How Nightly News Broadcasts Covered The Affordable Care Act's First Day


Much of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, also known as Obamacare), went into effect on January 1, 2014. Major evening news broadcasts focused on different aspects of the law's effects and the extent to which the law will benefit consumers.

ACA Coverage Kicked In Jan. 1, 2014

Associated Press: "Health Overhaul Benefits Take Effect With New Year." A January 2 article from the Associated Press' Juliet Williams explained which sections of the ACA took effect on January 1, 2014:

Most major pieces of the Affordable Care Act take full effect with the new year. That means people who had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition can book appointments and get prescriptions.

Caps on yearly out-of-pocket medical expenses will mean people shouldn't have to worry about bankruptcy after treatment for a catastrophic illness or injury. And all new insurance policies must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, ranging from emergency room treatment to maternity care.

The law's benefits apply to individual policies as well as those offered through employers. [Associated Press, 1/2/14]

Broadcast News Report On First Days Of ACA Coverage 

NBC Nightly News

NBC: "After Months Of Frustration And Confusion, Today Marked The Beginning Of A New Era In Healthcare In This Country." On the January 1 edition of NBC Nightly News, correspondent Tom Costello profiled one family enrolled in coverage under the ACA who previously had problems finding affordable health insurance, highlighting that they are "now covered under one cheaper policy effective today." He went on to claim that "there are many trouble spots," citing legal challenges to the law, and then concluded, "Tonight, millions of Americans are insured under the Obamacare system, and the number of people signing up are expected to increase in the next year."

[NBC, NBC Nightly News, 1/1/14]

ABC World News 

ABC's Diane Sawyer: "As Of Tonight, More Than Two Million Americans Have Signed Up. Their Stories Are Beginning To Be Told." On the January 2 edition of ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, chief White House correspondent Johnathan Karl reported on the implementation of the ACA highlighting the story of Maggie Fernandez, a previously uninsured woman who is now able to afford health insurance through the ACA despite having a pre-existing condition. Fernandez noted, "While I was uninsured, I was paying $200 a month, but now with Obamacare I'll be paying $20 a month."

[ABC, ABC World News, 1/2/14] 

CBS Evening News 

CBS: "Numerous Religious Organizations" Have Challenged Contraceptive Mandate In ACA. On the January 1 edition of CBS Evening News, correspondent Chip Reid devoted the majority of his report on the ACA's implementation to religious challenges to the law's contraception mandate. Reid even interviewed an attorney representing the ACA's challengers. 

[CBS, CBS Evening News, 1/1/14]

CBS: Will The ACA's Medicaid Expansion Keep People Out Of The Emergency Room? "That's The Question." The next day, CBS investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson cited a state study in order to suggest that the ACA's Medicaid expansion, which covers previously uninsured recipients, might increase emergency room visits. Attkisson pointed out that "the study was conducted back in 2008 before Obamacare was enacted" and noted that hospitals contacted by CBS had not seen an increase since the ACA was implemented.

[CBS, CBS Evening News 1/2/14] 


Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening network broadcast news, defined as NBC, ABC, and CBS on January 1 and 2 using the search terms "show (nightly news OR world news with diane sawyer OR evening news) and (Obamacare or Obama care or health care or affordable care act or insurance)".

We also reviewed all broadcast shows for any mention of Obamacare on January 1 and 2.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform, Medicaid
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, World News with Diane Sawyer
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