HHS Will Release Original Report on U.S. Health Care Disparities, Secretary Tommy Thompson Says
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Tuesday said that his department had erred in rewriting the first annual National Health Care Disparities Report, and he plans to release the original version of the report, according to CongressDaily. Some Democratic House members had charged that the report was altered to downplay inequities in health care for minorities (Rovner, CongressDaily, 2/10). 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. Among other health care disparities, it 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. 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, 1/14). The eight House members, led by House Government Reform Committee ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), said in January that the report was "yet another example of the administration's manipulation of science to fit its political goals" (CongressDaily, 2/10).
Thompson, speaking Tuesday at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on President Bush's budget proposal, said, "There was a mistake made, and it's going to be rectified" (Washington Post, 2/11). He added that he did not rewrite the edited portions, explaining that unnamed officials "took it upon themselves that felt they were doing the right thing." Some Democrats said political appointees approved the edited version (Sherman, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/10). An HHS spokesperson did not say when the original version of the report will be released (CongressDaily, 2/10). A prepublication copy of the report released in December is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.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.