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Health Care

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  • How anti-abortion groups are using Wash. Post to legitimize their attacks on Planned Parenthood 

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On August 2, The Washington Post’s health care newsletter, The Health 202, featured an exclusive preview of an anti-Planned Parenthood report from the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) -- the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. After the full report’s publication, anti-abortion groups and outlets pointed to the Post’s exclusive to legitimize the misinformation the report included or promoted the report themselves. 

  • Prime-time cable programs ignored the voices of activists in their health care coverage

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    During last week’s health care “vote-a-rama,” prime-time cable news coverage largely neglected the voices of activists, despite their crucial role in helping to block Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    Media Matters reviewed four nights of cable news coverage -- from 5 to 11 p.m. -- between when the “motion to proceed” was passed (which opened debate on possible plans to overturn the ACA) and the GOP “skinny repeal” bill was defeated in the Senate. During those four nights of coverage, cable news programs largely failed to include the perspectives of activists, and both CNN and Fox News disregarded these voices altogether:

    • CNN and Fox News did not host a single activist over four nights of health care coverage

    • MSNBC hosted five activists during the same time period, but they accounted for less than 10 percent of its prime-time guests included in discussions about health care.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Cable news coverage of health care has consistently disregarded diverse voices in favor of pundits

    Throughout Republican efforts to overturn the ACA, cable news repeatedly failed to offer diverse voices. Guests in conversations about health care were predominately white male pundits, while African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and women -- all of whom stand to lose disproportionately if the ACA is overturned -- received far less screen time.

    Additionally, cable news programs often ignored the personal stories of those that would be most affected by Republican health care policies, choosing to focus on the legislative process, at the expense of the human cost of the GOP’s repeated actions to undo the ACA. As Senate Republicans searched for a way to overturn former President Barack Obama’s signature health care act last week, cable coverage continued to erase the voices of those most intimately involved in the health care debate. CNN and Fox News failed to include a single activist amongst the combined 97 guest appearances on the channels during discussions of health care, and while MSNBC did host five activists, they made up less than 10 percent of the network's total guests hosted during prime-time to discuss health care.  

    Activists played a pivotal role in saving the ACA

    While this isn't the first time cable news failed to seek out the voices of activists, their disregard for activists' voices is shocking considering the influential role they have played throughout the health care battle. Employees and volunteers for organizations like MoveOn, ADAPT, and Planned Parenthood organized health care rallies across the country, and helped organize tens of thousands of calls to House and Senate offices on behalf of the ACA. Activists also kept constant pressure on elected officials, staging all-night protests in lawmakers' offices, and showing up to elected officials’ town hall meetings and other public appearances. Activists played a crucial role in pressuring Senators to vote no on repeal and replace bills, and in keeping public attention on health care in midst of numerous distractions, like the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Activists deserve credit for their role in the health care battle, and comprehensive news coverage needs to include their voices.

    Methodology 

    Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of “health care,” “the Affordable Care Act,” “Obamacare,” “Republican health,” “GOP health,” “the Better Care Reconciliation Act,” or “BRCA” on prime-time cable news between July 25 (after the Senate passed the motion to proceed to debate) and July 28 (after the failure of “skinny repeal”). Segments were coded if they included a significant discussion of the Republican health care bill. “Significant discussion” was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another. Guests that partook in discussions that included a “significant discussion” about health care were included in this study. Guests were considered “activists” if they were affiliated with a group actively working against GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. 

    Prime-time cable news refers to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC weekday programming between 5 and 11 p.m. 

  • Anti-abortion media use new smear video to lobby lawmakers before health care vote

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In the early hours of July 28, Republican senators failed to pass a bill to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood on a 51-49 vote. Prior to the vote, the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) had released yet another of its deceptive smear videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, and anti-abortion and right-wing media circulated the clip as a reason to vote for the Republican bill.

  • 6 key mistakes media made in covering the health care debate

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    In the wee hours of the morning of July 28, Democrats, activists, and three Republican senators just barely thwarted the GOP’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Ever since President Donald Trump pledged to make repealing the ACA one of his first priorities as president -- and Republicans retreated to secrecy to take health care away from tens of millions of people -- media have continuously made six key mistakes in their health care coverage.

    Ignoring diversity and intersectionality

    During the health care debate, broadcast and cable news largely marginalized key perspectives from those who would be among the most affected by the legislation. This, in turn, correlated with a lack of coverage on how those same people would be affected by the legislation. Like the GOP, broadcast and cable news relied almost solely on white men to discuss the bill. This absence of diverse voices correlated with little to no coverage of how the legislation would affect marginalized groups, like the LGBTQ community and people of color.

    At its core, health care is an intersectional issue. As the American Medical Association noted, “Intersectionality has much to offer to population health in providing more precise identification of inequalities, in developing intervention strategies, and ensuring results are relevant within specific communities.” But this message was absent from most broadcast and cables news coverage of the GOP health care plans.

    Focusing on process over consequences

    Throughout the debate, media were focused heavily on the process behind the bill, highlighting vote counts and speculating about support. At the same time, key consequences of the bills were barely noted. A Media Matters study found that on cable news, the negative impacts of the bills were drowned out by discussion of the process. Cable and broadcast networks also largely ignored personal stories by those who would be most impacted by the bills. At every stage, the impact of the bills was whitewashed by the media, including Sunday morning political shows, national newspapers, cable morning shows, and some local newspapers.

    Letting the GOP off the hook for sabotage efforts

    Right-wing media also adopted the GOP’s revisionist history when it came to the ACA and allowed Republican lawmakers to escape responsibility for their years-long efforts to sabotage the health care law. Right-wing media repeatedly pointed to things like insurer withdrawals from the exchanges and slight downturns in gains brought about by the law to claim the ACA was “struggling,” or even in a “death spiral.” In doing so, right-wing media conveniently forgot that the GOP has sabotaged the law every chance it could by eliminating the risk corridor provision of the law, refusing to build insurance markets in several states, rejecting federal dollars to expand Medicaid, and not appropriating “dedicated funds” to implement the law.

    The Trump era has seen even more extensive sabotage efforts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities chronicled over a dozen ways the Trump administration has already weakened the law. And recently, Trump renewed his threat to end cost sharing payments to insurers, a move that would put the market in shambles.

    Not challenging Republicans

    Not only were Republicans relatively unscathed by their efforts to sabotage the ACA, but television reporters and hosts also allowed them to push misinformation by failing to debunk their claims. Throughout the debate, Republicans took to broadcast and cable news to push falsehoods in order to gain support for their various plans to repeal and replace the ACA. Sunday shows, in particular, proved to be a fruitful platform for GOP lawmakers to lie about the law.

    When Trump gave a blockbuster interview on July 19 to The New York Times, all three reporters failed to push the president on health care policy as the bill was coming to a vote in the Senate. Similarly, MSNBC’s Morning Joe allowed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to push a nonsense claim that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found the bills would throw tens of millions of people off insurance, had a methodology akin to astrology.

    Pushing unworkable solutions

    Right-wing media used the debate to push some of their favorite health care policies, even though they all fall somewhere between unworkable and disastrous. One of the most popular policy proposals was high-risk pools, which have “a lousy history” and have been “prohibitively expensive for consumers.” Additionally, Fox News’ Marc Siegel praised health savings accounts, which “primarily benefit the wealthy, the healthy, and the educated,” not the uninsured.

    Perhaps the most dangerous solution pushed by right-wing media was one that almost became law: repealing the ACA without a replacement plan. The CBO said such a move would have left 32 million people uninsured and premiums doubled, by 2026.

    Ignoring the debate all together

    Perhaps the most ridiculous mistake television and print media made during the health care debate was ignoring it. While Senate Republicans used an “almost-unprecedented opacity” to craft the bill, media let them get away with it by either not reporting or burying reports on the legislation. One of the worst offenders of this strategy was Fox’s Sean Hannity who somehow discussed Hillary Clinton more than the health care bill as the Senate was voting on it.

  • ABC’s This Week finds out what happens when you have fringe radio host Bill Cunningham on as a guest

    Cunningham used his appearance to compare Sen. John McCain to a “backstabber, O.J.-style”

    Blog ››› ››› KATHERINE HESS

    Bill Cunningham likened Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to O.J. Simpson, calling the senator a “backstabber” on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Sen. McCain voted no along with Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Senate Democrats to block the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act.

    Cunningham has a history of inflammatory on-air commentary, especially when it comes to former President Barack Obama and discussing women whom he disagrees with. In some of his many appearances on the Fox News Channel, he questioned fellow guest Tamara Holder’s ability to do math, said she didn’t “look like a Catholic girl” but rather a “Farrah Fawcett wannabe,” and told her to know her role as a woman and “shut her mouth.” He has also more recently stated that the “ugly broad” Joy Behar should be “muzzled” for criticizing Trump.

    He has continuously called the former president "Barack Mohammed Hussein Obama,” and asserted that it would be a “shock” if he won "in these difficult terrorist times” in 2008. He repeatedly spread misinformation about President Obama to his listeners, alluding that Obama and Satan were somehow linked, and stated that Obama wanted to “gas all the Jews.”

    Cunningham has been a vocal supporter of Trump, calling him the “Trumpster,” boosting his supposed accomplishments and speaking vehemently against his critics. During this segment, Cunningham defended Trump’s record, saying, “I don't think any president after six or seven months could travel the way the Trumpster has traveled, with the outpouring of love and affection, despite the fact that a few days ago, the backstabber, O.J.- style, who is Sen. John McCain, that began his public life as a hero and is ending up giving a thumbs down and a middle finger to the middle class by not repealing Obamacare.”

    From the July 30 edition of ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

    MARTHA RADDATZ (CO-HOST): OK, so [Trump] does seem to have some pretty solid base support, but I've been around the country and in Ohio, and Pennsylvania, a lot, and the independents who voted for Donald Trump do seem to be a little squishier of late. And how about that poll? Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll has his approval rating down to 36 percent, the lowest for any president at the six month mark in 70 years. So what does he do about people outside of his base? The rest of America? What advice would you give him?

    BILL CUNNINGHAM: Martha, when he went to Youngstown, [OH], thousands and thousands showed up. If he would come here to Cincinnati, the same thing would happen. I don't think any president after six or seven months could travel the way the Trumpster has traveled, with the outpouring of love and affection, despite the fact that a few days ago, the backstabber, O.J.-style, who is Sen. John McCain, that began his public life as a hero and is ending up giving a thumbs down and a middle finger to the middle class by not repealing Obamacare. What happened a couple of days ago is terrible. And Trump, I think, has lost a bit of little support in the periphery, but the heart and soul of America that beats this great country is Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa. This is where real Americans, normal Americans live. These are the lands of J.D. Vance and Hillbilly Elegy. This is where normal people get up every day, and everywhere I look, everywhere they look, things are good. Everything that should be up is up. Things that should be down are down. America is pretty good. Plus, school starts in two weeks. I see an America bursting at the seams to get loose. And frankly, most of my listeners are proud that the Trumpster is still in the White House and he’s still extremely popular among the base who put him there. And if the election were held today, I think there was a poll a few days ago, that the Trumpster would beat Hillary again, and again, and again. Basically in the land of J.D. Vance and Hillbilly Elegy, things are pretty good. What I see on television and read in newspapers from the East Coast is a disconnect to normal Americans like me.

  • The predictable hero story of the health care vote -- and what it misses

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Late last night, the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was defeated in a Senate vote, with two members of the Republican Party voting against the measure in full force, and a third Republican senator voting no because it’s part of his brand, I guess.

    Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) came out strongly against the repeal efforts early on, opposing previous bills aimed at repealing the ACA and voting against the procedural motion to begin debate on the repeal proposals.

    Let’s be clear: Opposing an absolutely devastating disaster of a bill that would lead to higher uninsured rates and, likely, the deaths of some of your constituents is the bare minimum any competent lawmaker can do. As The New Republic’s Sarah Jones wrote, “Obamacare’s real saviors have been dragged out of wheelchairs, arrested, and assaulted for weeks. They are, as you would expect, the people who stand to lose the most if Obamacare is repealed. They are people with disabilities: activists associated with [the disability rights group] ADAPT, and the unaffiliated individuals and carers who came forward to share their experiences and to demand better from the GOP.”

    Collins and Murkowski aren’t exactly heroes, either. But at least these two senators committed to opposing dangerous repeal measures from the start, in the face of thuggish tactics from the men they work with. Collins and Murkowski faced escalating, sometimes physically oriented, threats from male colleagues in Congress and the Trump administration because of their opposition to the bill. Murkowski was reportedly threatened by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a personal phone call. President Donald Trump tweeted that Murkowski had “let the Republicans, and our country, down” after she voted against the motion to begin debate on the repeal earlier in the week. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said somebody ought to “go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass,” in defense of Trump’s tweet singling out Murkowski. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) ominously threatened to “duel” the two lawmakers (if only they were men).

    And then there is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the media’s favorite political figure despite his signature tendency to say one cool, “maverick” thing to reporters and then immediately do the other -- often falling into line behind his party, though occasionally going rogue to further secure his media darling standing. McCain also did the absolute bare minimum and voted against the bill in the end, after months of hedging on his stances about a repeal effort. He would have been applauded by the media either way.

    Guess which senator a bunch of reporters chose to cast as the hero? The average news consumer, scrolling through headlines on social media or on email, would draw one clear and utterly false conclusion about who really did the most to defeat the repeal measures: an indecisive, press-conscious dud of a senator instead of his much stronger female colleagues, or the grass-roots activists who far, far, far surpass them all.

    [CNN, 7/28/17]

    [The Washington Post, 7/28/17]

    [The Washington Post, 7/28/17]

    [Politico, 7/28/17]

    [The New York Times, 7/28/17]

    [The New York Times, 7/27/17]

    [NBC News, 7/28/17]

    [USA Today, 7/27/17]

    [The Associated Press, 7/28/17]

    [The Daily Beast, 7/28/17]