Decoding: Burying Healthcare

J Scott Applewhite AP McConnell Healthcare

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Congressman Steve Scalise, along with four others, was shot today while practicing for a baseball league in Virginia. In the coming hours we will see stories on the shooter’s background, a look at mental health, calls for gun regulations, and calls for unity. But we might not look at the level of desperation that people feel about politics.

The Decoder is looking at healthcare today. An issue that has contributed to the polarization of politics and that has people feeling that the health system is not working for them. This impacts everybody’s life whether it’s through their family, their selves, or their colleagues.

 

What Happened:

The health care debate in the Senate is a perfect example of media not always being able to cover the important stuff. Look at the headlines today, yesterday, the day before, etc, and you won’t see much on this.

The Senate is working on its own version of a health care bill. What is noteworthy is that the bill is being put together behind closed doors and with very little open discussion of its progress and contents. It is also clear that the GOP is working on this exclusively without the input of Democrats.

The 23 million Americans under Obamacare and the health insurance markets have a large stake in where this bill goes.

 

The Coverage:

Why is this bill receiving so little attention? Well, a few reasons. One reason is that there have been enough headlines this week to keep news organizations focused on something else, whether that is the Sessions testimony, the lawsuits brought against Trump by DC and Maryland, or the travel ban being defeated again.

A bigger reason is this: news can’t build a report on a bill where nobody knows what’s in it (because it has not even come together yet) and nobody with any authority on the bill will speak on the record about it. So they can not run a story with no facts and no quotes.

The news that does come out is a trickle buried in the proverbial back pages. There is a lot of backroom haggling among Republicans and leaks of the bill’s progress. CNN ran a story built on what sources are saying the debate is focused around. This includes how to phase out government payments to Medicaid and how Mitch McConnell is balancing appeasing the moderates of his party with the hardliners.  MSNBC ran a Q&A piece on what is known and unknown at this time that touches on how McConnell plans to keep the bill a secret and what deadlines the Senate is facing for voting on this. The Washington Post looked at how the bill could impact people with pre-existing conditions.

Now this changed yesterday when President Trump said the House bill was too “mean.” This quote was taken from a closed door meeting. But see, if there is a quote from the President, then there is a story. So Fox News and CNN both ran stories, thereby shedding light on what is going on.

What is interesting about this bill is that most of the attention on it is coming from Twitter, rather than traditional news sources. Groups part of The Resistance, some Democrats, and a few reporters for second tier news organizations have tweeted about the existence of this bill as a way to shine a light and call people to action.

 

US Senators:

And Vox reporters:

And others:

 

Decoding:

There is a probability that this bill will never pass the Senate. That this bill is being put together so that Republicans in purple states can tell their constituents that they gave it a good effort. And then there is the probability that this bill could pass and bring the country one step closer to overhauling its healthcare system.

 

  1. What do you want in your healthcare? People in The Resistance are calling their Congressmen because they want pre-existing conditions covered or they want affordable healthcare even if it means the government pays for more. Just like people in the Tea Party called their Congressmen a few years ago to say they wanted the government more removed from healthcare. Think about any health challenges you faced with health insurance and what could be changed to have made your experience easier.

 

  1. If it’s not on the front page, is it worth paying attention to? We’re using healthcare as today’s example, but this trend is becoming more common as news bureaus cut staff and information channels diversify. For most people, especially older Americans, if the news site does not have a TV station then there is skepticism that is a source worth any attention. But in this case we see the real constraints of mainstream media. We also see that healthcare for millions of people is at stake.

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