Do newspapers pay attention to studies released by think tanks and advocacy groups? Certainly, at least if the message is one of panic, gloom and doom–which in today’s environment, leads to calls for government action.

Families USA has a new report on childhood insurance coverage, and newspapers are eating it up. Start with Iowa , with 5% of children supposedly without insurance. (Five percent? Five percent? That’s negligible, along the lines of a margin of error.)

The situation is more dramatic in Arkansas, which weighs in at over 9%, though this can be expected in a state that is in the top 5 in terms of poverty and 48 in terms of household income. Then again, I thought government programs were supposed to eliminate poverty and people going without insurance.

New Jersey, meanwhile, seems intent on making sure that more children don’t have insurance. The state that, thanks to guaranteed issue, community rating and other measures, is already among the most expensive insurance markets in the nation, is set to add another mandatory benefit (hearing aids) to policies sold there.

So in these three articles–and throw in some stories about cuts in state budgets, such as in Tennessee –and you have a vicious cycle.

1. A group plays up a need and calls for government subsidies.

2. Lawmakers increase the price of private-sector alternatives.

3. Public programs expand in good times.

4. The inevitable downtimes prompt employers to drop coverage and focus political minds on budget cuts.

5. Both events are touted as signs that really, what we need is a more dependable system of government control.

6. In turn these events lead to more laws and programs that undermine private alternatives.

7. Since the private sector in health care is further weakened, you’ll see more calls for public action. Repeat step 1.