Health Care News Hunt - Final Results
On Tuesday we wrapped up a 10-day Health Care News Hunt with the Huffington Post and its Eyes and Ears team. For an overview of this collaboration, check our HuffPost partner Matt Palevsky's first blog post, as well as our own project update.
With the help of our hosts, Kristin Gorski and Patricia Blochowiak, as well as 95 new members from the Huffington Post, we posted about 146 health care stories, 51 of which received a NewsTrust rating. Recent stories on this topic can be found on our Health Care page.
Here are the final results of our Health Care News Hunt.
Top Rated Stories on Health Care
Here are some of our top rated stories for this News Hunt:
- More is Less - This American Life / NPR (podcast, 1 hour)
- In Netherlands, Insurers Compete Over Quality of Care - NewsHour / PBS (video)
- Going Out of Business? - FactCheck (News Analysis)
- A Texas-Sized Health Care Failure - New York Times (Opinion) (see reviews)
- The Lie Machine - Rolling Stone (Special Report)
- "Don't Get Sick": The Truth About GOP Health Plans? - Huffington Post (News Analysis)
We focused on different types of stories throughout this News Hunt: mainstream news on Monday, opinions on Tuesday, TV news on Wednesday, fact-checkers on Thursday, comedy news on Friday, worst journalism on Saturday, and breaking news in the final days. Here are our findings for each category.
News Reports - The Public Option
We began our News Hunt last Monday, October 5th, by comparing news reports on debate in Congress over whether to include a government-run insurance plan -- a "public option" -- in a final health care reform bill. Most news stories we reviewed focused on how Congress would merge a bill that contains a public option provision with one that doesn't. Our top stories came from the Great Falls Tribune, the Hill, and Salon (read our original analysis here).
Opinions - The Public Option
The following Tuesday we compared three opinions that took different views on the controversial public insurance measure. A Republican state senator from Maryland argued against it in the Baltimore Sun; the founder of a failed insurance exchange firm wrote in the New York Times that without a public option reform would be ineffectual; and a blogger from Think Progress said political maneuvering is the Democrats' best hope for slipping the controversial measure past Republicans. Our community posted more than 20 reviews on these stories and found Cappy McGarr's op-ed in the Times to be most insightful (read our full results here).
TV News on Health Care
On Wednesday we featured TV news on health care. Our top rated video came from PBS's NewsHour, which examined the health care system in the Netherlands and the overhaul that took place there in 2006. The special report garnered high ratings from a dozen reviewers, who were impressed by its detail and diversity of sourcing. Fox News and MSNBC ran news reports on the public option, which our community dismissed as too partisan.
Fact-Checkers on Health Care
Since arguments over how to reform the nation's health care system boiled over with misinformation and accusation this summer, we've gone out of our way to feature those news outlets that scrutinize claims from all sides. On Thursday we focused on news analysis from fact-checkers and found that matters had calmed down significantly since August's death panel rumors dominated coverage.
FactCheck.org debunked a new health care ad from Americans for Prosperity that purported Medicare will be bankrupt in eight years. "Yikes," FactCheck wrote:
"Quite a scary claim to make about a program that encompasses 16 percent of the federal budget and benefits 45 million Americans. But the word "bankrupt" is far too strong to accurately describe Medicare’s problems. ... We don’t mean to say that the projections about the future of the HI trust fund shouldn’t be taken seriously, or that Medicare in general isn’t facing long-term funding issues. But it’s not going to be “bankrupt in eight years.”
We also featured the indefatigable PolitiFact's excellent roundup of high-profile statements about health care, as rated on their Pulitzer Prize-winning Trust-O-Meter. Nine pages of vetted public statements earned a high rating from NewsTrust -- and we'll be checking back as a reform bill makes its way through Congress.
Comedy News on Health Care
We closed out our week with a comparison of three Daily Show clips on the health care debate -- two from August and one from September -- to see how leading news comedian and media critic Jon Stewart had covered this topic. In his most recent clip, Stewart knocked Democrats in Congress for failing to include a public option in the Finance Committee's bill, despite holding a super majority in the Senate.
Bad Journalism on Health Care
Over the weekend, we compared our dogs of the week -- the lowest-rated stories we found on health care. "What we would have told Obama" from Fox News, "Tricky 'O's doctored photo" from the New York Post, and a news analysis from NewsBusters each received a rating of 2.0 or lower from our community.
Breaking News: Insurance Industry Report
This Monday, October 12th, ahead of the Finance Committee's vote, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) released a report commissioned by the top health insurance industry trade group that said reform proposals in Congress would increase costs for American families. The report was cited in most stories we reviewed on the Finance Committee's vote -- and drew swift condemnation from the White House, Congressional Democrats and many observers. We rounded up reactions from prominent health care bloggers.
Ezra Klein, of the Washington Post, was extremely critical, comparing the report to similar studies conducted by PWC on behalf of tobacco companies:
"[I]f the PWC's report doesn't offer much in the way of trustworthy
policy analysis, it is an interesting looking at the changing politics
of the issue. In short, the insurance industry is getting scared. After
many months of quiet constructiveness, they're launching a broadside on
the week of the Senate Finance Committee's vote. The White House, which
had a pleasant meeting with the industry's leadership last week, was
shocked by the report, and so too was the Senate Finance Committee. The
era of cooperation seems to be over, and they weren't given much
advance warning. But the report might have another impact, too: The
evident anger and fear of the insurance industry might do a bit to
reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all."
The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn noted several omissions and inconsistencies in the PWC report, and in an update said the insurance industry's conflict of interest was all too clear. And Kevin Drum, of Mother Jones, said a weakening of the penalty in the Baucus Bill for not purchasing health insurance probably motivated the report.
Breaking News: Senate Finance Committee Votes
Our News Hunt ended this Tuesday with breaking news coverage of the highly anticipated vote on the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill. Nicknamed the "Baucus Bill" after Sen. Max Baucus, the Democratic committee chairman, the legislation won approval yesterday with 13 Democratic votes and one Republican vote from Maine Senator Olympia Snowe.
The Politico portrayed the vote as a milestone for both Baucus and President Obama, who has repeatedly called health care his top domestic priority. And since the committee was widely expected to approve the bill along party lines, several publications featured the defection of Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe as a key aspect of the story -- but some news outlets were split over just how her vote was secured.
"The vote moves President Barack Obama's goal of overhauling the nation’s health care system one step closer to reality," the Politico wrote, adding:
"Baucus’s hand was strengthened markedly when Snowe became the only Senate Republicans to vote for health reform —- ending weeks of speculation about whether any Republicans would sign onto the Democratic reform bill."
But according to the LA Times, Snowe's vote was less an achievement for Baucus than for the White House, "which had heavily courted Snowe, and it allowed overhaul advocates to claim that there was a vestige of GOP support for the measure." Bloomberg echoed this notion in its story on the vote:
"That marked the first time a Republican in either the Democratic-controlled Senate or House has supported the revamp legislation, President Barack Obama's top domestic priority. ... Baucus had spent months courting Snowe and other Republicans, making his committee the last of five congressional panels to complete its version of the legislation."
Thanks to our Partners and Hosts
We'd like to thank our partners at the Huffington Post and Eyes and Ears for making this a lively and successful News Hunt! It was a pleasure to work with HuffPost Citizen Journalism Editor Matt Palevsky, as well as HuffPost Politics editors Dan Froomkin and Rachel Weiner, and all 95 Huffington Post members, who made invaluable contributions to our search for great journalism on health care. Kudos as well to our gracious hosts Kristin Gorski and Patricia Blochowiak, who led our community in this effort, reviewing dozens of stories and posting some true journalistic gems on this important issue. Last but not least, we're deeply grateful to our wonderful NewsTrust reviewers. Your collective recommendations have helped thousands of citizens find health care journalism that is informative, substantive and meaningful to their lives. Many thanks to you all for your hard work and great insights!
As Congress continues to negotiate a health care reform bill, we'll be tracking the best (and the worst) coverage from across the political spectrum on NewsTrust. Check our Health Care and U.S. Congress topic pages to weigh in on the latest news and opinion on this landmark debate -- and if you find a great story on health care, be sure to post it on NewsTrust for review!
- by Derek Hawkins and Fabrice Florin, with Kaizar Campwala