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As the month of October has rolled on and stories regarding the train wreck that is Obamacare mount, one has to wonder when President Obama's media allies will come to the rescue and skew reality on health care reporting.
The answer may be ... now.
The Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) is once again teaming up with a private U.S. foundation known as the Commonwealth Fund. The Fund, a self-described ‘progressive’ organization, is currently led by David Blumenthal, former senior health adviser to the Obama campaign. The group makes little to no secret of their support for Obama's universal health care plan.
The Commonwealth Fund's relationship with an organization that deals with supposedly objective journalists is a rather cozy one, offering specialized teletraining to reporters at the SABEW, as well as thousands of dollars in grants for meetings designed to train reporters on how to properly cover the Affordable Care Act.
On October 28th, the SABEW held a special teletraining session for their reporters called, Health Care 101: How will the Affordable Care Act impact open enrollment?
A description on the SABEW web site reads in part (emphasis mine):
"This call explores some of the issues surrounding enrollment, including whether or not employees will look at their enrollment options in a different light given the Affordable Care Act. Our panel of experts review the issues journalists should be paying attention to and offer up story suggestions and reporting tips aimed at both general assignment writers and those on the health care beat."
There are three guests who participate in the call. Sara Collins, vice-president of the Health Care Coverage and Access program at Blumenthal's organization. Karen Pollitz, former national health reform worker at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Reed Abelson, business reporter from the New York Times. Not exactly a fair and balanced panel.
Abelson appears to have been adequately swayed by her fellow progressive speakers today, co-authoring a shocking counter to the general consensus that Obamacare's sticker shock is rampant amongst health insurance customers, in a report titled, Millions Eligible For Free Policies Under Care Act.
Tom Blumer at NewsBusters points out that reality lies underneath the sensational headline, or rather many pages later, when it is revealed "that the 'free' plans have annual out-of-pocket cost limits of $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families."
In addition to the teletraining, SABEW and the Commonwealth Fund are hosting a two-day symposium at Reuters headquarters in downtown Chicago on November 7th and 8th. The event will be presented to a select number of journalists, providing them with "specialized education in health care reporting." Those journalists hail from such outlets as Bloomberg News, CNN Money, the Associated Press, Forbes, the New York Times, and of course Reuters, to name a few.
Similar events have been conducted in tandem by the two groups in the past, but this will mark the first time the Commonwealth Fund has been firmly guided by President Obama's former health adviser, Blumenthal. In addition to his work on the Obama campaign, Blumenthal served as chief health adviser to the Dukakis campaign in the '80s, and was later appointed to the administration as "national coordinator for health information technology" in 2009.
With over 3,200 members, including entire business wings at major newspapers, the SABEW’s acceptance of training from this clearly partisan group is questionable. The first rule under a section titled Code of Ethics on the SABEW site instructs their members to "avoid any practice that might compromise or appear to compromise objectivity or fairness.”
While the Fund’s pro-Obamacare agenda is their own business, journalists being asked to cover the law based on training and education sessions developed by such a group may have their objectivity and journalistic integrity called into question. At least they should.
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