Last watching CNN, we got a little flavor of why having a health reform bill signed into law is going to help improve the political position of reformers. By the late afternoon, it was clear that reform was going to pass. Consequently, the political story was getting a bit boring. And yet, there was important health care news! So CNN did something a bit crazy, and wound up giving a decent amount of camera time to Sanjay Gupta to answer questions about the actual content of the bill rather than the political games around the bill.
The coverage that resulted wasn’t glowing. Indeed, Gupta and David Gergen teamed up to give credence to a GOP talking point about the “doc fix” issue that I would deem both dishonest and nonsensical. That said, coverage of the actual content of the bill is by necessity more favorable to the bill than the hokum that’s dominated the conversation thus far. After all, most of what people have been talking about is either straight-up lies—death panels—or hystical mewling about the death of freedom and the gulag. Any time you have medical doctors on television talking about new insurance rules, or newspaper writers drawing up charts showing what kinds of people will be impacted in which ways, you’re into the universe of sober-minded discussion of an importance series of tweaks to people’s existing care, and the expenditure of a bunch of money to make insurance affordable to those who don’t have it.
Now realistically, the evidence suggests that once misconceptions get into people’s heads they’re hard to dislodge. So I wouldn’t count on enormous changes in public opinion ensuring from this shift in coverage. But it’s bound to help at the margin.