Skip to main content.

Sparring on Health Care: A Punditry Roundup of the 2012 Presidential Debate

Sparring on Health Care: A Punditry Roundup of the 2012 Presidential Debate

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Now that the punditry has had a bit of time to percolate, here's a round-up of analysis on the health aspects of last night's first Presidential debate. If you missed the debate, Kaiser Health News has helpfully provided a video and transcript of the health care portion.

As the New York Times' Michael Cooper, Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear pointed out:

If there was one area where Mitt Romney and President Obama sometimes seemed to inhabit parallel universes at their debate on Wednesday night — with separate sets of assumptions, beliefs and even facts — it was on the question of health care and government’s role in providing it.

Did voters get a better sense of their preferred candidate's position? Not exactly, wrote Reuters' David Morgan, who noted:

President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney agree that the $2.8 trillion U.S. healthcare system is broken, but neither candidate on Wednesday presented voters with a clear idea of how to fix it…

"I would be hard-pressed to think that anyone watching would come away with a clear sense, either of what each candidate would do, or what the implications of those policies would be," said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, a health policy expert at the Rand Corporation.

A number of pundits noted that Mitt Romney stretched the truth about his health plans, most pungently Paul Krugman, who wrote: "…everything Obama said was basically true, while much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie."

The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn examined about Romney's "misleading" claims that his health care plan would protect people with pre-existing conditions:

Yeah, this was the part when I jumped out of my chair. Obama said that Romney’s alternative to Obamacare wouldn’t protect people with pre-existing conditions. Romney said it would. Sorry, but Romney is just plain wrong here.

Glenn Kessler called out Obama for crediting Obamacare with slowed growth in health care costs – but he also hammered Romney for blaming the rise of insurance premiums on Obamacare:

Obama tried to attribute a 50-year decline in health costs to the health-care law, but much of it has not yet been implemented. Most economists say the slowdown is more likely because of the lousy economy…Meanwhile, Romney blamed a rise in insurance premiums on the health-care law. This is also overstated, since much of the health-care law has not been implemented yet.

Stay tuned: there are two more debates to come, plus plenty of discussion of health care on the campaign trail.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy via Flickr

Leave A Comment


“Racism in medicine is a national emergency.” That’s how journalist Nicholas St. Fleur characterized the crisis facing American health care this spring, as his team at STAT embarked on “Color Code,” an eight-episode series exploring medical mistrust in communities of color across the country. In this webinar, we’ll take inspiration from their work to discuss strategies and examples for telling stories about inequities, disparities and racism in health care systems. Sign-up here!

The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors to serve as thought leaders in one of the most innovative and rewarding arenas in journalism today – “engaged reporting” that puts the community at the center of the reporting process. Learn more about the positions and apply to join our team.


Follow Us



CHJ Icon