Literally Dozens of Uninsured Flood Frisco's New Socialized Health Care System

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jul 04, 2007 6:53 PM
They signed up a whopping 29 people on opening day.

Of course, the lede is an heart-strings puller about a Cantonese-speaking San Franciscan who's been spending upwards of $300 a month on medication because she's uninsured and who's been waiting on pins and needles for the new socialism to come.

"Oh, I'm very happy," she said in Cantonese. "I've wanted something like this to happen for a long time. I heard about it in April, and I've been waiting."

Now, let's try to imagine a new conservative public policy being enacted, specifically to help the poor, and how the press would react if only 29 people were signed up the first day. Do you think the story would be riddled with reinforcing, weepy anecdotes about how the poor really do need this program only 29 of them signed up for? Do you think it would end like this?

He blushed, and a huge smile spread across his face. It lasted as he walked out of the office, down the center's hallway and out the door.
Do you think it would add a big, fat info box about how to find out if you're qualified for said program?

Well, we don't have to imagine. We can just go back to the 2004 Washington Post coverage of the D.C. School Choice Plan in its first year, in which 4/5 of the 1,300 students who got vouchers used them to escape the District's failing schools and go to private schools that could serve them better. That's more than 1,000 of some of the lowest-income, highest-promise kids in D.C. getting a shot at an expensive, quality private-school education at schools that don't include a metal detector budget. Plenty of inspiring stories to lede with there, right? But what's the headline?

"Many D.C. School Vouchers Go Unused"
And, the lede?

More than one in five students who received vouchers to pay for private school tuition in the District are not using them, according to figures released yesterday on implementation of the nation's first federally funded voucher program.
Gee, if only D.C. School Choice had been as successful as socialized health care in San Francisco was this week. I mean, 29 people??? That's impact! It's so worth it for those smiles!

All new public policy programs hit speed bumps and are complicated by bureaucracy. It is the very nature of government and any organization that must work with government. The press has an obligation to cover these programs fully but cautiously during the opening stages, neither overblowing successes or failures. Unfortunately, what the press does is pick the programs it likes, and report successes and failures accordingly. Remember that when you read about the overwhelming, glowing, smile-producing success of San Francisco's new socialized health care.