Columbus Dispatch Gives Medicaid Expansion Backers a Giant Boost

Columbus Dispatch headquarters

News coverage from The Columbus Dispatch quoted supporters of Medicaid expansion 114 times between February 4 and June 18 while quoting the policy’s opponents just 40 times, a review of Dispatch reporting reveals.

Based on a LexisNexis search, the paper reported on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Medicaid expansion in a total of 60 news stories. A Media Trackers analysis counted the number of supporters and opponents quoted in each story.

Not only were backers of Medicaid expansion quoted nearly three times as often, 26 Dispatch news stories quoted one or more Medicaid expansion advocates and no opponents.

In an April 9 story titled “Sitting this one out,” for example, Catherine Candisky and Jim Siegel gave two supporters of Medicaid expansion six paragraphs to make their case. The Dispatch news story – accompanied by a graphic of an elephant with a Gadsden flag sitting on an Uncle Sam hat full of cash – quoted no Medicaid expansion critics.

The Dispatch editors may insist Medicaid expansion critics were rarely quoted because almost no one opposes the policy, but a March poll indicated 65 percent of Republican primary voters are against Medicaid expansion.

Dispatch reporters ignored the Opportunity Ohio poll and have refused to report on any Medicaid expansion research from Opportunity Ohio, one of the state’s two conservative think tanks.

Only 5 Dispatch news stories quoted Medicaid expansion opponents without quoting supporters; even in those few instances, reporters made the same assumptions and arguments as the lobbyists pushing for Medicaid expansion.

In a March 14 story about a House panel of Medicaid expansion critics, Candisky quoted no Medicaid expansion backers but also ignored 3 of the 5 panelists. Candisky seemed appalled that Republicans care what conservative policy experts think about Medicaid expansion “despite wide support from Ohio businesses, hospitals and other health-care providers, and advocates for the uninsured.”

Regardless of how many friends or foes of the PPACA Medicaid expansion were quoted in a given story, the Dispatch routinely devoted entire paragraphs to quotes from Medicaid expansion supporters while limiting opponents to short blurbs.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion were quoted to reinforce points Dispatch reporters themselves were making, while opponents of Medicaid expansion were painted as villains in news stories like senior editor Joe Hallett’s “State covers many foes of expanding Medicaid,” published June 18.

What the Dispatch failed to cover during the 18-week period reviewed is at least as telling as the disparity in supporter and opponent quotes, especially when stories including “Medicaid expansion crucial to mentally ill” (Candisky, 05/30) and “Without Medicaid expansion, poorest lose” (Candisky, 06/02) passed muster as “news.”

In addition to completely overlooking Opportunity Ohio, the Dispatch never acknowledged Media Trackers’ refutation of Gov. Kasich’s false funding claims, our analysis of hospital financials, or any of our other Medicaid expansion research.

The Ohio Liberty Coalition was mentioned in several Dispatch news stories, but never permitted to explain itself.

“Opposition to Medicaid expansion is purely ideological,” The Columbus Dispatch editorial board announced in an April 28 column. Dispatch news reporting from February 4 to June 18 was clearly tailored towards promoting that narrative.

News Story Title Date Medicaid Expansion Supporters Quoted Medicaid Expansion Opponents Quoted
The Kasich Budget / 2014-15 02/05/2013 0 0
Tax proposals to dominate Statehouse 02/05/2013 0 1
Feds’ help sought with Medicaid expansion 02/05/2013 3 0
Kasich’s plan taps hospitals Medicaid boon 02/09/2013 1 0
Kasich downplays Medicaid expansion 02/10/2013 1 0
Mandel: Don’t expand Medicaid 02/13/2013 2 2
Governor: Medicaid deal right for Ohio 02/14/2013 1 0
Mentally ill benefit in Kasich budget 02/14/2013 4 0
GOP chafes at Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid 02/15/2013 2 3
Budget will be Kasich’s main focus 02/19/2013 0 0
GOP leaders not yet backing plans 02/20/2013 2 2
Kasich implores GOP to expand Medicaid 02/20/2013 3 1
Governor urges GOP to expand Medicaid 02/22/2013 2 0
Sebelius countered Medicaid argument 02/24/2013 1 1
Kasich’s budget; Revisions will require rebalancing 02/27/2013 1 0
State goal; Show costs at hospitals 03/03/2013 2 0
Religious groups push for Kasich’s Medicaid expansion 03/04/2013 5 0
Medicaid expansion opposed 03/14/2013 0 3
Rally backs expanding Medicaid coverage 03/15/2013 3 0
Opinion poll; Ohioans divided on tax plans 03/17/2013 0 0
Clergy pushes Medicaid expansion 03/21/2013 3 0
Governor defends plans to GOP crowd 03/28/2013 1 1
Medicaid alternatives developing 03/29/2013 2 0
Opposition mounts to Medicaid plan 04/02/2013 3 2
Governor, team remain optimistic 04/04/2013 1 0
Medicaid expansion foundering 04/06/2013 2 3
Jobless man can’t pay bills for care he needs 04/06/2013 0 0
Likely Ohio GOP chief will face rifts 04/08/2013 2 1
Sitting this one out 04/09/2013 2 0
House GOP shreds Kasich’s priorities 04/10/2013 5 1
Governor’s proposals not dead yet 04/11/2013 1 1
Batchelder’s comment is criticized 04/11/2013 2 1
Battle lines solidify in Medicaid debate 04/12/2013 6 1
“Ohio solution” would try to save $13B 04/12/2013 2 0
Kasich isn’t playing hardball on budget 04/14/2013 4 0
Debate might pit tax cut vs. school funding 04/14/2013 0 1
Medicaid expansion could be back in play 04/16/2013 1 1
Medicaid? Still no, but sex limits advanced 04/17/2013 0 0
State budget: Amended bill goes to Senate 04/19/2013 3 0
The state budget; Smaller proposals tossed into bill 04/21/2013 1 1
Hospitals could lose millions 04/22/2013 4 1
State budget: Medicaid is separate, Faber says 04/25/213 2 0
Borges wins GOP contest easily 04/27/2013 0 1
State senator, others push for Medicaid expansion 05/02/2013 4 0
Tea party has had it with GOP 05/06/2013 2 4
Ballot is backup for Medicaid expansion plan 05/07/2013 4 0
Medicaid director touts Ohio reforms 05/08/2013 4 0
Medicaid changes considered 05/17/2013 0 1
Medicaid expansion could be on ballot in 2014 05/18/2013 2 0
Senators propose narrowing tax cut, expanding Medicaid 05/23/2013 1 0
Bill revives Medicaid expansion 05/23/2013 3 1
Mentall Hell: Overwhelmed, underfunded 05/26/2013 0 0
Mental Hell: Mental-health fix not just about money 05/28/2013 4 0
Medicaid expansion crucial to mentally ill 05/30/2013 2 0
Without Medicaid expansion, poorest lose 06/02/2013 1 1
Basic needs in Ohio cost 23% more than in ’07 06/05/2013 0 0
Kasich on defense this time around 06/10/2013 0 0
Group: State must act fast on Medicaid 06/12/2013 2 0
Bills don’t expand Medicaid 06/13/2013 0 0
State covers many foes of expanding Medicaid 06/18/2013 5 4