Can the media handle the health care news?

I enjoy reading Drew Altman’s Pulling It Together column, an easy that usually contains something of interest. Yesterday’s piece (Repeal) was a straightforward summary of the issues surrounding the House’s move to overturn the Affordable Care Act. He emphasized two points he said are often overlooked. The first is that the public is split on the law and there is no groundswell of support for repeal. In fact almost as many people are in favor of expanding PPACA as want to repeal it. He added:

Second, a likely result of a repeal vote in the House will be even greater public confusion.  In our December tracking poll, we found that 43% of the public said they were still “confused” about the law (confusion was the public’s dominant feeling —  30% said they were “angry” and 33% said they were “enthusiastic”).  How many people will think the law has actually been repealed (when it has not) if a repeal measure passes the House?  We will test this in an upcoming tracking poll, but there is a real burden on the news media to explain clearly what has and has not happened (and that implementation of the law is continuing).

I saw the very first example of this in a news flash from MedPage Today as soon as the House took its vote.

House Repeals Healthcare Reform Law

The House of Representatives has repealed the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama just 10 months ago. Democrats in the Senate have said repeal would not be considered there.

To be fair, the MedPage audience probably understands how the legislative process. Still, I think Altman is on to something and that we will see more confusion on reform.

January 19, 2011

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