Media Reality Check
  Notable Quotables
  Press Releases
  Media Bias Videos
  30-Day Archive
  The Watchdog
  About the MRC
  MRC in the News
  Support the MRC
  Planned Giving
  What Others Say
  Take Action
  Gala and DisHonors
  Best of NQ Archive
MRC Resources
  Site Search
  Media Addresses
  Contact MRC
  Comic Commentary
  MRC Bookstore
  Job Openings
  News Division
  NewsBusters Blog
  Business & Media Institute
  Culture and Media Institute

Support the MRC


What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

Tell a friend about this site

November 1997


Mandating a Health Care Crisis
Reporters Ignore Role of Regulations in Uninsured Problem

Viewers of the October 20 NBC Nightly News were greeted by Tom Brokaw, in his introduction to that evening’s first story, telling them that "American health care is in crisis, and it’s only getting worse fast." In the ensuing report, correspondent Robert Hager said that one of the problems in U.S. health care is "the number of Americans with no health insurance is greater than ever — 41 million uninsured now; that number growing by an additional one million a year."

On the previous night’s CBS Evening News, correspondent John Roberts introduced viewers to Rebecca Bryant, a working parent who cannot afford health insurance for her children. "Help may be on the way," Roberts declared. "The President and Congress, in the new budget, agreed to set aside $24 billion to help states expand health care coverage for uninsured children."

Roberts ran a soundbite from Steve Freedman of the Institute for Health Freedom praising the new spending. "I think that we will have gained as a society something even more important," Freedman said, "which is the will to take care of each other, which is all that insurance is."

The problem of uninsured Americans has been a constant theme in health care reporting this decade.

But as with Hager and Roberts, few reporters actually attempt to explain why the number of uninsured Americans seems to grow by the year.

One reason: misguided government regulation. "For more than 30 years, state legislatures have passed laws driving the cost of health insurance higher," explain John C. Goodman and Merrill Matthews Jr. in a National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) report. "Known as mandated health insurance benefit laws, they force insurers, employers and managed care companies to cover — or at least offer — specific providers or procedures not usually included in basic health care plans." They note that "while there were only seven state-mandated benefits in 1965, there are nearly 1,000 today," including requirements for "such nonmedical expenses as hairpieces, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, pastoral and marriage counseling."

Most importantly, these mandates have produced some unintended consequences. Goodman and Matthews cite a National Bureau of Economic Research survey which "found that the cost of mandated benefits is usually borne by employees in the form of reduced wages, reduced work hours or loss of employment."

Their own analysis, prepared for NCPA by the actuarial firm Milliman & Robertson, finds that the 12 most common mandates together "increase the cost of insurance by as much as 30 percent." This causes some small businesses to cancel their employees’ insurance policies, increasing the nation’s pool of uninsured workers.

Goodman and Matthews point out that the federal government has recently taken up this practice, imposing "two mandates that affect health insurance policies nationwide." These two "may not increase the costs of health insurance significantly but, as in the states, once the door is open every special interest will hurry through to besiege the legislature."

"When the legislators succumb and the dust settles," they conclude, "health insurance will cost more, employers and individuals will cancel more policies and Congress will face a growing uninsured ‘crisis’ — a crisis largely of its own making." Responsible reporters will include such arguments in their stories about health care policy.

This article is adapted from a Free Market Project Special Report, The Forgotten Five: Important Economic Facts Missing in the News. To see the full report, visit the MRC’s web site at www.mediaresearch.org. To order a copy, call  (703) 683-9733.


Rich Noyes


Home | News Division | Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts 
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact the MRC | Subscribe

Founded in 1987, the MRC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit research and education foundation
 that does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office.

Privacy Statement

Media Research Center
325 S. Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314