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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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August 1998


Good News: More HMO Rules!

"The unpopularity of managed health care has both political parties pushing for change." Bernard Shaw made this claim on the July 15 Inside Politics. During a week-long series on managed care, CNN claimed several times that Americans are clamoring for the federal government to regulate their health care.

CNN used few polls to back up its claims, and one does not have to look far to see why. As MediaNomics reported last month, Americans are not clamoring for government involvement in health care. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Americans in health-maintenance organizations (HMOs) are pleased with the care they receive. Viewers of CNNís special series during the week of July 13 were given a different impression.

During the series, in between individual horror stories about denied care for sick children, CNN reporters repeated the Democratic party line that voters want big government to save them from their HMOs. As Candy Crowley, on the July 13 Inside Politics, asserted, "Itís an election year. They [members of Congress] know thatís what constituents want." Earlier in the same show Jonathan Karl opined that "clearly first on the priority list, I would argue, for both sides is going to be what to do about HMO reform." On the July 16 World Today, Crowley sought to personalize the issue: "In fact, in the battle over health care, the only people with more at stake than politicians are people who need health care." Only one story during the week focused on a family that was happy with HMO care.

Yet they were closer to the norm than those profiled during the rest of the week. Despite CNNís lobbying, a look at the polls does not point to a groundswell of support for more health care regulation. A Roper poll found that 88 percent of Americans in HMOs are satisfied with managed care and 79 percent would recommend their HMO to someone else. Recent polls show not many Americans even rank health care as a top concern: only seven percent in a December 1997 Gallup poll, three percent in a January 1998 CBS/New York Times poll, and six percent in a mid-April Gallup poll. And when it comes to regulation, two Princeton Survey Research Associates polls from last year show that large majorities either donít want any regulation of managed care or want it done by an independent non-profit group, not federal or state government.

Crowleyís hopeful close to her July 15 World Today report provides a glimpse at CNNís underlying assumptions: "The good news is both sides are so sure this is a winning political issue, something is bound to get passed by the end of the year." At CNN, more government is good news, regardless of what the public thinks.

ó Rich Noyes


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