Saturday, November 22, 2014

Newspaper falling through the cracks

Contrary to the newspaper report, it is American seniors and not Canadian ones most at risk overall.

The headline warned readers that Canadian seniors were falling between the health care cracks. Clearly this can be quite nasty. Falling through cracks is bad enough but smashing against the material between the cracks is surely even worse.

Overall, American seniors fare worse than Canadian ones.
Also falling through the cracks with the publication of The London Free Press article was journalistic neutrality. The survey at the core of the story was published by the American Commonwealth Fund. The survey found, quote: "Compared with their counterparts in 10 other industrialized countries, older adults in the U.S. are sicker and more likely to have problems paying their medical bills and getting needed health care." American seniors, not Canadian ones, are in the most trouble when it comes to health care issues.

This is not to say that the newspaper article did not report the facts. It did. But those facts were carefully picked to fit the aims of the story. This put an all too familiar spin to this story. This has been done in the past with Commonwealth Fund reports. In the past, I have contacted the fund and had it confirmed at the source that the newspaper was spinning the work of the fund and not simply reporting it.

Key Findings from the Commonwealth Fund study:

  1. The United States stands out for having the highest rates of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease: 87 percent of older adults in the U.S. reported at least one chronic illness,and 68 percent reported two or more.
  2. Despite having Medicare coverage, U.S. adults age 65 or older were the most likely to report that cost posed a barrier to care. One-fifth (19%) said cost was the reason they did not visit a doctor, skipped a medical test or treatment recommended by a doctor, did not fill a prescription, or skipped doses.
  3. U.S. survey respondents were also the most likely to report trouble paying their medical bills (11%). Only 1 percent in Norway and Sweden reported the same.
  4. Canadian, Swedish, Norwegian, and U.S. respondents were the least likely to be able to get a same- or next-day doctor’s appointment when sick or to find it somewhat or very easy to get after-hours care without using the emergency department.
  5. Older adults in all countries face care coordination and safety problems. In the U.S., 35 percent reported at least one problem with care coordination, such as not having a recommended medical test, receiving conflicting information from different doctors, or experiencing a lack of communication between a primary care doctor and a specialist. In every country but France, one-fifth or more of older adults have experienced at least one of these problems.
  6. Along with the U.K., the U.S. did well in areas related to managing chronic illness: 58 percent of chronically ill older adults in the U.S. and 59 percent in the U.K. had discussed their treatment goals with their doctor and had clear instructions about when to seek further care. Fewer than half of chronically ill people in the other nine countries said the same.
  7. More than three-quarters (78%) of older adults in the U.S. said they reported talking to a family member, friend, or health professional about their care preferences if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. Two-thirds said they had a written plan naming a health care proxy and more than half (55%) said they had a written plan regarding the treatment they want at the end of life.
Note: Canada is only mentioned directly in key finding number four. In a press release, The Commonwealth Fund states "all of the countries in the survey could do better." Why did The Free Press single out the Canadian health care system? Was this a right-wing attack by a Sun Media newspaper?

Also note, the newspaper illustrated the article with a clip art. This image does not show a patient in a London hospital, nor does it show a Canadian nurse. Photojournalism has fallen through the cracks, too.

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