267631 Newspaper coverage of California's attempt to regulate health insurance rates

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 5:15 PM - 5:30 PM

Kristoffer Chin, MPH Candidate , College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA
Elena O. Lingas, DrPH, MPH , College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA
Background: News coverage is a primary source of information for policymakers and the public. Even more important than providing information, the news sets the agenda and frames the debate over key policy issues. In this project we assess how the debate over Assembly Bill 52 (AB52), a bill introduced in the 2011 California legislative session to regulate health insurance premium increases, was framed in newspapers across the state. Methods: We searched the LexisNexis Academic and ProQuest databases with key words “Assembly Bill 52” and “AB52” from December 1, 2010 – September 30, 2011. This range covers the period from the bill's introduction to its demise in the legislature. We included both factual news information articles and opinion pieces in the sample. The California newspapers included in the sample are: Contra Costa Times, The Fresno Bee, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Los Angeles Times, Merced Sun-Star, Modesto Bee, Oakland Tribune, La Opinion, Orange County, Pasadena Star News, Sacramento Bee, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Vallejo Times Herald, Whittier Daily News. We performed a content analysis on the sample. Results: A total of 82 news articles and opinion pieces were found pertaining to Assembly Bill 52. The distribution of articles is as follows:Sacramento Bee (21), Los Angeles Times(14), Oakland Tribune(10), Contra Costa Times(7), The Fresno Bee(4), Modesto Bee(4), La Opinion(4), The San Francisco Chronicle(4), Orange County Register(3), San Jose Mercury News(3), Inland Valley Daily Bulletin(2), Merced Sun-Star(2), Pasadena Star News(1), San Gabriel Valley Tribune (1), Vallejo Times Herald (1), Whittier Daily News(1). Multiple frames were found both for and against the legislation. Those supporting AB 52 emphasized the benefits of regulation for individuals and small businesses using the following frames: fairness; relief; protection; financial burden; and skyrocketing premiums. Those opposing AB 52 employed the following frames: do more harm than good; bad for business; increase bureaucracy; obstacles to health care access; and leave it to the markets. Implications: AB52, the health care coverage rate approval bill, had a number of supporters and opponents, and faced an untimely demise. The story in California is not over, as a new ballot initiative has been proposed for the fall 2012 election to take this issue to the voters. Senator Dianne Feinstein publicly supports the effort; assuring that the regulation of health insurance premium increases will continue to be a topic of importance, and news coverage, in California.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the contents and possible effects of Assembly Bill 52 if it had passed. 2. Identify the frames in support and in opposition to Assembly Bill 52 found in California newspapers.

Keywords: Health Insurance, Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an MPH candidate and have been conducting this research under the guidance of my supervisor.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 4410.0: Student Paper Competition