Politics Ruined Media’s Attempts to Explain Health Care Bill

After the Republican-backed American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed in the House of Representatives in early May, health care policy appeared to take a back seat in the news until recently, when the media found out that the bill has not been sent to the Senate floor for a vote yet because politicians are waiting on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) report.

“When exactly did the House leadership decide to quietly hold on to the bill?,” Robert Verbruggen wrote for The National Review. “Was this the plan all along, to pass the bill with no CBO score while guarding against the possibility that the score would doom the bill? Even to many of us who’ve been following the legislative wrangling on health care, this came as a shock.”

Despite the bill’s changes, it still seems largely unpopular with the American public and the mainstream media, with the latter group mostly spending their time reporting on the bill’s alleged “lies” and the Republicans criticizing their own party’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Policy commentary in the mainstream media often reflects Verbruggen’s own reported confusion over the AHCA’s viability. And, as expected, opinions on the AHCA divide along party lines, with Democrats asserting the bill takes away too many ACA protections and the Republicans insisting that legislators attempt to privatize health care further.

Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash told Reason that, “the AHCA repeals fewer than 10 percent of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act [and] deliberately maintains Obamacare’s framework,” a statement that seems to contradict the mainstream media’s implication that the AHCA would overheal the majority of the ACA’s protections.

 Differently, The Weekly Standard’s Chris Deaton mostly blames the Democrats for the bill’s low approval ratings, telling the Standard that liberals misrepresent the potential cost and implications for petty political gain.

“Perhaps the AHCA lacks merit in several aspects,” Deaton said. “To make such an evaluation, however, the details need to come to the fore.”

On the other hand, liberals often accuse conservatives of lying in health care coverage.

The erratic new president has unleashed a torrent of lies in the place of public policy discussion,” Eric Boehlert wrote for Media Matters. “In a Trump era of endless firsts, this is likely the first time we’ve seen a major American political party try to pass a landmark social policy initiative by categorically misstating almost every key claim about the bill.”

Boehlert continued to assert that the bill would worsen ACA protections despite Republican pushback. “No, the House bill does not protect people with pre-existing conditions. It does not protect older Americans from increased insurance costs. It does not mean everyone will be charged the same for insurance. The bill wasn’t ‘bipartisan.’”

The New York Times Editorial Board went as far as calling the administration’s handling of AHCA criticism, “disingenuous nonsense.”

“On the whole, insurance markets in much of the country are on stable footing and will remain so if Congress doesn’t do things to undermine Obamacare,” the Editorial Board wrote.

While both sides blame one another for subpar coverage, the media’s apparent aversion to the bill’s provisions and general confusion over public policy is most likely the fault of petty party politics.

After all, the Democrats want to uphold Obama’s legacy and protect the ACA, whereas Republicans want to capitalize on the promises they made to their constituents to overturn it.

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