In Shift, NY Times Embraces 'Moral Dimension' Provided by Bishops -- at Least for Expanding Obama-Care

February 22nd, 2013 1:01 PM

Friday's lead New York Times story celebrated "G.O.P. Governors Providing a Lift For Health Law." The most notable convert: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who reversed his position this week and announced his support for expanding Medicaid.

The Times' Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear credited Scott for the embrace of Obama-care (via "proponents" who "say that doing so will not only save lives, but also create jobs and stimulate the economy") and also found a convenient "moral dimension" in the call by Catholic bishops to expand the Medicaid program, a dimension the paper never found when the Church was opposing the Obama-care requirement that religion institutions provide contraception coverage.

Under pressure from the health care industry and consumer advocates, seven Republican governors are cautiously moving to expand Medicaid, giving an unexpected boost to President Obama’s plan to insure some 30 million more Americans.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that expanding Medicaid to include many more low-income people was an option under the new federal health care law, not a requirement, tossing the decision to the states and touching off battles in many capitols.

The federal government will pay the entire cost of covering newly eligible beneficiaries from 2014 to 2016, and 90 percent or more later. But many Republican governors and lawmakers immediately questioned whether that commitment would last, and whether increased spending on Medicaid makes sense, given the size of the federal budget deficit. Some flatly declared they would not consider it.

In Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott reversed his position and on Wednesday announced his support for expanding Medicaid, proponents say that doing so will not only save lives, but also create jobs and stimulate the economy. Similar arguments have swayed the Republican governors of Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio, who in recent months have announced their intention to expand Medicaid.

A left-wing supporter of Obama-care was merely titled a "consumer group."

The shift has delighted supporters of the law.

“I think this means the dominoes are falling,” said Ronald F. Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a consumer group. “The message is, ‘Even though I may not have supported and even strongly opposed the Affordable Care Act, it would be harmful to the citizens of my state if I didn’t opt into taking these very substantial federal dollars to help people who truly need it.’ ”

And the Times conveniently discovered how the Roman Catholic bishops "have added a moral dimension to the campaign" in support of Medicaid expansion.

Religious leaders have added a moral dimension to the campaign in some states. The Roman Catholic bishops of Salt Lake City and Little Rock, Ark., for example, have urged state officials to expand Medicaid.

Oddly, the paper only finds that "moral dimension" when the bishops come out in favor of liberal causes, not when the "moral dimension" involves rejecting the administration's requirement that religion institutions provide contraception coverage.

The last use of the term in a story on Catholic bishops used it in the context of the bishops pushing left-wing issues like "economic inequality" -- "Bishops Open 'Religious Liberty' Drive" on November 15, 2011 (Note the suspicion-arousing quote marks.) Religion reporter Laurie Goodstein even took care to differentiate the "moral dimension" of left-wing causes from the Church's apparently less-admirable traditional opposition to abortion and homosexuality.

The bishops are struggling to reclaim the role they played in the 1980s and into the ’90s as a nationally recognized voice on the moral dimension of public policy issues like economic inequality, workers’ rights, immigration and nuclear weapons proliferation. Since then, however, they have reordered their priorities, with abortion and homosexuality eclipsing poverty and economic injustice.