LifeHealthPro.com has asked us reporters to write hard news and also write opinionated columns (“blog entries”).
Of course, when reporters who are trying to write hard news also write columns, that creates an obvious conflict between the newswriting role and the columnist role.
Wearing the reporter hat and the columnist hat during the same week pretty much wrecks the comforting illusion that reporters are mechanical robots who have no opinions about anything and just “report the facts.”
Of course, even if Google could develop apps that would report the news in an engaging, automated fashion, the Google apps’ articles would still reflect inherent biases because, of course, whoever developed the apps would have inherent biases. The apps probably would be biased in favor of the idea that national news is generally more important than news about your next-door neighbor (unless your next-door neighbor is involved in national politics), and the apps would probably also reflect other biases, such as the idea that readers are more interested in what’s happening with the stock prices than with baseball card prices.
I try to get around the conflict when writing about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) by imagining that I have Robert Heinlein, Karl Marx and Adam Smith in my office and figuring out what they would agree on. Or, if they at least agreed to proceed based on common assumptions just for the sake of argument, to come up with a column idea based on those assumptions.
Example: Robert Heinlein (sorry, but I’m just plain more familiar with him than I am with Ayn Rand or Rose Lane Wilder) might hate the idea of the government paying for health care, and Karl Marx might want the government to provide all health care, but maybe they could agree, for example, that whoever does provide health care should avoid killing people on purpose, or make it easy to vaccinate babies against polio, or on other basic principles like that.
To me, it seems as if one thing that they might possibly agree on is that the current efforts to design the PPACA “essential health benefits” (EHB) benchmark.
The idea is just that the benchmark will determine the minimum types and amounts of coverage that a major medical plan sold in a particular must provide, both to help consumers shop for coverage, by standardizing the coverage, and by discouraging insurers’ from holding down prices by skimping on coverage.
The PPACA drafters and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seem to have had mixed feelings about what should go into the EHB package. HHS punted the political football to the states, by putting each state in charge of outlining its own EHB preferences. HHS officials have suggested that the EHB package should probably be more like the “Silver” level plan offered by a popular small group health plan, not Gold- or Platinum-level coverage.