The New York Times’ rose-colored Obamacare coverage 

Here’s the lead to today’s New York Times story on Obamacare, six months later:

?Sometimes lost in the partisan clamor about the new health care law is the profound relief it is expected to bring to hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been stricken first by disease and then by a Darwinian insurance system.

On Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a number of its most central consumer protections take effect, just in time for the midterm elections.

Uh huh. No bias there. We’re, of course, informed of all the wonderful things that the legislation does:

Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.

The law will now forbid insurers to drop sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents’ policies.

It establishes a menu of preventive procedures, like colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations, that must be covered without co-payments. And it allows consumers who join a new plan to keep their own doctors and to appeal insurance company reimbursement decisions to a third party.

What’s interesting is that the NYT piece, beyond the legislative details and some broad economic numbers, the piece is nearly fact free and almost entirely promotional. It doesn’t even try and quantify the costs and/or numbers of people that are going to be helped by the bill. Perhaps it’s still early, but we’re consistently finding out about the unintended consequences of the legislation. For instance, it’s awfully odd that the piece would trumpet the fact that children with preexisting conditions are now covered by their parents’ plans — but fail to mention that the major insurance companies just dropped their child only insurance plans in response to the bill.

As for the issue of pre-existing conditions, the state high risk pools have been up and running for months to cover the supposedly uninsurable, and yet very few people have signed up or need the program. These benefits are nice, but is it worth messing up everyone’s insurance and jacking up costs to cover a few people in extraordinary circumstances? Are there more efficient and cost-effective ways to meet these people’s needs? And how on God’s green earth do you justify forcing insurers to cover “children” up to age 26 on their parents insurance plans?

The Times is not about to ask these questions. Just write a story about all the great things the legislation does, make a cursory mention that Republicans still oppose the bill and cap it with a picture of a chronically ill child who’s been denied health insurance.

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Mark Hemingway

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