Rosen's guests misled on infant health care

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Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen didn't challenge his guests as they made misleading claims regarding the quality of infant health care in the United States. In particular, they implied that World Health Organization statistics are biased against the United States and baselessly claimed that France "do[esn't] allow" babies afflicted with the condition spina bifida "to be born."

On the February 28 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, host Mike Rosen allowed his guests to advance several misleading or baseless claims in defending the quality of infant health care in the United States compared with other industrialized nations. Among other dubious assertions, Rosen's guests implied that World Health Organization statistics are biased against the United States and that France "do[esn't] allow" babies afflicted with the condition spina bifida "to be born." Furthermore, although a caller cited credible information to the contrary, Rosen's guests also falsely asserted that the United States' number of doctors per capita greatly exceeds that of the United Kingdom.

Rosen's guests, Greg Dattilo and Dave Racer, are co-authors of the April 2006 book "Your Health Matters: What You Need to Know About U.S. Health Care" (Alethos Press LLC). Dattilo is CEO of the Minneapolis-based company ClientServ LLC, which apparently administers employee benefit plans; Racer, according to the book's promotional website, "is an author, editorialist, essayist and public speaker. His books include true crime, political and social commentary, Christian and secular fiction, and biographies."

Responding to Rosen's request to tell his listeners about "the myth of infant mortality," Racer implied that United States infant mortality rates issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) do not give an accurate representation of how care in the United States stands up against that of other industrialized nations because, according to Racer, the WHO "does not exactly love the United States":

Well, you got to look at the source for these statistics; they come from the World Health Organization, which, you know, does not exactly love the United States. And, and they issue a statistic that says that we're, you know, 17th or 43rd or, you know, 150th in infant morality because we have a rate of maybe 6.7, 6.8 infant deaths per thousand. And you say, wow, you know, there's other countries that have three -- you know, how can they be so much better than us when we spend so much money?

However, despite Racer's claims, WHO figures are consistent with those presented by U.S. federal agencies as well as international nongovernmental organizations such as UNICEF, which lists among its primary objectives "turn[ing] back child mortality."

According to the WHO's Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development (CAH), the United States' infant mortality rate for 2003 -- measured as infant (0-11 months) deaths per 1,000 live births -- was 7. Supporting this figure is the rate given in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook -- which estimates the U.S. infant mortality rate for 2006 at 6.43 -- and the latest data presented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has reported preliminarily that the 2004 infant mortality rate is 6.76. The 2003 rate, according to the CDC, was 6.85.

Estimates from the federal government are statistically similar to those reported by UNICEF, which indicated in its 2007 "The State of the World's Children" report that the United States' infant mortality rate for 2005 was 6, down from 9 in 1990.

After claiming that the reported infant mortality rates of other industrialized nations are artificially low because such nations "don't allow" babies with certain types of ailments "to be born," Racer cited anecdotal but not factual evidence in advancing an outright falsehood about French medical practices. According to Racer:

We asked a fellow who just returned from France -- actually he told us this story how, while he was over there, he asked the French officials, "What do you do with spina bifida babies?" And the guy looked at him with a blank stare and said, "We don't have any of those." Well, you know why they don't have any of those? They don't allow them to be born.

Referring to unborn babies afflicted with what the CDC describes as "a birth defect of the back bone and spinal cord that leaves the spinal cord exposed," Racer then asserted such babies "don't count against the statistics" in France. Yet WHO data disprove Racer's unfounded statement. The WHO's Genomic Resource Centre's most recent information on pregnancy termination due to spina bifida indicate not only that giving birth to spina bifida babies is "allow[ed]," but also that French officials track the number of pregnancies terminated versus afflicted babies born on a yearly basis, and report such data for specific geographic regions.

Later in the broadcast, a caller pointed out that the "OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] Health Data Report from 2006" showed that "there's 2.3 doctors per 1,000 people in the United Kingdom" and "in the United States it's 2.4," noting that was "hardly a significant difference." Racer proceeded to contradict the caller despite acknowledging he "ha[dn't] read the recent OECD numbers." According to Racer, "[T]he number of doctors [per 1,000 people] in the United States is closer to 4.8" -- but he provided no source for his assertion.

In fact, according to the OECD 2006 Health Data Report from October 2006, the number of "practicing physicians" in a "density per 1000 population head count[]" for the United Kingdom in 2004 -- the most current figure -- was 2.3; in the United States it was 2.4. Greece and Italy had the highest physician per 1,000 population rates at 4.9 and 4.2, respectively, while Korea and Mexico had the lowest at 1.6 each.

The misleading claims from Rosen's guests followed Rosen's recent voicing of misinformation regarding the state of the U.S. health care system. According to Rosen, he invited Dattilo and Racer on his show after they had read and praised his January 12 Rocky Mountain News column in which he stated, "We have health insurance problems, to be sure, but no 'crisis.' " As Colorado Media Matters noted, Rosen, referring to the column, advanced a number of dubious assertions about health care on the January 30 broadcast of his show.

From the February 28 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:

ROSEN: Let's talk about health care and health insurance. We have on the air with us Greg Dattilo and Dave Racer. They're the authors of a book that deals with this; it's called "Facts, not Fiction."

[...]

ROSEN: Let's deal first with the myth of infant mortality.

RACER: Yes, sir.

ROSEN: Tell us about it.

RACER: Well, you got to look at the source for these statistics; they come from the World Health Organization, which, you know, does not exactly love the United States. And, and they issue a statistic that says that we're, you know, 17th or 43rd or, you know, 150th in infant morality because we have a rate of maybe 6.7, 6.8 infant deaths per thousand. And you say, wow, you know, there's other countries that have three -- you know, how can they be so much better than us when we spend so much money? Well, you got to look at size and numbers. And when you look at size and numbers you find what does the United States do that almost no other country in world does? We fight for the tiniest little infant babies. We fight for every baby that comes out of the womb except those, you know, that are forced into abortion. But the babies that are born alive, it is our culture to spend whatever it takes to protect those lives.

[...]

RACER: We asked a fellow who just returned from France -- actually he told us this story how, while he was over there, he asked the French officials, "What do you do with spina bifida babies?" And the guy looked at him with a blank stare and said, "We don't have any of those." Well, you know why they don't have any of those? They don't allow them to be born.

ROSEN: Mm-hmm.

RACER: And then they don't count against the statistics.

DATTILO: See, the whole idea behind this is cost effectiveness. To bring a preemie baby in, you're going to spend maybe 200,000 dollars. Well, that cost is not allowed in a socialized country because it's not a cost-efficient method of delivering health care. You could do all of the immunization of all of the kids in Denver probably for a year for the same amount of money that it would cost to deliver that one child. So when you are under a socialized global budget, you do not allow the high currents of high-cost, of high-, you know, infant mortality-type situations.

[...]

ROSEN: Let's take a phone call. We have [caller] the socialist in Colorado Springs. Yes, [caller], what's your contribution today?

CALLER: Yeah, you guys were talking about facts. I'm sure you're aware of the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] Health Data Report from 2006, and you said that in United Kingdom people die from cancer because there's a shortage of doctors there. According to that OECD report, in the United Kingdom there's 2.3 doctors per 1,000 people in the United Kingdom; in the United States it's 2.4 -- hardly a significant difference.

ROSEN: Gentlemen?

RACER: [Caller], the number of doctors in the United States is closer to 4.8, but, you know, I haven't read the recent OECD numbers. What I have read is the statistics about 25,000 people dying in Great Britain because they have a shortage of oncologists. And I've read the United Kingdom's website. You really should do that because the Brits are very transparent; they'll tell you all of the things that are wrong with their system, and it's absolutely amazing the things that they come up with. In their website, talks about the number of visits: U.K. doctors treat 3,176 patients a year; in the United States it's 2,222. Why is that, if there's, you know, fewer doctors in America? I mean, it's just -- it's just crazy. The thing about the U.K. -- you know, if you're socialist, [caller], you really need to go to that site. And you really need to read Your Health Matters, because you're going to see what's happened in the United Kingdom --

CALLER: My, my --

RACER: -- and Germany. No, listen to me now. In the United Kingdom, and in Germany and Japan, and France have all gone to private market solutions because they can't handle the cash problems servicing their people.

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