New York Times Examines Revision of HHS Health Disparities Report
The New York Times on Sunday examined a federal racial health disparities report that the Bush administration has admitted altering (Pear, New York Times, 2/22). The report, requested by Congress to track health care quality and differences in use of services, in part 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. In a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, eight Democratic lawmakers in January said that HHS "watered down" the report, alleging that the final version included revisions that "alter the report's meaning, undermine efforts to address disparities and fit a pattern of the manipulation of science by the Bush administration" (California Healthline, 1/14). The Times reports that the "theme of the original report was that members of minorities 'tend to be in poorer health than other Americans' and that 'disparities are pervasive in our health care system.'" However, after revision, the report said, "The overall health of Americans has improved dramatically over the last century." Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called the revision of the racial disparities report "another example of the administration's manipulation of science to fit its political goals." Georgetown University professor M. Gregg Bloche, who was a member of a National Academy of Sciences committee that also examined racial health disparities, said, "The administration's report does not fabricate data, but misrepresents the findings. It submerges evidence of profound disparities in an optimistic message about the overall excellence of the health care system." Thompson last week told Congress that "some individuals took it upon themselves" to make the report sound more positive, adding that the mistake is "going to be rectified" and that the federal government soon will publish the full, unrevised report (New York Times, 2/22).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.