Public TV’s Narrow Debate on Supreme Court and Obamacare

PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff introduced a panel discussion on the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision (6/28/12) as a chance to get “some reaction and assessment from those who will deal with the law or had worked to overturn it.” That set-up sounded like it a pretty narrow discussion was to follow–and it did.

At the table was Karen Ignani, president of the insurance industry lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans. So was former Republican Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, who sued the White House over the law. There was one advocate of Obamacare–Ron Pollack  of Families USA, a group that has often worked closely with major player in the health business.  And then there was a conservative doctor, Donald Palmisano, whom PBS host Ray Suarez described as “both a physician and an attorney, he is a general and vascular surgeon who teaches at Tulane Medical School.”

That’s just part of the story: Palmisano was also been very active in Astroturf-style efforts to opposed the Affordable Care Act. As Lee Fang reported for Think Progress (7/28/09), Palmisano was spokesman for the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights and has been active in efforts to promote so-called “tort reform,” which typically involve capping damages plaintiffs can seek in malpractice trials.

So–a right-wing doctor/advocate, a Republican who tried to block Obamacare in court, the main spokesperson for the insurance industry lobby in Washington, and the head of an advocacy group that has been criticized for being too cozy with the industry. (Pollak now heads a nonprofit that is designed to help enroll people in private health plans.)

Public television, as we’ve said countless times before, should give some of what is missing from the commercial media. How about including one of thousands of doctors who advocate a single-payer, Medicare for All system? If the conversation is intended to explain how the law affects people–particularly those who cannot afford private insurance–why not include such voices in a panel like this? I guess that’s what Democracy Now! is for.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.