USA Today’s embarrassing, deceptive reporting on Trumpcare

How not to do journalism.

Wednesday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released an absolutely brutal report quantifying the consequences of the massive health care bill that recently passed by the House of Representatives. Among other things, the report concludes that “the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026.”

That’s right, 23 million people will lose health coverage under Trumpcare.

Here’s how USA Today decided to cover this news:

USA Today’s tweet, which also tracks a breaking news alert that appeared at the top of its website, is literally true. A previous CBO report found that an earlier version of Trumpcare would strip 24 million people of health insurance by 2026 — slightly more than the current version.


But USA Today’s take on the CBO report is also a case study in how media can mislead its audience without actually making any factually untrue statements.

Though this reality may sometimes be lost on reporters who are immersed in national political debates, most Americans don’t actually keep track of the latest twists and turns arising from the Congressional Budget Office. Outside of a small number of hyper-engaged individuals, very few voters will remember that, more than two months ago, CBO found that 24 million people will lose coverage under Trumpcare.

But many readers likely encountered CBO’s tweet and were left with the false impression that repealing Obamacare would increase the number of people with health coverage.

Moreover, while CBO did find that the latest version of Trumpcare will lead to slightly fewer Americans losing health coverage in total, it also explains that much of this burden is likely to be distributed to the most vulnerable Americans — and that these vulnerable Americans will carry this burden thanks to provisions added to the bill since the previous CBO report.

The latest version of Trumpcare allows states to seek waivers that will make it easier for insurers to deny coverage to many people with preexisting conditions. As a result of these waivers, “it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions)” in many states “to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.”


Taken as a whole, in other words, the CBO’s latest report suggests that Trumpcare 2.0 will have harsher consequences than Trumpcare 1.0, because it will lead to more of the sickest individuals— the people who need insurance the most — losing health coverage.

But, hey, USA Today wants you to know that this bill is a step in the right direction!