I got a letter from my insurance company telling me that they will decide if a medication is valid, not my doctor. The insurance company will decide on the dosage, the length of time I can and can't have the medication and whether I take a prerequisite medication before I can receive the one that my doctor wants me to have. This gives me an excellent opportunity to review of my last post.
You see, if I'm telling you about this situation and I have no visible proof then it is anecdotal. I'm not lying, I really got the letter but you don't know that for sure. There is nothing wrong with anecdotal statements. If is one person telling another “this is my experience” that is not a problem. But when the anecdotal statement leaps into a friend of a friend… then that is a problem. E-mail chain letters are never valid anecdotal resources.
Now if I uploaded a copy of the actual letter then I would be posting the document that is the primary source. In this case, from my insurance company.
If I read about it in a newspaper article and the newspaper confirms with the insurance company that they are changing the terms of prescription coverage or they publish an authentic copy of the letter then the newspaper article is a secondary source. If newspaper columnists, editorial writers or bloggers are commenting on the change in prescription coverage then it is opinion.
Here is a chart to help visualize on overview of the playing field. You can also click to see a large version of the chart:
Health care is a multi-billion dollar industry. The business of health care intersects with many stakeholders beyond the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Everybody has something to say. I can’t list all the stakeholders but I want to give you examples and a few questions to ask to help you evaluate the information being presented.
Three Questions To Think About As You Evaluate An Information Source
- Who are you are dealing with? Check the Mission statement or the About Us page.
- Who do they cite as being in support of the point of view expressed on the website or blog? Is it a primary source, a newspaper or an anecdotal statement.
- Where does the money come from to support the web site and the activities being promoted by the web site? Again, you shouldn't have to spend all day trying to find that out. That information should be no more than two clicks away from the main page. I’m being generous.
Many of the sites that I will use as an example have multiple functions. Certainly physicians have a stake in any discussion of health care reform. One of the places that I visited was the American Medical Association current topics page. This lead me to an AMA advocacy site that goes into details on their perspective on health care reform. You can watch a question and answer video with doctor responses or read a short summary of what they want in health care reform.
Not all doctors belong to the AMA or even the ones that do support the AMA’s position on health reform. Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) is: “a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. PNHP has more than 17,000 members and chapters across the United States.” There is video, links and resources to evaluate.
On August 20, 2009 Health Affairs held a meeting at the National Press Club to discuss Fact vs. Fiction, Key Issues in Health Reform. There were representatives from both sides of the debate. You can download the audio file, PowerPoint presentation or view video clips of the sessions. Every one who presented was a stakeholder who explained their point of view.
Trade and Professional Unions
The more union members work the more the union like any plan that would benefit their membership. There is no question that they are involved in the health care debate. One of the web sites is from the AFL – CIO is advocacy driven the Health Care for America Now. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Make America Happen/highway to heath care is another union supporting health care reform website.
This group contains folks that are actively supporting, actively trying to defeat the reform measure or adding their interpretations based on their group affinity. Also included are corporations and organizations that benefit no matter what the position the public holds on health care.
Hand Off My Health does not like the current health reform proposed at this writing. It does not support a government financed option. One of the questions I ask of an organization is where did they get their information. It should not take more than three clicks to find that out.
Look for a mission statement or an About Us page. Also you can get a lot of information by checking out pages that list links and resources. Many of the resources were to the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation believes that:
To formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
That is fine. I clearly understand the reasoning of the Heritage Foundation. If the budget was balanced they still would not be in favor of any kind of government or public health plan. There was full disclosure and they do have a page specifically detailing The Heritage Foundation's point of view on health reform. It took a while to find out the home base of the Hands Off My Health and related web sites.
At Get Better Health.com you can listen to a discussion between medical professionals. Now if I hadn’t done any research I wouldn’t have known that the guy leading the discussion is one of the participants at CMPI, which is the main website that Hands Off My Health Care and others are spun off from. I still would have researched the name of the doctor and looked up the web site.
Just one more thing. Get Better Health is a sponsored website. I do appreciate that they were upfront about it on their About page:
Better Health accepts sponsorship for content licensing, advertising, events (including salons, debates, forums, conferences, presentations), and information-sharing with our network. Individual bloggers receive revenue-share from licensing and advertising their content, and additional compensation for participation in events. We give 10% of our post-tax profits to non-profit health organizations to support their work.
This does not make their point of view any less valid. This means you have to check the front end and the back end of the horse to make sure it is what it is.
There are keyboards smoking across the country from the heated exchange of facts, opinion and commentary about this topic. I really don’t have to leave BlogHer to find different views but let me show you other bloggers with something to say about health reform.
Nurse Ratched’s Place has a post up, she is a working nurse and gives her opinion on health care reform. California Nurses have videos that contain advocacy and commentary about issues concerning their work and health reform.
Melissa Suran in her post The Young and Insured-Less wants to know if those in their Twenties are included in the health care debate.
Last week Nancy Watzman wrote about the financial lobbying power of contributions to congress members. Congressional Quarterly Politics is a free, non-partisan journalism site that looks at issues and the money that tag along the congressional health care trail. Can you spell PAC?
Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch has a post by Wendell Potter about his role as a health care PR person. He talks about the techniques used in disinformation campaigns in the past and the present.
The Cato Institute, like the Heritage Foundation, believes in limited role of government. On the web site you will find ideas, suggestions and alternatives to a government financed health care option.
Citizenship Is Not Easy
Being informed is our responsibility. Don’t abdicate that responsibility. If you really want to be a patriot share a comment or a relevant link that others would find useful. We don’t have to agree but we can respectfully educate each other.
Gena Haskett is a Contributing Editor and the post originally appeared BlogHer.
Update 02/22/2010 Typographical corrections.