A Case Study in Media Bias on Obamacare

Jennifer Haberkorn has a piece at POLITICO that, as far as I can tell, is billed as a news piece by the site’s “senior health care reporter for POLITICO Pro.” However, with its loaded language, its built-in assumption that Obamacare is a good law, and its open hostility towards Republicans, it could have been written by any flack at the DNC.

I thought it might be a useful exercise in identifying media bias to take this piece apart and examine its loaded language. I’ll note at least some of that language in bold below.

GOP rebuffs Obama’s entreaties to fix health law

President Barack Obama on Thursday called for Republicans next year to pass legislation to repair Obamacare. The GOP response? No.

Democrats have long held out hope that with a new president, the political winds would shift, creating an opening to pass badly needed legislative repairs.

But Republicans have been bashing Obamacare for more than six years and there is no sign that they’re going to break that habit — let alone vote for legislative repairs. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the law “can’t be fixed.”

Already, we are told that the legislation is “badly needed” to “repair” a law that “Republicans have been bashing.” The idea that Obamacare was a bad idea to begin with, and that the only “repair” is outright repeal, is apparently a view so out of the question, it does not even occur to this reporter that anyone could believe it.

And yet, the problems with Obamacare are legion, and familiar to most on the right. Indeed, the law’s deficiencies are outlined in the earlier chapters of an excellent book called The Primal Prescription, by Robert P. Murphy and Doug McGuff. If an entire book is too much, the problems with the law that were predicted by free market economists are outlined by Murphy in this 2013 article, and include spikes in premiums, people losing their plans, and job losses:

We are now seeing many of the undesirable effects of the ACA. These are typically being described as “unintended.” However, this adjective is a bit of a misnomer, since these outcomes were entirely predictable, and in fact were predicted by many free-market economists in the debate leading up to the passage of the ACA. Cynics can justifiably speculate that at least some of the proponents of the ACA knew full well the outcome would be untenable, leading the public to embrace even more federal intervention in health care down the road.

The most obvious result is a large spike in premiums for many people, once the mandates on health coverage are fully phased in.

. . . .

Another predictable outcome is that many Americans will not be able to keep their previous plan. Millions of Americans who bought insurance in the individual market (i.e., not via their employer) will find that their plan doesn’t meet the standards of ObamaCare.

. . . .

Besides rate hikes (and ultimately, government rationing of medical care), another major downside of the ACA is the job losses it will cause.

The only solution for all this is not “badly needed repairs” but full repeal. As soon as possible. But the clueless Haberkorn plows on nonetheless:

Republicans are almost gleeful when talking about all of Obamacare’s problems: Many insurers have left the exchanges, premiums in some parts of the country are going up dramatically, and most of the co-ops have failed.

All as predicted. And yet we are sourly informed that “Republicans are almost gleeful” — and isn’t that just appalling, Jeeves, given that we have such a wonderful law that has done such great things?

The political problem for Republicans, though, is that the law has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured — from 16 percent in 2010 to 9.1 percent last year. Real Americans are getting health insurance for the first time because of Obamacare.

“The Affordable Care Act has done what it was designed to do,” Obama said Thursday.

The phrase “real Americans are getting health insurance for the first time because of Obamacare” is phrasing that any DNC flack would love to have penned herself. Again, though, this is billed as a news piece by a news reporter.

Of course, real Americans are also losing their jobs, losing their health care plans, and losing their money as premiums skyrocket — while Obamacare’s “benefits” primarily result from an expansion of Medicaid, which has notoriously been ineffective at improving health outcomes — and is often worse than no coverage at all.

In summary: how dare Republicans not repair a terrible law that is causing unemployment, skyrocketing premiums, and little to nothing to actually help people stay healthy.

Those damned Republicans.

P.S. I am breaking my usual rule about linking POLITICO in this post, because the cached link does not contain all the language I wanted to quote, and I’m willing to provide a link to the full piece for the purpose of showing its bias.


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