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Chuck Todd Declares the Policy Debate on Health Care is Over–When Exactly Did it Start?

The traditional media has failed the American public on the vital task of covering health care and health insurance debate.  They didn’t get the basics out there–how many people know what the various bills passed in different committees would do, what the differences are?  Polls have shown that many Americans incorrectly believe that proposed legislation would provide health insurance for undocumented immigrants, would lead to a government takeover of health care, would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions, and/or would allow the government to make decisions about when to “pull the plug on grandma”.

These are not results that should instill pride in people like Chuck Todd who were supposed to be covering debate over health insurance reform.  Instead of covering a substantive debate over policy differences, the traditional media focused on unhinged claims about “death panels” and euthanasia.  You can see the results in poll questions–Americans did not get the facts about what is being debated.

You get the feeling that Chuck Todd and the rest are not comfortable talking about substantive policy questions.  He’s more of a “horse race” guy–more interested in gossiping about whether any Republicans will vote for even the most watered down version of reform.  This morning on MSNBC, Todd made clear how eager he is to get down to counting votes, announcing that, with the Senate Finance Committee’s vote to pass extremely watered down legislation, “the debate over policy is over” and we can all just worry about the “politics”–meaning gossip, innuendo, and vote counting.

What I’d like to ask Chuck Todd is: when exactly did the debate over health care policy start?  I guess I missed it, because all I heard about were people screaming at town halls that government had better keep its hands off their Medicare, and right wingers explaining how modest health care reform is part of a Marxist-fascist plot putting us on the path to Nazism.

There’s still time to cover the substantive debate.  As Jason observed, the big question now is what version of the bill the Senate will move forward with.  This question raises deeply substantive issues involving competition, virtual monopoly power by health insurance companies, and the way a public option could change that.  At its heart, the debate is over the vital human questions of whether Americans will have to keep sleeping in parking lots to receive basic health care, whether Americans will keep being bankrupted by medical expenses, and whether the current rationing system, which allows health insurance companies to turn away or drop sick people while reaping huge profits, will continue as is.

So, Chuck Todd is eager to move on to the gossip hour.  The rest of us might be better served if he finally started covering that health care policy debate he mentioned.

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Chris Edelson

Chris Edelson

Chris is a lawyer and professor at American University who writes frequently about current political and media issues. His writing has also been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metroland (Albany, NY), and at