Media predictably revive conservative rhetoric of "socialized medicine" with Sebelius pick

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

Reporting on President Obama's selection of Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary, The New York Times and the Politico propagated the baseless conservative charges that the health care reform efforts of Obama and Sebelius amount to "socialized medicine." In fact, as PolitiFact.com has noted, the health care reform plan Obama proposed in 2008 "keeps the free-market health care system intact," while a plan that Sebelius advocated as Kansas governor pointed to expanding access to private health insurance.

Reporting on President Obama's selection of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to serve as Health and Human Services secretary, both The New York Times and the Politico propagated the baseless conservative charges that the health care reform efforts of Obama and Sebelius amount to "socialized medicine." The Politico's Martin Kady wrote in a March 2 post to The Huddle blog that the Republican National Committee "rolled out its talking points" suggesting that Sebelius "will try to pull off a $1 trillion socialized medicine plan as secretary of Health and Human Services." Additionally, in a March 1 article, the Times uncritically repeated conservatives' charges that Sebelius is "an advocate of 'socialized medicine' -- or 'Hillarycare,' as Melvin Neufeld, who was [Kansas] House speaker at the time, put it." Neither article noted that, in fact, neither Obama nor Sebelius has proposed a plan for socialized medicine.

As Media Matters for America has documented, the health care reform plan Obama proposed during the 2008 presidential campaign is not tantamount to "socialized medicine" -- a false charge lobbed by former Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Indeed, as the Times noted in a May 3, 2008, article, McCain repeatedly "inaccurately described the Democrats' health care proposals, using language that evokes the specter of socialized medicine." The article quoted McCain claiming that Obama favors a "government massive intervention and takeover of health care in America," writing that McCain's "suggestion is incorrect." Additionally, PolitiFact.com has noted that "Obama's plan keeps the free-market health care system intact, particularly employer-based insurance. It is not a goverment-run [sic] program and is very different from the health care systems run by the government in some European countries."

Similarly, the health care reform proposals Sebelius has advocated during her tenure as Kansas governor do not amount to "socialized medicine." For instance, in calling for health care reform in her 2008 State of the State address, Sebelius touted a plan promulgated by the Kansas Health Policy Authority, a group "[t]asked with a mission to develop and maintain a coordinated health policy agenda." That plan, updated January 30, 2008, pointed to expanding access to private health insurance, noting, for instance, that "[o]ne of the health insurance reform policy options would pay for private insurance coverage for adults without children who make less than $10,210 a year" [emphasis added].

From The New York Times' March 1 article, "Obama Pick Gets a 2nd Chance on Health Care" by Kevin Sack:

In her 2007 State of the State address, Ms. Sebelius urged lawmakers to "commit ourselves to universal coverage." Though she said little about how to achieve that, Republicans tarred her as an advocate of "socialized medicine" -- or "Hillarycare," as Melvin Neufeld, who was House speaker at the time, put it.

From Kady's March 2 post to Politico's The Huddle blog, "Spinning Sebelius":

The Republican National Committee rolled out its talking points early Monday morning, portraying Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as a tax-and-spend, anti-business governor who will try to pull off a $1 trillion socialized medicine plan as secretary of Health and Human Services.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, The Politico
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