Thursday, July 29, 2010

Myths, Lies, and Proposition C

On Tuesday, Missourians will have a chance to vote on Proposition C, an amendment to state law where, according to the "Fair Ballot Language,"
A “yes” vote will amend Missouri law to deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services. The amendment will also modify laws regarding the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies.

A “no” vote will not change the current Missouri law regarding private health insurance, lawful healthcare services, and the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

Emphasis mine. The co-sponsor of this amendment, Rep. Ed Emery, was in town recently promoting a "yes" vote and railing against "Obamacare." His comments were then repeated by the local newspaper without correction, which really irked me.

According to the article, Emery claims that Prop C "will block a federal penalty for not purchasing government health insurance." This is clearly wrong on two counts:
1. The wording of the amendment clearly says "PRIVATE health insurance."
2. There is no such thing as government health insurance unless you're on Medicare or Medicaid. There is no "public option." (those denied private insurance would be eligible to enroll in state-controlled high-risk health insurance pools, similar to what happens when you're denied auto insurance).

Emery states that the government needs everyone on its (non-existent) "healthcare plan" in order to make it sustainable-- ie: you have to have the healthy as well as the sick in order for any insurance plan to work. The article then repeats Emery's diatribe about how we "lost America" by having the federal government trample states' and individuals' rights.

This is article is problematic to me on two counts:
1. Rep. Emery is the co-sponsor of this amendment yet ___________.
a. he doesn't know how it reads.
b. he doesn't know what the PPACA actually does that Prop C is attempting to address.
c. he is lying.
d. all of the above.

2. Rather than point out a-d., the local journalist just ran with it and even links to a partisan website at the bottom where it's difficult to make out fact from motivational propaganda. Why not just link to the text of the amendment?

Conservatives like Reihan Salam oppose the PPACA on several grounds including the infringement on state rights. Conservatives can raise good, accurate criticisms of the PPACA without lying, which I think is what I personally believe Ed Emery is doing in order to gain political points. There is some confusion about Prop C and even more confusion about "Obamacare" here. This article didn't help.

It is unhelpful to the conservative cause for conservative politicians to spout untruths and for conservative-leaning newspapers to repeat those untruths as fact. Thus, here is the letter I sent to the Bolivar Herald-Free Press:

Dear Ms. West (cc: Editor),
I am stunned by the clear lack of journalistic fact-checking in your article "Prop. C Will Protect" in the Wednesday edition of the BHFP. I think that the article is quite misleading since it repeats some falsehoods as though they are truth. When reading the article it is difficult to distinguish what you are simply repeating from Rep. Ed Emery and what you're reporting to be the actual facts of the proposed legislation and the federal law. I believe more space in the article could have been used to point out that some of Mr. Emery's statements were completely bogus.
For example, Proposition C does not block a penalty for "not purchasing government health insurance." The penalty is for not purchasing private health insurance-- since there is currently no government-provided health insurance (ie: no "public option" as many on the political left wanted, but could not get written into the legislation). Those who have been denied coverage by private health insurance become eligible for state-run high risk pool insurance plans (similar to how it works if you've been denied coverage for automobile insurance.) The idea that the federal government is forcing people onto a federal plan and that Proposition C is the means of opposing it is ludicrous and should not be repeated as fact. The federal government is mandating people purchase health insurance or pay a fine, simple as that, and that is what Prop C is addressing, but this fact is found nowhere in your article.
Secondly, I do not believe that the "government's health care plan" (misleading because, again, it sounds like you're talking about a public option) is "commonly called ObamaCare" except by political pundits. The act passed by Congress is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as the "Affordable Care Act" or by its acronym the PPACA. The law itself is not mentioned anywhere in the wording of Prop. C.
The fact that you use the rest of your space simply repeat Emery's vents about "losing America" seems to indicate you'd rather express his opinion rather than stick to informing readers about the topic at hand-- Proposition C. This view is reinforced by your linking to a partisan political website at the bottom of your article, rather than linking to more factual/informational websites about the legislation (both Prop C. and the PPACA).
As the Springfield News-Leader pointed out on Sunday, there is a good bit of confusion about Prop C. I think your article has simply confused readers more by allowing Rep. Emery to mislead them. If Rep. Emery doesn't understand the facts, then that's truly a shame. But for repeating his misunderstandings without some journalistic fact-checking I have to say shame on you too.
Justin Tapp

1 comment:

Charity said...

i'm glad you wrote to the newspaper, and i would like to know what they say if they respond. i know nothing of prop C, but i support that you wrote not in favor or opposition of the actual amendment but because what the paper is offering readers is a one-sided and unprofessional view on the topic. i say, good job!