Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Will the Real Ron Johnson Stand Up?

His draconian stance on health care was obscured by lazy media coverage.

By - Jun 29th, 2017 12:03 pm
Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

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.

Johnson’s “fellow conservatives, including Gov. Scott Walker, are praising his attention-grabbing opposition to the bill,” as ABC News reported.

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.

The end result has been to portray Johnson as a great diplomat, who shared “some concerns with moderate Republicans,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert claimed.

All of which has obscured the real Ron Johnson, who ran for office on a platform calling for the total repeal of Obamacare, and whose biggest problem with the Senate bill was that it didn’t eliminate enough coverage for people covered by Obamacare. Wisconsin State Journal editorial cartoonist Phil Hands cut to the chase, with a cartoon showing Johnson telling a constituent, “Don’t worry. The bill needs to much crueler and more heartless before I can support it.”

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.

Johnson has always opposed requiring such coverage, and was one of a small group of conservatives, including Senator Ted Cruz, who pushed to allow insurance plans that “do not meet ACA requirements for minimum essential coverage.”

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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12 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Will the Real Ron Johnson Stand Up?”

  1. MARY GLASS says:

    THURSDAY, JUNE 29, 2017

    RON JOHNSON – Senator from Wisconsin is a FRAUD, A CHARLATAN

    He has put himself on the “NOT YET LIST” to pass the Senate bill.
    It is a ploy.

    If Johnson was legitimate, his comments would say he’s not voting “yes” until there are full discussions and necessary changes on behalf of Wisconsinites and the people of America. Not the bull that the Affordable Healthcare is falling under its weight. It is weight with the heavy foot of the Republicans on the scale.

    If he and his Republican cronies had joined the other U.S. Congresspersons to correct the “risk corridor” in the insurance care and provided the Insurance companies with a path forward rather than no response, the Insurance companies, and premiums would have a path forward for serious agreements. They are using the 2-year wait after the REPEAL to give the impression that things will not change.

    Not true.
    They are lying about the pre-existing risk.
    They are lying about NOT increasing insurance cost.
    The seniors in nursing homes will NOT have funding.
    Women will not have reliable prevention care.
    Over 23 million folks will fall through the cracks for needed healthcare.
    The McConnell and gang of 13 plan have a cap on payments (the present Affordable Healthcare does not). Each person will be given a certain amount, if you exceed the amount, too bad. You are on your own.

    He’s full of it. Watch how fast he votes this week with all the others.
    He’s a charlatan (a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.).


  2. Greg Walz-Chojnacki says:

    Thanks for calling out the softball coverage of the worst senator in my memory.

  3. Observer says:

    On the other hand it takes me no more than 10 minutes tops to read the morning paper front page to Green Sheet.

  4. Otto says:

    I haves upported Johnson in the past . That has ended unless he gets unboard and help pass a bill that can be worked on down the road.If he cant study a bill in a week perhaps he is stupid. He did got to the U of MN. Id like to support a candidate That I can depend on

  5. edith brin says:

    glad you pointed this out—-and very disappointed in craig gilbert.
    any chance he said it right, but the truth was edited out ?

  6. Bea says:

    Typical Gilbert, if you ask me. He’s long failed readers with political analysis that’s so evenhanded as to be almost worthless.

  7. tim haering says:

    Draco is a hero to vampires everywhere. And there are more of us than you imagine. American health care was ok before Obamacare, it would be ok again with a simple and complete repeal. Just rip off the nasty band-aid. But, as Parliament sang, “Give the people what they want when they want and they wants it all the time, Give the people what they need when they need and the need is yours and mine.”

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    You go Tim. How dare people want healthcare? The nerve. People are so greedy. Seriously who thinks American healthcare was OK before Obamacare? No one believes that. Except you. So one person believes that. Good job.

    Johnson was all over the place this week. I heard him on NPR and saw him on cable news. They were much tougher on him than Gilbert and pointed out that he was criticizing the bill from the right. I can’t stand Gilbert. He writes the same partisanship story every few months and hardly ever provides new insights on state politics.

  9. Mike Neville says:

    Even the Daily Kos neglected to point out Johnson’s Marie Antionettish proclivities to Wisconsin readers
    in urging them to urge him to stick to his “no” vote. He’ll change in to a “yes” the minute Mitch McConnell pulls
    the right treat for him out of his taxpayer funded sack of bribes.

  10. daniel golden says:

    Excellent article.However, I believe the total of the dollars the tax breaks in the bill gives to the uber-rich is 346 billion, not 346 million as the second to last paragraph indicates. Other than that, the analysis is spot on. Johnson will be a certain yes vote for McConnell, no matter how black hearted and cruel the GOP bill finally is, because at his core he is radical right winger who would not blink an eye if 24 million people lost health care. No one in the corporate media seems to question his self proclaimed business success, even though everyone in the know understands that his company is a creation of Bemis, his father in law’s corporation, and what Johnson’s company does could easily be done in house by Bemis.

  11. Tom bamberger says:

    I really don’t understand humans like Ron Johnson.

  12. Dee Parr says:

    I agree, Ron Johnson is very ‘two-faced’ when it comes to politics, policies and the truth. I also agree that Craig Gilbert’s reporting has become mundane and monotone and sometimes I just can’t read him anymore..! Mike Gousha of ‘Upfront’ seems to be following that same path. He never really challenges the guests when it comes to partisan views/statements that may be pertinent to his discussion with them. He’s just so ‘sappy’ now.

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