Saturday, September 15, 2007

John Stossel Smears Victims Featured in SiCKO

I almost had a medical condition watching John Stossel last night crowing about how great our health care system is on 20/20. The purpose was to discredit Michael Moore. (Mike shouldn't have even bothered to show up. When Mike said something, Stossel would cut the program to something else, like a "statistic" without ever once saying "According to...")

This was just two days after he wrote a hit-piece in the Wall Street Journal that smeared the poor people featured in Mike's documentary, SICKO.

First of all, I don't know where to begin with Stossel's "reporting" last night.

Some of the "proof" he offered of how great we have it his by listing a lot of famous rich people who can afford to come the the US and get treated--at one point even talking up how Dick Cheney had FOUR heart attacks and he is still living! He closed the show by saying how Michael Moore got some treatment at an American luxury spa--NOT Cuba!! (Yeah, John, Mike is freakin' rich. Our system works great for those who can AFFORD IT!!)

On the show, he actually compared buying an expensive bottle of wine to receiving chemotherapy. At one point, he compared getting universal health coverage to buying groceries--"Why buy hamburger if you can have steak--someone else is paying for it"? as he dumped a whole bunch of steak into a shoppint cart.

He played the shill for an HMO executive he was "interviewing", which meant he asked snarky questions so the CEO could speak prewritten talking points. Stossel also noted how easy it was for him to get an interview with an HMO executive, unlike Moore claimed. (Gee, I wonder why the suit agreed to talk to you, John?)

He offered his ideas: "bargain-hunting" for health care as the employees do at Whole Foods, or those quicky clinics at Wal-Mart not staffed by doctors who can treat ailments for under $50. (Great--so if my daughter has cancer and I have no insurance, I can get cough medicine).

All of this paled in comparison to what Stossel wrote in the WSJ, entitled Sick Sob Stories. Julie Pierce was the primary target, and she responded on Michael Moore's website. I was just going to link it, but it is powerful and I really wanted you to see it:

Dear John,

My name is Julie Pierce. My husband was Tracy Pierce. I am featured in Michael Moore's documentary 'SiCKO.' In the movie, I share my deceased husband's story — his unsuccessful battle with our insurance company to receive what could have been life-saving treatments for kidney cancer.

I just read your Wall Street Journal article written on Sept. 13, 2007, titled "Sick Sob Stories." You begin by talking about Tracy's role in 'SiCKO,' and claim the bone marrow transplant denied by our insurer would not have saved him. You also accuse me of "sneering" over our situation.

In your 'reporting' of this story, you did not contact me, and you did not contact my husband's doctors. I cannot believe that a publication like the Wall Street Journal would print such an accusation without talking to anyone involved — especially in such a personal matter, which resulted in the death of my 37-year-old husband and the father of my child.

If you had contacted me, I would have told you that bone marrow transplants became a last option, only after our insurer denied many other treatments again and again and again.

I would have shown you a letter from our doctors at the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the University of Kansas Hospital, in which they argued strongly for the bone marrow transplant, citing "strong evidence" supporting the past success of that treatment — they wrote that it could "give him a chance to achieve complete remission." In fact, they called the bone marrow transplant "his only chance of survival."

Instead of calling me up and doing real reporting, all you can do is throw around studies from 1999 about the supposed inefficiency of bone marrow transplants for breast cancer patients — even though Tracy didn't have breasts. He had kidney cancer! I understand that you want to try to prove that private insurance in this country really isn't that bad. And I can see that you won't let the facts get in the way.

You go on to claim that Tracy wouldn't have received his transplant in a country with socialized medicine, either. Where is the evidence? Not only are more bone marrow transplants performed every year in Canada, but they invented the technology! So much for your ridiculous claim that "profit is what has created the amazing scientific innovations that the U.S. offers to the world. If government takes over, innovation slows, health care is rationed."

You are simply carrying water for the for-profit insurance industry that killed my husband. And then you have the nerve to accuse me of "sneering" about it. My husband has only been dead since January 18th, 2006. It is still fresh to me and my family, and comments like this are inhumane.

I have since tried to contact you via email, but you have not responded. I don't expect an answer. People like you just write with an agenda, without coming to the source or getting any facts, because your main goal is to try to discredit Michael Moore and universal health care. I understand it's a game — you did it without thinking about how you would hurt a family who have suffered — and are still suffering — such a tragic loss.

My family is not a "Sick Sob Story." We are a normal, American family that has had a significant member die from a horrible cancer that ravaged his body due to repeated denials from a health insurance company. We will never know for sure what would have worked because Tracy was never given a fighting chance. Over 18,000 Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance. I suppose theirs are "sob stories," too.

I don't want a hit-piece. I want answers. Why does our wonderful profit-driven system of medicine kill 18,000 Americans each year? Why do we pay far more for our health system than any other country, but have some of the lowest life expectancies and highest infant mortality rates in the Western world? Would you discredit the work of your late colleague Peter Jennings who, while suffering with lung cancer, did an excellent report titled "Breakdown: America's Health Insurance Crisis"?

I hope you have answers, but I am not optimistic. I pray that you will never have to go through what we went through — if you did, you wouldn't be so quick to cheerlead the system we were victimized by.

Julie Pierce
Mission, Kansas

If you are outraged by this, contact John Stossel and let him know.

Better yet, contact and ask him to add a feature on his upcoming DVD release featuring the HMO's retaliation--to include Stossel's hit piece. This would at least allow Moore to respond--a chance he wasn't given on the interview last night.


  1. Curious... did you ever bother to be fair enough to post stossel's well thought out response?

    In case not, allow me:

  2. Read the response--not impressed AT ALL.

    Stossel never contacted this woman before writing the piece and never admitted to getting the facts wrong. This speaks volumes of his integrity as a journalist.

    Secondly, he articulated his arguments on an ABC special, and they were ridiculous. He gave an analogy that if government was paying for your food, then everyone would go out and buy steaks. Think for a second. Even if a hospital was giving away free hip replacements--would go through the time and pain to do that because it was free? We get what we need in health care.

    He kept bringing up success stories like Dick Cheney--who shouldn't be alive. That's great.

    But what if YOU DON"T HAVE WORK! What if you DON'T HAVE INSURANCE! What if you have insurance, but you fall victim to the TEAMS of people they have that look for reasons to deny your coverage! I'm sure someone who was denied a life-saving operation wouldn't mind what we are promised by critics as "long waits" in the waiting room-even though the facts say otherwise.

    PS--We are the only industrialized nation that doesn't take care of all its citizens, and yet the government spends more money than any other government in the world on healthcare. In other words, you couldn't have a more inept and inefficient system if you tried.

  3. Since W took office, I would remind you that we have spent 6 trillion dollars. I can't fathom how to even spend that amount. Not only did W lose it, we are actually WORSE off today. That amount would be enough to give every man, woman, and child in the US several million dollars--or at least a sliver of that could have been spent to cover everyone for healthcare. We got zilch.

    So spare me any whining about the cost. You morons said nothing when Bush was spending our nation into oblivian for boondoggles, a misguided war, and a super tax break for the super wealthy and oil companies.