Fake Indian, fake research: New study debunks Elizabeth Warren's signature 'scholarship'

Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat who wormed her way into the Harvard University faculty lounge as a professor by falsely marketing herself as an American Indian, has more fakery than merely that on her résumé.

Turns out a new study shows that her signature scholarship on medical bankruptcies is fake, too.

The new study finds that a whopping, 4% – repeat, 4% – of all bankruptcies among the non-elderly are for reasons of hospitalizations.  For the uninsured, the rate was 6%.  The rest are for overspending on credit cards, etc.  Warren's research claimed that 60% of all bankruptcies in that group were for hospitalization expenses.  Where did she get that figure?  Apparently, out of the air.

The Associated Press, citing the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reports:

Hospitalizations cause only about 4 percent of personal bankruptcies among non-elderly U.S. adults, according to an analysis published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This contrasts with previous research by former Harvard professor and current U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others that pointed to medical reasons as the trigger for more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies.

In the new study, researchers tracked the credit reports of more than a half million adults under 65 in California who had a hospitalization between 2003 and 2007 that wasn't tied to childbirth.  They found that hospitalizations clearly forced some patients into bankruptcy in the years following their stay, said study co-author Matthew Notowidigdo, a Northwestern University economist.

It just may not happen as frequently as the other research indicates.

It's not as if the tocsin about her bad research hadn't been noticed earlier.  Here's a headline about it from the estimable Megan McArdle in the Atlantic Monthly, dating from 2009:

McArdle argues that the reason it's bad is that it was done explicitly to mislead journalists into getting a narrative going, to influence the public debate with bad facts.  The whole piece is damning and worth the read, but here is a passage:

I get mad at only a minority of their authors.  I am mad, first of all, because Elizabeth Warren is not a third-year statistically illiterate policy analyst at a health care advocacy group.  She's a professor at Harvard, and the head of the Congressional TARP oversight panel.  This conveys a certain responsibility to present data in the most illuminating way, not in the way that will induce journalists to say things that aren't true.

And they have done just that.  Read a sampling of the stories about this study on Google News.  It's clear that none of the authors of the stories I've read understand that we're talking about a smaller absolute number of medical bankruptcies, representing a larger proportion of a much smaller overall number: that this increase in the proportion could at least as easily have been driven by less need for non-medical bankruptcy, than by bigger, scarier medical bills.  Indeed, many of the stories indicate that medical bankruptcies have risen since 2001, which is not true even according to Warren's figures.

Too bad nobody paid attention to McArdle – if anyone had, some very bad policy laws "reforming" health care could have been avoided.  Warren's flawed research does matter because her "scholarship" was used as a rationale to argue for the passage of Obamacare, the nightmare medical reform that has driven medical costs sky-high, something even Democrats have gotten worried about.  Warren's research was used as an argument to pass Obamacare.  And it turns out it was flawed all along.  Garbage in, garbage out.

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