Four of Top Five U.S. Newspapers Buried Story on Obama’s Call for Government-Owned Health Insurance Company

By Marie Magleby | June 10, 2009 | 11:15 PM EDT

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

( ) - When President Obama said last week that he wants a government-run, government-owned health insurance provision to be included in the health-care reform bill being readied by Congress, only one of the nation’s top five, large-circulation newspapers thought it was worthy of front-page coverage.
The Los Angeles Times, which has the fourth highest newspaper circulation in the country, reported the story on its front page last Thursday.

The 933-word article, titled “Insurance mandate on the table; Obama indicates he’s now open to idea in healthcare overhaul,” said that Obama “signaled new openness to the idea of the government requiring that most Americans get medical insurance.”

In the text of the story, the Times added: "At the same time, the president, who rejected such a mandate during the campaign, reaffirmed in strong terms his determination to offer a government-run healthcare plan as an alternative to private insurance."
The letter that Obama wrote to Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) expressed support for a so-called “public option” for health insurance – codewords for government-owned, government-run health insurance. The letter followed a meeting last Tuesday in which Obama met with senior Democratic senators to discuss health-care reform last Tuesday.
“I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans,” Obama’s letter said. “This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.”
The other top-five circulating newspapers ran the story about Obama’s letter on page four or deeper within the paper.
USA Today, which has the largest circulation in the nation, placed an AP-wire version of the story on page four. Called “Obama plan would provide health care for all,” the 724-word article said: “In providing the first real details on how he wants to reshape the nation’s health care system, the president urged Congress on Wednesday toward a sweeping overhaul that would allow Americans to buy into a government insurance plan.”
The Wall Street Journal, the second most widely circulated U.S. paper, reported the story on page four in an article titled “Obama Shifts on Coverage Mandate.” The article, also published last Thursday, noted how Obama’s letter to the two senators contradicted the stance he took during his campaign against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008.
“During his presidential campaign last year, Mr. Obama opposed then-Sen. Hillary Cliton’s idea of a health-insurance mandate on individuals,” the article said. “He argued it would put too much burden on low-income families.”
Near the end of the story, the Journal reported: ‘The big remaining issues are how to pay for expanded coverage and whether to include a public-insurance option alongside private plans. In his letter, Mr. Obama reiterated his backing for a public plan, saying it would give Americans "a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest."
The WSJ added: "Several committee proposals have broad support and are expected to make it to the final Senate legislation. Thy include creating new exchanges that allow consumers to comparison-shop among insurance plans, having the government take a greater role in preventing chronic illnesses, giving low-income Americans tax credits to buy health insurance and creating incentives to increase the nation's supply of primary-care doctors."
The most “buried” story was an 804-word piece, headlined “Obama Urges Quick Action By Senators On Insurance,” that ran on page 16 of The New York Times.
"President Obama on Tuesday affirmed his support for the creation of a government-sponsored health insurance plan, but he acknowledged that such a plan would sharply reduce the chances for Republican support of legislation to overhaul the health care system, Democratic senators said," the newspaper's lead paragraph said. 

The Washington Post placed its 606-word story on page four of the A-section. The article, titled “A Move Toward Requiring Health Coverage; In Letter to Senate Democrats, Obama Suggests Hardship Waiver for the Poor,” described Obama’s “fresh willingness to consider taxing employer-sponsored health insurance” and “a new openness toward a nationwide requirement that every American have health coverage.”
Toward the end of the story, the Post mentioned government-run health insurance: 
"'Do we feel a responsibility to help our employees afford health care? Yes, we do,' Freddy Castiblanco, owner of La Terraza Cafe in Queens, N.Y., said in congressional testimony yesterday. 'Are we willing to contribute? Yes.'
“Castiblanco, who employs 11 people, said any health-care overhaul should include the option of a government-sponsored insurance policy for people having trouble buying coverage on the private market.
“That idea got a boost from Obama, who said in the letter that he 'strongly' believes in giving Americans the choice of a public option."
The story – like Obama’s original letter -- also advocated a “hardship waiver” for low-income households, as well as an exemption for small businesses to provide health care benefits.
The president’s attempt to rally support “so that Congress can complete health-care reform by October,” meanwhile, gives lawmakers less than four months to consider legislation to fundamentally revamp a health-care system that has existed in the U.S. for generations.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which maintains an electronic database of newspaper circulation around the country, USA Today leads U.S. newspapers with a weekday circulation of 2,113,725 as of March 2009. The Wall Street Journal follows with a circulation of 2,082,189, and The New York Times circulation stands at 1,039,031 newspapers daily. The Los Angeles Times comes in fourth with 723,181 weekday papers, and The Washington Post has the fifth highest circulation with 665,383.