Columbia Journalism Review: Media Swallows Covered California’s Narrative

Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Columbia Journalism Review, catalyzed into action by an April investigation by the Daily Signal into Covered California, has started asking questions of its own about the largest Obamacare state exchange.

Columbia Journalism Review reporter Trudy Lieberman penned an article titled, “Why we need stronger coverage of Covered California,” in which she pointed out the media’s supine acceptance of whatever narrative Covered California decided to impart. She wrote:

[P]ress coverage has largely followed the lead set by the [Covered California] exchange. The result is coverage that has too often been reactive, short on enterprise, and with missed opportunities to ask some necessary questions. Covered California may ultimately have a success story to tell—but it will need to face some sharper skepticism before we can be sure.

Lieberman pointed out that the San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times swallowed the agency’s press releases whole, echoing the agency’s claim that enrollment was doing just fine.

The Daily Signal noted that the media has not concentrated on the paucity of enrollees in Covered California, which has leveled off at 40% of possible candidates, and only increased one percentage point in 2015. Further, only 65% of Covered California’s 2014 customers reenrolled in 2015. The Daily Signal also spoke with current and past Covered California managers who asserted that Covered California hid contractor waste, fraud, and abuse. Covered California denied such accusations.

Aiden Hill, who worked as a consultant for the agency and later filed grievances against it, said, “I really believe that we’ve created a monster—and it’s an unaccountable monster.” Some of the managers also spoke of a culture within the agency that had contempt for taxpayers. Covered California has asked the federal government for $155 million in tax money, hiking the agency’s cost to over $1.06 billion federal tax dollars.