Okay, we’re in a recession. But that doesn’t mean that you should believe ALL of the doom and gloom reported by the media.
For example, in the January 21, 2009, issue of California Healthline, the popular online publication of the California HealthCare Foundation, author George Lauer stated in his piece, Financial Times May Get Harder on California Providers, that:
“According to a special recession-related report the California Hospital Association released, uninsured patients visiting emergency rooms are up 33%, almost three out of four Californians are having difficulty paying out of pocket health care costs, and elective procedures — one of the few service areas in which hospitals can actually make money — are down 30%.”
Shocking, both because those figures are so high and because they are so wrong.
The California Hospital Association study cited by Lauer actually found:
• A 73% increase in consumers having difficulty paying. This does NOT mean that “almost three out of four Californians are having difficulty paying.” It means that the number (whatever it was to begin with) of people having difficulty paying, as observed by those hospitals responding, increased by 73%.
• That 33% of hospitals responding report an increase in ER visits. This does NOT mean that the visit count is up 33%. It could be up .01% or it could be up 1,000%, at those hospitals.
• That 30% of hospitals responding reported a decrease in elective procedures. This does NOT mean that there has been a 30% decrease in the volume of elective procedures.
So, let’s all keep our heads on. And, for those who need it (like reporters), a class on statistics might come in handy.
Mark F. Weiss