The long knives in the media are out for the President and Obamacare. Act One was the hair-on-fire response to the glitchy website. While there was fair criticism to be levied for this error, crucial information, like the fact that there were other ways to enroll, that states had the option of creating their own websites (and opted not to) and that the enrollment period was open until early next year would have at least given some context to the reporting. But instead, this one aspect of the Affordable Care Act was conflated with the entire law – ignoring entirely the expansion of coverage through Medicaid, the free preventative care women and the elderly now receive, the closing of the Medicare “donut hole” and many other salutary benefits.
As the fervor about the website subsided and assets were deployed to fix the problem, Act Two unfolded. The set piece was an oft-used line by the President that people who liked the health insurance they had would not have to change their plans because of the ACA. What he did not mention (or perhaps anticipate) is that insurance companies would cancel otherwise acceptably “grandfathered” plans of their customers in an effort to get them to pay more for newer plans that are ACA-compliant or that they would issue policies after the enactment of the ACA that insurers knew would not be compliant and therefore subject to termination in 2014. Well, guess what? Insurance companies are mendacious corporate entities that like squeezing the people who pay them premiums, so, naturally, hundreds of thousands of people received cancellation notices and some did not get the heads up that insurance exchanges now exist that would allow them to competitively shop for less expensive plans.
The media response? Obama lied. Did the media report that insurance companies were voluntarily canceling these policies? Hardly. Did the media report that the policies did not have to be canceled because of the “grandfather” provision in the ACA? Nope. Or that insurers had issued policies after the law's enactment knowing full well they would not be in compliance with the minimum coverage standards and would therefore have to be terminated? Guess again. What about the fact that these policies tended to have high co-pays, limited doctor’s visits or low lifetime coverage or that the new “minimum standard” regulations under the ACA gave more comprehensive coverage? Of course not. And what of the government subsidies that many individuals were entitled to because of their income (thus making the new, more comprehensive coverage on par with or cheaper than their current plans). Uh, no.
As “average” Americans were rolled out on TV to bemoan this travesty, the media shitstorm went into overdrive, even as the stories being told on TV were being debunked almost as fast as they were being told. This crescendo of criticism culminated Thursday when NBC’s Chuck Todd asked the President of the United States if he owed people an apology for lying to them. Wow. I didn’t check the tape, but I did not see Chuck Todd asking Aetna, UnitedHealth or any of the other private insurers who canceled plans, for a similar mea culpa, much less anything from any of the two dozen governors who rejected Medicaid expansion that would have covered far more people than are having their policies canceled by private insurers (not to mention being covered 100% by the federal government for the first few years and gradually leveling off at 90% later this decade.)
So, instead of investigating a complicated policy issue where there was far more than met the eye, the Beltway media went for the easy trope and in doing so committed a far graver sin than being uninformative – they misinformed the public, something that seems to be the coin of the realm these days in the never ending quest for ratings, click thrus and page views. It also fits into the preferred media narrative, one they have tried to drive since the day Obama was re-elected - that his Administration is somehow "under siege." Earlier attempts revolved around issues like the IRS (another tempest in a teapot) and NSA eavesdropping. When those didn't work, there have been two attempts to resuscitate Benghazi, with both failing spectacularly - Jonathan Karl leaked what turned out to be a highly edited email that put the Administration in a bad light (it turned out to have been manipulated by a staffer on Darrell Issa's staff) and just last week, the TV show "60 Minutes" ran what turned out to be a bogus account of the evening by a now discredited non-witness.
I'm not sure where the media hard-on for getting the President comes from, but like that four-hour erection you are supposed to contact your doctor if you suffer from, it is time for journalists to step back, take a deep breath and rethink what they are doing.