The press may be starting to pick up this new way of talking about vouchers, framed around competition and choice, and passing it on. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported in December, for example, when Corker introduced his bill, that “its details include reforming Medicare to include competition from private health-care options” without offering details of its own what that would mean. That’s journalistically weak. Who would be hurt or helped? No clue.

Vouchers are the vehicle for essentially changing Medicare from social insurance to private insurance. That may be the game plan. James Capretta, a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, argued to Sanger-Katz that both parties will eventually embrace the concept—whatever it’s called.

What about the public? Through the years, polls have varied widely in public opinion on the idea of vouchers, says the Kaiser Family Foundation. But late last year, it reported that during 2012, polls agreed that support for the status quo—keeping Medicare as social insurance without vouchers and more privatization—outweighed support for change. But, Kaiser cautioned, “whichever party can most effectively communicate its argument to the public may win the public’s support.”

The war of words is on, and the press needs to be on it too.

The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from this author and the rest of the United States Project team. And follow Trudy Lieberman @Trudy_Lieberman.

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Medicare Uncovered: Parsing Sen. Corker’s big bill

Medicare Uncovered: The pain from ‘skin in the game’

An election post-mortem on Medicare coverage


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.