New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof did some cute work covering the Affordable Care Act this week, leaving a blank space in his column after the opening paragraph: “This week, President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans began to dismantle Obamacare, and here are the details of their replacement plan.”
— Pat Kiernan (@patkiernan) January 5, 2017
You see what he did there? It wasn’t a production error, but it was a fact-checking error that Kristof could have corrected by simply reading the newspaper that employs him. Here are four times The New York Times reported on the GOP health-care alternatives Kristof thinks doesn’t exist.
1. When Price was named Trump’s Pick for HHS Secretary
This one is convenient for Kristof because it has the advantages of recency (published Nov. 29) and clarity. The headline is “Tom Price, H.H.S. Nominee, Drafted Remake of Health Law.” He could read further, but he need not to disprove his assertion that there are zero plans with zero details proposed by any Republicans. If he chose to read further, he would find this in the fifth paragraph:
Mr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs, was one of the first lawmakers to draft a full replacement for the Affordable Care Act. His proposal would take health care in a fundamentally different direction, away from mandated coverage and care and toward a free-market approach, with fewer consumer protections and more freedoms for doctors.
Here, the phrase “one of the first lawmakers to draft a full replacement” suggests there might even be others. Indeed there are, and indeed The New York Times itself has mentioned them, albeit usually disparagingly.
2. An editorial admits Paul Ryan has a plan they hate
The House Speaker Paul Ryan-crafted “Better Way” agenda, on which many congressional Republicans ran and won, includes a replacement plan for Obamacare. The New York Times doesn’t like it, but it exists.
Their election year agenda, called ‘A Better Way,’ has been widely criticized for lacking detail in its claims about curtailing poverty. Last month, after years of vowing to come up with a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Ryan’s caucus finally offered a proposal. Far from being innovative, the plan was built around Mr. Ryan’s longstanding proposals to shift Medicare to a market-based competitor of health care companies.
One would assume Kristof checks in occasionally on the ed side of the op-ed page, but perhaps not.
3. The one noting Price introduced his replacement bill in several Congresses
I’m open to the idea that Republicans in general should have been more proactive in coming up with health-care alternatives long before Obamacare, or that they haven’t been detailed or unified enough in offering alternatives. But Price has written actual legislation to replace Obamacare and introduced it over and over again.
Quibble with its contents as you will, but if it’s been introduced, in legislative language, many times, it does constitute a plan: “While some Republicans have attacked the Affordable Care Act without proposing an alternative, Mr. Price has introduced bills offering a detailed, comprehensive replacement plan in every Congress since 2009, when Democrats started work on the legislation.”
4. When Trump voters listed their problems with GOP plans
Well, you can’t very well have Trump voters complain about things in a GOP plan without conceding there’s a plan of some kind. A real Sophie’s Choice for the press on this one. But this Times opinion piece reports on focus groups of Trump voters, referencing “several Republican plans:”
But asked about policies found in several Republican plans to replace the Affordable Care Act — including a tax credit to help defray the cost of premiums, a tax-preferred savings account and a large deductible typical of catastrophic coverage — several of these Trump voters recoiled, calling such proposals ‘not insurance at all.’ One of those plans has been proposed by Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services. These voters said they did not understand health savings accounts and displayed skepticism about the concept.
I haven’t even gotten into alternatives offered by many GOP presidential candidates, think tanks, and others. Critics are welcome to contend with the contents of those plans, as even some Obamacare critics have done well. But pretending they don’t exist is the opposite of journalism, and in Kristof’s case, suggests he doesn’t even read much New York Times journalism.