As National Anchor Touts Local NPR News, Indiana Affiliate Celebrates ObamaCare, Omits Critics

[Update, 10:20 am Friday: The original version of this item stated that Brandon Smith worked for Indiana Public Radio. He is actually affiliated with Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.]

NPR's Steve Inskeep, who used "deceitful sophistry" to contend that his network's audience leaned right in a Thursday WSJ column, also claimed in the same piece that "not much of the media pays attention to the middle of the country, but NPR and its local stations do." But an affiliate in his home state of Indiana touted the findings of a pro-ObamaCare organization on the first anniversary of its passage, while leaving out anything from opponents.

Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations led his Wednesday report on the one-year anniversary of the signing of the legislation by trumpeting how "Families USA, a non-partisan, national health care advocacy organization, released state-by-state data on the potential impact of the law." Despite running a sound bite from Ron Pollack, the executive director of the organization, and highlighting some of their data specific to Indiana, Smith didn't point out Families USA's liberal political leanings. NPR correspondent Julie Rovner also omitted the organization's ideological affiliation on Wednesday's Morning Edition, the very program which Inskeep hosts.

During the second half of his report, the Indiana journalist did offer something contrary to Pollack's talking points by citing Seema Verma, a "state health care reform consultant," who noted that "the cost to Hoosiers [residents of Indiana] will primarily be in Medicaid expansion....Verma says Indiana has not yet explored ways to pay that additional cost."

Despite this alternate view, Smith didn't devote any time to any explicit critics of ObamaCare. One wonders how Iskeep can forward the notion that NPR and its affiliates make an "honest and honorable effort to keep American informed," given this slanted coverage at both the national and local level.

The full transcript of Brandon Smith's March 23 report for Indiana Public Radio:

BRANDON SMITH: In conjunction with the anniversary [of the signing of the "Affordable Care Act"], Families USA, a non-partisan, national health care advocacy organization, released state-by-state data on the potential impact of the law. Families USA executive director Ron Pollack says a year to consider the legislation hasn't necessarily answered all of the public's questions.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: There is abundant confusion about what's in this legislation to begin with, and there's probably a greater confusion about what's available right now.

SMITH: According to the Families USA data, nearly a million Hoosiers enrolled in Medicare can receive preventative health measures, like mammograms, colonoscopies, and flu shots for free. Pollack says there's no way to know how many of those people are actually using those services now. He also says the Congressional Budget Office found that if people take advantage of the health care bill, the country would actually save money.

But state health care reform consultant Seema Verma says the cost to Hoosiers will primarily be in Medicaid expansion.

SEEMA VERMA: Anywhere between 350,000 to an additional half a million people could come on to our Medicaid program. That's one in four Hoosiers.

SMITH: While the federal government pays for the expansion in its first three years, beginning in 2014, Verma says the state then takes on 10% of the cost, which estimates put between $2.6 and 3.1 billion over 10 years. Verma says Indiana has not yet explored ways to pay that additional cost. For Indiana Public Broadcasting, I'm Brandon Smith.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Liberals & Democrats Conservatives & Republicans Labeling Bias by Omission Health Care Morning Edition NPR Radio Seema Verma Ron Pollack Julie Rovner Brandon Smith Steve Inskeep
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