The Media's Fascination With Sensationalism: New Obamacare Premiums Emphasized, But Not the Subsidies

10/27/2016 02:09 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2017

Watching the news over the last few days I was struck by how the mainstream cable networks, read that to mean CNN and MSNBC, accentuate the provocative, even after giving some attention to the whole story.

A case in point, citing recent numbers about how Affordable Care Act premium rates are scheduled to rise, they declare it's in trouble. Though averages are 22%, they emphasized higher examples, such as over 100% for a 27-year old living in Arizona, not mentioning that in Indiana the rates were reduced by 3%. Hardly a balanced story, considering the official report said 77% of Obamacare registrants would be eligible for subsidies, making their premiums about $100 or less a month. 77%. That's over three quarters, folks, and nothing to be ashamed of. In particular, as Obamacare allowed twenty million to get insurance and has greatly reduced uninsured numbers to only 8.6 percent.

But with Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon on CNN this was barely mentioned, if at all. Instead, it was all about, as conservative Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol referred to it, the "blowing up" of Obamacare, which statistically is not true.

Another item usually placed further down in the story is that nineteen governors have refused to participate in the expansion of Medicaid that the legislation would assist, thus allowing four million additional participants. The more participants, the more support the insurance companies would receive, and all of the Medicaid people aren't in the "sickly" category that caused major insurance companies to either increase their rates or totally withdraw from the exchanges.

Also, the penalty for not enrolling is so low that lots of younger people, convinced they are invincible and immune to either accidents or unexpected disease, forego joining. They pay their fines and thus lower the balance an insurance company needs, vis-a-vis healthy vs. chronically ill patients to keep premiums in check.

Obamacare is a success. It vastly reduced the number of people who are uninsured, allowing them to seek medical help before things get so out of hand that their only recourse is the free service they'd get (with qualified incomes) at emergency rooms, whose costs would have to be borne by the hospital or local governments.

But the media doesn't weigh all this as they scrounge for headlines to make the presidential race more exciting. While they mostly say it's over for Donald Trump, each of these journalistic reports give hope to a more competitive outcome. Maybe, just maybe, this and a bit more from the Russia-Trump-assisted WikiLeak emails will cause a surge towards Trump in the final days.

And what about those emails? Nothing really in them has indicated serious wrongdoing on Hillary Clinton's part, except some political faux pas that every campaign commits, especially when the senders and receivers think they are communicating in private.

What WikiLeaks has contributed to society in a negative way is that nothing is sacred, except maybe a conversation with the water running (in case there are microphones bugged in your house or place of business), and in the future it's doubtful too many sensitive exchanges will take place as is the current practice.

However, regarding the emails, why does the media display misgivings about things which are not significant transgressions? They talk about "pay for play" wherein Hillary in a move to get contributions for the Clinton Foundation somehow arranged quid pro quos to get the money. And what about the quid pro quos? What were they exactly?

A Nigerian billionaire asked for a meeting with an official in Lebanon to give advice concerning a subject about which he had knowledge. There was nothing about getting a contract to enhance his fortune, and besides all this the meeting never happened.

Suggestions for meetings and possibly job opportunities from an executive at the Foundation to a higher-up at the State Department. The jobs did not happen, and what difference if the person was qualified? Political and business connections are a part of society today, i.e. if someone is a friend of the family or a relative he/she might get an appointment that a total stranger might not have gotten. Is it reasonable to believe that anyone, even Hillary or her husband, shouldn't take a phone call from someone they've known for a long time, just because they may have also contributed to the Foundation?

The question then is was the specific contribution related to a favor, and again this has not been proven. Did Person A, much more qualified, who came in through the submission of a résumé get passed over in favor of a less qualified applicant whose patron had given money? If there have been, Hillary naysayers, please provide the details.

Finally, no less than Bob Woodward of All the President's Men fame, overstated on Chris Wallace's recent Fox News panel that what Hillary and the Foundation had done was "corrupt" and a "scandal," although he in no way indicated it was a disqualification, nor that Trump was his choice. The discussion concerned the $12 million contribution by the King of Morocco, and Hillary's original intent to appear at a convocation arranged by the king.

As it turned out, Hillary didn't even go. Her husband went, along with her daughter Chelsea. But this was all termed pay for play, a term oft used to imply an unsavory outcome. To me, pay for play means some sort of profit for either individual. What profit has Hillary or her husband received from any of these contributions? Have their bank accounts been augmented or was the $12 million the king contributed allocated to causes supported by the organization, such as AIDS research, global health and wellness, climate change, economic and agricultural development, education and improving opportunities for girls and women?

Most of the email issue's legitimacy was dispensed with a long time ago with her admittedly late apology and the more draconian FBI investigation, which said she'd behaved recklessly but in no way committed a felonious act. Not to mention the Benghazi rubbish, where she was cleared by multiple Republican-led committees, some of which were declared witch hunts or whose aim was admitted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) to be a diminishing of Hillary's prospects.

Yet the headlines continue to be broadcast, even as new WikiLeak "revelations" produce no illumination, rather regurgitation of already known facts. Even the lambasting of Hillary by Colin Powell over tying her email use to his experience is of such "consequence" that Powell just endorsed her for president.

The media's responsibility is not only to report the facts, but to do so in a truthful and balanced manner. Too often it does not, preferring to perpetuate controversies to gain readership or ratings.

Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com