CNN's Hill advanced falsehood that public option is "unpopular"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Reporting that "a lot of the anger that we've seen in these town hall meetings is over the idea of a public insurance plan," CNN's Erica Hill falsely suggested that a public health insurance option is broadly unpopular, asking chief business correspondent Ali Velshi, "What are the real proposals here for public insurance? And why is it so unpopular?" In fact, according to several recent polls, a majority support a public plan option.

From the August 7 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

HILL: So, Ali, a lot of the anger that we've seen in these town hall meetings is over the idea of a public insurance plan.

VELSHI: Yeah.

HILL: The word "socialism" gets thrown around there. We're compared to governments in Europe, Canada. Critics say it's essentially a government takeover of the health care system. Even House Democrats, though, who support the idea, don't seem to agree to make it work.

So give us an idea. What are the real proposals here for public insurance? And why is it so unpopular?

VELSHI: All right, well, because it's unfamiliar, because it does have those overtones of socialism. That's not necessarily true. And you're absolutely right about one thing. Democrats are having trouble agreeing on what that is. Republicans are having an easier time on agreeing that they don't want the public option.

Polls find majority support public option

Several recent polls found that a majority support a public option. Recent polling from Washington Post/ABC News, Time, and McClatchy all found more than 50 percent support for a public option; two Quinnipiac polls and a New York Times/CBS News poll found more than 60 percent support. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found respondents divided with 46 percent of respondents supporting a public option:

Quinnipiac: 62 percent support "public option." When asked whether they "support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans," 62 percent of respondents in a July 27-August 3 Quinnipiac poll said they support giving people a public option. In a July poll asking the same question, 69 percent said they support a public option.

Washington Post/ABC News: 54 percent support a "government-run plan." A July 15-18 Washington Post/ABC News poll asked: "Thinking about health care, one proposal to insure nearly everyone would require all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty on their income tax, excluding those with lower incomes. It would require most employers to offer health coverage or pay a fee. There would be a government-run plan to compete with private insurers. And income taxes on people earning more than 280-thousand dollars a year would be raised to help fund the program. Taken together, would you support or oppose this plan? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?" Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would support the plan.

Time: 56 percent favor a "government-sponsored" option. In a July 27-28 Time poll, 56 percent of respondents said they would favor a health care bill that "creates a government-sponsored public health insurance option to compete with private health insurance plans."

NY Times/CBS News: 66 percent favor a "government administered" plan. When respondents were asked in a July 24-28 New York Times/CBS News poll whether they would "favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans," 66 percent said they would support the plan.

McClatchy: 52 percent say "it is necessary to create a public health insurance plan." In a July 9-13 Ipsos/McClatchy poll, 52 percent of respondents said that the statement -- "It is necessary to create a public health insurance plan to make sure that all Americans have access to quality health care" -- came "closest to [their] opinion" of "whether or not the government should create a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance."

NBC News/Wall Street Journal: 46 percent favor a plan "administered by the federal government." However, at least one poll, conducted July 24-27 by NBC News/Wall Street Journal, shows a split opinion on the public option. When respondents were asked whether they would "favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies," 46 percent said they would favor such a plan, while 44 percent said they would oppose it; 10 percent of respondents were not sure.

Pattern of misleading media coverage of public option

Media skew health care debate by casting public plan option as left-most proposal. As Media Matters for America has noted, by ignoring a position on health care embraced by many progressives, the media have helped to skew the debate and potentially ensure that the legislation that Congress and the Obama administration work out will fall short of what the administration and the public are advocating, which itself is less than many progressives say is necessary. In their coverage of a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) for a system of health coverage "cooperatives" as an alternative to the inclusion of a public plan option, the media have often portrayed the co-op system proposal as a compromise between the public plan option, which Obama is advocating, and a plan free of any government involvement, which many congressional Republicans are advocating, without noting that the public plan option is itself a compromise for many progressives, who advocate a single-payer system. Indeed, in the view of many progressives, the public plan option is the least that must be included for health care reform to be successful.

NPR's Liasson stated that "the public option is what's driving a lot of this anger." On the August 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, NPR's Mara Liasson asserted that there is "real anger" over the public option without noting that according to several recent polls, a majority support one.

Wash. Post redefines "center" as excluding public plan. On August 6, The Washington Post described an "emerging" bipartisan health care reform bill that would "abandon the government insurance option that President Obama is seeking" as a "move toward" the "center," ignoring recent polling on the issue.

Progressive economists' critiques missing from coverage of "compromise" health co-op plan. Media figures and outlets have characterized Conrad's cooperative health insurance proposal as a "compromise," "hybrid," or bipartisan "alternative" to a public insurance option without noting the argument by progressive economists that the co-ops are insufficient and a public option is necessary for health care reform to be successful.

Transcript:

From the August 7 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

HILL: So let's put those brawls over health care reform aside for just a moment, and let's try something here. Let's look at some actual facts. Let's take a look at what is on the table at this point in the House and the Senate.

Who better than Ali Velshi to join us now with the "Raw Politics"? So, Ali, a lot of the anger that we've seen in these town hall meetings is over the idea of a public insurance plan.

VELSHI: Yeah.

HILL: The word "socialism" gets thrown around there. We're compared to governments in Europe, Canada. Critics say it's essentially a government takeover of the health care system. Even House Democrats, though, who support the idea, don't seem to agree to make it work.

So give us an idea. What are the real proposals here for public insurance? And why is it so unpopular?

VELSHI: All right, well, because it's unfamiliar, because it does have those overtones of socialism. That's not necessarily true. And you're absolutely right about one thing. Democrats are having trouble agreeing on what that is. Republicans are having an easier time on agreeing that they don't want the public option.

But there's more than one thing when we talk about a public option. Let's take a look at what it is. The first option is a publicly funded insurance system that basically deals with -- and remember this, there are up to 50 million Americans who are not properly insured right now. This wouldn't even take care of all of them.

But basically it would be a federally funded insurance program that would compete with privately funded insurance programs. So I think this talk about how it's going to take away the insurance people have, it doesn't make sense. That's not on the table at all.

The other proposal that the Democrats have is a co-op type of insurance; a cooperative that is not necessarily funded by the government. It's funded by its members, although it would get seed money from the government.

One of the problems is we don't know how many people would participate in these programs, so it's hard to do the actuarial science to figure out whether it would cost more or less. So I'm fascinated by people who are yelling and not letting others speak on this thing, because there's so much information that we actually have to have.

But this is, in very, very broad strokes, the two public options. It would not be all of the program, by the way. It would be part of health care reform -- Erica.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Erica Hill
Show/Publication
Anderson Cooper 360
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