Battling Messages on Obamacare

Friday, September 27, 2013


The next phase of the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next week with the opening of new health insurance exchanges. Brooke and Bob take a look at the messaging war, from the conservative ads advising people to "opt out," to the Obama administration's push to educate people about the new law, and the media's role in covering this protracted battle.


Evan Feinberg, Sandhya Someshekhar and Chuck Todd

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone

Comments [38]

Bob not Garfield from Missouri

Our local daily newspaper devoted a lot of inches on Sunday to the fact that patients and healthcare workers were confused about the beginning of Obamacare. Well Duh. There was no explanation attempt in the article, which people would anticipate considering there were just days left. Sorta like the horse-race style of campaign coverage.

In fairness to the media, though, no specific information was released before Oct. 1. (I live in one of the federal-exchange states.) And now two days into Obamacare, I still can't get any coverage information for myself on I think was a mistake to require people to sign up before they even get to window-shop on the marketplace. Surely requiring sign-up before entering the marketplace was a reason for overloading the system.

Oct. 02 2013 05:41 PM
Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

I think part of the problem on messaging is that the people against Obama's healthcare reform portrayed it as a system that rations healthcare. However, unless you have infinite resources, EVERY SYSTEM OF HEALTHCARE IMPLIES RATIONING. A few years ago Public Radio International, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, produced a series that looked at how healthcare is rationed around the world:

The episode that includes the US system:

All the other countries:

A comparison of healthcare system of 4 countries (US, UK, France and Singapore) carried out by the BBC:

Oct. 02 2013 12:45 AM

Californians can get their guide to Obamacare through the state-sponsored consortium known as KQED, a public broadcaster:

Oct. 01 2013 10:26 AM
Dan Foley from Connecticut

Oops! Brooke Gladstone drops her diaphanous guard as "journalist" and exposes herself as a political hack and operative of the current administration. She posits that the "media should be calling out the lies of Republicans," overtly demonstrating that she is not interested in exposing or uncovering the truth objectively and regardless of whomever is to blame, but in furthering the NPR agenda of attacking Republicans, of "pushing back on the GOP campaign." She also smugly ends her piece erroneously calling America a democracy - it's a representative republic, Brooke. If it were truly a democracy, Brooke, then the bill would not have been passed under cover of night on Christmas eve when polls showed that a majority of Americans did NOT support Obamacare. With hacks like Brooke and Bob, any wonder NPR made cuts in mid September that the NY Times called "one of the most substantial staff cutbacks in the history of the public radio organization."

Oct. 01 2013 10:07 AM

Public radio can't even find enough titles to cover its rollout of Obamacare. Below I posted the link to "Obamacare 101" on the public radio program Hear and Now.

The Takeaway (WNYC) is using the same title:

Oct. 01 2013 10:07 AM

Sorry, OTM;

Two duplicate posts just below; could someone please delete the two duplicates? Thank you.

Oct. 01 2013 09:25 AM

More NPR work to help in the rollout of Obamacare. This time, through the NPR News healthcare correspondent, Julie Rovner:

Oct. 01 2013 09:23 AM

More NPR work to help in the rollout of Obamacare. This time, through the NPR News healthcare correspondent, Julie Rovner:

Oct. 01 2013 09:21 AM

More NPR work to help in the rollout of Obamacare. This time, through the NPR News healthcare correspondent, Julie Rovner:

Oct. 01 2013 09:21 AM

More NPR work to help in the rollout of Obamacare. This time, through the NPR News healthcare correspondent, Julie Rovner:

Oct. 01 2013 09:20 AM

So the public radio project to assist in the rollout with Obamacare begins.

"Here and Now" begins its "Obamacare 101" series:

Oct. 01 2013 09:12 AM

Dave incorrectly "corrected" me. First I never said that premiums would not go up for many people. I said every person would get affordable care which is true due to the expansion of Medicaid, massive subsidies for everyone getting up to 400% of the poverty line, getting rid of the "doughnut hole" for senior prescriptions, massive subsidies for small businesses to cover their employees, allowing families to keep children up to age 26, no more yearly or lifetime caps, fair risk pools for everyone (no more cherry picking or being put in high risk group), free preventative care for everyone, and limiting the amount of overhead costs that insurers can pass on to anyone. The other false correction was that people would be left out. Even the WashPost blog pointed out that the people left out would mainly be those living in states that do not follow Obamacare (not expanding Medicaid) and undocumented non-citizens. So in the real world Obamacare covers everyone especially once immigration reform happens.

As to the misinformation about foreign disappointment in other countries, I call BS. Many in my family live in Canada and nationalized health care is incredibly popular. In fact, in all democracies with national care, griping about care actual gets governments to improve care. So far many developed countries have better outcomes without bankrupting citizens or governments.

Regardless, as liberals continue to confuse what Obamacare is, as Ezra Klein indicated when in the WashPost, he stated that "most people" refer to the exchanges as being Obamacare. Actually, Obamacare/ACA is a major change for everyone, where starting January 2014 we will all have affordable care that can never be taken away or care denied.

Daniel Bennett


Sep. 30 2013 05:54 PM

Why is it a "fantasy" (as Brooke calls it) to want to overturn "the law of the land?"
There have been lots of laws that have been fought back and overturned by both conservatives and liberals. DOMA and Prop 8 are recent examples. Many have used advertising, useless votes, political wrangling and exaggeration.

Sure, Brooke prefaced it by saying "in my opinion" so I guess we know where she stands when reporting on the ACA. Is all of OTM short for "My Opinion On the Media?"

Sep. 30 2013 04:04 PM

What does Generation Opportunity have against older/sicker people, that they'd want to keep younger people from helping balance out the ACA's costs?

Sep. 30 2013 03:21 PM

Citizencontact is not correct in his main assertion. In a majority of states, the premiums that people will pay – if they want to keep (as the President said they could) their present plan and doctor – will go up. In addition, 30 million people will STILL be uninsured under the ACA by 2023:

That fact alone would belie the statement “everyone in the United States will have affordable health care that can never be taken away.”

Perhaps citizen contact needs to also ask, “who loses.” Apparently the list is lengthy. Union employees, spouses of UPS employees, people fired by the Cleveland Clinic, people who were the 50th employee at their companies, and hundreds of thousands of others:

The best way to get healthcare is to get a job, and the ACA is killing jobs. When that happens, everybody loses. Because then there is very little money to put into ANY government program.

For this, and other reasons, Europe is actually moving away from socialized medicine. When will progressives understand that they are getting on a shiny new ship that has already begun to sink everywhere else?

Sep. 30 2013 02:53 PM

Chuck Todd's defense of his position got me thinking: How much money has the anti-Affordable Health Care Act movement spent on their (misinformation) commercials airing during NBC news shows? Could Todd's expressed expectation of a similar investment from the Obama administration reflect a demand from the new profit-motive/entertainment news machine -- conscious or otherwise -- to ante-up?

Sep. 30 2013 12:35 PM
Jim in Nevada

The demographic that the government desperately needs to make the Affordable Care Act financially viable is the young, healthy person who will pay premiums and not need to use the health care system. Without that person to subsidize the health care of the sick and elderly the result is financial collapse

Sep. 30 2013 12:13 PM

I constantly see confusion in both the policy and politics, especially in the media. As much as I respect OTM and Chuck Todd (who like me worked with the great Doug Bailey), the confusion continues to reign. I always start with understanding the issue and then asking "qui bono" or who benefits. Liberals often make the mistake of saying that the uninsured will be the main beneficiary which makes the ACA seem like a welfare program. The reality is that everyone benefits greatly, as the main purpose of the ACA (aka Obamacare) is that starting January 2014 everyone in the United States will have affordable health care that can never be taken away. Because Liberals are confused about who benefits, they get the politics wrong. This happened also during the Clinton health care push. This confusion is then reflected by the media. for more see my blog post:

Who benefits if Obamacare is killed? A main loser in Obamacare are employers who no longer have employees who risk the lives of their families by switching jobs, decreasing job loyalty. Another loser are the health care insurers who are being turned into well regulated utilities with limits on overhead and profits. The right wing wanting to protect employers generally and also the highly profitable health care insurance businesses uses the mistaken perception of the program as being welfare to use their well tried out propaganda against the ACA.

Sep. 30 2013 11:53 AM

Incredible, Bob. A three year old law that some people simply refuse to accept. It’s “those people” that are the problem.

Look, if the law is so settled and great, why is the President back on the campaign trail trying to sell it? Chuck Todd says he’s not, but the President seems to be selling it all the time! And why does our government need spend $700 million to advertise something that a) we’re being forced to do anyway, and b) that we’re already paying for? Maybe because it’s got problems?

I’ll tell you why we refuse to accept it: as one senator put it, “President Obama, sadly, in implementing Obamacare, has over and over again disregarded the law. When he granted an exemption for giant corporations, that was contrary to the law. When he granted an exemption to members of Congress, that was contrary to the law. Right now, we have a system where the rich and powerful – those with connections to the Obama administration – they get spared some of the burdens of Obamacare. But those who are struggling – single moms, young people, and people who are just trying to make it – they don’t get the same treatment.” If it’s so great, why all the corporate carve-outs, why are the unions jumping ship? One union after another is saying "let me out." There’s a reason James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, said he was writing on behalf of millions of working men and women and said Obamacare was destroying their health care. "Destroying" is his word. Why does the political class in Washington get there carve out? What do they know about why this law sucks for them, and why don’t you “educate” us about these facts during this report?

Obviously, the Republicans are all boobs to Bob, while democrats (some who call this LAW a “train wreck”) refer to Republicans (those awful people who have referred to this law as.... gasp, "a bill") “terrorists” who have a “bomb strapped to their chest.” (Dan Pfeiffer)

You know, maybe if an issue that makes up 16% of our economy, controlled by this LAW, had really been bipartisan and reached without the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and Gator Aid, not to mention the Senior Swindle where the government spent $8.35 billion in taxpayer money to hide the effects of Obamacare’s Medicare Advantage cuts until after the election… yeah, maybe we’d all be on board. After all, Republicans get sick, too.

Sep. 29 2013 09:16 PM
marty siegrist from Michigan

Sorry, I misspoke in my earlier comment. I was referring to Evan Feinberg.

I am glad that OTM did try to get a factual response from the gentleman in question. Pity he was unable or unwilling to provide one.

Sep. 29 2013 07:32 PM
marty siegrist from Michigan

I found the segment about the GOP's and Koch brothers' crusade against Obamacare fascinating. I found myself wondering whether Mr. Feinstein was actually prevaricating or has truly deluded himself into believing what he is saying.

Sep. 29 2013 07:27 PM
Tony Lima from Silicon Valley, CA

Slavery was once the law in the U.S. So was prohibition. When bad laws are on the books, it's the job of our elected representatives to try to remove them. Saying that Obamacare is "the law of the land" is the sort of appeal-to-authority argument favored by those who do not have facts on their side.

And Ms. Gladstone's gratuitous comment at the end of this segment was offensive.

Sep. 29 2013 06:16 PM
Ironclad from Texas

I was appalled by the program shilling for Obamacare today, and saddened that "On the Media" showed such bias in reporting. Mr Todd spoke of the Republicans "telling lies" and was not challenged for making such an outrageous statement. Maybe you should realize that people that oppose Obamacare may worry that the Federal Government has no business running 1/6 of the economy by fiat.

But the most ridiculous part of the program was Brooke solemnly announcing that the law had passed and we should therefore respect it. Every heard of the 18th Amendment to the constitution? That "well meaning" law was shot down by the 21st amendment. Obamacare is bad law, and badly flawed. Those persons opposing it have a right to repeal or amend it, that is the American democratic way.

Sep. 29 2013 06:07 PM

Bob, great job keeping the heat on Feinberg, the Koch Bros.'s ventriloquism dummy. He didn't want to admit to getting his money from the Kochtopus because the public isn't against the ACA, it's more confused and/or indifferent. Hence the GOP, Teabaggers, Libertarians and other anti-Democrat types will do everything they can to spread lies, confusion and misinformation. They want to repeat their past, successfully ingrained lies you still hear: Gore invented the Internet (he never said that); Reagan defeated the Soviet Union; and Iraq had WMDs (still haven't found any).

Chuck Todd is a standard MSM coward who abdicates pointing out facts for fear of bias. Science says 2+2=4 but the Americans for Prosperity (another GOP/One Percent Front) flak says it's 5. Todd and his brethren give both "sides" equal time despite the AFP statement being completely false…and without pointing out its false. This is the corporate-owned media's excuse for balance. Why? Corporations own the gatekeepers and the GOP succeeded in working the refs after Nixon got driven out of Washington.

Sep. 29 2013 04:01 PM
raul5050 from san francisco

Somehow it is not surprising that Chuck Todd would assert (in the same breath) that the WH has done a bad sales job AND that there was no excuse for people they didn't have enough information about the affordable care act. That along with his complete abduction of responsibility for the Washington press corp tells us all that you need to know about why the press is held is such low regard.

If one of the chief responsibilities of the press is to deal in facts, it seems clear that reporting on the act should include facts about the act. Left or right, facts are facts. Reporting should also include correcting the disinformation such as the looming death panels.

Todd like so many corporate media hacks seem subsumed with the fear of being labeled biased.

One of the best/worst things the right has accomplished is infusing clear eyed reporting with the taint of bias (when it doesn't favor them) and a great deal of the media has fallen right in line.

Sep. 29 2013 03:07 PM
James Koury from Las Vegas, NV

In the program that aired this week, the hosts assert that the affordable care act, having been enacted into law, ("The law is the law.") is no longer subject to further scrutiny.

Bad laws do not deserve to be kept on the books. This law was enacted with the provision that many of the details would be filled in by the executive branch. Thus non-elected officials finished defining the Affordable Care Act. It is the right of the Congress to refine this law, repeal this law, or whatever, within the powers entrusted to them by the Constitution.

It is inappropriate for the hosts to assert that the Affordable Care Act in no longer subject to review, revision, or repeal.

Sep. 29 2013 12:43 PM

The Congress that passed Obamacare was a lame-duck Congress in its last hours.
It had been duly un-elected, largely because of its threat to pass Obamacare.
So don't characterize Obamacare as a product of Democracy.
The Constitution has a Democratic remedy for such failures.
Congress can de-fund the law.

Sep. 29 2013 10:26 AM
Carl Ian Schwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

Several comments:

(1) The senators LIED to the Football Commissioner, and the NFL makes BILLIONS but gets tax exemptions up the ying-yang, including their office building in Manhattan. That takes some political clout. There was an implicit threat of cutting the NFL's tax exemptions.

(2) You at least did the homework on "Generation Opportunity," another Astroturf "grass-roots" program. You tracked the funding. Its spokesperson, Evan Feinberg, should be ashamed of himself. He's basically promoting genocide based on income level and age by his efforts against the ACA. What would you make of somebody with an identifiably Jewish name have fronted propaganda the Final Solution? When you consider the numbers adversely affected by GOP/Tea Party efforts to void a law already enacted (and NOT a "bill") dwarfs the six million killed in the Final Solution (including my own family). Anybody whose opinion can be purchased by a slice of pizza proffered by "Generation Opportunity" and its lies is worse than stupid.

Sep. 29 2013 10:22 AM

@ Charles

If a new traffic law was going into effect in your community next week, where would you expect to learn about it? I think you would probably expect to hear about the details in the news. The Affordable Care Act is no different, but it is much more complicated, hence the need for greater coverage. The only reason you view the media's attempt to inform the public about the law as pro-Democrat political bias is that you oppose the law. It's that simple.

Sep. 29 2013 12:17 AM

Is it the media's responsibility to inform the public of falsehoods? Yes, emphatically.

Anyone who promotes false information is pathetic.

Sep. 28 2013 11:40 PM

Phil Cauthon you raise some provocative ideas. Is NPR news really the equivalent of an interest group like the NRA? NPR news would never agree to that characterization. But some of NPR's critics might!

Is public radio a "concerned citizen," providing "help"? Where does public radio's "helper" role end, and where does it's journalism role begin?

Sep. 28 2013 09:10 PM

The GOP does nothing but lie about Obamacare. Why? Because they know the truth is that Obamacare is good. They are all in a panic that the voters will figure that out and never trust another Republican.

Sep. 28 2013 04:20 PM

Marcelo from Brooklyn:
I propose to do just what you suggest, this coming week. For starters, it is my understanding that in addition to NBC, the WNYC syndicated program, The Takeaway, will be doing a weeklong Obamacare help feature.

I'd like to crowd-source this assignment in any event.

Sep. 28 2013 02:43 PM
Phil Cauthon from Lawrence, Kansas

You left out the third branch of government that signed off on Obamacare: The Supreme Court.

"Navigators" are a relatively small group of people in each state trained by the government to help people actually use the online insurance marketplaces, while safeguarding the privacy and security of the consumer's information.

The media, a coworker, a friend — or anyone else who dares to help the less informed make sense of new options available to them under the law — are not navigators. Rather, they are simply responsible citizens helping others participate more fully in the civic sphere. It's no different than the NRA distributing "Gun Owners' Rights" pamphlets, for example.

If you're looking to demand that someone ask "hard questions" about their role in "navigating" others with decisions about health insurance, why not start with Evan Feinberg and Generation Opportunity? His organization is doing exactly what you accuse the media of — except that Generation Opportunity is "navigating" people to make decisions about health insurance that are likely not in their best, advising them to pay the individual mandate penalty and then buy "catastrophic" plans. These plans ultimately cover relatively little for most people and may not even cost much less (after tax subsidies) than a worthwhile plan purchased via Obamacare.

Few things are more American than engaging in constructive political debate. Likewise, few things are more contemptible than spreading mistruths and deceiving fellow Americans in ways that undermine their health and may lead to their financial ruin. And for what? Simply to score political points?!

Sep. 28 2013 12:40 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn


Why don't you provide some links to any public radio station broadcast "promoting" Obamacare? Or any information of any kind about such a broadcast?
I, for one, have not heard any "ideologically tilted" reports about Obamacare coming from public radio and I work as a journalist so I was trained to assess the objectivity of journalistic reporting.

Sep. 28 2013 10:17 AM
Seldoc from Rhode Island

Mr. Todd claims that's not the job of journalists to point out the lies and distortions in the Right's campaign to delegitimize the ACA. Does he also believe it would not be the media's job not to report on a company's spending millions of dollars on a fraudulent ad campaign either to denigrate a competitor's product or to promote one of its own?

Sep. 28 2013 08:25 AM

Next week, I expect that scores of public radio programs will be doing call-in Q and A sessions on the new healthcare law. Acting as broadcast "navigators."

Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard noted NBC's upcoming week of programming to help the Act succeed:

Is this the proper role of the media, and particularly public media? If so, I can think of a couple more public campaigns to help with. How about recruiting for the Marine Corps? Or perhaps a tip line to report illegal immigrants? Or, as a public service, public radio could even go back to airing classical music and jazz. What a concept.

Public radio owes its audience and the nation a very good explanation if it endeavors to help Obamacare succeed.

And OTM ought to be asking some hard questions. I'd like listeners from all over the country to use this Comments page to chime in with reports as to public radio programs doing ACA "navigation" segments.

Sep. 27 2013 05:17 PM
KadeKo from suburban USA

Was there a messaging war over the polio vaccine? German measles?

It would be funny that the right are spending more effort into stopping this than they did into improving it. I'll remember that the next time they say crap about "replacing it".

Sep. 27 2013 04:53 PM

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