Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

Winter 12-4-2013


Professional Project, JGRD 992: Fall 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Erin Andersen


Americans, whether they work in the health care industry or not, have a variety of sources available to them to learn about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Newspapers, magazines, television advertising or broadcast news, industry mailings, friends, family and neighbors all offer explanations and opinions on components of the health care act. For the purposes of this project, I focused on three national newspapers and three of the most widely read industry journals.

I set out to assess coverage of the ACA in three nationally-distributed newspapers with the highest circulation: New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal and to compare their coverage with that of the three of the most widely read health care trade publications among the top health insurance companies in the United States: Modern Healthcare, Managed Care, and American Journal of Managed Care. I polled the Communications or Media Relations departments of the largest health care insurers—Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Humana— to determine their top trade publications by subscription.

I extracted every article published between March 1, 2013, and Oct. 1, 2013, that mentioned the ACA in those six publications for a total of 436 articles. I chose those dates because the three-year anniversary of the 2010 Affordable Care Act occurred in March and the state, federal and partnership exchanges were scheduled to open for individuals’ enrollment at the beginning of October this year.

I set up the project as a four-part, long-form health care trade publication series that is targeted to a professional audience with moderate to extensive healthcare industry knowledge.
• Part One provides background on the act and a brief overview.
• Part Two examines coverage of ACA provisions in mass media versus health care trade publications, identifies the top and bottom five ACA provisions by the frequency in which they appeared in the articles examined and discusses the top five in-depth.
• Part Three further discusses ACA coverage in the six publications by looking more closely at positive versus negative portrayals.
• Part Four examines the ACA’s impact by focusing on who, according to the publications, wins and loses.