Posted by: Joe Eds | March 4, 2010

When Reporters Get Sick

As I’ve stated before, one of my favorite political beat reporters / columnists working today is Howard Fineman of Newsweek (and often seen on MSNBC and NBC News). He is certainly a “mainstream” reporter and does not engage in deep, deep policy discussions or high-minded arguments. Usually short, to the point, for example “Mr. Blank’s campaign is doing well” or “Mrs. Blank’s move to this sub-committee means a likely something.” Well, it’s more in-depth than that, but you catch my drift.

His latest column titled “What the Debate Should Be About” on health care reform is fairly interesting on many levels. A) It’s very personal and b) it’s a big reveal of why certain issues get a lot of heat from DC-based reporters. In this column Fineman goes at length about cost problems in health care because he recently got very ill while traveling in Argentina, stayed at a local hospital and received treatment. Afterward, Fineman conducted a point-by-point comparison to the care he would have received in the US versus the care in Argentina and how incredibly disproportionate the comparative costs were ($1500 there versus a guess of $10,000 here). This leads to the reveal of why health care is covered the way it is on TV:  Because most mainstream media reporters work for big companies and have great health insurance.

Most Americans have no idea how much their health care really costs, nor do they know how well it really works, compared with, say other places, practices or countries.

And there is no truly national administration of a sector of the economy that accounts for about $2.5 trillion in annual economic activity—an amount of cash roughly equivalent to the entire economies of the U.K. and Russia combined.

Howard Fineman was only moved to write such a piece because of his personal experience. He was sick, got care in an unfamiliar place, got better and wasn’t charged and arm and a leg. It’s one of his better columns and he ends it with this pressing question:

Without getting into profound issues of lifestyle and culture (we are killing ourselves with fast food and lack of exercise) the main question we need to ask in the on-going health-care debate is this: where does all that extra money go?

Now that is a seminar the president should convene—before it’s too late.

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