Column: Media Accountability & Health Care

This series titled “Column: Healthcare Accountability” is sponsored content from our partners at Axene Health Partners.  AHP offers highly specialized health care actuarial and consulting services across a number of states.  We have curated this content because we think it adds value to the work our readers are engaged in.  As always, we welcome your feedback on this series.

For the past year or so, there has been significant public discussion about the media. Is it biased? Is it giving us the facts? Who do we trust? What is an accurate source of information? No matter what one’s political views are, questions are frequently raised as to what the truth really is. Fact checking is increasingly popular, as statements in the press and by politicians are frequently challenged.

The use of social media has increased the number of sources of information we face. It has increased the importance of the questions above and the need to get answers, especially as it relates to healthcare. As the country considers health care reform and its various ramifications, accurate reporting is of keen importance.

Wikipedia defines media accountability as:

Media accountability is a phrase that refers to the general (especially western) belief that mass media has to be accountable in the public’s interest – that is, they are expected to behave in certain ways that contribute to the public good.

The concept is not clearly defined, and oft en collides with commercial interests of media owners; legal issues, such as the constitutional right to the freedom of the press in the U.S.; and governmental concerns about public security and order.

This article will discuss this issue as part of our series on accountability and will present an AHP Accountability Index as it relates to health care.

Reporting the Facts

The old story of the blind men explaining what an elephant looks like is applicable to this topic. One grabbed the elephant’s trunk and described it like a snake. Another the tusk and described a horn like on a Brahma bull. Another grabbed the leg and described a tree. All were perfectly accurate in their description, but failed to holistically describe the elephant correctly.

Today’s health care system is oft en like this. While a reporter accurately describes an issue (e.g., rate increases) he is reporting only on a segment of the health system and may be missing other key items. For example, why are the rate increases so large? What is causing that? Few seem to get to the issue of the matter while creating significant sensation around the topic. Yes, it sells plenty of newspapers, but is it helping the public understand some of the causes?

Similar situations emerge when talking about alternatives such as single payer systems. Reporters will accurately report the facts about health care costs in other countries with socialized systems, oftentimes pointing out the problems with the US system, but without discussing some of the items that make the comparisons less reasonable. A prior article on the differences in the United States addresses some of these issues.

Continue reading the column here