As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Paul Begala Calls Out The Media

Yesterday I wrote about the shocking video of a Congressional hearing where health insurance CEOs, having admitted to canceling customers after they turn in claims for treatment, refuse to stop doing so. I'm pleased to report that we got up to 11,644 views as of this morning, and the video is already the #30 top rated of the week in the News & Politics section of YouTube. Keep going, keep retweeting, keep using Digg and Reddit to vote it up, use the Health Care for America Now page to email it to your friends. We can get this out.

And we have an ally in Paul Begala.

It's unusual for Begala, a longtime commentator for CNN and a member of the traditional media, to excoriate his own industry so forcefully for failing to inform the public. But he does exactly that here, in writing about this specific hearing, and the relative lack of attention paid to it.

You probably have never heard of Robin Beaton, and that's what's wrong with the debate over health care reform.

Beaton, a retired nurse from Waxahachie, Texas, had health insurance -- or so she thought. She paid her premiums faithfully every month, but when she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, her health insurance company, Blue Cross, dumped her.

The insurance company said the fact that she had seen a dermatologist for acne, who mistakenly entered a notation on her chart that suggested her simple acne was a precancerous condition, allowed Blue Cross to leave her in the lurch.

Beaton testified before a House subcommittee this week. So did other Americans who thought they had insurance but got the shaft [...]

It was as dramatic as congressional testimony gets. Yet it got no airtime on the networks, nor, as far as I can tell, on cable news, although did run a story. Time's Tumulty was all over it, as was Lisa Girion of The Lost Angeles Times. But the story did not make The New York Times.

Nor The Washington Post, which found space on the front page the morning after the hearing for a story on the cancellation of Fourth of July fireworks in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, but not a story on the cancellation of health insurance for deathly ill Americans who've paid their premiums.

I know the right wing is outraged by ABC News airing a health care town hall meeting with President Obama next week, but isn't the real outrage that such prime-time coverage is the EXCEPTION and not the RULE? Shouldn't we have lots and lots of news and information from the biggest megaphones about a domestic policy issue that faces every single American? Shouldn't everyone have access to that debate, and all the perspectives contained therein? Since when is the fact of a television network allowing an hour of coverage on the issue that means life or death to everyone in the country something to be reviled?

And that's basically Begala's complaint here. The media is failing in their job. In a way, so is the Administration, because they need to bring the spotlight to their most important domestic issue. Robert Reich argues the same thing, that Obama needs to drop as much as possible and focus like a laser on health care in order to get it done.

Put everything else on hold. As important as they are, your other agenda items -- financial reform, home mortgage mitigation, cap-and-trade legislation -- pale in significance relative to universal health care. By pushing everything at once, you take the public's mind off the biggest goal, diffuse your energies, blur your public message, and fuel the demagogues who say you're trying to take over the private sector.

You have to win this.

But I cannot let the media completely off the hook here. The story of rescission makes the health care issue personal. It exposes the mission of insurance companies, the "murder by spreadsheet" dedication to profits over people. And until their incentives are changed, until they need to compete on price and quality instead of competing on how to get out of paying for medical care, absolutely no reform can possibly work. But that requires the facts to be delivered by a media simply resistant to them.

Fortunately, we live in an age of two-way media, where citizens can force discussions into the national conversation. And that starts with you making everyone you know aware of this video exposing the agenda of the insurance industry. I recognize that it lacks a certain amount of context; I am working on a project this weekend to provide that additional context. But I think it does make its point well enough. And when you send this to friends, you can explain it even more.

Let's keep working on this. Let's go viral.

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