NPR to Stations: ‘Avoid’ Saying ‘46 Million Americans’ Are Uninsured

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on October 21, 2009

Directions

-Read the excerpt below from Julia Seymour's October 15th report posted at BusinessandMedia.org.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

While many in the news media continue to inflate and exaggerate the number of uninsured Americans, National Public Radio [NPR] is making a change.

NPR’S deputy senior supervising editor Joe Neel drafted an e-mail that was sent out Oct. 14 to member stations addressing the number of uninsured. The e-mail clarified proper use of Census Bureau statistics and advised staff to “avoid the construction ’46 million Americans.'” That number has been a [source of controversy] throughout the health care debate.

The NPR e-mail said, “We are sticking with the 46 million number issued by the Census Bureau in September (for 2008). It’s the number of people in the U.S. who lack insurance coverage at any point during the prior 12 months. It includes citizens, legal residents and undocumented immigrants.”

The e-mail went on to explain how not to report the issue. “Better to say ’46 million uninsured in America,’ or ‘the nation’s 46 million uninsured people,’ or any other formulation that does not label all 46 million as citizens,” the e-mail continued. …..

Read the original post at businessandmedia.org.

 

 

  

Background

When reading the Census Bureau numbers, consider the following: (from heritage.org/Press/NewsReleases/nr082807a.cfm)

  • The Census Bureau data is misleading.  … Analysis of data from earlier Census Bureau…reports shows that roughly 7 million are illegal immigrants; roughly 9 million are persons on Medicaid; 3.5 million are persons already eligible for government health programs; and approximately 20 million have, or live, in families with incomes greater than twice the federal poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four.
  • Most of the uninsured are in and out of health coverage.  …the vast majority of the uninsured are persons who are in and out of coverage, largely as a result of job changes. Only a small number of the uninsured are chronically uninsured. For most of the uninsured, the problem is fixable if policymakers simply take steps to make health insurance portable, so the insurance policy sticks to the person, not the job.
  • Current Federal Tax Policy Fuels Uninsurance.  A substantial portion of uninsured Americans are not poor but rather middle-class working Americans who are forced to face a major tax penalty, resulting in premium increases of 40 to 50 percent, if they do not obtain health insurance through the place of work. For millions of Americans without job based health insurance, both the tax policy, and the excessive regulatory burden on health insurance in the states, prices families out of coverage. Current federal tax policy then unnecessarily drives millions into the ranks of the uninsured.

Questions

1.  Why is it important for media outlets to provide accurate statistics when reporting a story?

2.  Read the information under “Background” below that breaks down the Census Bureau information on the uninsured.  Analysis shows that roughly 7 million are illegal immigrants; roughly 9 million are persons on Medicaid; 3.5 million are persons already eligible for government health programs; and approximately 20 million have, or live, in families with incomes greater than twice the federal poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four. Do you think the media has been accurately representing the number of uninsured in the U.S.?  Explain your answer.  Ask a parent the same question.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.

Background

When reading the Census Bureau numbers, consider the following: (from heritage.org/Press/NewsReleases/nr082807a.cfm)

  • The Census Bureau data is misleading.  … Analysis of data from earlier Census Bureau…reports shows that roughly 7 million are illegal immigrants; roughly 9 million are persons on Medicaid; 3.5 million are persons already eligible for government health programs; and approximately 20 million have, or live, in families with incomes greater than twice the federal poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four.
  • Most of the uninsured are in and out of health coverage.  …the vast majority of the uninsured are persons who are in and out of coverage, largely as a result of job changes. Only a small number of the uninsured are chronically uninsured. For most of the uninsured, the problem is fixable if policymakers simply take steps to make health insurance portable, so the insurance policy sticks to the person, not the job.
  • Current Federal Tax Policy Fuels Uninsurance.  A substantial portion of uninsured Americans are not poor but rather middle-class working Americans who are forced to face a major tax penalty, resulting in premium increases of 40 to 50 percent, if they do not obtain health insurance through the place of work. For millions of Americans without job based health insurance, both the tax policy, and the excessive regulatory burden on health insurance in the states, prices families out of coverage. Current federal tax policy then unnecessarily drives millions into the ranks of the uninsured.























Answer(s)

1.  Reports that include inaccurate statistics give viewers a false impression of a situation and unfairly sway their opinion.  It is the media’s responsibility to report the facts.

2.  Opinion question.  Answers vary.