This sounds like it could be reason to worry. But it raises a whole set of other questions, among them: Were those loud complaints linked to an actual decline in the quality of care or broader health outcomes? If they were, do the other measures in the current proposals do anything to address these concerns? The White House, for example, has announced some principles that might mitigate these issues. Would they, really?
We don’t get answers to any of these questions, though. Instead, Pear quotes a sixty-six-year-old Wisconsin man who worries about Medicare’s financial problems. Next, we hear from a cardiologist who says cuts in reimbursements for some procedures “could cripple cardiology practices and threaten access to services for millions of patients.” It’s a plausible idea, and just the sort of thing that would spark fears. But are there non-interested parties—say, experts whose livelihood don’t depend on the level at which Medicare payments are set—who believe it to be true?
We don’t find out, because Pear instead delivers the coup de grâce: “Mr. Obama has been unable to dispel the concerns of older Americans because the health care bills in Congress are long, complex and evolving.” Well, yes. But we knew that coming in. And if we hadn’t, we could have learned it from the much more entertaining article on the front page of this very newspaper today.
It’s not the press’s job to be Obama’s media strategist, and it’s fair to say that he hasn’t made the case for reform as well as he might have. But it is the job of journalists to make sense of legislation that is “long, complex and evolving,” as an overhaul of the health care system is bound to be, and to let us know if there’s anything to worry about. Telling us that we’re worried because we’re confused and uninformed is not helpful. And it’s not really journalism, either.