Spinning Healthcare

Media accounts keep telling us that the current political debate on healthcare is unprecedented and groundbreaking. But an article in the latest edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, by seasoned healthcare reporter Trudy Lieberman, makes a convincing case that little has changed within the frames of media parameters.

The press “has mostly passed along the pronouncements of politicians and the major stakeholders who have the most to lose from wholesale reform,” Lieberman writes. “By not challenging the status quo, the press has so far foreclosed a vibrant discussion of the full range of options, and also has not dug deeply into the few that are being discussed, thereby leaving citizens largely uninformed about an issue that will affect us all.”

What were seeing now is a slightly freshened version of a timeworn tap dance that ranges across a constricted media stage. As Lieberman notes: “Absent from the debate are not only single-payer systems like the ones in England and Canada, but other systems with multiple payers, like ones in Germany and Japan — or, for that matter, any discussion of why a system that relies on competition among private insurers in The Netherlands hasnt resulted in lower prices for consumers, as advocates claimed.”

The variety of healthcare delivery systems abroad, in industrialized countries, spans a common assumption — healthcare as a human right — an assumption that doesnt cut the mass-media mustard in the United States. “Whats common to all these systems,” Lieberman points out, “is that everyone is entitled to healthcare and pays taxes to support the system, and medical costs are controlled by limits on spending. The specter of a system that takes a significant bite out of stakeholder profits in the U.S. is the real reason the debate is so restricted.”

Norman Solomon | CommonDreams.org