Couric Frets ‘Damage’ and ‘Threat’ to ObamaCare, Relies on Ex-Clinton Acolyte Cloaked as Health Expert
In the guise of a status report on ObamaCare, Katie Couric on Thursday night derided Republican efforts to repeal it just as it’s “starting to kick in.” She pleaded for viewers to give it a chance as she rationalized “the law is vulnerable because of the complex way it tries to fold 30 million uninsured people into the system,” fretting “damage could be inflicted by choking off funding for programs that support the law, but a greater threat is the legal storm that's brewing.”
Her only expert, Dr. Atul Gawande, touted ObamaCare as “a toolbox.” Couric disingenuously described Gawande as merely “a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an influential voice on health care policy.” In fact, Gawande, who toiled on Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential bid and then for Al Gore’s quest in 1988 before working in Bill Clinton’s 1992 effort, oversaw a team of 75 toiling on the Clinton administration’s health care task force in 1993-94.
Last year, he penned a piece for The New Yorker, “Watching the Health-Care Vote,” on how he brought his “fourteen-year-old son to see the vote on health reform” since it meant “hope has arrived.”
Gawande revealed: “I realized I was — for just this one day — jealous of the politicians swirling in and out of the chambers,” because:
[T]hey were going to take a final up or down vote on whether to embrace the principle in our country that if you are in medical need, you should be able to get quality health care without bankrupting yourself. And I was jealous of those who got to step onto the House floor, slide their identification cards into the electronic voting boxes, and, either way the tally went, make history.
The bill was not remotely the kind of socialist, government take over of medicine its opponents accused it of being...
The CBS Evening News story ended with Gawande’s assurance of ObamaCare’s potential if not ruined by opponents: “I have no question that we will discover ways that can control costs, improve quality of care for people. Whether we're going to take those lessons depends entirely on politics, and that's scary. That's the reality.”
(The CBSNews.com online version also failed to identify Gawande’s political work and belief in ObamaCare.)
Couric began by deriding the GOP/Tea Party agenda: “A move by House Republicans to repeal the law is going nowhere. Even so, they passed a resolution today directing House committees to get to work on new health reform legislation.”
After one reporter expressed despair at how many supposedly can’t afford health care, another CBS reporter benignly explained how HHS is now formulating a huge regulatory regime: “The job of implementing health care reform belongs to HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and they have an entire new division now to do that.”
Citing a poll, Couric relayed how “just 13 percent say they have seen any benefit, even though,” Couric stressed, “the most vulnerable are now protected.” But, she told viewers in pleading for them to give the law time, “it will take six more years to phase in all 91 of the law's major components.”
Couric soon worried “the law is vulnerable because of the complex way it tries to fold 30 million uninsured people into the system while getting a handle on costs. By 2019,” she seriously asserted, “the law is expected to save the economy $143 billion.”
Reporter Nancy Cordes described the GOP strategy: “One congressional expert that I spoke to put it this way: He said, ‘They're not going to be able to kill this bill. The best they can do right now is a series of flesh wounds.’”
To which, Couric flailed: “That damage could be inflicted by choking off funding for programs that support the law, but a greater threat is the legal storm that's brewing.”
“Threat,” not “opportunity.”
From the Thursday, January 20 CBS Evening News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
KATIE COURIC: And about the hot issue in Congress this week, 40 percent of Americans say the health care reform law should be repealed. That's down from 45 percent in November. A move by House Republicans to repeal the law is going nowhere. Even so, they passed a resolution today directing House committees to get to work on new health reform legislation. The vote was 253-175, with 14 Democrats joining the majority. In the meantime, the reform plan the President signed into law last year is starting to kick in. Where do things stand? Tonight we put that "In Focus."Story Continues Below Ad ↓
BILL WHITAKER: We went to the Los Angeles Forum. We got there very early in the morning, around 2:30, 3:00, and already, there was a line of people. The point of the event was to provide free medical care to people in need.
COURIC: In all, more than 5,000. Ten months after the Affordable Care Act became law, many Americans still rely on charity like this. Implementing reform is just beginning.
WHITAKER: It was shocking. It was shocking to see that many people needing that level of care.
DR. ATUL GAWANDE, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think the best way to understand the health reform package is that it is not a recipe for everything that's to be done but is, in fact, a toolbox.
COURIC: Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an influential voice on health care policy.
GAWANDE: This is a rollout that doesn't even begin to produce insurance for people for three years.
COURIC: The key date is 2014. That's when every American not covered by employers must buy health insurance or pay a fine. This larger pool of insured Americans is essential to pay for the most ill and expensive patients. For the next three years, 17 of every 100 Americans will remain uninsured. That number should drop to nine in 2014.
GAWANDE: This is a long process.
COURIC: A process that requires turning a 900-page law that few people have actually read into a better health care system.
WYATT ANDREWS: The job of implementing health care reform belongs to HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and they have an entire new division now to do that.
COURIC: The concrete building on Independence Avenue is where the new coverage rules are being defined.
ANDREWS: There is a special interest lobbying frenzy going on right now over the definition of one word: essential. Is obesity treatment, is that essential? Infertility treatment?
COURIC: As the government sorts out those questions, Americans are still trying to figure out what the law means to them. In our latest poll, 56 percent say the law has not been explained well. Just 13 percent say they have seen any benefit, even though the most vulnerable are now protected.
JON LAPOOK, CBS NEWS MEDICAL COORESPONDENT: Children cannot be denied insurance because of a preexisting condition. At no age can insurance company cancel your insurance because you get sick. And children can be covered under their parents' policies up until the age of 26.
COURIC: A gap in Medicare coverage for drug costs is being closed, and experimental programs to reward doctors for better efficiency and outcomes are under way. But it will take six more years to phase in all 91 of the law's major components.
CHIP REID: And that's why the White House has its entire war room operation up and going again. They understand that part one was getting it passed. Part two is protecting it.
COURIC: The law is vulnerable because of the complex way it tries to fold 30 million uninsured people into the system while getting a handle on costs. By 2019, the law is expected to save the economy $143 billion. But the country's health care tab at that point will still reach $4.6 trillion, or 20 percent of the economy. That's compared to 17 percent now.
ANTHONY MASON: This law does more to address coverage than it does to address cost. And business's argument for years has been the problem is cost and that's what's killing our economy.
WHITAKER: Recently, the largest insurer in California, Blue Shield, announced that it was raising its premiums once again.
COURIC: Californians are not the only ones still being battered with jaw-dropping hikes.
WHITAKER: Many, many people thought that health care reform was going to stop these kinds of increases.
COURIC: Republican leaders are making sure that doesn't go unnoticed.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): We will continue this fight until ObamaCare is no longer the law of the land.
NANCY CORDES: One congressional expert that I spoke to put it this way: He said, "They're not going to be able to kill this bill. The best they can do right now is a series of flesh wounds."
COURIC: That damage could be inflicted by choking off funding for programs that support the law, but a greater threat is the legal storm that's brewing.
JAN CRAWFORD: The future of health care reform could well hinge on legal issues, not political ones.
COURIC: More than 20 states are now suing the federal government over the rule that makes insurance coverage mandatory.
CRAWFORD: They say Congress simply exceeded its authority when it passed this wide-ranging law because it requires residents of all these states to actually buy insurance or face a tax.
COURIC: Court rulings in favor of the states may cripple reform.
CRAWFORD: So that storm is going to get stronger and build and build. It's going to get to the appeals courts, and eventually with, I think, the full force of a hurricane, it's going to hit the United States Supreme Court.
GAWANDE: I have no question that we will discover ways that can control costs, improve quality of care for people. Whether we're going to take those lessons depends entirely on politics, and that's scary. That's the reality.
COURIC: And for more on what's in the health care reform law and when the various changes take effect, you can go to cbsnews.com.
— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.