Columbus Dispatch Gives Medicaid Expansion Backers a Giant Boost

Media 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 TitleDateMedicaid Expansion Supporters QuotedMedicaid Expansion Opponents Quoted
The Kasich Budget / 2014-1502/05/201300
Tax proposals to dominate Statehouse02/05/201301
Feds’ help sought with Medicaid expansion02/05/201330
Kasich’s plan taps hospitals Medicaid boon02/09/201310
Kasich downplays Medicaid expansion02/10/201310
Mandel: Don’t expand Medicaid02/13/201322
Governor: Medicaid deal right for Ohio02/14/201310
Mentally ill benefit in Kasich budget02/14/201340
GOP chafes at Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid02/15/201323
Budget will be Kasich’s main focus02/19/201300
GOP leaders not yet backing plans02/20/201322
Kasich implores GOP to expand Medicaid02/20/201331
Governor urges GOP to expand Medicaid02/22/201320
Sebelius countered Medicaid argument02/24/201311
Kasich’s budget; Revisions will require rebalancing02/27/201310
State goal; Show costs at hospitals03/03/201320
Religious groups push for Kasich’s Medicaid expansion03/04/201350
Medicaid expansion opposed03/14/201303
Rally backs expanding Medicaid coverage03/15/201330
Opinion poll; Ohioans divided on tax plans03/17/201300
Clergy pushes Medicaid expansion03/21/201330
Governor defends plans to GOP crowd03/28/201311
Medicaid alternatives developing03/29/201320
Opposition mounts to Medicaid plan04/02/201332
Governor, team remain optimistic04/04/201310
Medicaid expansion foundering04/06/201323
Jobless man can’t pay bills for care he needs04/06/201300
Likely Ohio GOP chief will face rifts04/08/201321
Sitting this one out04/09/201320
House GOP shreds Kasich’s priorities04/10/201351
Governor’s proposals not dead yet04/11/201311
Batchelder’s comment is criticized04/11/201321
Battle lines solidify in Medicaid debate04/12/201361
“Ohio solution” would try to save $13B04/12/201320
Kasich isn’t playing hardball on budget04/14/201340
Debate might pit tax cut vs. school funding04/14/201301
Medicaid expansion could be back in play04/16/201311
Medicaid? Still no, but sex limits advanced04/17/201300
State budget: Amended bill goes to Senate04/19/201330
The state budget; Smaller proposals tossed into bill04/21/201311
Hospitals could lose millions04/22/201341
State budget: Medicaid is separate, Faber says04/25/21320
Borges wins GOP contest easily04/27/201301
State senator, others push for Medicaid expansion05/02/201340
Tea party has had it with GOP05/06/201324
Ballot is backup for Medicaid expansion plan05/07/201340
Medicaid director touts Ohio reforms05/08/201340
Medicaid changes considered05/17/201301
Medicaid expansion could be on ballot in 201405/18/201320
Senators propose narrowing tax cut, expanding Medicaid05/23/201310
Bill revives Medicaid expansion05/23/201331
Mentall Hell: Overwhelmed, underfunded05/26/201300
Mental Hell: Mental-health fix not just about money05/28/201340
Medicaid expansion crucial to mentally ill05/30/201320
Without Medicaid expansion, poorest lose06/02/201311
Basic needs in Ohio cost 23% more than in ’0706/05/201300
Kasich on defense this time around06/10/201300
Group: State must act fast on Medicaid06/12/201320
Bills don’t expand Medicaid06/13/201300
State covers many foes of expanding Medicaid06/18/201354

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