Columbus Dispatch Devotes 8 Months to Medicaid Expansion Advocacy

The Columbus Dispatch has tried for over 8 months to guilt the Ohio General Assembly into expanding Medicaid, backing Governor John Kasich’s fight for Obamacare funding by giving advocates of the policy glowing coverage and marginalizing critics.

Since Gov. Kasich released his budget plan on February 4, Dispatch reporters have repeated leftist talking points in news stories with titles such as “Medicaid expansion would cost Ohio less than doing nothing, study shows,” “Medicaid expansion crucial to mentally ill,” and “Without Medicaid expansion, poorest lose.”

The other side of the story has been shortchanged or outright ignored by the Dispatch; the Dispatch editors have refused to cover substantive free market arguments while snidely insisting no such arguments exist.

Both The Buckeye Institute and Opportunity Ohio have published multiple policy briefs spelling out problems with the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and suggesting reforms Ohio should pursue instead. These have received no coverage in the pages of the Dispatch.

On the rare occasions when the state’s two free market think tanks are quoted, they are routinely taken out of context. Media Trackers research, meanwhile, is ignored entirely.

“Kasich’s continued push for policies such as a state Medicaid expansion over the wishes of more ideological Republican legislators, simply shows that Kasich puts what he believes are the best interests of Ohio residents and businesses before party politics,” the editors wrote on July 5.

“As with the Medicaid expansion — another eminently sensible Kasich proposal rejected out of hand by ideologues in the legislature — Kasich shouldn’t give up on modernizing the severance tax,” they wrote in another column the following day.

“The arguments in favor of expansion are numerous and clear,” the Dispatch editorial board asserted on July 7. “The only arguments against it are based in stubborn ideology: Some GOP lawmakers don’t like the federal Affordable Care Act, which underpins the expansion, and they don’t approve of any more federal spending.”

“It’s beyond time for Ohio politicians to put the interests of the state ahead of their own political agendas. They should enact the Medicaid expansion, for the clear benefit it brings,” the editors reiterated on August 4.

Coincidentally, Gov. Kasich — with whom the Dispatch agrees on nearly every issue — is never accused of serving a political agenda.

Perhaps the governor’s selfless generosity with Americans’ tax dollars is what prompted Dispatch publisher John Wolfe and his wife to each donate $12,000 to Kasich’s reelection campaign this spring.

“Summer is waning, kids are back to school and still, Ohio lawmakers are failing to do what obviously is best for the state: OK a federally funded expansion of Medicaid,” the editors wrote on September 1.

While the editorial board has insisted the case for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion is “sensible,” “clear,” and “obvious,” the Dispatch has published 85 news stories about the expansion without even paying lip service to the facts and arguments offered by the policy’s critics.

On September 29, the editors even encouraged Gov. Kasich to circumvent the legislature to expand the state’s largest entitlement program.

“In fact, the expansion already would be an accomplished fact if not for a group of tea party conservatives in the legislature who oppose the idea on ideological grounds,” the Dispatch editorial board fumed in a column suggesting Kasich should expand Medicaid by executive order.

“They reject Medicaid expansion because it is offered through the federal Affordable Care Act, which they oppose,” the editors continued.

“Despite the fact that the costs are borne entirely by the federal government for the first three years and 90 percent after that, and that the lives of 275,000 Ohioans would be improved by stable access to medical care, these legislators seek to block the proposal.”

From February 4 through October 4, The Columbus Dispatch:

  • Published 85 news stories about Medicaid expansion
  • Quoted Medicaid expansion supporters 148 times in news coverage
  • Quoted Medicaid expansion critics 66 times in news coverage
  • Advocated for Medicaid expansion in 16 editorials
  • Criticized Medicaid expansion in zero editorials
  • Published 19 op-eds promoting Medicaid expansion
  • Published 1 op-ed criticizing Medicaid expansion

After completing a detailed analysis of Dispatch Medicaid expansion coverage from February 4 through June 18, Media Trackers shared our findings with several of the nation’s most prominent journalism organizations.

In the months since, Pew Research Center, Harvard University’s Nieman Lab, The Poynter Institute, and the Society of Professional Journalists have taken no visible steps to hold The Columbus Dispatch accountable for nakedly promoting a policy that will cost taxpayers billions per year.