Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This is what drives me nuts

Completely nucking futz, as a matter of fact. The "reporter" Julie Rovner on Morning Edition today committed what I would call an egregious act of journalistic malpractice except that it's an absolutely typical, conventional, standard example of the current practice of journalism.

In Rovner's vision, the future of Medicare is not a policy problem, to be understood and explained, but a political weapon wielded with equal legitimacy or illegitimacy -- she doesn't seem sure which it is -- by both parties. The audio is actually worse than the written version. In the written version, the Affordable Care Act "would reduce Medicare spending by a half trillion dollars over 10 years." In the actual radio bit, it "cut Medicare" by half a trillion dollars. Then she played the Republican radio ad in which old folks accused Democratic representatives of betraying them.

What she didn't bother to explain is what the act actually did. It reduced overpayments to insurance companies in the Medicare Advantage program. It didn't cut, reduce, restrict, or affect the benefits of Medicare recipients in any way. In fact it saved money in order to protect the program. In other words, the Republican accusation was a canard -- objectively false and misleading. So her "reporting" merely magnifies the Republican lie and gives it renewed life.

Then she goes on to Democratic attempts to turn the tables in response to the Paul Ryan proposal, which she deems dishonest because "That plan's major Medicare changes wouldn't affect current seniors, but you wouldn't know that to listen to Democrats and their advocates." She pivots immediately to Paul Ryan, who is allowed to defend his proposal, not by explaining its content, but simply by saying that "I would do it just like this if I had to do it all over again . . . I really believe people are ready for these kinds of solutions; they want to see leaders tackle these challenges, and they are sick of the political demagoguery, and I think people are becoming more desensitized to all these attack things."

Then she turns to Nancy Pelosi who is quoted and framed selectively to appear to be endorsing the idea of using Medicare as a political weapon, even though she knows that "Medicare is not financially sound enough to sustain the retirement of 78 million baby boomers who are beginning to join the program this year. And that Medicare costs are a major drag on the nation's debt and deficit problem." Then she pivots to a political scientist who says that "fear beats hope" in politics, so that's why we get these fear based attacks instead of solutions.

So it's all about those evil Democrats trying to scare people instead of seeking solutions, like Paul Ryan. What Rovner completely ignores is that the Democrats do in fact propose ways of constraining the cost of Medicare, which Republicans block at every turn by using dishonest scare tactics. They refused to allow a vote on the confirmation of Donald Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services because he's a "socialist" who is in favor of "rationing." They won't allow Medicare to consider comparative effectiveness research or cost effectiveness analysis in making spending decisions. They refuse to allow funding for counseling about end of life care. They won't allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies. They scream about "death panels" and "socialism" every time anybody tries to propose an honest solution to the problem of rising health care costs.

But explaining all that requires actually understanding, and explaining, something about public policy. Rovner won't do that, probably because she's too ignorant but possibly because telling the truth would look like taking sides. Either way, she's a disgrace.

1 comment:

roger said...

i think she's earning her keep from her corporate employer.