The Unhealthy Bias of Health Care Reporting

The Unhealthy Bias of Health Care Reporting
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Journalism is a serious business and reporters are not pundits. Their role is to report facts, not conclusions. Reporting is not a modern version of “What’s My Line,” where readers must question a reporter’s ideological bent before making a decision about an article.

Nowhere is this more true than in health care reporting. 

The policy community knows that health care debates elicit an emotional response different any other fiscal or cultural issue—and well it should. Our lives and health depend on access and affordability of health delivery services.

Journalists know this too, and often take advantage of that sensitivity by leading the public to health policy conclusions that may not be factual, but do support the writer’s political beliefs.

During the 2016 presidential cycle, four organizations studied journalists’ political donations and found they averaged 95 percent Democrat over Republican. In 2013, only seven percent of reporters identified as Republican, and there is no indication it has changed. 

The Association of Health Journalists held a conference this month, ironically titled, “Disrupting Disinformation.” Panelists included representatives from First Draft News, an organization funded by left-wing groups including George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Democracy Fund. Another participant was a physician who recently used Twitter to criticize two female Republican candidates, and  promote an editorial by foul-mouthed, anti-Trump rapper Megan Thee Stallion.

The New York Times’s chief health care reporter, Sarah Kliff, does not even strive for the appearance of reporting over liberal influencing. A few recent pieces include, “How Much Would Trump’s Coronavirus Treatment Cost Most Americans,” and “A Word Not Uttered by Republican Officials at the Convention: Obamacare,” Most of her articles have an anti-Trump, anti-GOP message. She also regularly scares Twitter followers with the false assertion that Americans are about to lose coverage for pre-existing conditions despite President Trump’s commitment through executive order to protect it.

William Wan is the national health care correspondent for the Washington Post and also more of an influencer than a reporter, as his most COVID recent articles full of doom and gloom horror stories with the disingenuous “Trump downplayed it” narrative throughout. Where is the reporting about the federal government meeting emergency PPE needs, or on-going vaccine and therapeutic trials? The death rate plummeting? 

The bias is apparent in national print, but perhaps most damaging is what seeps in through local and state outlets—papers and online sources our neighbors regularly turn to find out what is happening close to them.

For example, Sacramento reporter Angela Hart takes influencing beyond the pale through emotionalistic pseudo-journalism that should have no place on a feature reporter’s notepad. Ms. Hart served in the Army and is an Iraq war veteran, and nothing should diminish our gratitude for her service.

But her bias is clear. She regularly retweets anti-Trump posts and vicious anti-Republican Tweets by California’s uber-liberal Governor Gavin Newsom. In a recent piece funded by the left-wing Kaiser Foundation,  Ms. Hart—who “reports” in the first person —nearly gives her readers PTSD by likening COVID to the horrific ravages of war while taking a gratuitous swipe at former President George W. Bush. She compares war deaths with a virus that has a 99.82 survivability rate for patients under 70. We don’t need reporters caught up in their own drama, we need facts. 

Social justice, racial and economic divisiveness also enter “reporting” as evidenced by a recent article for STATNews “‘Covid is all about privilege’(sic): Trump’s treatment underscores vast inequalities in access to care” by Casey Ross and Priyanka Runwal. Mr. Ross’s social media posts even inject racial issues into health care statistical modeling. 

Every policy issue has its own swamp, including health care reform.

The Docs4PatientCare Foundation promotes reforms based on the doctor-patient relationship, lowering costs, and increasing access.  It’s Vice President, Georgia physician Dr. Mike Koriwchak, understands the importance of accurate health care reporting, noting, “For decades, the media have conspired with politicians, regulators and industry executives to create health care policy narratives that enrich themselves at the expense of patients.  

“The result is increasing costs, decreasing accessibility, and no effective solutions. We need a strong, truthful message supporting choice and transparency to counter nearly fifty years of failed health care policy.”

Let us be clear. Reporters have every right to hold and express personal political opinions—but not in feature stories. It’s not their job, and it’s an abuse of Fourth Estate freedoms.

COVID brought unprecedented challenges to American medicine. Our free-market health care delivery system and COVID medical response are the best in the world despite what journalists like Ms. Hart or Mr. Casey may believe.

System improvements require an honest review of facts presented to voters and those they elect to solve problems—not from reporters who slide their political agenda into every article they write.

The conclusion role belongs to the American people.

Kerri Toloczko is a Senior Policy Fellow for Institute for Liberty, a public policy organization dedicated to limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.

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