Stossel report again failed to identify conservative expert, did not report WHO rankings of health systems

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Good Morning America aired a preview of John Stossel's "Whose Body is it Anyway? Sick in America," which contained an interview with one expert, David Gratzer, whom Stossel identified only as an author and "Canadian doctor." Stossel failed to note that Gratzer is a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute or that the World Health Organization ranks Canada and Great Britain -- whose nationalized health systems he criticized for their long waits -- ahead of the United States in its ranking of world health systems. At the end of Stossel's report, Diane Sawyer told him: "It is so hard to get perspective on this. Thank heaven you're doing it."

During the September 14 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer introduced a preview of ABC's 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel's September 14 report "Whose Body is it Anyway? Sick in America" by asking of the United States health-care system, "Can it be made better? Is government health care the answer?" But in attempting to answer Sawyer's question, Stossel's report contained an interview with one expert, David Gratzer, identified by Stossel only as an author and a "Canadian doctor" who supported the Canadian health-care system "until he started treating patients." Stossel failed to note that Gratzer is a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research. Further, while asserting that patients often have long waits in Canada and Great Britain for hospital and specialist care, Stossel failed to report that the World Health Organization ranks both countries ahead of the United States in its ranking of world health systems.

At the end of Stossel's report, Sawyer told him: "It is so hard to get perspective on this. Thank heaven you're doing it."

According to a June 2000 WHO report detailing the rankings, WHO's assessment of the world's health systems was based on five indicators: "overall level of population health; health inequalities (or disparities) within the population; overall level of health system responsiveness (a combination of patient satisfaction and how well the system acts); distribution of responsiveness within the population (how well people of varying economic status find that they are served by the health system); and the distribution of the health system's financial burden within the population (who pays the costs)."

As Media Matters for America documented, this is not the first time Stossel has used a Manhattan Institute scholar without identifying him. Stossel also attempted to debunk educators' concerns that low funding is "the biggest problem facing public schools" with his interview of Jay Greene, who offered data purporting to show that increased funding has no effect on student achievement. Like Gratzer, Greene is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

As Media Matters documented, Stossel has in the past asserted that "global warming may be a good thing," cited the fact that "hot dogs don't spoil when we get to them" as evidence that "the market figures out ways to make these things work" as support for his argument that the sale of organs should be legal, and claimed that it is a "myth" that "women earn less" than men for "doing the same work."

Furthermore, when ABC News named Stossel the co-anchor of 20/20, the national media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) documented some of Stossel's reporting that it claimed had "been notable for bungled facts and twisted logic, all in service to his conservative 'free market' agenda" and used questionable methods -- "most memorably when he cited research that didn't actually exist about pesticide residues in organic produce (New York Times, 7/31/00)," in order to question whether he should have been given such a promotion.

From the September 14 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

DIANE SAWYER (co-host): As we know, it's one of the single most important decisions Americans have to make. What should the health care in this country be? Can it be made better? Is government health care the answer? 20/20's John Stossel has been asking that question and a lot more in tonight's special hour, "Whose Body is it Anyway? Sick in America." John looked at other countries' health care systems to see if they have better ideas. And he's here to tell us what he found. John?

STOSSEL: And a lot of Americans say government care is the answer, that health care in countries like France, Germany, Britain, Canada is great because it's free. Government pays, and no one has to worry because free is great, right? But not so fast.

[begin video clip]

STOSSEL: It's why the British National Health Service made news by promising it would reduce wait times for hospital care to fewer than 18 weeks. But that's still more than four months.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: The nationwide shortage of NHS dentists --

STOSSEL: These people are waiting for a dentist appointment.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Hundreds of people queued around the block --

STOSSEL: Waits are so long, some people do it themselves. He used super glue. People pull their own teeth. Dental tools? Pliers and vodka. Government rationing in Canada is why, when Karen Jepp was about to give birth to quadruplets last month, she was told all the neonatal units she could go to in Canada were too crowded. She flew to Montana to have the babies.

DAVID GRATZER (physician and author): People line up for care. Some of them die. That's what happens.

STOSSEL: Canadian doctor David Gratzer, author of The Cure, thought the Canadian system was great -- until he started treating patients.

GRATZER: The more time I spent in the Canadian system, the more I came across people waiting for radiation therapy, waiting for the knee replacement so they could finally walk up to the second floor of their house.

STOSSEL: People wait in line?

GRATZER: You want to see your neurologist because of your stress headache? No problem. You just have to wait six months. You want an MRI? No problem. Free as the air. You just got to wait six months.

STOSSEL: But fans of Canada's system, like Michael Moore, point to the fact that Canadians live longer. Isn't that proof that the Canadian system is better, even if they have to wait in line?

MOORE: That's the line where they live three years longer than we do. That's the line I want to be in.

STOSSEL: But Canadians live longer because of things unrelated to health care. Americans are three times as likely to die in car accidents and 10 times as likely to be murdered. Take those factors into account, not to mention obesity, and Americans live longer than Canadians.

In America, we kill each other more often. We shoot each other. We have more car accidents. Forgive me, more of us look like you.

MOORE: Me, yeah.

STOSSEL: And that's the reason they're living longer in Canada.

MOORE: I will say in part it's because they never have to worry about paying to go see the doctor.

[end video clip]

STOSSEL: They may not worry about paying to see a doctor, but they do have to wait on average 17 weeks to see a specialist. We found one town in Canada where they have a lottery just to get an appointment with a family doctor. But you can be seen within 24 hours if you meow or woof, because if you're a dog or cat, vet care is privately run.

SAWYER: Privately run. All right. It is so hard to get perspective on this. Thank heaven you're doing it. And it is tonight.

Posted In
Health Care
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
John Stossel
Show/Publication
Good Morning America
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