The three largest newspapers in Texas have so far failed to report on comments made by Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek over the past two months in which he claimed not to believe the official number of people without health insurance in Texas. Nearly two weeks after Republican Gov. Rick Perry officially notified the federal government that Texas would not be setting up a health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act to help people get insurance, readers of the Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram remain in the dark about the out-of-touch comments from by the governor's social services czar, according to a Media Matters analysis.
In September and again in October, Janek discussed the problem of uninsured Texans at forums held by the Texas Tribune. During his first comments at the Texas Tribune Festival, Janek said he did not believe the Census Bureau's statistics describing the percentage of uninsured Texans -- which currently stands at 26.3 percent -- because according to him, the Census Bureau asked the wrong question.
In October, Janek re-framed his position telling the Texas Tribune during a one on one discussion with Texas Tribune founder Eric Smith that the Census Bureau asked "a question" instead of saying they asked the wrong question.
From a transcript of a video (at the 13:40 mark) posted by the Texas Tribune:
ERIC SMITH (TEXAS TRIBUNE): Let me ask you a broader question about the state of health policy in Texas and the uninsured. You know that the U.S. Census Bureau some six weeks ago put out a report that said that Texas now has 5.8 million uninsured citizens, 23 percent of our population, which makes us first among the states in the percentage of our citizens insured. You gave an interview to Emily Ramshaw of the Tribune at the Texas Tribune Festival in which you basically said I don't believe those statistics. This is the U.S. Census Bureau, not Public Policy Polling. It's a little hard to argue that the polls are skewed when the numbers are coming from the Census Bureau Dr. Janek, don't you think?
DR. KYLE JANEK (TEXAS HHSC): Umm, no their numbers are accurate for the question that they asked.
SMITH: So you think they asked the wrong question?
JANEK: No I don't, I think they asked a question.
SMITH: A question.
JANEK: Not the wrong question, it's a question. And here's the issue. If you go out now today and you go knock on doors as the Census Bureau does and do it by letter and say, "Do you have insurance," a lot of folks will say no, it doesn't mean they won't have insurance next week, it doesn't mean they will have insurance next week, it could be years before they have insurance again, it's a snapshot.
Later in the video Smith does push back on Janek's assertion that the Census Bureau had inaccurate data. However, these numbers shouldn't come as a surprise to new commissioner. As RH Reality Check points out, these numbers have remained consistent since 1987:
Janek must not be aware that for nearly 25 years, the Census Bureau's "snapshot" has shown practically the same thing: since 1987, Texas repeatedly has one of the highest, or the very highest, number of uninsured adults in the country. That rate has not been below 1987's 23 percent; it peaked at 26.8 percent in 2009 and is currently estimated at 26.2 percent.
As Texas Tribune pointed out in its first report pushing back on the comments, the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey -- which does ask if the respondent had health insurance within the last year -- still puts the uninsured rate at about a quarter of the population:
There's a flip side to his first argument: The Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, which asks whether respondents had health insurance at any point in the previous year, also puts Texas' rate of uninsured at about a quarter of the population. That survey is much smaller -- it has a national sample size of 100,000 addresses -- but is more detailed and conducted by more experienced staff.
"The suggestion that Texas would shoot to the top because of the way the question is asked -- I cannot think of any reason why anything would be different here," said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities. "The same conditions exist here that exist in the whole country, except we have more people uninsured, and we're spending billions of dollars in local property taxes" on hospital care.
While Texas Tribune pushed back on his comments, newspapers in Texas failed to hold the commissioner accountable. According to a Media Matters analysis of coverage on Nexis and the newspapers' websites, since his appointment at the end of July, none of the three Texas newspapers examined wrote about Janek's controversial comments, and only one gave him more than a passing mention. On November 11, almost a month and a half after Janek's initial comments, the Chronicle wrote a piece spotlighting Janek's health care strategies in Texas, and, in an almost laudatory tone, said his appointment "couldn't come at a better time for private hospitals."
From the Chronicle:
The appointment of Janek, a Houston physician, couldn't come at a better time for private hospitals like Memorial Hermann, Methodist and St. Luke's. He's an important ally at a time when the balance of power is shifting dramatically.
Janek recently sparred with Coleman at a public hearing of the House County Affairs Committee, which Coleman chairs. The Houston Democrat noted pointedly that health care districts - not the private hospitals - will put up tax dollars to win an estimated $29 billion in extra federal dollars.
The private hospitals, he complained, "are crying and hollering about someone else's money." He also objected to complaints from private business entities that are "aligned" politically with politicians who oppose government-funded health care.
This wasn't the first time the Chronicle has discussed Janek and failed to push back on his Census skepticism. After the second interview with the Texas Tribune, the Chronicle published a piece that included comments he made at the Tribune event, but the paper again failed to mention or dispute his assertions about the number of uninsured in Texas, instead discussing his opinion on Planned Parenthood's role in the new Texas Women's Health Program.
Despite not holding Janek accountable, the Chronicle has not shied away from discussing the uninsured in Texas. In August they dedicated an entire article to the Census Bureau findings -- the same one Janek claimed didn't provide the whole picture -- noting that Texas' overall percentage of uninsured residents was 26.3 percent. Earlier this month, the Chronicle again discussed the number of uninsured in Texas, writing that the state has the second-highest number of uninsured residents in the nation, but again failed to mention the health commissioner's unfounded skepticism.
While the facts go against Janek's assertion, the more troubling aspect is the failure of the major newspapers in Texas to hold the Commissioner of Health and Human Services accountable for his comments.
Major newspapers in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Nevada have urged their governors to reject expansion of Medicaid -- the shared state-federal program that provides health care coverage to low income Americans -- under the Affordable Care Act, citing high costs that they claim would add to the states' financial burdens. In fact, a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the Medicaid expansion would substantially reduce the number of uninsured at little cost to their state budgets.
As governors continue to decide whether to implement key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the editorial boards of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Las Vegas Review-Journal urged the rejection of Medicaid expansion, while the editorial board of The Oklahoman applauded the recent decision by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin to reject the funding.
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
As stipulated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility will expand to an additional 800,000 Pennsylvanians -- in effect, placing a quarter of the state's residents on government insurance, according to the Commonwealth Foundation. Never mind that Medicaid currently consumes 30 percent of the state's operating budget.
Once fully realized, ObamaCare will have all the appeal of a perpetual flu.
From the Las Vegas-Review Journal:
The accompanying Medicaid expansion, meanwhile, would throw millions of additional Americans into a system that's already bankrupting state governments and increasing costs in the private market. Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, noting last week that Gov. Sandoval is pondering whether to expand Medicaid eligibility in Nevada, said any Medicaid expansion would mean reduced access to care for those currently enrolled.
President Obama won re-election this month, but the states hold the future of ObamaCare in their hands. Knowing the harm the law would do to our citizens, the economy, and the quality of American health care, Gov. Sandoval should join with many of his colleagues and decline to become the enabler of a vastly expensive, European-style medical rationing system that poll after poll has shown most Americans do not want.
From The Oklahoman:
Oklahoma has joined a growing list of states that won't expand Medicaid or implement state-run health exchanges, two key components of Obamacare. Predictably, the political left argues Republicans are being obstructionist. But why would state Republicans rush to implement a bad law to benefit a president who's made clear he would never do the same if the tables were turned?
As of June 2011, Medicaid programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia provided health care coverage to 52.6 million people. However, as the economy has improved, the rate of growth of enrollment in the program has slowed down. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government wants to expand the program in an effort to decrease the number of uninsured by providing coverage to those with an income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Previously, qualification for the program varied depending on factors such as age or employment status. Despite the claims from these editorial boards, the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion provision will in fact achieve its goal, at only a slightly higher cost than what those states currently pay for Medicaid.
A recent study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that if all states expanded Medicaid it could lead to health care coverage for an additional 21.3 million people nationally with a total cost of around $1 trillion. Yet, the combined costs to states would only be approximately $76 billion as the federal government will cover the other $952 billion.
Specifically, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oklahoma would see significant increases in the number of people insured for only small changes to their current spending.
In Pennsylvania, if all states expanded Medicaid, the state would see a 52 percent reduction in uninsured citizens, while spending 1.4 percent more on Medicaid than current expenditures when accounting for the savings in uncompensated care. While Pennsylvania's expansion costs are higher than some other states, healthcare professionals note that this is because Pennsylvania currently has one of the more draconian Medicaid systems in the country. From WHYY in Pennsylvania:
New Jersey is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with projected costs of $1.2 billion with an expansion. And Pennsylvania? Almost $2 billion over 10 years, even after accounting for savings.
"Pennsylvania has not expanded to adults whereas other states have," said Ann Bacharach with the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.
"If you're a single, childless adult, there is not much that the state can offer in terms of coverage," Bacharach said.
So the new enrollees covered by an expansion would add costs, but the federal contribution would not provide the same savings in Pennsylvania as it will in Delaware.
Meanwhile, Nevada would see a 44.8 percent reduction in uninsured citizens for only 2.6 percent more in Medicaid spending if all states expanded Medicaid coverage. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Review-Journal's editorial board has attacked the Medicaid provision of the Affordable Care Act while neglecting to note any of the benefits expanding Medicaid would have on their state.
Lastly, Oklahoma would see a 54.4 percent reduction in uninsured for only 1.9 percent more in Medicaid spending if all states expanded Medicaid coverage. From Tulsa World:
[David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute] said the governor's calculations also leave out savings to the state in areas such as health, mental health and corrections that are currently outside the Medicaid system but could be included with expansion. Savings to those agencies has been estimated at more than $49.4 million a year.
Also missing from the calculation would be tax revenue increases the state would see as a result of the Affordable Care Act, he said.
For example, the state has a small tax on insurance premiums. If thousands of Oklahomans begin purchasing insurance through a federal health insurance exchange, that tax revenue goes up, he said.
If every state adopted the Medicaid expansion provision they would receive $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to expand the program. As John Holahan, head of the Urban Institute's Health Policy Research Center and the study's author, said, "It's hard to conclude anything other than this is pretty attractive and should be pretty hard for states to walk away from." Unfortunately, the editorial boards of the Tribune-Review, Review-Journal, and The Oklahoman failed to provide that perspective and explain the overall benefit of Medicaid expansion to their readers.
An editorial in the November 15 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune advocated for an "oil-shale revolution" by expanding fracking in California, completely ignoring the harmful economic and environmental impacts fracking could have on agriculture and the renowned, multi-billion dollar wine industry in California.
The Union-Tribune gave a whole-hearted endorsement of fracking, specifically in the Monterey Formation region of central California, saying in its editorial:
On Dec. 12, the federal Bureau of Land Management is set to auction off drilling rights to nearly 18,000 acres in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties. We hope Gov. Jerry Brown and state regulators talk a calm look at fracking and its long history. Environmentalists' griping about fracking's allegedly huge downside only ramped up when new methods proved transformative for oil and gas exploration.
Even if California's media haven't caught on to the state's potential for a Bakken-style economic boom, the oil industry has. By far the BLM's biggest 2011 lease was the $180,000 paid for a 200-acre parcel by Vintage Production California, a Bakersfield-based subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, the third-largest U.S. oil and gas producer. On Oxy's website, it estimates the shale reserves on California land it already controls to have over 20 billion barrels of potential oil - a claim that the company says is made in accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commission's rule that only "economically producible" reserves can be cited in SEC filings.
The Union-Tribune left out some important voices in the discussion on fracking, most notably farmers and winery owners. Simon Salinas, a member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, has expressed fear that it could taint the food and water supply needed to grow crops or produce wine -- which in California is a $19.9 billion a year industry.
The most widely circulated papers in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington covered the debate over same-sex marriage in their state extensively in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Though all four publications endorsed marriage equality, their news coverage largely ignored the extremism of anti-equality groups and often devolved into "he said-she said" journalism that failed to correct anti-gay misinformation.
Over the past two weeks, The Oklahoman has published a series of articles promoting expanded domestic oil and gas drilling, claiming that increased U.S. production would limit the price volatility of gasoline and lower prices for consumers, even though experts agree that expanding American oil production would not mean lower gas prices and would still leave us "vulnerable to any shocks to the system."
From The Oklahoman (emphasis added):
[Rayola Dougher, senior economist at the American Petroleum Institute] said it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen to the price of oil if domestic production in the United States continues to rise, but an increasing supply of oil likely would apply downward pressure to prices and benefit American consumers.
Lower oil prices could translate into reduced gasoline prices.
As TIME magazine pointed out in April, even if we could produce all the oil to meet our currently large demand, it wouldn't actually lower or stabilize oil and gasoline prices. From TIME:
While unconventional sources promise to keep the supply of oil flowing, it won't flow as easily as it did for most of the 20th century. The new supplies are for the most part more expensive than traditional oil from places like the Middle East, sometimes significantly so. They are often dirtier, with higher risks of accidents. The decline of major conventional oil fields and the rise in demand mean the spare production capacity that once cushioned prices could be gone, ushering in an era of volatile market swings.
[C]ontrary to what the drill-here, drill-now crowd says, oil companies could punch holes in every state and barely make a dent in gasoline prices. Even a more energy independent U.S. can't control prices, not with a thirsty China competing on the globalized oil market. "Energy security is fine, but it doesn't have that much meaning in a globalized economy," says Guy Caruso, a former head of the EIA. "More production adds fungibility to the world market, but we're still vulnerable to shocks in other countries." The oil the U.S. uses may be American, but that doesn't mean it will be cheap.
Guy Caruso, the U.S. Energy Information Administration Chief for six years under former President George W. Bush, has stated that "energy independence" through increased oil production is a "political slogan" and that the U.S. would still be "vulnerable to any shocks in the system."
These facts didn't stop The Oklahoman from pushing energy independence in its article on lower prices and less volatility. Instead they cited an economist from the American Petroleum Institute who said that energy independence would lower gasoline prices and an economist from Oklahoma City University who claimed that developing our own product would "help us smooth out that [price] volatility." The Oklahoman did not disclose that Agee is also an oil executive.
The Oklahoman regularly touts energy industry sources, something they did over 43 percent of the time in part one of their series, while leaving out the consensus of more neutral experts across the political spectrum that increasing domestic drilling would not lower gas prices. This is unsurprising, given that oil and gas magnate Philip Anschutz owns the newspaper.
Despite the prevalence of green energy in Pennsylvania, a Media Matters study found that both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette generally ignore clean energy in their reporting and neither paper has ever mentioned the overwhelming public support for green energy.
According to the Media Matters study, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette collectively wrote 62 articles on energy and the environment from July 1, 2012 through August 15, 2012. In that time period, neither paper reported on public support of green technology, and both papers failed to discuss green energy in all but 9 articles. These papers did, however, cover stories about natural gas, coal, and oil frequently -- rarely mentioning green energy as an alternative source of energy.
Although nearly impossible to discern from the pages of the Inquirer or the Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania is actually one of the top green energy producing states in the country. As of 2010, Pennsylvania made the Solar Energy Industries Association's top 10 list for cumulative installed solar capacity. In addition, both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have been designated Solar America Cities by the Department of Energy. Through the solar energy initiative championed by former Governor Ed Rendell, consumers could expect to see savings of $10 billion by 2017.
Pennsylvania also ranks 16th nationally in total wind capacity installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association, with 751 megawatts (MW) currently online and another 3,391 MW in queue. Last year, PECO Energy Co. announced it was dropping the extra fee for purchasing renewable power -- which mostly comes from wind energy -- and would be keeping prices the same for customers or potentially even lowering their bill.
Green energy is also very popular among Pennsylvania residents. According to an October 2010 poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research, 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters surveyed thought it was important to support continued expansion of wind energy farms. In addition, a majority of voters would still support clean energy technology even if it cost $2 extra per month. Another poll conducted in April 2012 by the Small Business Majority found that 73 percent of Pennsylvania small business owners surveyed thought that government investment in clean energy has an important role in boosting our national economy. Pennsylvania's largest newspaper, however, have entirely failed to report this dynamic.
For more information on our analysis of clean energy coverage in state media click HERE
Over the weekend, The Oklahoman introduced the first installment of a two-part series on "energy independence" that overwhelmingly focused on the oil and gas industry while failing to note its harmful effects on both the environment and public health. The reliance on oil industry sources is unsurprising given that the paper is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.
Two days after the widespread publication of Mitt Romney's controversial declaration that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government," the largest newspaper in Nevada, a swing state in the 2012 election the 2012, has thus far failed to cover the story. Additionally, on September 18, the "Swing States Project" at the Columbia Journalism Review noted that another important swing state publication -- New Hampshire's Union Leader -- had also failed to cover the Romney comments.
A story published yesterday by the Columbia Journalism Review pointed out that the New Hampshire Union Leader -- New Hampshire's largest newspaper by circulation according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations -- had failed to cover Mitt Romney's comments that 47 percent of Americans will support Obama "no matter what" and that they are "dependent upon government."
While the Union Leader still has not published a news story on the topic, it did publish an editorial defending Romney's comments explaining that it was obviously a "statement of campaign strategy, not policy." From the editorial:
Naturally, the media portray this as Romney not caring about half the country. Absurd. It was a statement of campaign strategy, not policy, and every single national political reporter knows that.
In contrast to the Union Leader's limited attention to the issue, the Review-Journal -- Nevada's largest newspaper by circulation -- has not published anything on the subject at all, according to a Media Matters search of Nexis records and the Review-Journal website. In fact, despite not mentioning the comments once in its news or opinion sections, the Review-Journal has published two unrelated stories on Mitt Romney since Monday -- including a story discussing a private fundraiser Romney was planning on having in Las Vegas this Friday.
While 41 swing state newspapers made the Romney comments a front page story, the Review-Journal has mentioned it only once in an online-only blog post by opinion columnist and former publisher, Sherman Frederick, who, unsurprisingly, defended Romney for his "admirable truth-telling." Unfortunately, it seems that similar to the Union Leader, over 200,000 print subscribers of the Review-Journal can't count on their hometown paper to report a story with national implications if it doesn't look good for its preferred candidate.
As fact-checkers and media figures continue to slam the Fox News-turned-GOP convention slogan "We Built It," more business owners have come out of the woodwork to claim that they built their own businesses -- seemingly without the help of government. The Toledo Blade's convention coverage followed suit by dedicating several paragraphs to the latest small business owner to claim he "built it," despite evidence to the contrary.
Small business owner Steve Cohen -- a Republican Party adviser on small business issues since 2011 and the president of Screen Machines Industries in Etna, Ohio -- was given a speaking spot at the convention to discuss his business and how he "did build [his] company."
From the Toledo Blade:
Other speakers included Steve Cohen, president of Screen Machine Industries, a family-owned manufacturer of construction and mining equipment in Etna, Ohio, who listed problems he said can be helped or hurt by government, such as patent theft, tariffs, and unfair trade practices, regulations, and taxes.
"In addition, our international competitors do not have to face the upcoming costs associated with funding a multibillion-dollar health-care plan, overreaching emission standards, and the unnecessary war on coal. These factors create a tremendous disadvantage in the global market place, he said.
"And yes, we did build this company," Mr. Cohen said, using the line used by almost every speaker at the podium in the convention.
The problem with the Blade's presentation of Cohen's comments is that Cohen didn't, in fact, "build it" on his own. Cohen's company has received more than $2 million in federal contracts, including $220,000 in funds from Obama's stimulus program.
Given the continued distortion of Obama's comments for political advantage and the prominence of business owners who have supposedly "built it" on their own -- when in fact they have received millions in government funds -- one would expect the Blade to provide honest context for the public comments of political partisans.
This week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review attacked information sessions set up by non-profit organizations to help undocumented youth navigate President Obama's deferred action plan while avoiding scammers. The Tribune-Review, relying almost entirely on a single article from The Hill, tried to minimize the importance of these sessions by framing the issue as partisan, strictly because some Democrats are participating. However, these sessions are a helpful and necessary tool for undocumented youth and their families to ensure that those eligible are taking advantage of the deferred action properly and avoiding scammers -- all at no cost to taxpayers.
From the Tribune-Review:
"Outreach" programs are being organized to help illegals "navigate applications," understand fees and avoid rip-offs, The Hill newspaper reports. This, after Mr. Obama sidestepped Congress and ordered that "qualified" illegals brought into the U.S. as children could remain here -- temporarily.
But if these are, in fact, talented, achievement-oriented people, then they shouldn't need the Democratic Party's "help" filling out immigration forms.
And how much is this "reach-out" going to reach into taxpayers' pockets?
Despite the Tribune-Review's assertion that the outreach programs are unnecessary because qualified undocumented youth "are, in fact, talented achievement-oriented people," these programs are an essential tool for immigrant communities to receive proper information about their rights under deferred action. Instead of providing information about the sessions, the editorial mocks those eligible, some of whom are potentially still in their early teens.