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   Media Display Lack of Curiosity in Single Payer Health Story

MEDIA CRITICISM:

Media Display Lack of Curiosity in Single Payer Health Story

by Christa Martin

Though The Sun in the past has seen fit to put alerts about the healthfulness of, say, drinking coffee on the front page of its news section, here—with the stakes of the debate affecting everyone in the US—the story is relegated to the business section.
When 7,782 physicians stood up for the National Health Insurance Issue last month, you'd have thought the media would take serious notice. The group making the stand in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Physicians' Working Group for Single-Payer Natiomal Health Insurance, asserted that health insurace should be available for all Americans. They pointed out that Americans already spend $1.6 trillion on Health Care each year, in addition to the huge sums paid out for health care by various branchs of state and federal government. All that is needed, the doctors said, is to change how this money is invested. "The system cannot continue much longer the way it is," said Dr. Marcia Angell, a Harvard Medical School lecturer, said in an interview. "It is clearly imploding. It isn't that single-payer is the best choice. It's the only choice."

It might be difficult for the Baltimore public to get that message. The Sun published an Associated Press report on the front page of their Business section on Aug. 13 that included this sentence: "The doctors hope to spark a debate over national health insurance that ended with the death of the Clinton Health Plan." But nowhere in the story can readers learn the identity of this group of doctors, nor where further information can be obtained. Interestingly, they positioned this article around a colorful picture of McDonald's "new look" restaurant design.

Though The Sun in the past has seen fit to put alerts about the healthfulness of, say, drinking coffee on the front page of its news section, here—with the stakes of the debate affecting everyone in the US—the story is relegated to the business section.

We checked to see how the New York Times positioned this story, and were disappointed to find the "old gray lady" used just the AP story and didn't name the group of doctors, either.

At least The Washington Post regarded the issue as important. They wrote their own article and put it on their front page. The Wall Street Journal published their article on the story in their Health and Family section--providing as well the useful facts: name of the group, who the group members are (Harvard medicos are prominent among them), and so on. The Journal did some original research, too, including some voices critical of the report (of the "it can't be done" variety). But at least they identified the newsworthiness of the issue, which our Sun did not.

Here, for the benefit of Sun readers who may still be wondering about that unidentified group of 7,782 physicians, is the missing information:

The Physicians for a National Health Program is a not-for-profit organization of physicians, medical students, and other health care professionals who support a national health insurance (NHI) program. They believe that a single-payer system (where the government finances health care, but keeps the delivery of health care to mostly private control) is the only solution to solving the United States' many health care problems: 43 million citizens with no health insurance, many more with only limited coverage, skyrocketing health insurance premiums, malpractice costs, long-term care issues, and relatively poor health indicators, when compared to similar industrialized nations. For further information visit the homepage of the Physicians' Working Group for Single-Payer Natiomal Health Insurance.


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This story was published on September 17, 2003.
  
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