Eight Democratic Lawmakers Criticize Revisions to HHS Report on U.S. Health Care Disparities
Eight Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday said that HHS "watered down" a report released on Dec. 23 that found racial and ethnic disparities in health care in the United States, Cox News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Young, Cox News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/14). The report, requested by Congress for 2003 and subsequent years to track health care quality and differences in use of services in the United States, found that African-American and low-income U.S. residents have a higher mortality rate for cancer than the general population because they are less likely to receive tests for certain forms of the disease and other preventive services. The report also cited a number of other health care disparities (California Healthline, 12/23/03). In a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, the lawmakers allege that the final version of the report included revisions from previous drafts that "alter the report's meaning, undermine efforts to address disparities and fit a pattern of the manipulation of science by the Bush administration." The lawmakers allege that:
- Although a June 2003 draft version of the report concluded that disparities in health care are "national problems" that are "pervasive in our health care system" and have a large "personal and society price," the final report concluded only that "some socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and geographic conditions exist."
- The final report included only two mentions of the word "disparity," which appeared 30 times in the draft version.
- The final report excluded important examples of health care disparities that appeared in the draft version and included "milder" examples, Cox/Journal-Constitution reports.
- The final report also replaced information about the personal and social costs of health care disparities that appeared in the draft versions with discussions about "successes."