Mainstream Media Finally Takes Aim at Obamacare

| May 1 2013
John Walker

We know Obamacare is on the rocks when the New York Times, the flagship of the mainstream media, is compelled to report growing concerns about implementing the complex and unpopular law.

In a headline Monday that deserves consideration for a Pulitzer Prize in journalistic understatement, the Times said, “Next Big Challenge for Health Law: Carrying It Out.”

The Times story was a balanced account of the pros and cons of Obamacare, careful to give both sides of the law’s chances for success and its impact on the economy. Nevertheless, it was direct in saying the launch of the national healthcare overhaul is a political as well as a policy problem.

“Few government initiatives reach so many corners of the American economy and society-and have as much potential to generate trouble for the party in the White House,” the Times said.

“Among the complex imperatives: pushing reluctant states to set up insurance marketplaces and expand Medicaid programs, keeping an eye on insurance companies as they issue new rate schedules, measuring the law’s effects on small-business hiring, and coaxing healthy young people to buy coverage so the system works economically for everyone else.”

The Times story, as well as other recent press accounts, show that the mainstream media can no longer ignore the pitfalls of turning the promises of Obamcare into reality. What is more, media cheerleading for the president may subside as he moves deeper into his second term.

Last week Politico, an Obama-friendly news outlet, reported an embarrassing dustup in Congress that said House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were secretly concocting a scheme to exempt members of Congress and their staffs from participation in the insurance exchanges established under Obamacare.

The Times landed a blow last week when it reported that there is unrest among Obamacare supporters in the Senate under the headline: “Democratic Senators Tell White House of Concerns About Health Care Law Roll Out.” Anxiety is running high among Senators who voted for Obamacare and face reelection next year; even Senate Democrats who have announced their plans to retire have criticized the administration’s failures in implementing the law.

The Times story Monday said the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare last year and the president’s reelection last November will not ease pressure on the administration over a “gauntlet of hurdles” to implementing the law, including lack of participation by the states in setting up insurance exchanges and other issues.

“Only about half of the states have indicated that they will expand Medicare under the law, a central ingredient for the goal of providing coverage to those now uninsured. Some people who acquire insurance under the law may have trouble obtaining treatment, because of a shortage of doctors and state-level ‘scope of practice’ laws restricting the ability of others like nurse practitioners to step in.”

The Times noted that the political stakes in meeting the task of implementing Obamacare are made worse by what it called the “acrimonious debate” that has occurred in the nation’s polarized political culture.

“White House strategists estimate that 9 in 10 Americans have fixed views one way or the other. They say that only personal experience with the law can move them.”

The bottom line on the future of Obamacare may be question of who wins the public relations war of words. The Times quoted Austan Goolsbee, a former chief economist to Obama, who predicted “a big messaging headache the whole year.”

The success or failure of Obamacare is more than a question of messaging. Nevertheless, it is telling that even the New York Times, the so-called national paper of record, has joined the debate.

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