The Media's Obamacare Whitewash

Now they tell us. The same press that swallowed President Barack Obama’s every talking point about healthcare reform over the last year is now starting to shed some unflattering light on the numbers behind the recently passed legislation.

One could say better late than never, but given the difficulties involved with any possible repeal measure “never” might be the operative word.

The Associated Press offered up this assessment comfortably after the fact:

“More Americans will be covered, but costs are also going up … But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president’s twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1% over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, since Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, the report warned.”

The report in question came out after the healthcare vote and was based on a study done by the Department of Health and Human Services. But where is the media criticism toward the government for releasing this information now and not before the votes were tallied? Wouldn’t this data be vital to both the public and the congressmen voting on the bill?

The New York Times also weighed in recently with a story critical of healthcare reform, albeit one stuffed into its regional coverage as if it had no implications on the national picture. New York imposed healthcare reform policies 15 years ago which echo provisions in Obamacare. Here’s a status report on the program according to the Times:

“Premiums for individual and small group policies have risen so high that state officials and patients’ advocates say that New York’s extensive insurance safety net for people … is falling apart.”

“Healthy people, in effect, began to subsidize people who needed more health care … without healthier people to spread the risk, their premiums skyrocketed, a phenomenon known in the trade as the ‘adverse selection death spiral.’”

Now, the Gray Lady has no excuse for not sharing this news earlier since it’s an ongoing situation that could have been published at any point during the contentious health care debate.

The Los Angeles Times offered a sobering Obamacare assessment in its April 13 edition, with the blaring headline, “Healthcare overhaul won’t stop premium increases.” What happened to Obama’s statement that healthcare premiums would fall so much that companies could afford to give their employees raises?

Julia Seymour, an assistant editor and analyst with the Media Research Center’s Business & Media institute, says the media can’t be blamed for figures released after the fact. But that’s no excuse for a willingness not to question information spoon fed to them by government sources.

Media outlets kept repeating the Congressional Budget Office figures about the budget impact of Obamacare over and over again, essentially reflecting the administration’s talking points.

“It’s their job to be skeptical. They didn’t do their job,” she says of the press coverage.

The CBO was given shady figures to work with, she explains, and even former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin explained just that in a damning op-ed.

“The budget office is required to take written legislation at face value and not second-guess the plausibility of what it is handed. So fantasy in, fantasy out,” he warned in a piece published in The New York Times in late March.

Seymour says it’s no accident sources criticizing the healthcare reform measures were played down in the press.

“A lot of people in the mainstream news media agree—they wanted to see universal health care [become law],“ she says. “This is a liberal dream come true. They made that clear.”

She says to consider the case of Newsweek editor Evan Thomas admitting during a talk show appearance the bill was a fiscal fraud—but he supported it all the same.

That attitude showed in her organization’s reportage concerning the bill, she adds, recalling an ABC Health Care Special which gave 60% of the screen time to President Obama chatting up his proposal and only 16% of time devoted to ABC reporters asking questions.

“You’d think you’d spend more time forcing the President to be serious and ask tough questions,” she says.

Michael Walsh, editor in chief of, says that part of the problem the press faced in covering the healthcare bill is that “nobody read it or knew what was in it.”
That said, the main-stream media’s inherent biases still kicked-in for the bill’s defense.

“There’s no doubt that the MSM is liberal, and that they were likely to be emotionally attracted to the idea of a European-style system,” he says. “They want to believe and I think there’s also a feeling in the media that somehow it will all work out in the end, and that they personally will not be impacted.”
Seymour says media outlets need to retract and apologize for its biased coverage should it hope to regain some of the public’s trust on healthcare issues, she says.

“I don’t think we’re going to see that,” she says.