Monday, September 08, 2014

How not to write a headline

Headline writing is an art and hard to do well.  Some headline writers, though, fall into the trap of just reading the lede and then presenting us with a misleading tag to the story.  Reporters usually have no say over the headline that is assigned to their stories.

You judge in this case.

The headline in this well written and informative Aaron Gregg Washington Post story is:

Companies race to adjust health-care benefits as Affordable Care Act takes hold 

The lede is:

Large businesses expect to pay between 4 and 5 percent more for health-care benefits for their employees in 2015 after making adjustments to their plans, according to employer surveys conducted this summer.


Few employers plan to stop providing benefits with the advent of federal health insurance mandates, as some once feared, but a third say they are considering cutting or reducing subsidies for employee family members, and the data suggest that employees are paying more each year in out-of-pocket health care expenses.

Bracing themselves for an excise tax on high-cost plans coming in 2018 under the Affordable Care Act, 81 percent of employers surveyed by Towers Watson said they plan to moderately or significantly alter health-care benefits to reduce their costs.

But wait.  Further into the story we learn:

Others see these changes as less of a result of the Affordable Care Act and more a response to the steadily increasing costs of health care. The expected increase of 4 to 5 percent from 2014 to 2015 is no greater than in previous years, but the continued pressure on businesses has forced a wave of cost-sharing innovation, giving employees what the industry calls more “consumer-directed” choices to make between the quality of care and the cost. 

“I think this in many ways has very little to do with the Affordable Care Act,” said Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project Hope, a health-care advocacy and services group. “It started 10 to 12 years ago, and is being used by employers to try to get their employees to react in what they see as a more responsible way.”

So what should the headline say? Maybe this?

Companies feel pressure to adjust health-care benefits

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