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Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Drew Altman
White House Site on health care reform
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August 14, 2009

The war of words over the process of health care reform has gotten so loud that the White House itself has created a "Reality Check" Web site and is sending out mass emails debunking myths and reiterating its rationale for reform. The Project for Excellence in Journalism notes that coverage has tended toward a lot of heat and little light (or in-depth policy analysis) due to the medium: "From August 3-9 health care accounted for only 5% of the newshole in newspapers, online and network news. But it dominated cable news (37%) and radio (33%), the two sectors that include the debate-oriented programming that hammers away on polarizing issues."

The debate is bound to get louder. THE WASHINGTON POST reported on August 5, 2009, that all sides in the debate may spend a record-breaking $52 million making their case on the airwaves. How does an educated news consumer separate the hype from the facts? Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Drew Altman of the Kaiser Family Foundation talked to Bill Moyers about decoding the debate rhetoric. Two good starting points are, the award-winning service of the Annenberg School and The Kaiser Health News Service's media watch. You'll find many additional sources and round-ups on health care debate myths from major media outlets listed below.

Side by Side Comparison

The Kaiser Family Foundation also maintains an up-to-date comparison of all the major health reform plans in play. Use the grid to find out where each proposal stands on overall approach to expanding access to coverage; premium subsidies to employers; prevention and wellness and a host of other issues.

Fact Checking the Debate

The health care media blitz is providing a field day for fact checkers. You can choose from Politifact's "Truth-o-Meter's" rankings of True though Pants on Fire to evaluate everyone from the President to Sarah Palin. has ramped up it's coverage of paid advertising. They recently evaluated the drug ad parody "Reforma" from the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee's "The Cost of Doing Nothing." other recent analyses include "CPR (Conservatives for Patients’ Rights) Administers Bad Facts, Again" and "Obama’s Health Care News Conference: Facts vs. Obama."

>Additional fact-checking resources

Kathleen Hall Jamieson
Photo by Robin HollandKathleen Hall Jamieson is the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Walter and Leonore Annenberg Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jamieson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society. She is the author, co author or editor of 15 books including: UNSPUN: FINDING FACTS IN A WORLD OF DISINFORMATION, THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF PARTY POLITICS, THE PRESS EFFECT and EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT POLITICS...AND WHY YOU'RE WRONG.

Drew Altman
Photo by Robin Holland
Drew E. Altman, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit, private operating foundation in Menlo Park, California, with major facilities in Washington, D.C. It develops and runs its own research and communications programs, often in partnership with outside organizations. Altman was a former commissioner of the Department of Human Services for the state of New Jersey and served in a senior position in the Health Care Financing Administration in the Carter administration. He served in senior positions at the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and earned his Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Altman is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Guest photos by Robin Holland.
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References and Reading:
Side-by-side comparison the major health care reform proposals.
Assembled and frequently updated by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Following the Money: Health Care
Use this BILL MOYERS JOURNAL guide to trace campaign contributions, ad spending and the revolving door between industry and government.

The Health Care Reform Plans
Use this BILL MOYERS JOURNAL guide to follow the debate over the many different health care plans.

The journalists at CJR turn their attention to "auditing" ads, speeches and other media moments of the post-election political scene. A recent article by Trudy Lieberman looks at "Health Reform and Obama’s Consumer Protections: Good for consumers, or good for insurers?" is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that aims to monitor the accuracy of staments of politicans and pundits.

The Fact-Checker
Run by veteran journalist Michael Dobbs, The Fact-Checker is a project of the WASHINGTON POST that publishes research evaluating and providing background and context to candidate statements and popular political stories.

Politifact and Truth-0-Meter
Politifact is an extensively cross-referenced fact-checking resource run as a joint project by the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES and CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY.

CNN Truth Squad
Recent Truth Squad entries include "Say goodnight, Grandpa," and "Will dental insurance be offered under the proposed Health Insurance Exchange?"

"Fact Check: Distortions rife in health care debate"
Charles Babington, Associated Press, August 2, 2009

Town Hall Showdowns Fuel Health Care Coverage
Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism, August 9, 2009.

"Headed to a health care 'town brawl?' Read this first"
McClatchy News Service's August 11, 2009 collection of fact check pieces on health care reform.

"Fact Check: No 'Death Panel' in Health Care Bill"
THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 11, 2009.

Also This Week:
A Conservative Plan for Healthcare? Bill Moyers sits down with former special assistant to George W. Bush David Frum, who is calling on Republicans to come up with their own plan for health care reform and suggests changes that conservatives can support.

Media analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO Drew Altman discuss the messages in health care ads today, and how well they reflect the real issues of health care reform.

The film CRITICAL CONDITION puts a human face on how three families face illness without health coverage.

Complete coverage of health care on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.
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