Will the Real Ron Johnson Stand Up?
His draconian stance on health care was obscured by lazy media coverage.
These are heady days for Wisconsin’s Republican U.S, Senator Ron Johnson. He was among a handful of Senators who took a stand in opposition to the Senate health care bill that is supposed to replace Obamacare, which quickly forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay a vote on the bill.
But Johnson won praise from others as well, for his declaration that Republicans should have worked with Democrats to create a bill “on a bipartisan basis,” and for his criticism of McConnell’s attempt to rush the process of voting, giving senators too little time to evaluate the bill, Johnson complained.
Johnson has compared Obamacare’s requirement that companies cover pre-existing conditions to forcing auto insurance companies to insure bad drivers, which earned this slap-down from the liberal website Think Progress: “Johnson is comparing people with pre-existing conditions to bad drivers, or to cars that have been crashed, but not all health conditions are avoidable. People get cancer. Children are born with heart conditions. Two-year-olds contract polio and survive to become Senate Majority Leader.”
But Johnson has generally been crafty about how he describes his position on health care. And no one has done more to aid him in that effort — and to obscure the true RoJo for readers — than Gilbert. The veteran Journal Sentinel scribe duly reported Johnson’s criticism that the Senate process didn’t allow him enough time to evaluate the bill, yet this was a complete contradiction to Johnson’s statement a month earlier that he intended to be “in the thick of” the health care debate and “has joined a loosely defined health care ‘working group’ of GOP senators on the issue.”
And who reported on this working group? Craig Gilbert. Yet he didn’t bother to challenge Johnson about this contradiction, or even link readers to Johnson’s earlier statement about being part of the process. That’s journalistic malpractice.
Gilbert did two different stories, here and here, portraying Johnson as concerned about “the process” by which the bill was being passed, without ever explaining Johnson’s policy perspective on health care, which is surely the most important information to share. A third story by Gilbert once again led with Johnson’s objections to the process and buried his objections to the amount of health coverage included in the Senate bill, telling us “Johnson criticized the bill for… requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.”
But that belated explanation barely begins to describe how draconian Johnson’s views are. The heart of Obamacare is the list of Essential Health Benefits that all insurers must include to be part of the program. That includes ambulatory or outpatient care, emergency services, hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays), pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, (both before and after birth), mental health care and substance use services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management and pediatric care, including oral and vision care.
This would return to the days where people bought policies filled with technical language that excludes all kinds of conditions and often find out only after they need coverage for something and can’t get it.
Johnson has also made it clear that he opposes the Senate bill, which reduces Medicaid spending, for not scaling back this funding even more, as he told the Washington Times.
To put this into perspective, the Senate bill cuts coverage so dramatically it will pay for $346 million in tax breaks going to America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples), which economist Robert Reich has called “the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.”
But Johnson wants even greater cuts in health care coverage than the Senate bill includes. It’s a more conservative stance than the vast majority of Senate and House members hold, and one that will have negative consequences for many (if not the majority of) Journal Sentinel readers. It’s hard to imagine anything more momentously newsworthy. So why hasn’t Gilbert reported it?
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