03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Must Reads: Best Health Care Reporting This Week

In order to bring you the most thoroughly reported stories about health care reform, the Huffington Post has teamed up with NewsTrust for a week long Health Care News Hunt. People have been rating health care related news all week (You can to by signing up here!). Here's an update from Newstrust on what readers have found so far:

Most of the news and opinions we've reviewed so far have dealt with the behind-the-scenes politics of passing reforms, as the bill enters the final stages of creation. This is a far cry from what we found in our last Health Care News Hunt in August, when coverage was dominated by raucous town hall meetings and false claims about "death panels."

Yesterday, in our weekly Sparring Opinions feature, we asked NewsTrust members to review two op-eds and a blog post on whether Congress should include a provision for a government-run insurance program -- a "public option" -- in the bill it will put to a vote in coming weeks. A Republican state senator from Maryland argued against it in the Baltimore Sun; the founder of a failed insurance exchange firm wrote in the New York Times that without a public option reform would be ineffectual; and a blogger from Think Progress said political maneuvering is the Democrats' best hope for slipping the controversial measure past Republicans.

Based on 24 reviews between the three stories, our members rated Cappy McGarr's op-ed in the New York Times, "A Texas-sized health care failure," highest. Founder of the now-defunct Texas Purchasing Alliance, McGarr wrote that personal experience convinced him health insurance exchanges -- a prominent alternative to the public option -- don't create enough competition to cut costs. "It would be smarter for Congress to revisit the idea of creating a public plan that could provide an attractive choice for consumers and real competition for private insurers, to give them the incentive to offer good coverage at affordable prices," he concluded.

Kristin Gorski, co-host of this week's Health Care News Hunt, called McGarr's story "compelling" and "clearly written," and Patricia Berrini gave it high marks for the author's expertise on the issue.

Igor Volsky's blog post from Think Progress also received a positive rating, though several members, like Kiku Botura, questioned the logic of waiting to add a public insurance option to the bill until late in deliberations. Our community dismissed the Baltimore Sun op-ed from Maryland State Senator Andy Harris for being light on factual evidence and rejecting the public option without explanation.

Many stories focused on Montana Democrat Max Baucus:

On Monday we opened our News Hunt by comparing news and analysis on the public option from mainstream sources. News centered on Montana Senator Max Baucus, who, as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has emerged as the key player in crafting a health care reform bill.

The Great Falls Tribune, a daily newspaper from Baucus's home state, wrote that Baucus had upset Montana progressives when he voted against including a public option in his committee's bill.

"Baucus said "there's a lot to like" about a public option -- a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers -- but in the end Baucus said he didn't see how a health care reform bill containing such a provision could pass the full Senate.

"My job is to put together a bill that will become law," Baucus told the committee before voting "no" on two public-option amendments on Tuesday. "In the Senate, that means my job is to put together a bill that gets 60 votes. Now I can count, and no one has been able to show me how they can get to 60 votes with a public option in the bill."

"[B]aucus says he supports the public option, having drafted a version of a public-option plan in his white paper released last November. But Baucus' critics say he has done little to try to make the public option a reality."

The Hill reported Baucus's decision pitted him against other Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, who have vowed to deliver on a public option.

"Having deferred the issue to Baucus this summer, Reid signaled on Thursday that he is prepared to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who both pushed a public option amendment that failed in a committee vote last Tuesday.

"We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president's desk," Reid said in a conference call with constituents on Thursday, as reported by the Las Vegas Sun. "I believe the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us."

On the same day, [Iowa Sen. Tom ] Harkin gave The Des Moines Register the same message, suggesting clearly that he will side with Reid against Baucus."

In a similar story, the Washington Post suggested negotiations could continue through November without the full support of Senate Democrats like Rockefeller and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, both of whom have said the current versions of reform bills are deficient.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times and Salon both spoke with Congressional and White House aides who say that the Obama Administration has been privately working to shore up Senate support for the public option ahead of a vote.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the Huffington Post and NewsTrust during our week long Health Care News Hunt.

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