Last spring, the Biden administration and a Democratic House approved a policy that would kick 15 million people off of Medicaid. States are now set to begin dropping people from the rolls, reversing the record-low uninsured rate reached early last year. But if you were watching TV news, you might have missed it.
Adam Johnson, a former FAIR contributor and co-host of the media criticism podcast Citations Needed, analyzed the coverage in an article for his Substack (The Column, 4/3/23). As Johnson notes:
None of the agenda-setting Sunday morning shows—NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week—mentioned the expiration of Medicaid coverage for the poorest, most vulnerable Americans in recent weeks.
He did find scattered mentions on TV news: MSNBC ran a two-minute segment that mentioned it, ABC News aired a minute-and-a-half segment, and CBS Evening News spent all of 19 seconds on it. But reporting on the Medicaid cuts was almost nonexistent compared to the mountains of coverage given to Trump’s indictment and arraignment—the top media story of the week.
One analysis from Media Matters (4/3/23) found that over an hour-and-a-half period before Trump’s arraignment, CNN aired 48 minutes of B-roll of the idling Trump plane and motorcade, along with shots of Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago. MSNBC aired 66 minutes of similar footage. As Media Matters noted, this kind of coverage is similar to when networks regularly aired footage of Trump’s empty podiums (FAIR.org, 3/16/16).
The reader can decide what’s more important: A Democratic administration taking healthcare from 15 million, or a con-man war criminal being indicted for some of the least important of his crimes.
Writing in Current Affairs (3/30/23), Rhode Island state Sen. Sam Bell pointed the finger at progressives who didn’t even try to make this a central issue:
A few brave policy experts did speak up, but there was no real, organized campaign. Progressive lawmakers didn’t send out a flood of tweets, speeches and op-eds. They didn’t even threaten to vote no and then cave. They made no noise. The big progressive advocacy groups didn’t run campaigns. Even Representative Ocasio-Cortez, the only Democrat to vote no, didn’t discuss the Medicaid and SNAP cuts at all in her statement on her no vote.
While Trump’s arraignment is historic news, it has almost no effect on the lives of ordinary Americans. Stories that affect millions of lives deserve far more than a few collective minutes of coverage. Media have long privileged sensational news over important policy shifts, leaving audiences in the dark about the forces that shape their lives. This, like many other instances, demonstrates the importance of alternative and adversarial media organizations and outlets.