Absurd: Media Blacks Out Third Court Decision Upholding Health Care Reform

Source: AlterNet – By Jed Lewison

There’s now been three rulings upholding the constitutionality of health care reform, but you’d have to be paying pretty close attention to find that out from the media.

As you can see in the chart at the top of the post, created by the Office of the Democratic Leader based on data compiled by Steve Benen, the media has all but ignored the decision earlier this week by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in favor of reform.

There’s really no excuse for to have ignored the ruling, especially compared with the coverage given to the two anti-reform rulings. Sure, maybe the first two rulings in favor of reform weren’t as significant, but once the anti-reform rulings started getting outsized coverage, don’t you think the responsible thing for the media to do would have been to give some ink to this latest ruling, especially given the strength of Kessler’s arguments?

As it turns out, even though it was buried on page A14, The New York Times‘ article on the Kessler ruling was actually quite good at explaining her core rationale:

Judge Kessler adopted the government’s position on whether Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce is so broad that it can require people to buy a commercial product. Past Supreme Court decisions have established the standard that Congress can control “activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.”

The judge suggested in her 64-page opinion that not buying insurance was an active choice that had clear effects on the marketplace by burdening other payers with the cost of uncompensated medical care.

“Because of this cost-shifting effect,” she wrote, “the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage.”

Judge Kessler added: “It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not ‘acting,’ especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something.”

As you can see, the problem with The New York Times’ coverage wasn’t that it was bad — it’s that it was buried. Even though the reporter wrote a good piece with compelling information, it got nowhere near the play of the the Vinson ruling, which was granted page A1 prominence. Still, at least The Times covered the ruling, which is more than we can say about the Washington Post.

The bottom line is that the Kessler ruling was at least as important as the Vinson ruling, but the media ignored it. Sure, covering Kessler’s ruling might not be as sexy as covering the rantings of a Federalist society nutjob, but it’s an important part of the story and it’s wrong to ignore it.

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