NPR: Obamacare 'Great,' But Public 'So Confused' By 'Misinformation and Disinformation'
On taxpayer-subsidized NPR's All Things Considered on Saturday, host Laura Sullivan did a lengthy piece about the messaging of Obamacare. Despite running for eleven minutes, no one in the piece viewed Obamacare negatively.
Sullivan started out lamenting that the public was "confused" about Obamacare: "just 37 percent of people say they like the law." She then argued that people actually do like Obamacare, since they are in favor of certain provisions. Sullivan brought in health policy correspondent Julie Rovner to explain why the public was "confused": because "there has been a very commanding misinformation and disinformation campaign."
After Rovner described several of Obamacare's provisions, Sullivan described it as "good stuff" and "great." Rovner agreed: "absolutely."
Rovner characterized Obamacare as something "to improve the care patients get" and "to make care more efficient." Rovner then assured listeners that Obamacare was a "step towards solving our national health care problem."
Sullivan declared that states opting out of creating their own health care exchanges did so "mostly on ideological grounds." To further tilt a one-sided piece where Sullivan and Rovner were offering positive assessments of Obamacare, Sullivan then put on Texas-based Ron Cookston, director of a "health care advocacy group" called Gateway to Care. He expressed disappointment that the state of Texas is not promoting Obamacare. Sullivan insisted that as a result of Rick Perry's choice to not expand Medicaid, more than a million poor Texans would go without health insurance.
After offering up Texas as a poor example ("advocacy groups on shoestring budgets going church to church"), Sullivan pointed to California as an exemplary state that has fully opted in Obamacare and is using $900 million from federal taxpayers to promote Obamacare, complete with a "catchy name." To finish the piece off with additional imbalance, Sullivan spoke to the person in charge of California's effort to promote Obamacare, Peter Lee. Sullivan left unchallenged Lee's ludicrous description of federal taxpayer subsidies to get California's health care exchange off the ground--"venture capital funding."
This was yet an additional example of NPR's All Things Considered considering only the "correct" side.
Transcript excerpts from Saturday's piece of advocacy journalism by NPR's Laura Sullivan (emphasis mine):
LAURA SULLIVAN: It's hard to imagine after three years of acrimony and debate, we could still be so confused about a law. It couldn't come at a worse time, just as the most sweeping effects of the Affordable Care Act are about to kick in. That's our cover story today: Where exactly are we when it comes to this law, and why do we keep getting it so wrong?
Half of people don't know whether their states are going to be setting up one of these so-called exchanges. Half of people think the law gives undocumented immigrants health care subsidies - it doesn't. Forty percent of people still think the government is going to set up death panels - it won't. And this was interesting. Just 37 percent of people say they like the law.
But when Kaiser asked people about specific things within the law, like providing tax credits to small businesses, insuring the sick, the overwhelming majority - 70 percent of people - say those are great ideas. I asked NPR's health policy correspondent Julie Rovner why we are so confused.
JULIE ROVNER: I think partly because there has been a very commanding misinformation and disinformation campaign, and it has worked better than the people who are trying to put the law into effect, who have been working to put the law into effect rather than to message about it.
SULLIVAN: So what is actually happening with Obamacare right now in year three?
ROVNER: There are really three big pieces of this law. And the first part of the law has mostly taken effect, and that is the insurance reforms. And that's what's known, really, as this patients' bill of rights that they tried to pass in the late 1990s. That's things like letting adult children to stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26, outlying annual and lifetime limits on insurance policies, and not letting health plans cancel coverage after the fact if you get sick.
SULLIVAN: And this is the good stuff. I mean, this is the stuff that most Americans, when you ask them in polls, say we love this. This is great.
SULLIVAN: But the law gave states a chance to opt out of creating [an exchange]. And 26 states - mostly red states and mostly on ideological grounds - have done just that. It doesn't mean the exchanges aren't coming or that people in those states won't have to get insured. It just means the federal government will build the exchanges for them.
SULLIVAN: Texas Governor Rick Perry has been outspoken in his opposition to Obamacare. He says it's bad policy. And he's rejected expanding Medicaid, which would have given health insurance to more than a million poor Texans.
RON COOKSTON: When leadership in any state talks about things in a negative way, it becomes awfully easy for the general public to sort of dismiss it.
SULLIVAN: The federal government is going to send organizations, like Cookston's, some money to help get the word out. But Cookston says what they're missing is a coordinating central body.
SULLIVAN: So that's Texas at the moment - advocacy groups on shoestring budgets going church to church. Here's what's happening in California.
PETER LEE: Doing consumer surveys, marketing, focus groups. So come this summer, we're going to hit the ground in a big way with messages that we know will resonate for those that speak Spanish, speak English, speak Mandarin.
SULLIVAN: That's Peter Lee, and he's running California's health care effort. And the state has opted in. California is building its own exchange, giving it a catchy new name. They've called it Covered California. The state's hiring thousands of people to get it off the ground, and the federal government is giving the state $900 million to do it.
LEE: So we have what we call the ground troops. We've issued a community-based grants program. We'll be funding groups in communities across the state that are based in faith-based organizations, schools, unions, because we know that delivering this message needs to come from your neighbor.
SULLIVAN: About two and a half million Californians will be eligible for subsidies through Covered California, and Lee says it's a diverse group of people.
LEE: These are states that have said, let's get that venture capital funding from the federal government to set up an exchange that works right for our state. [...]