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From Doomed to Boom: How Major News Media Missed the Obamacare Comeback

While bad news travels fast in the major news media, good news doesn't always get a fair shake.
 
 
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Just three weeks ago the Associated Press  reported the Obama administration needed "something close to a miracle" in order to "meet its goal" of enrolling six million people into private health care plans via the Affordable Care Act before the looming April 1 deadline arrived.

The article's premise was telling in that it focused on what the political fallout would be if Obamacare sign-ups fell short. Noticeably absent was any analysis of what an Obamacare deadline success would look like or what the political implications would be. The scenario of success simply wasn't considered plausible or worth addressing.

Of course, we now know that as many as  seven million people enrolled for private coverage through the exchanges established by Obama's health care law. Thanks to an amazing consumer surge in the month of March, the seven million mark, routinely thought of last year as completely unattainable, and often dismissed this year as not possible, was met.

And because of a provision of the Obamacare law, approximately three million young people have been added to their parents' private insurance plans. Meaning, more than 10 million people have used Obamacare to secure health coverage. The new law, noted the Los Angeles Times, "has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century." The paper reported, "At least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gotten health insurance since Obamacare started."

Take a look at the revealing  chart from CNNMoney.com and what the future of health care coverage under Obamacare might look like.

Given all of that, where's the heated coverage of the miraculous Obamacare comeback? Aside from the Times and CNNMoney pieces, I'm hard pressed to find many recent media examples that laud the health care achievement with the same unrestrained vigor that the press employed for weeks and months depicting Obamacare as an historic failure and one that could ruin Obama's presidency, and perhaps even the Democratic Party. (Remember, Obamacare " may be Obama's Katrina, Iraq War.")

Is Obamacare now a model of government efficiency? It is not. The initial rollout, without qualification, was a failure. And lots of major hurdles still loom. But the remarkable success of the enrollment figures has clearly failed to produce the type of media response that Obamacare's remarkable failure ignited last year.

So the larger media coverage question is, has the press been wed for so long to the Republican-friendly narrative of a broken and doomed Obamacare system that journalists are refusing to adjust the storyline as crucial new facts emerge?

Some newsrooms seem to be in denial as they strain to still portray Obamacare enrollment as a failure. Today's doom-and-gloom Wall Street Journal  headline: "New Technical Woes Hobble Health Sign-Ups at Zero Hour." It wasn't until the seventh paragraph that the Journal even mentioned that Obamacare had defied the odds and reached the seven million mark. The Washington Post's front page headline likewise reads "HealthCare.gov hiccups amid deadline-day frenzy."

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman  noted the "de facto blackout by major news media" on the unfolding story of the skyrocketing enrollment figures. Krugman sees the press' largely ho-hum enrollment coverage as part of a larger media treatment of Obamacare: "The website woes were, and deserved to be, a big story; the quite amazing comeback somehow doesn't fit the preferred narrative, and is being ignored." (Just yesterday, CNN questioned whether the White House "spin" about Obamacare enrollment numbers would "stick.")

The sign-up success only represents part of the increasingly positive story surrounding Obamacare, its implementation and how it's perceived:

-The percentage of uninsured Americans is down to 15.9 percent, according to Gallup. 
-Health care costs in the United States as a share of the Gross Domestic Product dropped for the first time since 1997.
-"The number of uninsured is expected to decrease by about 16 million after implementation of the ACA," according to a study by CUNY and Harvard Medical School researchers.

 
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