With friends like these, who needs grandstanding Republicans?
This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, the show hosted the President and CEO of Mayo Clinic, Dr. John Noseworthy, to have a discussion about the Affordable Care Act. In the shadow of President Obama's appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative with former President Bill Clinton, the MoJoe crew had what has become an all-too-familiar sight on the sole "liberal" news channel -- particularly in the morning. I'll admit, I rarely, if ever, watch MSNBC in the morning anymore, but I was interested in several of this morning's guests, so I recorded the show to watch tonight. I was disappointed by what I heard.
Mika Brzezinski kicked off the interview with Dr. Noseworthy. (Italics and brackets added to express original emphasis):
We're hearing a lot this week about Obamacare; President Clinton's going to have a [makes air quotes] conversation with President Obama about it... and there's lots of criticism for how expensive this law is going to be on businesses, how it's just going to cripple this country... Do you agree with that? Are there any ways in which Obamacare brings healthcare costs down?
Dr. Noseworthy replied with a rather lukewarm but diplomatic answer, saying that it was good that all Americans would have access to insurance, but that the bill simultaneously didn't go far enough in some areas and was somewhat burdensome in others. Mika followed up first with a question by cutting off the beginning of a question on if the law should be repealed, substituting it for asking "what he made of" the defunding effort.
"Overall, do you think the law is something that should be -- look at the defund Obamacare effort. What do you make of that as opposed to what we have here?"
Dr. Noseworthy had prepared a number of soundbites for his appearance, centered on the fact that Mayo Clinic would abide by the law -- uh, yeah! -- and that they've made changes to be more efficient in how they treat patients to meet the new standards, though they've been making those changes forever (so any credit for better care should go to them, not Obamacare), and that the law needed to be changed in how it deals with places like Mayo -- changes that Mayo Clinic would be actively lobbying Congress for.
(Full disclosure: I have been a patient at Mayo Clinic, and credit the doctors there with having saved my life. I have nothing but respect them, and believe that changes likely do need to be made, though I know that such changes are a normal part of comprehensive laws such as the ACA; they aren't fatal flaws that require repeal.)
The interview continued along in a pretty standard way, until Donny Deutsch asked the doctor to give a way that care would be better, and a way that Obamacare was going to make people's experience of care worse at Mayo Clinic. When Dr. Noseworthy began to recap an earlier answer about revamping all processes in patient processing and care, Deutsch persisted:
DEUTSCH: "How about the down side? Create one scenario where, okay, we don't love it, but because of the new law actually.. [trails off]"
NOSEWORTHY: "Well, I think consumers need to be careful about the products they buy on the networks... that they... make sure the premiums, that doesn't cover everything. the premiums are simply what it costs to get the [insurance coverage]..."
DEUTSCH: "What were you able to do a year ago that you won't be able to do for me now, Donny Deutsch, I walk in, I'm getting one of those three-day Mayo complete workovers. What can't you give me now for the same thing?"
Putting aside the incredibly privileged focus on Mayo Clinic's "Executive Health Program" products (the 3 day checkup that Deutsch referenced), the truthful answer to that question should have been "Nothing
". Instead, the doctor said that as a result of the new law, the new insurance products may not cover Mayo's services, meaning you would be forced to pay out of pocket. However, this has ALWAYS
been the case, as Mayo requires pre-payment or a deposit for many services that are not covered (or covered fully) by private insurance. (Mayo Clinic also does not accept Medicare Part B for most people residing outside of Minnesota.)
One of the things that is heard when complaints are made to MSNBC about Joe Scarborough is that he is most often the only Conservative voice at a table of liberals. However, as is clear to any who watch, the voices trend towards Beltway centrism -- if not outright Conservative dogma -- whenever discussions are had on the topics of foreign policy, economics, or entitlement issues. I guess now we can add healthcare to the mix.
With the many roadblocks thrown at the roll-out of the ACA by Congress and red-state governors, media -- particularly "liberal" outlets -- must pick up some of the burden of educating the public about the law. When the anchor program of the morning and its audience of older Americans are subjected to the kind of slanted commentary and incomplete information that Morning Joe demonstrates on a daily basis, that job becomes more difficult. But when a trusted medical voice comes in on a morning when Joe Scarborough is absent, and the editorial slant is still anti-Obamacare, I begin to fear that the job of educating and facilitating the public's smooth transition to the new law is getting more difficult, not easier. It means we must be louder voices -- in spite of the law's admitted shortcomings, the status quo is a far-worse reality in which we've lived -- and help be "navigators" for those whose only understanding of the law comes from what they hear from such sources, and to correct misinformation when it is made apparent. Success depends on it.