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All health care plans are not created equal

[1]But that’s what some reporters want you to think.

An article that ran in Freedom Communications newspapers in Eastern North Carolina about how gubernatorial candidates Bev Perdue and Pat McCrory would expand health insurance to more children did not include any context or fact checking. Instead, the writer simply quoted the campaign claims of each candidate and just left it to the reader to sort out the truth from the chaff.

You can read the original story here [2].

Perdue has a straightforward and comprehensive plan to cover children, which you can read about here [3]. It builds on many of the suggestions of North Carolina Institute of Medicine’s task force on covering the uninsured [4].

She advocates expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and reaching out to the families of kids who are eligible for Medicaid but not currently enrolled. The news article did not point out these steps and merely quotes Perdue’s campaign as saying:

She said that she supports efforts to get the families of poor people insured as a means to getting parents to enroll their children in health insurance programs.

Getting insurance to more parents, by the way, is an effective way to get more children insured.

McCrory, the article points out, supports “child health-care tax credits.” His campaign does not say how much of a credit he will offer, and the reporter apparently did not push them on the issue. The story also fails to mention that North Carolina used to have a child health care tax credit, but a bi-partisan commission recommended [5] its elimination because it didn’t work. What would McCrory do to ensure the success of a program that failed last time it was tried? No word on that in the story.

Perhaps more frightening is the reporter’s recitation of McCrory’s facts and figures without any questions asked. An example:

McCrory’s campaign says that the state’s 47 private insurance mandates are estimated to cost increases in insurance premiums of about 41 percent.

Where, a reader might wonder, did McCrory [6] get this surprising statistic. He bases the number on estimates provided by the industry group Council for Affordable Health Insurance, or CAHI [7]. Where, then, did CAHI get this surprising statistic?

For that you will have to look at the CAHI report and flip to the methodology section to see how the calculations were done. Except there is no methodology section. CAHI doesn’t say how it got its estimates. And that’s the problem.

McCrory also fails to provide any evidence that limiting malpractice lawsuits lower health insurance premiums. And the reporter again fails to push him for evidence.

A question to the Perdue campaign about whether or not reducing obesity will really lower health care costs is also in order. Reducing obesity rates would certainly add to quality of life. It’s also medically sound. But it’s unlikely to produce huge savings in the health care system.

When voters are trying to assess the candidates we don’t need a recitation of competing stump speeches. We can get all of that on the campaign websites. What we need are reporters who put the candidates on the hot seat.

All health plans are not created equal, and newspapers should not shy away from pointing that out.