The media has portrayed the bipartisan health care summit as a duel between two political parties, tending to focus most of their coverage and commentary on the process of passing reform (i.e. reconciliation) and he-said-she said debates. Republican guests are invited to dispute Democrats and Democrats are brought on to argue with Republicans about the coverage and cost provisions of the President’s health care plan. The back and forth filters out the substantive portions of the summit.
One such example is in the area of women’s health. Critics have rightfully criticized the White House for inviting few women to the summit (of the 47 participants at today’s bipartisan health care summit, only five are female) and for the majority of first half, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was only female speaker. Immediately before lunch, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) began discussing women’s health disparities, but both CNN and MSNBC cut away to address the meeting’s political implication.
CNN interrupted Slaughter to discuss the summit’s lunch plans and MSNBC cut away for Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) reaction. (Fox News carried the exchange.) Watch it:
The networks’ disregard for more substantive issues comes at a detriment to the public. After all, women make most family health decisions, insurers usually charge women more for coverage in the individual health insurance market and are less likely to offer benefits for women’s health. Significantly, the Democratic health care proposals would end insurer discrimination against women — who currently pay as much as 48% more for coverage than men — and give them access to preventive services with no cost sharing.