Moving the boundaries

A Pennsylvania paper dares to cover single payer

A tip of the hat to the Sunday News, a division of Lancaster Newspapers Inc., which gave a wider view of the options for health care reform than voters in most of the nation have gotten so far. The 100,000-circulation paper, which serves south central Pennsylvania, dared to report on a conference organized by HealthCare4AllPA, a regional group that advocates a single-payer path to universal health coverage. Discussion of single payer, even the merest mention of it, seems to be off limits in the news columns. Maybe that’s because none of the candidates favors that approach, and the media are reporting primarily what they say.

Luckily that didn’t matter to the Sunday News, where writer Suzanne Cassidy gave readers fair and substantial coverage of the conference, at which the keynote speaker pointed out that Americans know more about Britney Spears than how their health system works. Cassidy liberally quoted them as they laid out the case for a single-payer system. A woman who runs a free medical and dental clinic spoke about the calls from middle class people who are uninsured and need care. A state legislator, who is sponsoring a single-payer bill in Pennsylvania, told conference attendees that her bill faced a rigorous battle from private insurance companies. (Cassidy put that bill in context of other health care legislation being considered in the state). The owner of a restaurant and deli talked about the difficulties of choosing health coverage for his workers, and how he believed that a single-payer system would be much more efficient and much less wasteful. The owner also acknowledged that some of his business friends would oppose a single-payer plan, but added “there’s always hope good things will happen.”

There’s always hope, too, that the press will cover more events like this one. They are out there.

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Trudy Lieberman is a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR's healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. She also blogs for Health News Review. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.