The Minutes: The Real Losers of the Health Care Ruling

Millions of Americans now have SCOTUS-approved health care. But all of us took a hit when it came to the accuracy of our news.

Wave those flags, citizens!  Spin those yarns!  The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken, and Obamacare is alive and well.

It’s 11:39am as I write this, nearly 90 minutes since the decision.  Switching between various media forms, I’ve heard statements from tens of pundits, Republican House Speaker (and perpetual tanning client) John Boehner, and Republican Senate Minority Leader (and possible marionette come-to-life) Mitch McConnell.

I mention that it’s been 90 minutes because those are the minutes that are important in news.  All of the minutes prior to those are now forgotten; minutes that included the following quote from Mitt Romney:

"As you know, the Supreme Court is going to be dealing with whether or not Obamacare is constitutional. If it is not - if Obamacare is not deemed constitutional -- then the first three and a half years of this president's term would have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people.”  

I would have disagreed with that perspective; as, I would think, the following (groups of) people: the workers of General Motors, gay soldiers now openly serving their country, 4.3 million newly-employed people, the 39,000 troops who are no longer in Iraq, and Muammar Gaddafi, and Osama bin Laden. 

But politics is politics, and Mitt Romney (as the author of a state policy just like this one), is probably not going to come out and congratulate President Obama on a job well done, and a law upheld by the branch of our government that gets final say on the constitutionality of our laws.  If he did, that might be (gasp) somewhat mature for our political system.

So the minutes before the decision was known are washed away like they never happened.  And the minutes to come will be as “Real Housewives” as the normal political discourse we have come to expect in this country.  In fact, if Boehner and McConnell’s statements are any indication, it’s going to get lip-smackingly ridiculous as the Republicans continue to attempt to sway the American people that going back to zero on Health Care Reform—rather than amending this (now constitutional) bill—is a better "option for the public."  Pun intended.

But these 90 minutes—15 of them, specifically—did include something that should not be forgotten in this discussion.  Because immediately after the ruling came down, and for about fifteen minutes following it, CNN had the story wrong:  Initially, in their attempt to get the story out immediately, they reported the individual mandate was dead.  And they not only reported it on their newscast, they did so by sending out a bulletin to the subscribers of their app. 

And then, fifteen minutes later, they corrected themselves.

This might be the fault of Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal expert, who previously declared the law was in “grave, grave trouble,” and who was inside the Court as they handed down their decision.  It might have been the fault of the reporter who broke the incorrect information on camera, and it might have been the fault of the people who read and misinterpreted Justice Roberts’ statements in the ruling.  Regardless, CNN got it wrong.

To a lot of people, that’s not a big deal.  The story is so big, that those fifteen minutes will be as forgotten as the minutes and days preceding it. 

But it’s worth noting as part and parcel to a growing problem in our society:  how we get our information.  In their effort to be the first; in their effort to maintain their reputation as journalists in an era of pundits-- they got the story wrong.  Completely.

And that is a major problem in a society that desperately needs to return to an age where journalism is about fact, and not opinion.  It's a major indicator that the competitive nature of journalists has "jumped the shark" playing by the old rules of "get it fast" in an age where "fast" is "immediately."  It's an indicator that the news is still worried about speed, when they should be worried about accuracy.  It’s a palpitation signaling a heart attack in our future. 

You can read between the lines all you like (whether you are a champion of liberal or conservative perspectives)-- but when the (arguably) most-objective cable news network screws up drawing those lines, that's a major problem.

As I write this, Mitt Romney is just now using his minutes to say all the things we knew he’d say:  “I disagree with the ruling, and we’re going to continue the fight.”  He’s doing what Republicans do:  doubling down on a losing idea.  It is the history and nature of their party, and it is leaving us with the very scary reality that the Democrats are the only sane party left in American politics.

But those are my politics, and I am no one.  And politics will be politics.

The news, however, needs to be the news.  It needs to be the "fourth estate," to check the government's power by informing the people, cutting through the bias, and doing so not only promptly, but accurately. 

Because if we can't count on the news to use those minutes of our lives responsibly, we will start using them elsewhere. 

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Patricia Post June 29, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Does anyone really know what the Obamacare is? what is the wonderful thing that has helped all of us? All I know is that I cannot (currently) afford health care (as it is not a benefit offered for a commission only employee) because I don't make enough month to month for another FIXED expense. (before you tell me I should budget for it, please realize I did pay for it to the tune of $1400 per month before my income went down too far to afford it) But doesn't this new constitutional healthcare force me to buy it or I get penalized by the IRS? If I'm wrong, please let me know...but you have to read the bill first....try that online.
Tim Torrence June 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Patricia you are correct. The real losers in this ruling are the people who make 134% of the poverty level or close to it. A family of 4 making just over $25,000 a year does not qualify for the expansion in government assistance. An adult age 22 who does not choose to go to college cannot remain on their parents health insurance. This bill fixes nothing. People are already stating that they will pay the penalty rather than the more expensive health insurance plans and continue to go to the ER without paying. So what have we learned? We have learned the real losers in this argument are the people who truly needed the most help and the people who cannot afford to have their taxes increased once again. But take solace in knowing that the penalty you pay will go toward the healthcare of those less fortunate than yourself.
Patrick Giusto June 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Patricia: I wrote about the importance of good news coverage here, and I'd like to stick to that topic in the comments, but this may help: The concept behind the plan is that the exchanges set up by the state will use competition between the insurance companies to drive down costs to people like you. However, if you still cannot afford to purchase a plan, you would be assessed a tax penalty based on your income-- although it's not more than what it costs to buy a plan. The minimum penalty, for individuals, will be $95 a year starting in 2014, and rise to a cap (as it stands now) of $695 when the plan is fully phased in. So, you can choose not to have health care coverage, but that would be the "penalty" (of course, I am not hearing much of anything on how that will actually be enforced). If you choose to buy health care from the exchange, no one is (now) quite sure what that will cost you. According to estimates and current models in states running similar plans, though, an individual plan runs $4,159 a year. Based on the number you stated of $1400 a MONTH, that would be a SIGNIFICANT improvement on what you were paying. I've found several sources for this information-- and we can argue about the partisanship of sources all day long-- but this one has links to the actual portions of the bill and the Court's ruling that deal with the information you are curious about. http://factcheck.org/2012/06/how-much-is-the-obamacare-tax/ Hope I've helped.
tom m June 30, 2012 at 03:01 PM
well at least we can start calling it the healthcare tax
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! June 30, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Good article. Ahhhh, the long lost art of accuracy. False reporting seems to be the price we pay for instant everything. Social media has muddied the waters even further. One simple google search under false media reporting pulled up the early reports of Paterno's death before he died. Dying, yes, but not dead yet. Ironically, the article is from CNN. From the article: "The incident highlighted the crucial clash in today's hyper-competitive news environment: getting it fast versus getting it right." http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/22/us/paterno-false-report/index.html


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