Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
The need for journalists at all levels to report the facts on health reform was freshly illustrated this week in a column by Washington Post writer Dana Milbank, in which he said bad information "is perhaps the biggest problem facing Obamacare."
"Because of all the noise and disinformation, President Obama and the Democrats don’t just own Obamacare as a political issue. They own health care," Milbank writes. "Anytime something bad happens — premiums rise, or employers change plans or pare coverage — Obamacare will be blamed, even if the new law had nothing to do with the change."
For example, opponents of the law blame it for rising insurance premiums. That's true in cases where people had bought cheap policies that didn't cover much, because the law requires policies to cover 10 specific areas of service. But "Premiums were up about 4 percent last year, a much slower growth rate than the average annual increase of 13.2 percent between 1999 and 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation," Milbank writes. "But it’s easy to blame Obamacare for something that would have happened anyway."
The editorial called on readers to find out the facts for themselves, and directed them to local sources of information. That's a message that would be worth repeating by every newspaper in the country, and worth the investment of some reporting time. That's especially true in rural areas, where people are more likely to be uninsured and benefit from the law.