Dec
01
2008

The Media's Healthcare Debate

Two disappointing reports in major newspapers on the healthcare debate. In the Los Angeles Times, Noam Levey writes ("Consensus Emerging on Universal Healthcare") that the momentum for real change is obvious in Washington–but that it only goes so far:

The idea of a federal, single-payer system patterned on those in Europe and Canada, long a dream of the political left, is now virtually off the table.

One might well reach such a conclusion if you only talked to the people Levey quoted in his article:

-"Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, a leading trade group whose members helped kill the Clinton administration's healthcare campaign in the early 1990s."
-"Stuart Butler, vice president for domestic policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation"
-Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)
-"Todd Stottlemyer, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, which was also instrumental in defeating the Clinton plan."

Perhaps for balance, there are two liberals primarily talking about the need for consensus: Ron Pollack of Families USA and UC Berkeley political scientist Jacob Hacker.

And in the no-reason-to-quote-because-they-might-as-well-not exist-department:

At the same time, advocates for a single-payer system, including the California Nurses Association, have vowed to continue pushing the idea next year along with many Democrats on Capitol Hill.

And in Sunday's Washington Post, Ceci Connolly writes under the rather blunt headline: "U.S. 'Not Getting What We Pay For'; Many Experts Say Healthcare System Inefficient, Wasteful." Post readers learn that "among physicians, insurers, academics and corporate executives from across the ideological spectrum, there is remarkably broad consensus on what ought to be done."

But the spectrum of sources in the report are not nearly as broad, and their preferred solutions reflect that– a focus on preventive care, electronic records and so on. While those ideas have their benefits, what about advocates for a single-payer system? Or what about strong critics of the health insurance giants, whose ideas for reform are given a hearing in the Post report?

These article suffer from the same problem: There is an obvious healthcare crisis in this country, and the solution that has worked in other countries to expand access to services and cut costs as well is one that the political establishment still rejects. Thus the corporate media must reject it as well.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.