The fact that a majority of Americans support a single-payer, or Medicare for all, health care system is not news. Or at least it ought not to be news, especially to veteran political journalists.
But enter the vaunted PBS Newshour, which bills itself as “one of the most trusted news programs on television.” (In fairness, that’s a medium not eliciting much in the way of stiff competition.)
On Friday’s broadcast, during the program’s weekly left/right debate segment, featuring New York Times columnist David Brooks on the right and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus (seen burnishing her “progressive” credentials here) on the “left,” the topic of discussion turned to the differing health care proposals of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Sanders supports a Medicare for all system, while Clinton supports maintaining the status quo of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But with Sanders now surging in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the health care schism between the Democratic front-runners has taken center stage in the campaign, with Clinton camp surrogates attacking Sanders by going so far as to incredulously assert that Sanders, by seeking to expand health care to all Americans, is really threatening to strip health coverage from millions.
Taking up this debate between the two Democratic candidates, Brooks commented Friday on the Newshour that, “They also had an interesting debate about health care reform. And that was her [Clinton] making an incremental argument, we have got to make our changes gradually, and him [Sanders] making a radical argument. And so it was interesting. That was a substantive, real argument about how you change any system.”
Newshour co-anchor Judy Woodruff then interjected to clarify, “…essentially, the argument is whether you just wipe away…what we have done and you go to a single-payer health care system, which most Americans say they don’t want… [emphasis added]”
Wait, what? Most Americans say they don’t want a single-payer health care system? Where did Woodruff pull that one from?
According to a 2014 Program for Consultation study analyzing public polling occurring between 2008 and 2013, majorities in both “red” (Republican-dominated) and “blue” (Democratic-dominated) congressional districts prefer government to play a greater role in health care.
When presented with the statement, “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” 62.3% of respondents in red districts agreed, compared to 62.9% of respondents in blue districts.
When presented with the statement, “Government should be responsible for ensuring health care needs of its citizens,” 55.6% of respondents in red districts agreed, compared to 64.1% of respondents in blue districts.
The Program for Consultation study even found 47.8% of respondents from red districts to agree that they, “Favor government paying for all necessary medical care for everyone.” That compared to 54.9% of respondents in blue districts.
Meanwhile, a 2015 Progressive Change Institute poll found over 50% of Americans support a single-payer health care system like that proposed by Sanders, including 80% of Democrats.
Given all this, a Newshour viewer may have reasonably hoped that at the very least Marcus, the segment’s “left” perspective, would have interjected to correct Woodruff with any of the above. But, alas, Woodruff’s complete distortion of reality, whether a result of a confounding ignorance or ideological blindness, passed without comment.
It seems that not even a “trusted news program” on an ostensibly public channel is capable of conceding the progressive views of the American public.