Don’t Blame the Media for Healthcare Uncertainty, Blame Democrats

Lawmakers at fault, not just media, for the public’s lack of understanding on health bill.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog 

Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post media critic, puts some blame on the media for why people still don't understand what's in the healthcare bill: "The larger narrative came to resemble a long-running soap opera in which the plot made sense only if you had been following all the previous twists and turns." This is exactly why I don't watch Lost on TV--every time I turn it on I have no idea what's going on. Apparently if you missed the first episode, you're "lost" too. 

Well, that's how many people felt about the healthcare reform debate, except it's not just the first episode that's missing. It's any discussion of how the nearly trillion-dollar legislation will be paid for, how it will lower costs while expanding coverage to 30 million Americans, or what exactly is in the 2,400-page bill. The CBO only gave a preliminary score two business days ago.

"In the end, the subject may simply have been too dense for the media to fully digest. If you're a high-information person who routinely plows through 2,000-word newspaper articles, you had a reasonably good grasp of the arguments. For a busy electrician who plugs in and out of the news, the jousting and the jargon may have seemed bewildering," Kurtz writes. 

But then how does that explain the immediate articles like this one rerun on the Daily Beast at 6 a.m. this morning, at the top of the daily Cheat Sheet: "Ten Instant Effects of Reform," listing healthcare changes that will go into effect immediately. (Yet, if you follow the post back to its original publication, you'll see it came out on March 10--but didn't get picked up for wider distribution until today.) Similarly, the Washington Post has an interactive "What the Health Care Bill Means for You" feature, in which you plug in your income, marital status, and number of family members and it will instantly tell you what will happen to your coverage and taxes. 

Where was information like this in the weeks leading up to the vote yesterday? If all this was "simply too dense for the media to fully digest," as Kurtz thinks, why is it suddenly available today? I don't think all the fault lies with the media. I think a lot of the confusion and anger stems from the fact that Speaker Pelosi didn't make the final language of the bill available until 72 hours ago. It all goes back to the we-know-what's-best-for-you arrogance we see time and time again on Capitol Hill. It's as if they didn't want voters to know what was going on until it was all over. That's not the fault of the media. No wonder voters were on the Capitol steps yelling and screaming. 

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