Bad Journalism About The Affordable Care Act Trickling Down To My Local Station

WBNS 10TV Columbus Ohio

The problems with the national website have been reported quite a bit by a national media that loves to parrot Republican talking points. I really hoped that the bias in the reporting would stay with the national media and my local media would do a better job. I was wrong. The one station I watch most often, WBNS 10TV, in Columbus, breathlessly reported the problems signing up for the insurance exchange but has failed to offer any context or any success stories.

Ever since the insurance exchange opened at the beginning of October, WBNS 10TV has been doing stories like the following:

Testimony before Congress that federal officials did not fully test the online marketplace until two weeks before it was launched has led to disappointed and frustrated voices across the country.

Colette Haley has tried for weeks to sign up online on the exchange.

She runs her own small business in the German Village and has waited eight years to find affordable health insurance.

In fact, 10TV was with her back on October 1 when she first tried to sign up online with no success.

“I’ve probably tried five more times since then,” Colette said. “I’ve spent many hours online, I’ve called people, and I’ve gotten nowhere with it.”

Colette was unable to create an account on October 1. She says two weeks later she could do that, but the process was slow and the live chat wasn’t helpful.

“It’s extremely frustrating and disappointing because at this point, I still don’t have a clue what’s out there,” said Colette.

Online Marketplace Creates Anger, Frustration For Ohioans

Yes, they did have Colette in a story on October 1st – the day the exchange opened and 10TV has had many many stories – almost one a day about the problems people have had signing up. I haven’t seen any stories talking about people who were successful in signing up and they didn’t offer any context – like this being a new thing so of course there will be problems. So Sunday night I sent the station an e-mail of complaint:

When will you be doing a story on people who got signed up for the Affordable Care Act? You’ve done plenty showing the problems but have failed to note that part of the problem is Ohio didn’t setup its own exchange. The states that setup an exchange haven’t had problems. 

You are doing a disservice to the community.

They sent me an e-mail back offering the story I quoted at the start of this article, which I had seen on Friday when it aired (and seeming to miss the point of my note). Monday during the noon and evening newscasts they regurgitated the information in that story. They still didn’t offer any counter examples or any context.

Ohio was one of the states that refused to setup a state run exchange and the states that setup exchanges haven’t reported the same kind of problems the national website has had. Kentucky, our neighbor to the south has a state run exchange:

Over the past several months, Beshear used his broad executive powers to bypass resistance from the GOP-controlled state Senate to ensure that the Commonwealth is the only Southern state that both expanded its Medicaid rolls and opened up a health benefit exchange, providing access to affordable health care to our more than 640,000 uninsured citizens. And while the federal launch of the program has been plagued with technical difficulties, Kentucky’s experience has been exemplary: In its first day, 10,766 applications for health coverage were initiated, 6,909 completed and 2,989 families were enrolled. Obama himself bragged that Kentucky led the nation with its glitch-minimized performance.

Obamacare Is Winning in Kentucky, Thanks to Steve Beshear

The other point missing from 10TV’s coverage is the fact that the insurance exchange just opened up on October 1st. Huge government programs don’t start without some issues at the beginning. Back when Medicare Part D started up, there were many issues with people signing up for plans. The company I worked for handled Part D plans and I remember well the trouble we had for months after it started.

Boehner, of course, was talking about the rollout of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit — known as Part D — enacted in 2003 by President George W. Bush. He discussed the implementation woes during a Feb. 6, 2006 appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” on his fifth day as House majority leader.

But did he want to repeal the benefit? No. The future Speaker soberly acknowledged the problems but saw potential in the law and called for improving it. “The good news is that the competition that’s being created has lowered premiums significantly below where Congress thought they’d be when we put the bill together, so the competition side is good,” he said. “I think the implementation side continues to need to be improved.”

Flashback: GOP Wanted To ‘Fix’ Medicare Part D After ‘Horrendous’ Rollout

I’m not asking my local station to ignore or whitewash the real problems with the sign up website, but they are leaving out the information we, the viewers, need to make an informed decision.

The bias in their reporting is doing the community a disservice especially seeing how easy it was to come up with the information they are leaving out.

I shouldn’t have to do their job for them.