Democracy Soup

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Maria Bartiromo’s gross ignorance on U.S. health care system earns her a Media Putz award

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on September 3, 2009

Maria Bartiromo

Medicare and Medicaid. Okay, so some people do get them mixed up. But most people do know that one of the programs (Medicare) kicks in when you’re 65 and one program (Medicaid) applies to those who are poor.

Someone who covers the business world — even on television — would know significant nuances about both programs. Or so we thought.

CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo gave us a demonstration on what being ignorant and unprepared looks like, and while it made for entertaining television, the segment made for despicable journalism.

Bartiromo was sitting in alongside an interview with MSNBC’s Carlos Watson and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), doing her best to scare the audience with a scary story from England about how they might not get Erbitux, a cancer drug that costs $38,000 for 16 weeks (according to Bartiromo) under a public option.

While not being experts in the world of Erbitux, the chances of someone with private insurance getting the insurance company to pay for a drug that costs $38,000 for 16 weeks are extremely slim. A Canadian study showed that the drug extended lives by an average of about six weeks compared with not treating the cancer at all.

Under a single payer system, the drug might not cost nearly that much. And we hope sincerely that Bartiromo doesn’t get colon or rectum cancer (primary use for Erbitux), because even her celebrity status and the best private insurance may not be enough to get her that medicine.

Rep. Weiner then brings back the conversation to the United States and Medicare. Bartiromo objects to talking about the U.S. because “you have to look at where there are public plans.” Uh, Medicare and Medicaid are public plans. Someone who gets paid a lot of money to cover the financial world should realize that money is taken out of paychecks to pay for this.

Rep. Weiner corrects her, noting that 40% of tax dollars go to a public plan. When Weiner points out how much people love Medicare who are on it, Bartiromo’s reaction was one for the ages:

“How come you don’t use it [Medicare]? You don’t have it. How come you don’t have it?”

Now Rep. Weiner may not look 25 any more, but the Congressman is 44 years old, turning 45 tomorrow (Happy Birthday, Rep. Weiner), so he’s only 20 years and a day short of being eligible.

Rep. Weiner’s response: “Because I’m not 65.” She came back with, “Yeah… c’mon!” and was laughing for some non-profound reason.

Having a serious discussion about health care in this country should start with the basic knowledge of where we are now. And Bartiromo needs to stay after school and learn the health care equivalent of 3 x 3.

Bartiromo’s perception of the U.S. health care system isn’t limited to a 68-second segment on YouTube. As Matt Taibbi notes in his recent on-air appearance with her:

So I was surprised when the show started and Bartiromo went on the attack, asking me how I could say America didn’t have the best health care in the world. Everyone, she said, would choose to be treated in America if they could.

I was staggered for a moment, I admit it, because I thought she was kidding at first. We were probably a full minute into the debate before I realized it wasn’t a joke. And here’s the really funny part: toward the end of my appearance, I said something about how health care in America is great, if you’re an executive at Goldman, Sachs. Then I left the set and… guess who they brought right afterward on to rip me and praise the American health care system? Bartiromo’s colleague at CNBC, Erin Burnett, a former Goldman, Sachs executive.

It is the standard practice of most corporate media personnel to stand high to protect the status quo. And Bartiromo certainly does her part to keep the health care system in as poor a shape as it currently exists. The only problem is that her journalistic credibility, on so many levels, takes a beating as a result.

Perhaps Bartiromo could take some of her not well-earned money she makes at CNBC and travel around the United States to learn what people’s actual health care experiences really are in the current stage. Bartiromo would discover, if she had the guts to find out, that Americans don’t think we have the best health care in the world, and that they are concerned about far more worrisome issues than whether a $2,375/week medication will be covered that might extend their lives for 6 weeks.

Until then, Maria Bartiromo will have to settle for the Media Putz of the week award.

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Written by democracysoup

September 3, 2009 at 6:00 am

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