Repeal: A media failure, and a Republican one

Whether the Republican proposals on Medicaid were wise is, again and of course, something about which people can argue. But a lot of people were left with the impression that the Republicans were kicking millions of people off Medicaid in some much more direct and certain sense than the GOP legislation actually involved.

And Republicans did almost nothing to counter this impression. In a well-run, coordinated campaign for a health-care bill, they would have challenged each and every news story that said Republicans were taking away insurance from 14 million-plus people, or that talked about coverage-change numbers while burying the role of voluntary decisions in driving them. They would have prodded reporters to do fact-checks when Democrats said Republicans would “kick tens of millions off insurance,” instead of just relaying Democrats’ misinformation. Republican press secretaries would have called the outlets that said they were rolling back the Medicaid expansion and walked the reporters through why they were wrong.

Nothing like that happened this time. A few Republicans made the point about voluntary departures from the insurance rolls — but only sporadically, rarely with numbers, never in a sustained way. A few Republicans tried to argue that they were slowing the growth of Medicaid instead of cutting it; Senator Toomey tried to make the point that the legislation wouldn’t by itself kick anyone off the program. But nobody took it as his job to sell the Medicaid reforms and challenge negative or exaggerated portrayals of them.