Thursday, October 24, 2013

As misinformation abounds, journalists at all levels need to offer facts and references on health law

By Al Cross, Director
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."

We also hear of businesses dropping health coverage for their employees, but Obamacare isn't the only reason. "Long before Obamacare, as many as a quarter of all businesses each year made reductions in health-care coverage," Milbank writes. "The only difference is now businesses can blame Obamacare."

Sean Hannity of Fox News added to the misinformation by interviewing a North Carolina contractor who claimed that "he would have to provide health insurance to anybody working more than 30 hours a week," Milbank reports. "Salon’s Eric Stern called Cox, and he found that Cox’s business has only four employees — and therefore is not affected by the new requirement, which applies to businesses with 50 or more workers."

Obamacare's opponents call it "a job killer" because of the 30-hour rule, and point to "statistics showing the bulk of recent hiring has been for part-time jobs," Milbank writes. "In reality, according to an analysis by Moody’s, factors other than Obamacare were at work (most of the new jobs were in industries that always use more part-time workers). But the new law gets the blame." (Read more)

Such misinformation was the target of an editorial in The Sentinel-News, a twice-weekly newspaper in Shelbyville, Ky. It said "Misinformation and carefully constructed lies" abound, and many people have "fallen victim" to exaggerated individual experiences posted on social media and "even worse, the acceptance and delivery of similar items by otherwise responsible broadcast news outlets."

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nobosy should exprect truth about obamacare (and much else) from hannity, but we supporters of obamacare are letting ourselves operate in ignorance too much. example -- trhe article points out that one reason premiums went up for some people is that they had bare bones insurance. under obamacare they will have much fuller coverage. also, a lot of the industries that claim they are hiring parttimers to avoid having to cover them always hire lots of parttimers.BS abounds.