See How Right-Wing Media "Covered" Obamacare's Big News Day

by Jonathan Cohn | May 6, 2014

Monday was a pretty big news day for Obamacare. But you wouldn’t know it by reading conservative media.

In the morning, Gallup reported that the percentage of adults without health insurance had dropped to 13.4 percent, at least according to its surveys. That’s the lowest rate the organization has recorded since it began asking the question in early 2008. Then, in the afternoon, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a major study, based on data from Massachusetts, suggesting that giving people health insurance makes people healthier—and that, by extension, the Affordable Care Act could end up saving more than 10,000 lives a year. 

The news got lots of attention from the mainstream media and from health-care policy analysts. But on the right? Crickets.

The Weekly Standard website is famous for jumping on every bit of negative Obamcare news, even if it’s only to reprint a news story from a wire service. As of 10:30 this morning, the entire site had not one word to say about either the Gallup numbers or the Massachusetts study. Here's a screen shot of the top of the home page:

The National Review has been similarly quick to pounce on unflattering Obamacare developments. But its considerable stable of health care wonks has been silent on Monday's developments. So have political writers like John Fund and Jonah Goldberg, who can rarely contain their glee when news about the Affordable Care Act is unfavorable. 

The only Obamacare news that readers of these two publications have gotten in the last 24 hours is about public opinion polls, which suggest that the health care law remains unpopular as ever, and reports that Oregon officials are facing a federal investigation into whether the state’s botched website was a result of corruption rather than incompetence. These are perfectly newsworthy stories and, yes, they reflect poorly on the health-care law. But are stories about familiar public perceptions and one state’s foibles really more important than signs that many more people are getting health insurance—and that, as a result, thousands of lives are probably being saved?

Other conservative outlets were no better—as of Tuesday morning, again, neither the Gallup report nor the Massachusetts study had one mention at the American Spectator, Townhall.com, and the Washington Examiner. The biggest Obamacare story, in the Spectator, was about a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act because it supposedly violates the Constitution’s “origination” clause, which says that revenue-raising bills must start in the House.

This is not how it’s supposed to be done, even for opinion journalists. Those of us who support the law are not perfect, but I’d like to think we grappled with the bad news when it happened—whether it was website problems or plan cancellations. Last year, when a similar study about the effects of health-care reform weakened the case for making insurance more available, liberals spent lots of time writing about it.

Today’s conservative coverage isn’t some isolated incident. Obamacare’s biggest and best news day may have come last month, when the administration announced that more than 8 million people had signed up for private coverage. It was headline news everywhere—except in the right-wing press. Back then, too, National Review and the Weekly Standard had very little to say.

Update: I originally wrote that National Review and Weekly Standard were silent on the 8 million sign up for the first 24 hours. That was wrong. They had at least one blog item each, although the Standard's was basically just a short excerpt of the White House fact sheet and the National Review's was just a rant in the form of one, very long, run-on sentence. I've changed the reference to "had very little to say," which I think describes accurately the attention they gave what was a very major development. I'm sorry for the mistake—next time, yes, I'll google to make sure I haven't missed anything. I am also grateful to Megan McArdle, for pointing out what I missed and for offering her own, sensible take on the Massachusetts study that's now available online

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//article/117664/conservative-media-completely-ignored-obamacares-big-news-day