This is a letter I sent to The Wall Street Journal in which I pointed out that the Editorial department of the WSJ often sees things so differently from the News department that one is left to wonder whether the liberal bias in the latter is leading to a lack of objectivity in its reporting function; it is as though the respective departments were reporting upon two different stories.
The intramural battle between the Journal’s Editorial Page and its News department rages on. Case in point: the 39% premium increase for WellPoint’s individual policy-holders in California.
In the February 19 edition of the Journal, “Fight Over Health-Care Premiums Heats Up,” the News group laments that “it can be difficult to ascertain what factors push up premiums in specific markets. . . . WellPoint and other insurers say they are raising prices to keep up with rising medical costs and sicker customer pools. . . . ‘Underlying medical costs are increasing, and there’s . . . deterioration in the risk pool’ . . . . As people lose their jobs, . . . younger, healthier individuals are more likely to go without insurance . . . skewing the mix of policy holders toward the elderly” . . . . (Nevertheless,) “Ms. Sebelius countered that the top five publicly traded insurers made $12 billion in profits last year . . .” Reading this article, one might infer that there was simply a conflict between insurers, facing rising medical costs and declining numbers of insureds, and a government that thinks the insurers are violating their social duty to abjure profit.
On the other hand, the Journal’s lead editorial on the previous day, February 18, had a fuller and more plausible explanation for the huge premium increase: California bars insurers from dropping customers with employer-provided insurance when their employment terminates and their COBRA coverage expires, and it caps the premiums that can be charged thereafter to these customers. In other words, the problem is not just that more of the kids are dropping out (and that the insurers are irredeemably greedy), but that California is forcing the insurers to keep more of the older/sicker folks in (and to do so at artificially-low rates); some significant chunk of the skyrocketing cost of providing healthcare insurance in California is thus seen as the result of governmental action rather than of rising medical costs.
This disconnect between the News group and the Editorial group does not appear to be a difference of opinion (nor, for that matter, all that uncommon an experience); it rather appears to represent an omission of a pertinent fact from a news story. In other words, it seems to indicate a point of view, indeed a bias, on the part of the News group.