Health

Dear American Media: You Are Handling Obamacare About As Well As Congress Is

| by Jonathan Wolfe

This story was originally supposed to be about Jennifer Most, an Allentown, Pennsylvania resident who claims her monthly insurance premium will rise from $182 to $947 once her Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare, call it what you will) policy kicks in.

While preparing Most’s story, I decided to do a little research and see what other stories about ACA premium price changes were in the news. I’m sure many of you have done similar research yourselves.

So I searched. Then I searched some more. After who knows how many more searches, I got really frustrated. It seemed that the more I looked, the less clear the answers to my questions became.

It is damn near impossible to find out the truth about what the ACA will do to people’s premiums. For every source that says people can expect their premiums to drop, another says they will go through the roof. For every person saying their insurance is about to cost quadruple what it used to, another comes forward and says that, for the first time in their life, they can afford health insurance. Then we have the crowd saying that yes, premiums will go up, but government subsidies and tax credits will offset the difference and reduce the out-of-pocket price individuals will pay. But of course there’s the crowd that shoots this down, saying that there is no mathematical way, given budgeted increases in health spending, premiums can drop. And don’t even start on whether you get to keep your doctor or not.

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I could keep going, but you get the point. It’s a mess out there. Here we are in the final implementation stages of the ACA and so many people still don’t know how it will affect their lives. Regardless of your opinion on the ACA, this is bad. This kind of speculation was fine – and expected – several years ago when the bill was still being drafted. But at this time, when the bill will soon affect so many, we shouldn’t still be asking such basic questions.

So what do we do about this? The answers we need obviously won’t come from Washington. Trying to get a straight answer about the ACA from a politician is like asking Mike Shanahan for a straight answer about RGIII’s knee (had to do it). For Republicans, the ACA is pure evil – a communist/fascist/socialist/any other term you want to use incorrectly embodiment of everything that is wrong with America. For Democrats it’s a knight in shining armor come to nurse every sick man, woman, and child in America back to health. There’s no in-between.

This is why, maybe more than ever, America desperately needs our media outlets to step up their game. Fox News recycles the same empty rhetoric we hear about the ACA from the Republican Party; the same is true for MSNBC and Democrats. And the outlets in between aren’t doing a much better job.

What’s being lost in all this is what the media is supposed to be: a watch dog for the country. The ACA, like it or not, is a landmark piece of legislation. But the American media is absolutely blowing their coverage of it. Rather than reading the bill, dissecting it, and reporting the facts about how it will affect people’s lives, news outlets are opting to report on partisan studies and sensationalized anecdotes that are good for headlines and not much else. The result is an angry, confused, and deeply divided country with a lot of opinions but not a lot of facts to back those opinions up.

So please, news outlets of the land, let’s start reporting on things that create less – not more – confusion with all of this. Because as of right now, we’re being about as helpful as our good friends on Capitol Hill.

Thoughts? Opinions? Let us know in the comments section below.