Several journalistic practices are sending a clear signal that Republicans are disobeying media wishes on health legislation. Begin with the almost automatic recitation of the liberal term for their litigation scheme: "the patients' bill of rights." Few reports have even placed "so-called" in front of it. These same media outlets ignore conservative terms (for example, "partial-birth abortion" becomes "a certain type of late-term abortion," or on rare occasions is preceded by "what opponents call").
The other practice is heavy-handed linking of "bill of rights" opponents with the narrow financial self-interests of insurance companies. No opponent could have a sincere belief in a better, freer health care system [see box]:
NBC, Tuesday night. Tom Brokaw began by discussing "the rights of patients in this increasingly impersonal world of managed health care. The debate starts tomorrow, but we begin tonight with breakfast this morning, breakfast with the Speaker of the House and some of the most powerful health care lobbyists. They were paying for a lot more than bacon and eggs at $1,000 a plate."
CBS, Tuesday night. Bob Schieffer lamented Hastert's ill-timed fundraiser: "The bill that Hastert and the insurance industry are trying to kill, and the industry is mounting a massive campaign against it, would give patients the right to sue HMOs that wrong them."
ABC, Tuesday night. Peter Jennings announced that "on the eve of an important debate about managed health care in the country, it was the perfect opportunity to see money at work." Reporter Linda Douglass complained: "There has been very little pressure from the public, and when the public is silent, money talks."
ABC, Wednesday morning. Reporter Karla Davis concentrated on cash: "Doctors spent $45 million last year lobbying Congress. On the other side, the insurance industry spent $77 million and its lobbyists say the bill will hurt, not help patients....So it looks like Congress must make a choice to disappoint some very rich contributors or some who are even richer."
NBC, Wednesday night. Lisa Myers asserted: "With hundreds of millions of dollars and the health of American families at stake, tonight's partisan bickering appears to threaten House approval of new rights for 161 million Americans in HMOs. The President accuses House Republicans of using poison pills to try to scuttle reform... Republicans insist that's not true."
CBS, Wednesday night. Dan Rather announced, "The long-stalled, heavily lobbied patients' bill of rights is supposed to give people more say in the decisions of managed health care plans. Instead, it is the latest example of political gridlock turning into a chain reaction pileup of the nation's agenda." None of these stories allowed a Republican to explain their philosophical reasons for opposing the bill. That would only ruin the greedy gun-for-hire caricature. - Tim Graham