Tag Archives: CJR

Lieberman picks apart Baucus changes

In her latest post on CJR.org, AHCJ immediate past president Trudy Lieberman picks apart the Baucus bill, with a special focus on the Montana senator’s latest changes. Lieberman pays special attention to Baucus’ concessions, and takes care to point out exactly who benefits and how.

Her assessment of the bill’s provision insurers to vary rates based on age (within limits) is particularly incisive:

In exchange for issuing policies to sick people, insurers get to jack up premiums for older people, a kind of proxy for medical underwriting. Baucus essentially allows companies to charge older people more for their coverage. Initially, he wanted to charge them five times more than a younger person, but now he suggests letting them charge four times more. A 58-year-old, for example, who has lost employer coverage and is struggling to pay the premiums for an individual policy may not see that as much of a gift.

Is Baucus’ excise on ‘Cadillac’ plans too broad?

The New York Times‘ Reed Abelson writes that the excise tax on premium health insurance plans that Montana Sen. Max Baucus is counting on to pay for about a quarter of his $774 billion reform proposal will hit urban families and union workers as hard as it will Goldman Sachs executives. Proportionally, in fact, union workers with less disposable income will suffer even more from the tax, which hits any plan that costs more than $8,000 for individuals or $21,000 for families, than high-flying white collar types.

The current national average for family policies is around $13,375, and only 1/10 of them would fall under the tax. But, Abelson reports, the pace of health premium inflation is such that far more policies will be caught in the tax net by the time the excise would go into effect in 2013.

The tax is based on the theory that it will help control health care costs by discouraging insurers from offering fancy plans that cover too many unnecessary tests and procedures. AHCJ immediate past president Trudy Lieberman writes for CJR.org that even this attempt to rein in costs will likely just increase them further as insurers pass the costs onto customers and the weaker coverage and corresponding rise in underinsurance forces folks faced with catastrophic conditions into financial difficulty or bankruptcy.

Decoding Obama’s message; highlighting coverage

AHCJ president Trudy Lieberman writes at CJR.org that, in his speech last week, President Barack Obama didn’t put anything new on the table, he just arranged the existing place settings to make them look more palatable to three key groups of constituents: the insured, the uninsured and those on Medicare.

In other words, the public option, should it exist, will be very limited, there will be an individual coverage mandate and Medicare won’t be footing any of the reform bill. Lieberman ends her column with the polite request that the media not allow itself to be sidetracked by South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst and instead focus on how the president’s proposals would affect their readers.

In a related piece, Lieberman took the time to praise two outlets which managed to squeeze past all the political posturing and report on the real issues surrounding health care reform. The Kansas City Star‘s Diane Stafford looked for answers to hard questions about the enforcement of an individual insurance mandate, while Kaiser News Service’s Jordan Rau explained just how expensive the individually mandated coverage could be.

As part of her ongoing Who will be at the Table series, Lieberman points out that Gun Owners of America, the NRA’s smaller rival, is opposing current reform proposals because they’re afraid gun-related medical information would end up in a national health database, and because they’re wary of an individual insurance mandate.

In another report, Lieberman posted the results of her interviews with another group, small business owners and employees in a Midwest college town, who sounded unsure about whether they were even at the table or not.

CJR: Where did ‘death panels’ come from?

AHCJ president Trudy Lieberman, writing for CJR.org, traced rumors of “death panels” in the Obama reform plan back to radio appearances and op-ed pieces by a familiar face, former politician and academic Betsy McCaughey.


Betsy McCaughey

McCaughey first gained prominence when her notorious New Republic article “No Exit” helped submarine the Clintons’ health reform proposal in the early ’90s. Lieberman explains that the widely misinterpreted provision in the health reform proposal is actually just an expansion of a process put in place by the first Bush administration in which, once every five years, Medicare will reimburse patients for visits with medical professionals to discuss what kind of end-of-life care the patient chooses. (See McCaughey’s explanation on The Daily Show and New York Times blog post about the appearance.)

In a related piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, Greg Marks reviewed academic research to explain just how difficult it is to chase mythical creations like “death panels” from the national consciousness. “Once factually inaccurate ideas take hold in people’s minds,” Marx writes, “there are no reliable strategies to dislodge them — especially from the minds of those for whom the misinformation is most ideologically convenient.”

Finally, also in CJR, Megan Garber documents the sheer absurdity of the town hall shenanigans and spices up the account with a few choice examples and ends with the conclusion that our only hope may be to try “to ensure that the facts will simply make more noise than the fictions.”

CJR: BPA truth lies in the middle

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Sanhita Reddy reviews a recent STATS critique of media coverage regarding Bisphenol A and the dangers it may hold. According to Reddy, both STATS and outlets like the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel have taken overly extreme positions in the debate. While science hasn’t quite figured out the truth yet, Reddy says, it probably lies somewhere toward the center.

In an even-handed critique, Reddy disputes STATS’ attacks on popular anti-BPA source Frederick vom Saal’s credentials, but agrees that the media has been overly reliant on the University of Missouri scientist. Reddy also points out the fine line between placing more importance upon larger-scale, more valid studies (many of which are industry-sponsored) and identifying the conflicts of interest which may or may not exist alongside those industry connections.

In the end Reddy concluded that the conflict was a confusing one, but that as long as they brought a healthy dose of skepticism and took an extra look at the methods and materials sections of the research they were consulting, reporters should be able to give it fair coverage.