The other day, I watched yet another opinion piece on TV about “Obamacare”. The piece made the point that the success of Obamacare — now clear — is premised on a simple fact: people really want health insurance if they can afford it.
This type of reporting ends a long story. A very long story. How long? I can remember back in the 1970’s when Senator Ted Kennedy was promoting health care reform and was ridiculed for the effort. Since then, politicians have talked endlessly about health care but have been unable to bring about meaningful policy initiatives.
My first question is why did it take so long to figure out that people really, really want health insurance if they can afford it? Was it beyond human capabilities to figure this out?
My second question is can’t we do better in organizing public discussion of issues like this? It is clear that our current systems are not doing a very good job. Is there a better way to kickstart these initiatives?
One way is to re-think how these stories are told. Instead of putting this into the “daily news and opinion” file, we need a file that builds on accumulated understanding. This might be called “explanatory journalism”. And it is a hot new field. NYT is about to enter it.