A Brit’s view of US health care reform & US health journalism

On the Reporting on Health member blog, John Lister, Senior Lecturer in Health Journalism at Coventry University in the UK, writes: “A British View of the US Health Reform and US Health Journalism.” He begins by reflecting on the Association of Health Care Journalists conference he attended in Philadelphia last month:

“I have to say that the overwhelming impression I took away was that Americans appear to love their health insurance companies more than almost anything else, and that US health journalists appear to be less critical and analytical in approaching health reform and health policy than when they report on new drugs and treatments.”

He explains why, which is why you should read the full piece, which I don’t want to cannibalize. But here’s more of a teaser of what he writes:

“…it’s rather shocking to find a conference of knowledgeable and independent-minded journalists apparently uncritical of the system, and failing to ask some of the basic questions that should be asked about new treatments – not least exploring potential benefits and harms, comparing the new ideas with existing alternatives (of which there are many around the world), and discussing potential conflicts of interest.

I came away wondering whether, and at what stage, American health journalists might begin routinely to ask more searching questions about the system itself, its key players – and its constantly spiralling cost. Because until these issues are raised in the media it is unlikely they will spontaneously raised by the American public: and that, no doubt, is just the way the for-profit insurers and hospital chains like it.”

Dr. Lister has invited me to speak at “Health in the Headlines: A European conference on health journalism” – June 23-24 at Coventry University.

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May 2, 2011 at 10:59 pm

A slanted commentary but not unexpected from someone who’s entire medical life has been in a universal governmentally run system.
The jargon phrase which indicates both issues – which to my surprise went without question by any of the American journalists in the sessions I attended – was the words “medical loss” – as in “medical loss ratio” to describe the money spent by health insurers on patient care.
that view suggests that anything less than 100% of all dollars into a system is wasted because it doesn’t go to patient care.
Here’s an alternative view. If we spend more dollars in patient care than what we take in how do we change to keep the system afloat. In approaching such a problem should we not assume that doctors,hospitals and patients aren’t knowingly “stealing the money” but more likely are spending the money on what they feel is important medically at that time. So if this is true we can assume they (doctors, hospitals, patients) won’t easily, willingly and happily say “Yeah sure here’s that money back”
So if that is true then what’s the right amount of money to spend (that won’t go to patient care) to curtail that spending?


May 3, 2011 at 11:46 am

How can we expect critical and unbiased journalism when the main revenue sources to support such writing and research are largely supported by advertising dollars? Can we expect newspapers and other news sources to offer both sides of the argument when they depend so much for their very survival on these corporations that are selling us these health care treatments and pharmaceuticals? Maybe that is why your collegues seem so accepting of what they are spoon fed by these entities!


May 4, 2011 at 6:38 am

I recently read a report which stated that the fourth leading cause of death in the US was prescribed medication, taken as prescribed! If this is to be believed, then perhaps the system is flawed in the US, because if medical doctors are not prescribing they are not earning?