Now they tell us: ABC finally cites “health care experts” saying public option would keep costs down

After reporting on August 17 that “there are signs that the administration may be backing off the so-called public option,” ABC's World News host Charles Gibson went on to cite “experts” who said, in Gibson's words, "[I]f you take out the public option in terms of insurance, there's going to be no restraints on the cost of insurance." But in the three months prior, World News has never cited any health experts making that point; rather, correspondents only reported that the intention of the public plan was to drive down costs or cited Democrats making that claim.

From the August 17 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: It is one of the core issues in the debate over health care reform. Should there be a government-run insurance program side by side with private insurers? President Obama has been pushing hard for that, saying it is the key to keeping health insurance costs from spiraling out of control. But now there are signs that the administration may be backing off the so-called public option. An effort to accommodate one side in the debate may be causing a backlash on the other.

Jake Tapper is at the White House tonight to explain. Jake, good evening.

TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, that's right. The president's push for a public, government-run plan has long been -- long been one of the centerpieces of his health care reform push. But now there are signs that he may be walking away from it, and liberal Democratic allies say you can't have true cost containment from private insurers without it.


TAPPER: The president -- at this point I think there is a pragmatism that is coming over this White House. They realize that it is more important for them to pass something, even if it is incremental and not everything they wanted to pass, and so they are setting expectations lower and lower.

GIBSON: But, Jake, we talked to several health care experts today, and they all said if you take out the public option in terms of insurance, there's going to be no restraints on the cost of insurance. And one by one, it seems, the cost-saving measures are coming out of health care reform.

TAPPER: That's exactly right. And you saw over the weekend Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius also said that it looked like the end-of-life care provisions would also be gone from the bill, and that's another area where they had hoped to achieve real cost savings. So this bill is really being winnowed down considerably.

In previous three months, World News repeatedly ignored “experts” on cost-saving benefits of public option

Media Matters for America did a Nexis search* of World News transcripts and could not find any experts discussing the benefits of a public option on World News within the past three months. Rather, correspondents characterized the cost-saving benefit only as a Democratic claim, flatly asserted that the public plan was intended to drive down costs, invoked Republican concerns about a public option, or held no discussion about the benefit of a public plan at all.

From the August 12 edition of ABC's World News:

GIBSON: And the public option that may or may not be involved in an eventual bill, if it gets through Congress, the public option, would that be like Medicare, where you, where you, where you get the government collecting the money and dispersing it, but you use your own doctor? Or would it be like the congressional plan where you choose among?

TIM JOHNSON (ABC News chief medical editor): Well we don't know the details, and the administration has not come up with its own plan, but it sounds more like Medicare. Where there will be a government insurance program, one of the options on the long list with other private plans that you can choose from.


KATE SNOW (ABC News correspondent): Supporting the President, a small business coalition and a teachers union started running this ad today.

NARRATOR: There's a bill in Congress that will lower health care costs for families and businesses. That's what we need. Now.

SNOW: But it's unclear whether the savings for families will happen. Reformers hope that a government insurance plan competing with private plans leads to lower premiums for all. But that's just a goal. And, will businesses have lower costs? Depends on their payroll. In the House bill, if it's more than $250,000, the company has to help employees pay for health insurance.

From the July 28 edition of ABC's World News:

JONATHAN KARL (ABC News congressional correspondent): Well, Charlie, the Senate Democrats are now on the verge of a deal that would do away with a central feature of the President's plan. And that's the creation of a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurance companies. They're doing this to break that gridlock and to get a few Republicans to support the deal. But there's a real risk that they're going to lose liberal Democrats in the process. You know, Charlie, back in April, 28 Democrats signed a letter saying that they believe that that government insurance program is essential to health care reform.

GIBSON: Jake, it does seem that the Senate Democrats are backing off on a lot of the things that the President said, at the beginning were critical to him.

TAPPER: That's exactly right. And, in fact, last week, when the President was asked what his health care priorities are, he listed just two, bringing down the costs of health care, and making sure that the bill is deficit-neutral. This is a change from different priorities he mentioned. As recently as May he was talking about universal coverage. So the President, as this process has gone forward, has recalibrated his priorities and expectations.

From the July 22 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: The President will argue tonight that health care reform makes economic sense. “If we do not control these costs,” he'll say, “we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out of pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.”

So, how is health care reform progressing on Capitol Hill as members of Congress try to sort out how to pay for reform and how to control costs? Well, it depends who you ask and who is doing the asking. Talking to the House Democratic leader today, a key Democratic senator jokingly asked for divine intervention. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi insists everything is smooth sailing with the House bill that would require every American to get health insurance or pay a fine, create a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers to drive costs down, and impose an up to 5.4% new tax on top wage earners.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host, ABC's This Week): This is a very, very tough vote for a lot of members, Charlie. We just saw in Jake's piece that sentiment. A lot of members don't want to take a tough vote, which is going to have real cost controls and a tax increase if they know the Senate isn't going to act, as well.

From the July 21 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: With members of the House and Senate having difficulty agreeing on the more contentious issues in health care reform, President Obama came to the rose garden today to accentuate the areas of consensus.

OBAMA: We are closer than ever before to the reform that the American people need, and we're going to get the job done.

TAPPER: Both the Democrats' bills in the House and Senate would reform insurance rules to, for example, prohibit denying coverage for those with preexisting medical conditions, offer a government-run plan to compete with private insurance to lower costs, and emphasize prevention and wellness programs. But the President was not all sugar and spice today.

From the July 15 edition of ABC's World News:

KARL: Now the hard part. Democrats are still divided on key details, including whether to create a government-run health insurance program and how to pay it for all. And Republicans are gearing up for a fight.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Let me point out that this legislation has not one, single provision that is aimed at reducing the cost of health care.

KARL: The President disagrees, and pushed back today from the White House.

OBAMA: Deferring reform is nothing more than defending the status quo and those who would oppose our efforts should take a hard look at just what it is that they're defending.

From the July 14 edition of ABC's World News:

KARL: The sweeping changes to the health system would include a mandate requiring all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. Subsidies to help households with less than $88,000 in income buy the insurance. Eliminating co-payments and deductibles for preventative care, including physicals. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. And creating a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurance. The price tag? More than $1 trillion over ten years. To help pay for it, the bill would slap a new surtax of up to 5.4% of those with incomes of over $400,000 a year. Most Republicans are already vowing to oppose the plan.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): What we really have here is a bill that, without any question, will kill jobs, will limit access to health care, will raise taxes, and will lead to a government takeover of health care.

From the July 13 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: Republicans and moderate Democrats have been increasingly expressing concern about the price tag of a trillion dollars over a decade. Liberals worry the President might abandon his proposal for a government run plan to compete with private insurers to drive costs down. The President had one message for all of them.

OBAMA: For those naysayers and cynics who think this is not going to happen. Don't bet against us.

From the June 24 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: Another major point of contention, the President's push for a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurance. Today Republicans said that would drive for-profit insurance companies out of business.

REP. JOE BARTON (R-TX): If your bill were to become law, we wouldn't have much of a private health care system in America within 10 to 20 years.

TAPPER: And the White House is showing some flexibility on the issue of the government-run plan, Charlie. The White House chief of staff recently told Democratic senators that the President is open to alternatives.

From the June 23 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: The other big topic today, health care reform. The President has been pushing for a government-run public plan to compete with private insurance plans. He argues that would help drive down costs. But for the first time today, the President said such a plan was not a deal breaker.

From the June 15 edition of ABC's World News:

TAPPER: President Obama pitched his health care reform package to mixed reviews. He told the physicians that General Motors and Chrysler's economic woes were in no small part due to skyrocketing health care costs.

OBAMA: If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM. Paying more, getting less and going broke.

TAPPER: And he said costs could be contained by creating a government run insurance plan to compete with private insurance. But doctors fear the not for profit public plan will drive private insurers out of business, swamping enrollments for the public plan and forcing the government to slash doctors rates. Republicans call the public plan a nonstarter.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring in our medical editor Tim Johnson right now. And Tim, let's go back to the President's AMA speech. Jake talked about the opposition to the public insurance option by the nation's doctors. I understand why the health insurance companies are against. They fear that it's going to put them out of the business. What's the - what re the doctors' biggest concerns?

JOHNSON: The biggest concern quite frankly is economic. Medicare which is a public option plan for the elderly pays about 20% less to the doctors than private plan dos. And doctors are fearful that a widespread public plan will do the same. They have a love-hate relationship with Medicare by the way. They like predictability, and the simplicity of the forms but don't want to take the lesser amounts that are typically offered by a public plan.

From the June 9 edition of ABC's World News:

KARL: Now, the biggest, most controversial part of this bill is the creation of a government-run insurance program that would compete directly with private insurance companies.

GIBSON: So there would be private companies operating side by side with the government insurance company. Republicans are complaining they'd hoped to be included in negotiations on this bill. Bipartisanship out the window?

KARL: It sure looks that way. Democrats seem to think that they've got all the votes they need to charge ahead on their own and Republicans have just dug their heels in, in opposition to that idea of a government-run insurance program.

GIBSON: And any solid sense, A, of how much this is going to cost, and B, how it would be paid for?

KARL: Well, there's no official price tag on this yet, Charlie. But the estimates put it well over $1 trillion, and there is nothing in this outline today that says how they would pay it for. What we're told is the Senate Finance Committee will answer that question sometime next week.

*Nexis search terms:

(cost! or sav!) AND health AND ((public w/3 option) or (public w/3 plan) or (government-run) or (government w/3 plan) or (government w/3 insurance) or (public w/3 insurance))

health AND ((public w/3 option) or (public w/3 plan) or (government-run) or (government w/3 plan) or (government w/3 insurance) or (public w/3 insurance))

Source: ABC News transcripts

Date: Within 3 months