Who says a little engineering mixed in with your journalism is a bad thing? At least one MSNBC host and Washington Post reporter said it's a journalist's job to focus on "real issues" in the hotly debated issue of health care reform.
This was the topic of discussion in a panel featuring John Rother, executive vice president of Policy and Strategy for AARP, Ceci Connolly of The Washington Post, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity and host Dr. Nancy Snyderman during MSNBC's "Dr. Nancy" Aug. 10.
Rother argued there has been far too much hyperbole on the issue, which he insisted was meant to mislead the public.
"I think really there are efforts to mislead the public," Rother said. "I think that we would have a much better and more useful debate if we focused on the real issues involved in health reform. And there are many real issues that deserve to be debated, but not ones about government takeover or euthanasia. Those are simply not true."
Snyderman asked Connolly if it was their duty journalists to raise the bar on the discussion and avoid the topics that would be relevant in a single-payer, socialized health care system.
"I'm gonna bring in Ceci for a second," Snyderman said. "Ceci, we've been talking a lot over the weekend about death panels and rationing and euthanasia. We have, you know as journalists, you and I, seems to me there's a bar that's pretty darn low right now, that is incumbent upon us to raise."
According to Connolly, that is how the Post is trying to cover the issue - by examining the "issues" that are more important in their view.
"Uh yes, and I hope that we are able to," Connolly said. "We're certainly trying here with our coverage. We wrote over the weekend at some length about what exactly are the proposals that would affect Medicare beneficiaries in this legislation so far and what you see are a mixture, but there are certainly some things that should be pretty attractive to senior citizens - some big discounts on their prescription drugs, for instance, some changes about waving any kind of co-payments on preventive services, a pay raise for primary care doctors, which should improve access to those doctors."
However the Aug. 7 Washington Post wasn't exactly raising the bar. In that edition, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Steven Pearlstein called "Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers" that oppose government-mandated health care reform "political terrorists," not exactly keeping within Connolly's mantra of elevating the discussion.
Connolly explained to Snyderman that there were some places where the government could direct how health care resources would be allocated - as in general practitioners versus hospitals or specialists. But that sort of threat to the health care marketplace was a "question mark."
"Now, there are also some changes that could mean squeezing down on payments to hospitals and some specialists," Connolly said. "We can't predict exactly what that will mean. The people that wrote the legislation say there's enough fat in the system that we can squeeze that down a bit. That's more of a question mark, but sort of this death panel conversation really is sort of a sideshow I think from a very serious debate that we ought to be having right now."