Bernard-Kuhn, who shifted to the health care beat at the Cincinnati Enquirer in February after reporting on business, said that media outlets have a responsibility to report on the expansion as an ongoing story with clear impacts on readers. The Enquirer, she said, is interested in establishing itself as the go-to place for readers looking to understand health care reform in Ohio, and may soon have a landing page on its site dedicated this. It will feature “big stories as anchors and turn-of-the-screw coverage as we see fit, focusing on the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion,” she said.
One of the reasons for her paper’s delay on the “incredibly important” private insurance story, Bernard-Kuhn told me, was because so much of the story hinged on rumor: no proposal for a hybrid Medicaid/private insurance plan has officially emerged yet, and there are few facts to actually report. (Bernard-Kuhn did write an April 1 story that sketched out the details that do exist, hazy as they are.) “Until we see an amendment proposed,” she said, “we have no idea what details there are.”
For her part, the Plain Dealer’s Tribble said that putting too much weight on the private insurance story now risks devolving into political gossip. She wrote in an email:
In Ohio, it’s not at all surprising that the private insurance option is still on the table. Gov. Kasich’s administration indicated that it was during his February Medicaid announcement, saying that his folks had been on the phone with the White House about options. So, in a sense, it’s old news. Also the editors and writers at the Plain Dealer have been very careful to not take a political side on this issue. In many ways, that means waiting and seeing and watching for the real news—in contrast to writing about what people are talking about.
These are good points. And both Tribble and Bernard-Kuhn, as well as other Ohio journalists, are doing a nice job highlighting local voices and the potential local impact of Medicaid expansion. But, with all due caution for sticking to the facts, they should press forward on the private insurance angle, both as context for local stories and as straight-on news coverage, so long as it’s part of the Medicaid debate in the state legislature. Their unique access to Ohio legislators and lobbyists provides the opportunity—perhaps the responsibility—to push the story forward in useful ways by asking questions and examining potential influencers on politicians who are weighing the decision.
In short, they shouldn’t cede this story to reporters beyond their borders.
Tribble, for one, appears ready to go: “There are some great analysis stories to be done and you can expect to see more from me and others [at the Plain Dealer] after the lawmakers get back from spring break.”
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