July 1, 2009

Town Hall

Apparently Helen Thomas and Chip Reid had a cow in today's presser with Robert Gibbs. Washington Times reporter Christina Bellantoni tweeted:

Helen Thomas to Gibbs re: town hall format argument: "I'm amazed at you people who call for openness and transparency"

This is in reference to today's Presidential town hall on health care. Leave aside the pearl clutching demand that only the WHPC should be permitted to ask the President questions. Part of what is going on here is that the WHPC, and their colleagues, are using a narrative frame that is completely out of step with both public opinion and, as Obama said in his last press conference, simple logic.

The basic narrative frame the media has adopted is that any policy needs to preserve the existing collection of medical care financing organizations--insurance companies, HMOs--because, well, just because. Here's a collection of NY Times articles, of which this one is representative. (Krugman sneaks one in that search with a solid counter-argument.

There is this Olympia Snowe interview with the AP, where she says (no joke) that she is opposed to the public option because it would lower the cost of financing health care:

"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market ... the public option will have significant price advantages," she said.
The media completely accepts that one of the policy objectives in health care reform is the preservation of insurance companies that have created a system where Americans get the worst health care in the OECD, both in terms of covereage and of effectiveness, at the highest cost in the OECD. So they (as in the ABC "town hall") continually focus their questions on the impact on the health finance business, rather than on the health care provided to American citizens.

In other words, they are asking the wrong questions, questions that reflect what the President has pointed out, is a completely illogical position:
"Just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal, that defies logic," Obama said.
So if the President is going to actually discuss the real policy issues involved with health care reform, he has to take his questions from the public, and not the press.

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