Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Skirting the Issue

This morning NPR does something that drives me nuts. They take on an issue that I don't know a lot about, and then they present it in a way that makes me think I'm being played a fool.

I'm not very well informed about the Medicare Drug Prescription Benefit, but I do know that I really hate the health care system in the US. I know that I hate paying $700 a month to get crummy health insurance for myself and my family - and having my employer pay $375 more a month into a plan so that an insurance company can turn a profit. I know I hate seeing senior citizens have to sweat over which one of forty for-profit insurance companies they want to sign up for to cover their drug costs instead of having ONE government plan that covers everyone!

So this morning Renee Montagne talks to David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal so they can tell us how GREAT the Medicare Drug Prescription Benefit plan is and how successful it is. Montagne begins the show telling us, "It remains controversial, but it’s turning out better than some of its toughest critics warned." Wessel's main input is that a study from J.D. Powers shows that most people in the plan are satisfied with it (in fact "45% were delighted").

Now this is interesting to me. I recall hearing that the main, substantive criticism of the benefit plan is that it was virtually written by the health care/pharmaceutical lobby and that it was an overly expensive program because so much of the funds for the program ended up back in the insurance and drug company coffers (this was Hightower's contention this past summer). But instead of discussing these meaningful points, NPR presents us with a popularity poll that is supposed to convince us how successful the plan is. Especially galling is the fact that David Wessel knows the fallacious nature of this argument. Back in September he pointed out that consumer satisfaction with their health plans had no correlation whatsoever to the actual quality and effectiveness of their plans, and yet here he is making exactly that argument regarding the Medicare Drug Benefit - very sneaky!

There's nothing wrong with NPR giving some coverage to the J.D. Powers study - it is interesting, but clearly their agenda is to spin this one study (with a little help from the Wall Street Journal) into a glowing report on the scam of the Medicare Drug Benefit Program. If you want to find out more about the problems with the plan, you might want to look at this Public Citizen site, or you might want to see how a scuzzy insurer like Humana, Inc. is currently gouging the seniors they were able to corral into their plan using an initial low premium lure. I don't think those folks are going to be "delighted."


Anonymous said...

Great job describing the various intertwined but separate threads of listener reaction and topic analysis! Extrapolating now beyond just NPR... A little honest complexity doesn't have to be painful and fearsome. How our poor country needs that in our time of Elmer Fudd toddler rhetoric. Is that time passing? You make it look easy.

Kevan said...

If NPR can create a concordance with the Wall Street Journal, then the valuable WSJ reader demographic will contribute more money to NPR.

Also, check out NPR's corporate sponsors. Quite a few insurance and pharmaceutical companies give them money.