Friday, February 12, 2010

Olbermann Lies for Health Care

For weeks, months, Keith Olbermann has denounced those who have told lies in opposition to “health care reform.” He himself has at times been guilty of some exaggeration in his denunciations, and has exaggerated in his support of that program, but this past Tuesday night and Thursday night he has outright lied in support of “health care reform” and has callously used a five-year-old in the process.

He tells the story of Kyler Van Nocker, who has cancer. The insurance company, Olbermann tells us, is callously refusing to provide the medical treatment that will cure him because it costs $110,000. He refers to the insurance company as “real death panels that run our health care industry,” a phrase which he uses repeatedly throughout both nightly segments. The second night provides more details. Kyler has had this cancer, along with other diseases related to the cancer for three years. He has run the course of standard treatments, and has two rounds of experimental treatments, all of which the insurance company has paid for. His parents want a third experimental treatment and the insurance company has said no, making them a “death panel.” The insurance company is reporting a “loss ratio of 82%,” which Olbermann tells us means that 82¢ of every dollar that the Van Knockers have paid them has gone to Kyler’s treatment and the rest has gone to things like the CEO’s multimillion salary.

To correct Olbermann’s last lie first, the “loss ratio” means that 82¢ of every dollar in premiums that the insurance company has collected from its millions of policy holders has gone to pay the medical expenses of its millions of policy holders. The Van Knockers have paid to the insurance company a very small fraction of the amount that has been paid out in their behalf for their child’s medical expenses.

The bigger lie is the story itself. A medical company is developing a new treatment and wants to test it. Its effect on Kyler is unknown; it may cure, it may make him worse, it may do nothing. It is a test of a new and unknown treatment. The medical company does not want to pay to test its own experiment. The Van Knockers are desperate, and they want the hope that the experiment offers, but they cannot pay for it. The hospital does not want to pay for the experiment.

The company making the tested product does not want to pay to test the product. The company conducting the test does not want to pay to conduct the test. The guinea pig does not want to pay to be the guinea pig. Everybody wants the insurance company to pay for this experiment, but there is no reason for an insurance company to pay for experiments.

Every health insurance contract says that it will not pay for experimental or unapproved treatments, and that is a reasonable and necessary clause. Without it, insurance would be paying for modern versions of snake oil and the cost of health insurance would rise to a level that would make it unaffordable to all but the most wealthy. The clause is, as to experimental treatments, quite reasonable. If a drug company wants to make new products that need to be tested and from which they will eventually profit, they should pay for the testing. Why should insurance companies pay for testing and then pass that cost on to every individual who buys a policy?

The insurance company for Kyler Van Nocker went farther than it actually should have done; it has already paid for two experimental treatments that by its contract it did not need to pay for. The Van Nockers should be thanking them, and instead they are engaging Keith Olbermann to go on national television and accuse them of running “death panels.”

Keith Olbermann is not just a buffoon, he is an arrant liar.


Anonymous said...

A few issues with your assessment. First Kyler has received the first two rounds of I-MIBG, Health America has not paid for those two rounds. A third round was demend not required by his Doctors, as the first two worked.

Second, I-MIBG has been in use by CHOP since 1988, it is not a new treatment, is a front line/standard of care in Europe and considered as such here in the US. Most insurance companies do pay for this treatment and have it listed as their "standard of care".

Health America does not. Nor do they approve of any other possible treatment for relapsed NB other than hospice.

In addition to CHOP, the Dana Farber Institute out of Boston has released their finding (from years of testing) on I-MIBG, showing it as extremely effective.

Health America's own third party consultant agrees with this child's Doctors, that this is the correct treatment, but according to their contract, they do not have to pay for it.

By Health America's contract, almost 100% of all "standard of care" treatments for Childhood Cancers, can be deemed as experimental. It's the nature of the beast when it comes to R & D, the research teams and Doctors move much faster than the FDA is capable of reviewing the data.

One of the main issues, those other two "experimental" treatments, were listed as standard of care by H/A, even though they are still in Phase II studies. Meaning the decision to not cover I-MIBG is suspect at best.

Perhaps before going off on a rant about others accuracies, you should check your information first...the complaint is publicly available as well as a host of additional information with regards to this case and child.

Jayhawk said...

I can only go by what Olbermann reported, which was that the first two rounds were "experimental" and that the insurance company paid for them, and that none of the three rounds discussed have been approved by the FDA. If this information is available to Olbermann he should have reported it. If he is not a liar he is a sloppy and highly inaccurate repotter.

Anonymous said...


You and I are not going to agree on this subject, and that is fine. One of the wonderful things about this country and something both of us spent time in the service to ensure.

I very seldom agree with Mr. Olbermann on much of anything, on this particular case, I do.

I would suggest that you reread/listen to his two segments as I believe the misunderstand is on your end. If you are going to act as a journalist, which by nature is the intent of this blog, I would ask that you do your homework and read some of the additional information available on this case.

I felt much as you do, until I did my diligence.

Jayhawk said...

I did listen again to Olbermann's comment. He said that the insurance company paid for two reounds of experimental treatment that were not approved by the FDA. He then vilified them for not paying for a third round.

He said that 82 cents of every dollar paid by the Van Knockers went for medical treatment and the rest went for things like the multimillion dollar CEO salary. That was a lie, and he knows that was a lie.

If you want insurance companies to pay for experiments that enrich drug companies you are certainly entitled to promote that point of view. I hope that you do not prevail, because if you do health insurance will rapidly become unaffordable.

Anonymous said...

also an indpendent panel said reviewed it and said the company should be paying, and the company said, so sue us... i think you left that out?

Jayhawk said...

See my additional post. Olbermann is not saying that the treatment is not experimental; he is saying that insurance should pay despite the claim that it is experimental. If he wants to make the claim that it is not experimental I will not argue with that.

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