Tag Archives: talking health

Perceptions affecting support of public option

In the health reform debate, the public option has emerged as the latest controversy and possible stumbling block. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that “the vast majority of those who support the entire reform package also back it without the public option, while removing it attracts some of those who would otherwise be opposed.”

A recent poll of more than 5,000 doctors found that nearly 63 percent of them support a public option. Primary care providers were the most likely to support a public option; physicians in fields that generally have less regular direct contact with patients were less likely to support a public option, though 57.4 percent did so.

The Washington Post points out that, among consumers, support for the public option varies widely based on what its perceived effect will be.

Mother Jones‘ Washington, D.C., bureau chief David Corn, on Hardball with Chris Matthews on Monday night, said that many people still don’t know the details of how a public option fits into health care reform. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, also on Hardball, argues that people who have insurance “don’t focus on the public option because they think it’s not about them.”


Do reporters fully understand the public option? Are they effectively explaining it to their audiences?

To learn more about the public option, watch this Talking Health web cast, featuring two experts who explain the public option and potential effects of a public option. The second half of the web cast features Los Angeles Times reporter Noam Levey and New York Times reporter Reed Abelson, who provide insights and suggestions for covering this aspect of health care reform.

It may be helpful to look at what’s happening in San Francisco, where a program for the uninsured offers care in clinics and covers admissions to hospitals located in the city. While it isn’t health insurance, it does include a mandate that employers “offer health coverage to employees, contribute to workers’ health savings accounts or pitch in on Healthy San Francisco.”

CJR: Educate ordinary folks about reform debate

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman, president of AHCJ’s board of directors, urged journalists to help educate the public about the health care reform debate, particularly concerning the differences between public and private plans. She finds fault with coverage that only focuses on the Capitol Hill debate over options and says many individuals currently lack the basic knowledge necessary to understand the partisan fracas in context.

So far, mostly experts, stakeholders, and members of Congress have engaged in the debate, and the media has been noting their pronouncements, passing them along to their audiences. Clearly there’s a big disconnect. Reconnection is needed soon, before the ads and commercials begin peddling their persuasive and subtle messages. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the public can easily be swayed on the details of reform, and special interests have plenty of leeway to shape the direction of the debate.

Lieberman passed on tips that Reed Abelson of The New York Times and Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times shared during AHCJ’s recent Talking Health webcast about how to better cover the issue.

  • Explain what is meant by a public plan — who can join; what do they get; what it costs; who’s left out; who sponsors it; what regulations apply.
  • What’s the practical implication of a plan — can enough people use it to provide a real choice, as advocates claim? …
  • Show how it will affect different groups of people.
  • Move beyond the ideology. There’s a lot more to talk about than insurers demagoguing “socialized medicine” and advocates hoping for single-payer through the back door.