Tracking media coverage of health care

You probably haven’t seen a lot of campaign coverage from the health beat these last few week, unless The Health Care Blog is your exclusive source.

The "Financial Crisis," and its predecessor, the troubled "Economy," have obscured the issue that many voters said should be near the top of the agenda back when Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney were serious contenders and the stock market was inching onward. Look back to the October 2007 Kaiser tracking poll for a recap.Analytics_3

A new tool from LexisNexis Analytics
puts health care media coverage in perspective; based on the charts, media attention hasn’t reflected the public’s call for reform – still the number 3 issue according to over-all voters. The Kaiser polls show 26 percent of independents marking health care as a top issue, up from only 13 percent in August

The Lexis analysis also suggests media scrutiny has focused on McCain’s campaign, which has been the brunt of Obama ads attacking the efficacy of the tax credit strategy. Health care was particularly unpopular with Republican’s last month, reaching "a new low" of 11 percent, Kaiser noted.

Analytics2Lexis unveiled this media-tracking election dashboard at the Democratic National
Convention in Denver this August. At the time, it was fascinating to watch coverage of different issues fluctuate with the speaker. For instance, "Health care" spiked after Hillary Clinton addressed the convention.

The analytics wing of the data giant has a client base in Europe, but the product is new to U.S. customers. A company can shell out several thousand a month for a customized program that mines thousands of articles, blogs, websites – even user-generated content – and categorizes the material.

The results are analyzed for source, location, and sentiment and then used to create charts like the two above. Lexis has agreed to make these charts available to The Health Care Blog until the election.

The software only mines stories with election content, so general health, Medicare legislation and medical news don’t necessarily make the cut, although, news about speeches and round-ups where health care is mentioned in a litany of issues is included.

Health care in the papers

Many "National Press" stories – those mined from the New York Times, L.A. Times, et al. –- mention health care in the context of a speech or debate mentioning several other policy issues as well, but don’t go in depth.

By contrast, the best "Local Press" stories, gleaned from the Boston Globe on down to the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.), offered case studies on how a candidate’s proposal might affect actual people in a given community.

Anna Velasco tells the story of an employer-insured, Birmingham daycare worker whose children are covered by SCHIP, but whose husband can’t afford individual coverage because of pre-existing conditions in the Birmingham (Ala.) News.

Velasco reaches this conclusion: "While the financial industry crisis has seized the national campaign stage, many Alabamians still are grappling day-by-day with a health care crisis at home."

Stacey Burling, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, sums up the week in health care journalism: "But don’t expect the election to hinge on health care, political and health-care experts said last week. The Wall Street debacle has grabbed the spotlight for the foreseeable future."

Burling’s story is a head-to-head of the candidates’ proposals, but the real news is that neither plan has evolved much as the issue’s political charge dissipates on the campaign trail.

It will be interesting to see whether health care re-emerges in the election newshole next week. The candidates redirected their platforms towards the middle class in the aftermath of the Wall Street rescue, which both supported, and which offers unclear benefits to people like Oliver Clark. Both sides deployed conflicting explications of the health care proposals, highlighting concrete policy ideas that might set such voters at ease.

The Washington Post dug into the facts Wednesday, but there are plenty more to set straight.

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4 replies »

  1. A well constructed sales pitch
    Associated Press. Reuters. It really does not matter who may have composed such a press release, but in my opinion, they are overall nothing short of a well-constructed sales pitch. It’s public relations for the sponsor of the embellished results reported that are designed to attract favorable media attention not only regarding the results, but towards the corporation involved as well.
    An example is an anonymous press release posted on the Medical News Today website from March of 2006. The title: “Cymbalta Safely and Effectively Treats core anxiety symptoms associated with generalized anxiety disorder.” Clearly, this title included words associated with relief or elation, which are subjective and not objective elements.
    The first paragraph repeats the results mentioned in the title of this article, but also stated relief of painful symptoms associated with anxiety, as well as improved functional impairment, also claimed to be associated with anxiety.
    Cymbalta was not approved for anxiety or any of the symptoms associated with this condition. In fact, cymbalta was not filed to the FDA for this speculated new indication desired by Eli Lilly until May of 2006. By definition, this press release is clear off-label promotion and misbranding.
    Shortly before the lightly stated disclaimers about Cymbalta were annotated in this press release, testimonials intentionally created, I surmise, were stated about Cymbalta. The first one was from the lead author, who expanded the claims made initially with various medical terms included, followed by his hope about the potential of Cymbalta based on this study, which was planned to be shortly announced soon after this press release at a national anxiety association meeting. The second testimonial was Eli Lilly’s Medical Advisor expressing his elation about what the lead author just stated, followed by how much he was encouraged by these results.
    What was not discussed in this press release was the devastating post-marketing adverse events correlated with Cymbalta, which include what is termed discontinuation syndrome, along with suicidal ideation as well as cases of suicide by those on Cymbalta. There are more, but these are the most concerning to others, yet not stated overtly in the press release.
    Objectivity has to be a necessary requirement with any publishing that is exposed to so many- with medical issues in particular. Because these so many are us- public citizens who deserve much more than half truths from those whose purpose is to share complete and unbiased information.
    Dan Abshear

  2. Matt;
    What is your take on the tightening of credit markets and it’s effects on hospitals, healthcare, and health insurers…are they stable?
    Visit me at http://healthtrain.blogspot.com
    for commentary and observations, and humor about the current election
    Feel free to subscribe for email notification,RSS feeds, or link to my site on yours.

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