HHS Replaced Report With ‘Cheery Rewrite,’ Opinion Piece States
An HHS report on health disparities that found racial and socioeconomic disparities were "pervasive in our health care system" was replaced with a "cheery rewrite touting administration successes and asserting that claims of minority groups receiving worse care than whites were unproved," M. Gregg Bloche, professor of law and health policy at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Bloche, Los Angeles Times, 2/15). The report, requested by Congress in 2003 and subsequent years to track health care quality and differences in use of services in the United States, was released on Dec. 23. Eight Democratic lawmakers last month said that HHS modified the report's meaning by rewriting its conclusion, which originally said health care disparities are "national problems" that are "pervasive" and have a large "personal and society price." It was edited to report that "some socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and geographic conditions exist." In addition, critics contended that the final version of the report pared down the usage of the word "disparity" from 30 times to only two; deleted important examples of disparities, replacing them with "milder" examples; and replaced passages about the costs of health care disparities with discussions about "successes" (California Healthline, 2/11). The HHS officials who requested the rewrites "feared political blame for the inequities" identified in the research, but there "must be limits to the role of politics in science if science is to remain relevant," Bloche writes. "Scientists must be free to state their views and to challenge others without worrying about political retaliation," and the law should provide "more independence than the HHS researchers received," Bloche concludes (Los Angeles Times, 2/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.