NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Seattle Times article on state’s rising health insurance rates relies heavily on the perspective of a national right wing think tank

This morn­ing, Wash­ing­ton Insur­ance Com­mis­sion­er Mike Krei­dler’s office announced in a news release that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who buy health insur­ance through the state’s Health­plan­find­er exchange can expect a sig­nif­i­cant increase in rates when the time comes to enroll in a plan for the 2018 cal­en­dar year.

“I’m very con­cerned by the pro­posed changes we’re see­ing,” Krei­dler said in the release. “I know these num­bers will be extreme­ly upset­ting to peo­ple who buy their own health insur­ance. They’re upset­ting to me.”

“We’re going to spend the next sev­er­al months review­ing every assump­tion insur­ers have made to make sure their pro­posed increas­es are justified.”

The Seat­tle Times tasked reporter Bob Young with fil­ing a sto­ry on the news. Dis­ap­point­ing­ly, instead of weav­ing togeth­er many dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives to pro­vide a nuanced take on the rate increas­es, Young opt­ed to rely heav­i­ly on the views of a nation­al right wing think tank to dri­ve his story.

The result is an unbal­anced arti­cle that might as well have been writ­ten by some­one work­ing inside of the Belt­way, as opposed to a local reporter with local knowl­edge and lots of cred­i­ble sources in local med­ical, polit­i­cal, and busi­ness circles.

Nine para­graphs in the sto­ry (out of twen­ty-six total) either present the words or the ideas of Joe Antos, who works at the right wing Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia. No coun­ter­vail­ing pro­gres­sive per­spec­tive is pro­vid­ed in the arti­cle, and no oth­er “expert opin­ion” is cit­ed besides that of Antos. He’s the only per­son quot­ed in the sto­ry who isn’t an elect­ed official.

The arti­cle has a pox on both their hous­es theme, with Young mak­ing ref­er­ence to “a new round of par­ti­san fin­ger point­ing” and quot­ing Antos as say­ing “blame should be shared by all sides”. Anoth­er fine exam­ple of false equivalency.

But of the nine para­graphs ded­i­cat­ed to Antos’ per­spec­tive, this one is my favorite:

“I’m not argu­ing against social wel­fare,” Antos said. “The chal­lenge Oba­ma didn’t take up and Repub­li­cans in Con­gress are hav­ing prob­lems with is how to make this oper­ate more like busi­ness than a forced char­i­ta­ble operation.”

What non­sense! The last thing any Amer­i­can should want is for our health­care sys­tem to be oper­at­ed “more like [a] busi­ness” than it is today.

When peo­ple are sick or injured, they need to be able to focus on get­ting well. It’s hard to feel bet­ter when the specter of med­ical bills is loom­ing over you.

The whole point of the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act was to pro­tect Amer­i­cans from the worst excess­es of the greedy, most­ly for-prof­it insur­ance indus­try — like deny­ing cov­er­age due to pre-exist­ing con­di­tions. The PPA was a step towards a more humane future, in which care is sim­ply avail­able as opposed to afford­able.

Health­care is a human right — it is not a priv­i­lege that peo­ple should have to pay for. Health­care there­fore must and should be fund­ed as a pub­lic service.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this per­spec­tive is entire­ly miss­ing from Young’s article.

If this had been writ­ten for the opin­ion pages, or for inclu­sion in the metro sec­tion as a col­umn, the deci­sion to rely heav­i­ly on Antos would­n’t be so troubling.

Opin­ion pieces are sub­jec­tive by their nature, after all — we our­selves run most­ly sub­jec­tive posts here on the Cas­ca­dia Advocate.

But this piece is sup­posed to be objec­tive report­ing. So it should offer many per­spec­tives. It should be nuanced and con­tem­pla­tive. It’s not.

The Seat­tle Times’ news­room is capa­ble of putting out high­er qual­i­ty report­ing than this. Here’s hop­ing their next arti­cle on this sub­ject is more reasonable.

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