of misusing its research.

The Commonwealth Fund responded:

In fact, the five-year survival data cited in the City Journal article do not come from The Commonwealth Fund report, and cannot be calculated from that report. What the report, Multinational Comparisons of Health Systems Data, 2000 by Gerard F. Anderson and Peter S. Hussey of Johns Hopkins University, includes are data on prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates in the two countries.

Specifically, The Commonwealth Fund report features a chart showing that, in 1997, the incidence of prostate cancer in the U.S. was 136 per 100,000 males and the mortality rate (death rate) was 26 per 100,000 males. By comparison, in the U.K. the prostate cancer incidence was 49 per 100,000 and the death rate was 28 deaths per 100,000. (The prostate cancer incidence rate—which is the number of men diagnosed with the disease in a given year—in the U.S. is thought to be higher because prostate cancer screening is much more common in this country.)

The incidence rates simply report the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in a given year. Prostate cancer mortality rates report the number of men who died of the disease in a given year. Neither speaks to length of survival, and that figure can not be calculated using the others.

Yes, Dr. Gratzer (like most right-wing true believers) is prone to seeing what he wants to see, and then insisting it's the truth. How refreshing to see him treated as the willful nincompoop he is.

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