On Thursday morning I attended a breakfast and roundtable discussion sponsored by the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance that discussed the Affordable Care Act one year on, and how it has benefited Missouri small businesses since the first provisions started kicking in last September.
When I walked up to the table to sign in, I was surprised that they were so thrilled to see a B-list blogger show up with a netbook and a digital recorder to capture and report on the event. Then when I walked into the room I knew why. There was not another soul in that room that even remotely resembled a reporter, even though a press release went out last week announcing the event.
This meeting was held at the Plaza Marriott, at 45th and Main in Kansas City. The KKFI studio is at 39th and Main, the KCUR studio is at 48th and Troost and the Kansas City Star is at 17th and Grand. It isn't like it was held in an inconvenient location. I didn't expect television cameras, but I did expect some coverage by either the print or radio press.
I mean, if 50 teabaggers who are against healthcare reform get together and wave misspelled, grammatically incorrect signs around, the Star covers that. But 50 small business owners and administrators who have benefited from the provisions of the law that have already kicked in, gathered in a meeting room to discuss those benefits? Nothing to see there, they don't even bother to send a reporter.
They will report on people who scream about "death panels" and "government takeover of healthcare" -- both rated "lies of the year" by PolitiFact for 2009 and 2010, respectively -- but they don't report on the very real benefits of the legislation.
No wonder the law isn't more popular.
If the traditional media had sent a reporter to the Marriott Thursday morning, they could have reported on the benefits to small business, like the tax credit that allows Merrill Gobetz, the operations manager of Bistro Kids to insure her chefs, and how access to healthcare has made her employees healthier, less stressed and more productive. Or they could have reported on the grants available right now through the Department of Health and Human Services. These are funds that are set aside to help small businesses devise and implement workplace wellness programs -- which are proven to pay for themselves and even turn a profit in the form of reduced overall costs in both healthcare and lost productivity.
A lot of small businesses jumped at the chance to offer their employees health coverage as soon as they could afford to, thanks to the tax credit. Low income individuals who aren't offered health coverage benefit as well, because the ACA increased funding to subsidize community health centers, where low-income people can receive care either free or at a reduced rate. Kansas City has several great working examples of this in action that could serve as models for the rest of the country -- the Swope Health Center clinics and the Truman Medical Centers hospital system. We have these wonderful assets that are making our community healthier, but I never see or hear local stories about how what we have been doing right for years is being rewarded and will be able to expand and help even more people, thanks to the ACA. Why is that?
They would also have had the opportunity to educate the public about the exchanges that will be set up and offering coverage options by 2014. Exchanges will essentially be a clearinghouse where you will be able to compare rates and details of coverage for all of the plans in the exchange and pick the plan that your prefered provider accepts assignment from, and select the level of coverage that is right for you, and that once you decide on a plan, the company won't be able to deny you coverage, even if you have a pre-existing condition. Or that if you are self-employed or employed by a small business that is exempt from the mandate, your income will determine your premium, which will be charged on a sliding scale.
They also missed the opportunity to inform the listening/reading public about the "webinar" that the Small Business Majority is hosting on March 31st at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific, that will focus on what the ACA means for small business and how both federal and state provisions help local small business owners understand how the law can benefit them and their employees, and that those interested in participating or just following along can preregister at www.smallbusinessmajority.org/webinar and that questions can be submitted in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But they won't pass along any of the reasoned and factual information that people need to know because they didn't send a reporter.
The lopsided reporting is definitely something to keep in mind the next time you hear a report about how unpopular the ACA is.
It's also depressing as hell, because I have no freakin' idea how to break through the media blackout when the only person who shows up to report on the positive aspects of the law is a blogger with 500 regular daily readers.
This post originally appeared at Show Me Progress