Ignoring Polling, Wash. Post Redefines ‘Center’ As Excluding Public Plan

News Analysis

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– The Washington Post described an “emerging” bipartisan health care reform bill that would “abandon the government insurance option that President Obama is seeking” as a “move toward” the “center,” but in fact, several recent polls show that a majority of Americans support a public plan option. The media have repeatedly cast the public plan option as a far-left proposal, skewing the health care debate.

From the August 6 article, “Senators Closer To Health Package,” bearing the subhead “Bipartisan Talks On Reform Move Toward Center”:

Senate negotiators are inching toward bipartisan agreement on a health-care plan that seeks middle ground on some of the thorniest issues facing Congress, offering the fragile outlines of a legislative consensus even as the political battle over reform intensifies outside Washington.

The emerging Finance Committee bill would shave about $100 billion off the projected trillion-dollar cost of the legislation over the next decade and eventually provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans, according to participants in the talks. It would expand Medicaid, crack down on insurers, abandon the government insurance option that President Obama is seeking and, for the first time, tax health-care benefits under the most generous plans. Backers say the bill would also offer the only concrete plan before Congress for reining in the skyrocketing cost of federal health programs over the long term.

Polling shows majority of Americans support public option

Most recent polls show that the majority of Americans support a public option. Recent polling from Washington Post/ABC News, Time, and McClatchy all show more than 50 percent support for a public option; two Quinnipiac polls and a New York Times/CBS News poll show more than 60 percent support; and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows 46 percent support for a public option:

Quinnipiac: 62 percent support “public option.” When asked whether they “support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans,” 62 percent of respondents in a July 27-August 3 Quinnipiac poll said they support giving people a public option. In a July poll asking the same question, 69 percent said they support a public option.

Washington Post/ABC News: 54 percent support a “government-run plan.” A July 15-18Washington Post/ABC News poll asked: “Thinking about health care, one proposal to insure nearly everyone would require all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty on their income tax, excluding those with lower incomes. It would require most employers to offer health coverage or pay a fee. There would be a government-run plan to compete with private insurers. And income taxes on people earning more than 280-thousand dollars a year would be raised to help fund the program. Taken together, would you support or oppose this plan? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?” Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would support the plan.

Time: 56 percent favor a “government-sponsored” option. In a July 27-28 Time poll, 56 percent of respondents said they would favor a health care bill that “creates a government-sponsored public health insurance option to compete with private health insurance plans.”

NY Times/CBS News: 66 percent favor a “government administered” plan. When respondents were asked in a July 24-28 New York Times/CBS News poll whether they would “favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan – something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private health insurance plans,” 66 percent said they would support the plan.

McClatchy: 52 percent say “it is necessary to create a public health insurance plan.” In a July 9-13 Ipsos/McClatchy poll, 52 percent of respondents said that the statement — “It is necessary to create a public health insurance plan to make sure that all Americans have access to quality health care” — came “closest to [their] opinion” of “whether or not the government should create a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance.”

NBC News/Wall Street Journal: 46 percent favor a plan “administered by the federal government.” However, at least one poll, conducted July 24-27 by NBC News/Wall Street Journal, shows a split opinion on the public option. When respondents were asked whether they would “favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies,” 46 percent said they would favor such a plan, while 44 percent said they would oppose it; 10 percent of respondents were not sure.

Post continues media pattern of portraying public option as left-most proposal

From the article:

Still, as the six senators continue their talks, the political debate over health-care reform has become increasingly polarized. Liberal Democrats are incensed that the Finance Committee has rejected a government-run health insurance plan in favor of a network of member-owned cooperatives — a needless concession, they believe, given the Democrats’ 60-vote majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, many Republicans view blocking health-care reform as a smart political strategy that will help their party draw a sharp line with congressional Democrats in the 2010 elections.

Media skew health care debate by casting public plan option as left-most proposal. As Media Matters for America has noted, the media are once again ignoring a position embraced by many progressives, this time on health care — helping to skew the debate and potentially ensure that the legislation that Congress and the Obama administration work out will fall short of what the administration and the public are advocating, which itself is less than many progressives say is necessary. In their coverage of a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) for a system of health coverage “cooperatives” as an alternative to the inclusion of a public plan option, the media have often portrayed the co-op system proposal as a compromise between the public plan option, which Obama is advocating, and a plan free of any government involvement, which many congressional Republicans are advocating, without noting that the public plan option is itself a compromise for many progressives, who advocate a single-payer system. Indeed, in the view of many progressives, the public plan option is the least that must be included for health care reform to be successful.