Social media is the driving force of the ‘TrumpCare’ story


President Donald Trump said this week that the media is making ObamaCare “look so good,” and that the press is making it harder for Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Trump is not alone in his displeasure with the way the media has covered the Affordable Care Act. He is on the side of another president, too — Barack Obama.

{mosads}“Even reporters who cover this stuff, and they do a good job, they’re trying to follow all of the debate. But a lot of times, they just report ‘premium increases,’” Obama said at Miami Dade College in 2016. “And everybody thinks, ‘Wow, my insurance rates are going up, it must be Obama’s fault. Even though you don’t get health insurance through Obamacare, you get it through your job.”


Obama did see plenty of unfavorable coverage over the law since it was enacted in 2010. Here are just few headlines to sum that up:

Notice these are all outlets that Trump has claimed are either “fake news” or in “opposition” to him.

Trump is learning the same hard lesson about the news media that Obama did. The role of the press is to report the current climate of a moment in time. The news media reflects on the dynamics of a situation or issue. If the coverage is not ideal, the blame should not be placed on messenger, rather on what is occurring.

And currently, what is happening with the GOP’s health care proposal is negative.

It’s unclear what in the news coverage Trump is taking issue with exactly. Here are some facts, however, that the media has reported on that may be displeasing Trump.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — the official non-partisan score-keeper for Congress — estimated that the new GOP law could leave as many as 24 million more Americans uninsured.

He may also be unnerved that prominent organizations, such as the American Medical Association, AARP, American Hospital Association, Tea Party Patriots, plus several Republican senators and representatives are also being critical of the bill.

Or it could be that constituents of GOP congressional members have been showing up at town halls in massive numbers to display their outrage at the representatives who want to repeal the ACA, in the same way that the Tea Party did, and as the media reported, when the ACA was being debated.

None of the aforementioned is opinion. It’s not a made-up narrative to make it harder for Republicans to support the law. What is being reported, as they say in the news business, is the first draft of history.

It would be wise for Trump to read some of those stories from when ACA was in its proposal stage, too. Ironically, much of the coverage that “Trumpcare” is receiving looks very similar to that of ObamaCare. Again, perhaps the issue isn’t the messenger, but rather the message.

There is a major difference on how the media will be able to cover this round of health care reform as opposed to the last.

Social media is now a new force driving the story.

Everyone who may lose their insurance can broadcast that publicly on social media, and their stories are easy to find by journalists. Journalism is about finding personal stories to bring context to complex issues. So when Trump says, “So the press is making it look so wonderful that if we end it, everyone’s going to say, ‘Oh, remember how great ObamaCare used to be?,” it’s not really the press saying this, it is the people who may lose their health coverage. To them ObamaCare is wonderful, and they are a part of this story, too.

In fact, possibly 24 million of them are. So yes, it is the media’s responsibility to report their perspectives. Just as it was the press’ role to report premium increases with ObamaCare, even if Obama did not think the reporting did justice to the issue.

The media is an easy target, and Trump seems to relish in hitting the mark. Instead of focusing in on that bulls eye, though, it would be better for him to take a wider view of what is being reported, and make the needed adjustments to the bill to change the headlines.  

Adam Chiara is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Hartford. He has worked as a legislative aide in the Connecticut General Assembly, as a journalist, and as a public relations practitioner. He’s on Twitter at @AdamChiara.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags American Health Care Act Barack Obama Donald Trump Healthcare ObamaCare TrumpCare

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