U.S. Report Downplayed Health Problems

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that his department was wrong to edit a report about health care for minorities to downplay serious problems and emphasize improvements.

Responding to criticism from Democratic lawmakers, Thompson on Tuesday said the report, issued in December, would be released in its original form calling health care disparities pervasive "national problems."

"There was a mistake made and it's going to be rectified," Thompson said at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee on the president's 2005 budget proposal.

Democrats protested the changes to Thompson after they obtained the original draft report. The final version eliminated the conclusion that unequal care for minorities is a national problem, the Democrats said in a letter to Thompson.

The word "disparity" was used more than 30 times in the "key findings" section of the draft's executive summary, they said. It appeared just twice in the final version.

The department conducted the study as part of a congressional requirement to review health care treatment provided to women, children, minorities and the poor.

The report found a higher death rate for cancer among blacks and low-income Americans in its review of the nation's health care system. It also said those groups are less likely to be screened for certain cancers and less likely to avail themselves of other preventive services.

Thompson issued a statement upon the report's December release, saying it shows areas in which the nation has improved health care, "but more importantly, it shows us where we have more work to do and how we can make sure that all Americans benefit from scientific advances and technological innovations."

Thompson said he did not rewrite the edited portions, assigning the blame to unnamed officials who "took it upon themselves that felt they were doing the right thing."

The Democrats said political appointees cleared the edited version.



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