July 11, 2009

Major News Media -- Health Care? Soon...? Update -- Perhaps So

If you've been wondering, like I have, why major news media like the New York Times, ABC News, etc. haven't been leading with multiple front page/leader pieces on Health Care Reform this last week, while we are in the midst, the center of the legislative process...well...

It's a very good question.

There was one national media lead on Health Care Reform though on Friday that stands out -- Bill Moyers Journal, highly recommended (all 3 sections). Further, NPR has done many good pieces, having something worthwhile on most days.

If you have limited time, and you normally like to read the New York Times ("All the News that's Fit to Print" still appears at the top left of the front page), well, lately, you'd need to use the search function to find much on Health Care. It's strikingly odd. An excellent piece by one of their top economic writers, David Leonhardt, appeared recently. Paul Krugman writes this and this. But stories at the Leonhardt caliber should be leading or on the front page every day lately.

Health Care Reform is so central and crucial for the economy over time (see 4th paragraph here) that the issue justifies multiple leaders, 7-12 front page stories per week now during the crux of the debate. We are not seeing anything close to that. It's as if there is some inhibition of coverage....

Could the reporters be so well-covered with insurance, and comfortably well-paid, that most simply don't connect the dots, don't really get it (with obvious exceptions like Leonhardt)? Might insurers take special care to always pay on reporters and legislators, so as to avoid more public attention?

This broader problem of reporters that are economically far removed from typical American household restraints has gotten worse in recent years, with some rare exceptions.

But what can explain the striking mismatch between this issue's implications for the broad economy and the paucity of coverage?

Could major news media be concerned about jeopardizing precious advertising dollars from such sources as big pharmaceutical ads? Are there other conflicts of interest?

Late update -- I see that the NYTimes.com now has 7 articles with the date for tomorrow -- July 12th, as of 10:40 pm this evening (on the 11th). So, should be interesting to see if this means the issue will get its deserved prominence.


On a slightly humorous note, there is an automatic google advertisement at the moment showing a skeleton begging Obama for a doctor's appointment -- but...is this because of coming "socialism" "rationing" health care, etc., or...is it representative of the current situation before reform!? heh heh...you decide!


If you only have an hour today, you could do a lot worse than the Bill Moyers program.

Here's one excerpt from Friday's Moyers interview with the former CIGNA (a major private health insurer) head of corporate communications:

WENDELL POTTER: Well, there's a measure of profitability that investors look to, and it's called a medical loss ratio. And it's unique to the health insurance industry. And by medical loss ratio, I mean that it's a measure that tells investors or anyone else how much of a premium dollar is used by the insurance company to actually pay medical claims. And that has been shrinking, over the years, since the industry's been dominated by, or become dominated by for-profit insurance companies. Back in the early '90s, or back during the time that the Clinton plan was being debated, 95 cents out of every dollar was sent, you know, on average was used by the insurance companies to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just slightly above 80 percent.


  1. I guess ABC totally selling out its newscast last month wasn't enough "focus" on this new, trillion dollar program.

    You're right, the media should be asking "How are we going to successfully ask China to fund this, and put our kids into debt for a generation?"

  2. Anon -- regardless of how you and I end up paying for poorer people's health care -- either as now by our taxes and insurance policies (we pay about $1500, or our employer does, extra to cover uninsured people)...either way we seem to be paying.

    Either we pay as now, already, or we pay in a more government directed way. The bigger issue is whether the health care cost inflation will end or continue...

    Will your premiums (or your part of your premiums) just go up and up and up, faster then your wages. They have been for decades now, and it is adding up.