But aside from the ethics, there’s a lot wrong with them. They mirror the crazy health payment structure that directs gobs of money toward high tech, expensive procedures. Hospitals compete for that kind of lucrative, high end business, and an easy way to do it is to make deals with TV stations willing to discard the ethics of good journalism. For journalists, there’s plenty to look at here, as candidates talk more about the marketplace reforms in the coming months. The take-away for journalists: The next time you hear some candidate for high office push the principles of the marketplace, think about competition in the hospital business and what it really means for the public. Has any of this competition lowered hospital bills? Has it better informed patients about x or y treatments—especially when a news outlet is barred from bringing in other points of view? Who has it really served? Those should be questions enough to get some serious reporting started on this topic.

 

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and 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. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.