Been following New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof’s Nov. 28 sob story about John Brodniak, the unemployed sawmill worker in Oregon who supposedly can’t get medical treatment for a growth on his brain because he doesn’t have health insurance? Kristof titled his weeper column “Are We Going to Let John Die?” and declared that if only Congress would pass Obamacare, Brodniak, like Tiny Tim, would live after all.

Ha ha! Turns out that not only has Brodniak been on Medicaid since August (and when I last looked, Medicaid was essentially government-provided health insurance, not unlike Obamacare), but he’s been a patient for three weeks at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in Portland, a top-flight teaching hospital not far from Brodniak’s home that accepts all Medicaid patients, Michelle Malkin reports (finder’s fee: Instapundit). Malkin writes:

In other words, at the time Kristof’s article was published this past Sunday, Brodniak was already being treated and cared for by some of the best neurologists in the country!

Kristof’s column concerning Brodniak’s brain condition (known as cavernous hemangioma) reads like an entry in the Little Nell’s Death playbook:

Without insurance, John has been unable to get surgery or even help managing the pain. When he collapses or suffers particularly excruciating headaches, [his wife] Esther rushes him to the emergency room of one hospital or another, but an E.R. can’t do much for him. One hospital has told them not to come back unless he gets insurance, they say.

The doctors warn that pressure from the growth could lead a major blood vessel nearby to burst, killing him. “They tell me I’m a time bomb,” John said. With a touch of bitterness, he adds, “It sort of feels as if they’re playing for time to see if it bursts, to save them from doing anything.”

John says the principal obstacle to treatment appears to be simply his lack of insurance. In August, he qualified for an Oregon Medicaid program, but he hasn’t been able to find a doctor who will accept him as a patient for surgery, apparently because the reimbursements are so low. Doctors tell him that his condition is operable — but that they can’t accept him without conventional insurance. He is increasingly frustrated as he watches his family crushed by the burden of his illness.

Malkin started to look into the Brodniak matter when she noticed that Kristof, although a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had apparently interviewed only two people before writing his column

1. John Brodniak
2. Esther Brodniak

Kristof, it seems, hadn’t bothered to check with any doctors regarding the seriousness of John Brodniak’s condition and supposed denials of treatment or with any hospitals or state agencies to find out why he couldn’t  receive care.

Furthermore, Kristof’s blog entry reiterating the points he made in his column was followed by this comment from an OHSU doctor:

In all due respect, this patient did not come see me. If he had and needed care he would get it. Cavernous hemangiomas have a low bleed rate and are only excised if surgery is low risk. They rarely result in a catastrophic bleed. I have many paitients that are observed with cavernomas rather than surgically excised. Others undergo craniotomy for resection. I suspect this journalist is bending the facts because he has an agenda. The gentleman with the cavernoma is welcome to call my office and I will see him. I would ask that the writers of the New York Times write factual editorials rather than sensationalizing a story. You are not being helpful.

Johnny Delashaw
Professor of Neurological Surgery
Oregon Health Sciences University

Malkin also took Kristof to task for citing as gospel truth a study concluding that 46,000 Americans supposedly die each year for lack of health insurance. Malkin noted that the authors of the study, Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, are also the founders of Physicians for a National Health Program, an advocacy group that plugs for “single-payer” (that is, completely government-run) healthcare delivery. The two physicians’ statistical methodology was questionable, to say the least:

They used data from a health survey conducted between 1988 and 1994. The questionnaires asked a sample of 9,000 participants if they were insured and how they rated their own health. The federal Centers for Disease Control tracked the deaths of people in the sample group through the year 2000. Drs. Himmelstein, Woolhandler, and company then crunched the numbers and attributed deaths to lack of health insurance for all the participants who initially self-reported that they had no insurance and then died for any reason over the 12-year tracking period.

At no time did the original researchers or the single-payer activists who piggy-backed off their data ever verify whether the supposed casualties of America’s callous health care system had insurance or not.

Meanwhile, Kristof has added what must be the most mealymouthed “update” in internet history to his blog entry:.

Several readers are asking about a Michelle Malkin account claiming that John was already receiving treatment at OHSU. John had one appointment there. He says he was told to give up, that they could not help him, and he was despairing when he told me about it; their version is different, that he was under “observation.” In any case, he says that after the column appeared, he suddenly got a series of phone calls from OHSU saying that they wanted to see him and could address his needs after all.

Uh-huh. Note the sole source of this information: John Brodniak. For a Pulitzer Prize laureate, Kristof sure hates picking up the phone, doesn’t he? Brodniak’s condition certainly sounds serious, although probably not necessarily fatal, if Dr. Delashaw is to be believed, and Brodniak and his wife deserve our sympathy and prayers, especially since they live in Oregon, the state that pushes  assisted suicide instead of life-prolonging drugs for its poorer patients. What John Brodniak should not be, however, is a poster child for the supposed heartlessness of opposing Congress’s $1 trillion-plus health takeover.