"The Early Show's" Maggie Rodriguez talked with Krista Lesinski, who had been diagnosed with Wilson's Disease, a rare and potentially lethal condition that attacks the liver. With Lesinski was Dr. Lisa Sanders, a former producer of CBS News, covering health and medicine. Sanders is currently at the Yale University School of Medicine and a physician at the Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut. Her monthly New York Times' column "Diagnosis" was an inspiration for the hit Fox TV series "House."
Rodriguez asked Lesinski, "You were ... highlighter yellow ... why did you wait to go to the hospital?"
"I wasn't that yellow at the time," Krista responded. "I had first looked in the mirror and I saw my face a yellow color. And then the whites of my eyes were a little yellow. I didn't know that there was anything particularly wrong with that other than, ‘Okay, maybe I need to go to the doctor now.'"
That wasn't the answer Rodriguez was looking for, so she turned to Sanders. "Should she have gone sooner, doctor? Is this one take away from this story?"
Taking the cue, Sanders responded, "Well, I think that, uh, she told me when I first interviewed her that she might have gone earlier if she had insurance."
"Ohhh," said Rodriguez.
"But she felt like since she didn't have insurance, she wasn't sure - I mean, she certainly had no idea how sick she was," Sanders said of the otherwise healthy young woman. "Umm, and I think her impulse would have been to go to a hospital sooner, but she had financial considerations. And it's important to know that lack of insurance does kill people. I mean, there's a recent study that showed 45,000 people a year die because they don't have insurance. Fortunately, Krista wasn't one of them."
And it's important to know that Sanders' assertions - along with her agenda - are questionable.
The study she cited was carried out by the Harvard Medical School and was funded by a federal research grant. It was also released by Physicians for a National Health Program, which favors government-backed or "single-payer" health insurance. It's results have been disputed, notably by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank that supports a free-market approach to health care.
"The findings in this research are based on faulty methodology and the death risk is significantly overstated," NCPA President John C. Goodman said. "The subjects were interviewed only once and the study tries to link their insurance status at that time to mortality a decade later. Yet over the period, the authors have no idea whether subjects were insured or uninsured, what kind of medical care they received, or even cause of death."
Of course Dr. Sanders didn't mention any of this. She also didn't mention that last year she made a $2,300 donation to Rob Miller, a South Carolina Democrat who appears to support the public health care option and will be running against GOP Rep. Joe Wilson in 2010.