The current bee in Mike Donoghue’s bonnet

There was laughter in the room, I’ve been told, when the Burlington Free Press’ Mike Donoghue asked Gov. Shumlin about the possible removal of Rep. Mary Morrissey from a House committee.

HIs question came near the end of Shumlin’s Monday news conference. The laughter came from several other reporters, who saw Donoghue’s question as basically irrelevant, and just another example of his dogged pursuit of a story he’s decided is important. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong.

In this case, yep, he’s wrong.

Undeterred by the audible scorn of his colleagues, Donoghue wrote an article about Shumlin’s Monday presser — an event that produced actual news — that focused primarily on his prefabricated Morrissey “controversy.” Of all the stuff going on this week at the Statehouse, it’s a sad joke that Donoghue and his paper have devoted so much time to such an insignificant story. And provided so little coverage of anything else.

For those just joining us, Morrissey has been an unproductive policy scold as a member of the House Health Care Committee. Apparently, House Speaker Shap Smith is considering a reassignment. As is his right: the Speaker makes the committee assignments, and reshuffles are commonplace.

But Donoghue has fixed upon Morrissey as a champion of transparency because once, at a committee hearing, she asked a question:

… Morrissey questioned Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson [about security breaches in Vermont Health Connect] and was told, “We have no situation in which someone’s private information has been breached.”

The problem was there had been a serious breach of information. Larson later offered an apology to the Health Care Committee.

Her questioning was standard practice for any committee member. But because of Larson’s misleading answer, Donoghue is now crediting Morrissey for “helping expose a major security breach… in the Vermont Health Connect computer system.” If she played any role beyond asking her question, Donoghue does not so inform us.

He also takes some groundless shots at Morrissey’s critics (including me, I guess):

Morrissey been criticized for not buying into all the health care plans rolled out by Democrats.

Not quite, Mikey. It’s not that she failed to buy into “all the health care plans” from Democrats; I wouldn’t expect any Republican to do so. The truth is that she routinely slammed any Democratic plan. There was no thought, no discernment; just a consistent, unproductive, ideological gainsaying.

Only after Donoghue thoroughly explores the subject that prompted his colleagues’ laughter does he actually report the substance of Shumlin’s news conference: a new survey has found a sharp drop in uninsured Vermonters.

The Vermont Household Health Insurance Survey found that about 19,000 of the 43,000 Vermonters without insurance during the 2012 survey now are covered, Shumlin said.

The state’s uninsured rate dropped from 6.8 percent to 3.7 percent, the second-lowest rate in the country. Only 1 percent of Vermont children under age 18 are not covered, the lowest rate in the country, Shumlin said.

Those are some very encouraging figures about the first year of health care reform. But somehow Donoghue concluded that this development was less newsworthy than the routine reassignment of a legislative backbencher. But he has already elevated her to the lofty position of Public Interest Whistleblower, which she is not. I fully expect more breathless Morrissey coverage when the committee assignments actually come out.

Because boom or bust, Mike Donoghue sticks to his guns.

2 thoughts on “The current bee in Mike Donoghue’s bonnet

  1. patricia crocker

    No surprise about lower numbers of uninsured. When you threaten people with the IRS and fines, of course people would succumb to the coercion. I would be more impressed if they offered a great program, and people voluntarily enrolled. The big question will be whether it really makes a difference in improving actual healthcare services in VT.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      On the other hand, maybe people simply enjoy their newfound ability to acquire insurance at an affordable price. Something the old insurance marketplace had failed to do.


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