NM’s Low Health Exchange Premiums: Big News Everywhere Else But in the Journal

September 27th, 2013 · No Comments · health care reform, journalism, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

“Darn it. Those Obamacare insurance exchanges are about to open for business and they’re looking good. It’s early but informed competition may make health insurance affordable for the uninsured.”

“Yeah, and worse yet, New Mexico is getting lower-than-average rates.”

“So how do we avoid reporting that?”

I don’t know if the editors of the Albuquerque Journal said or thought those words, but today, Thursday, Sept. 26, the newspaper is doing an excellent job of befogging – or muddying – the positive news.

Not so Albuquerque Business First. It jumped on the local angle and encapsulated it:

NM below the national average on health exchange premiums”.

The Santa Fe New Mexican also was crystal-clear, headlining an Associated Press account:

New Mexico health exchange premiums below average”.

The Journal?

Well, it ran no story about New Mexicans’ premiums coming in below average. Not a word. Not in the print edition, anyway.

Instead, editors printed a national piece by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP’s Washington bureau. As you know, he’s the Journal’s partner in crime, favorite ally in management’s eternal war on Obamacare – waged mostly in the “news” columns.

Editors headlined Alonso-Zaldivar’s article, “Obamacare trade-off: Low premium but high deductible”.

(Alonso-Zaldivar did allow, near the bottom of his story, that according to HHS, “premiums will generally be lower than what congressional budget experts estimated.” That came in paragraph 12, followed by two more graphs minimizing its significance.)

If they wanted a national story, the editors could have published one, two or three from today’s Washington Post; but the Post does not always accentuate the negative.

Which is not to say the Journal totally blacked out the local New Mexico health exchange story; they dumped it onto the Journal’s website. Barry Massey of the state AP began his account this way:

“New Mexico’s health insurance marketplace, which starts enrolling consumers next week, will offer medical coverage plans costing less than the national average, according to a new federal report.”

Even on the website, Mr. Massey’s story wasn’t safe from the Journal’s infamous headline writers:

NM exchange insurance below national average”.

What does it mean?

I’ve no idea if that misbegotten effort represented still another Journal attempt to befog or (my preferred explanation) the writer’s estrangement from American English.
So let’s sum up.

The Albuquerque Journal, an organ of political advocacy from its editorials to its news stories (by way of a One Percent-friendly roster of opinion-mongers) fought Obamacare before its enactment and has sustained fire through its passage and the Supreme Court’s ruling that it’s constitutional.

Then this week’s dispiriting news arrived, preliminary evidence the system (based on a transparent market and competition) may work better than its critics (including me) anticipated.

What were the Journal editors, having targeted Obamacare for so long, to do?

Simple.

Drawing inspiration perhaps from the flowing Rio Grande, they threw in an omission here, sprinkled some distraction there and – voila! – the waters became muddy.

PS It is Friday, Sept. 27. For the second day the Albuquerque Journal fails to report that premiums for the state health care exchange came in below the national average.

But there on the front page is Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar with a  report on  a last minute technological glitch.

The Journal’s war on Obamacare – and journalism – continues.

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