Paul Krugman is surprised about, The ACA Surge Blackout. In it, he noted that the media were all over the website problems as they should have been. But they seem especially disinterested in covering the fact that the website was fixed and enrollment is way up. It is quite possible that the program will meet its initial (pre-website) projections for signups. So there ought to be celebration about this and instead there are only yawns.
I know why the media don’t care about the story. It’s the same reason that we generally have bad coverage of political issues: false equivalence. Since reporters don’t want to be accused of bias, they report every issue as though the Democrats and the Republicans are equal and opposite ends of the debate. The problem is especially bad on economic issues, where the Democrats aren’t anywhere close to being liberal. But even accepting the two ideological poles, it is rarely the case that they are both equally valid.
In the case of Obamacare, the two poles are reasonable because we are talking about a specific government policy. On one side, the Democrats point out that there has been a surge in enrollment and it is close to the original projections. On the other hand, we have Republicans literally screaming that these numbers are all lies. There are many ways they do this like claiming that just because someone signed up, doesn’t mean they are actually going to pay for the insurance. And then there is the largely contradictory claim that the signups have only been for the Medicaid expansion and so they don’t count. And on and on.
Reporters see this and figure, as they always do, “Who can know the truth?” After all, on one hand, you have government statistics that have been quite accurate over the last 200 years. On the other side, you have partisans who hate Obamacare and throw everything at it hoping that something will stick. These people have been shown again and again and again to be spouting nonsense. How could a reporter ever figure out what the truth is?!
I suspect when the official numbers come out, they will get a decent amount of coverage. But it will be filled with caveats about how Republicans say the program is doing poorly. Unfortunately, we will have to deal with this until they give up their disinformation campaign. Of course, after that happens (and it will take years), those involved in the campaign will not pay a price in reduced credibility. The media will still listen to the garbage they spew and pretend that it is just one completely valid side of the debate.