You have bookmarked Trudy Lieberman’s indispensable ongoing coverage of the health financing reform debate in the Columbia Journalism Review, haven’t you? Or haven’t you?
If you haven’t, go ahead. I’ll wait.
Good. This week, in the piece “Truth Emerges About the Public Option,” Lieberman notes that the pathetically limited scale and scope of what’s passing for a “robust” public option is finally meriting mention amongst the Sunday morning gasbags:
Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, George and his guests suddenly realized that the public option, whatever shape it takes, will be very limited. While it’s good to see the MSM finally get real about the public option, Campaign Desk has been making this point for some time. In fact, we did a search of media coverage of the public option and discovered that the press pretty much avoided telling the public that the public plan would not be for most of them. Between August 15 and September 15, a Factiva search turned up 2335 stories in newspapers, business publications, and general interest publications mentioning a public plan. But when it came to telling readers who could actually join, only seventy-six outlets gave the full story. [emphasis added]
Lieberman noted that Keith Olbermann, citing Ron Wyden, also woke up to the fact that more than 200 million Americans would not qualify for the public plan under current bills.
Ron Wyden has also gotten some valuable face time with Rachel Maddow on this point.
Wyden’s apparently promising a floor fight to vastly expand access to the exchanges and so, through them, to whatever public plan emerges in legislation. Of course, Max Baucus and his allied interests torpedoed Wyden’s attempt to achieve same in the Senate Finance Committee.
The paltry nature of the public option in current bills is old news for most of us, especially since Kip Sullivan laid it out so clearly back in July. More recently, Sullivan compiled evidence on the degree to which most opinion polls mislead rather than enlighten, by gauging support for aspirational descriptions of a public option, utterly unrelated to the 18-inch-high model actually represented in the bills. (In these parts, I should mention, letsgetitdone has been all over this issue like brown on whole-grain rice.)
So can this heightened media focus continue and intensify? More importantly, is this a classic case of what Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting describes as a “Now It Can Be Told” story — ie, one in which the opportunity for the information to do any good has already long passed?
I’ve argued recently that instead of chaining themselves to insurance company entrances, activists might do better to surround and hound the legislators and public option boosters who continue to pretend that current legislation is “robust” as long as triggers, co-ops, and perhaps opt-outs can be averted. That’s one suggestion, anyway.
Trudy Lieberman concludes:
Reporters and editors take note: If you want to keep making the public option the continual political story du jour, please tell your audiences that most of them won’t even be able to use the plan.