Networks Decry Rise in Health Care Costs, Ignore ObamaCare Partially to Blame

Anchor Brian Williams led Tuesday's NBC Nightly News with a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation about the rising cost of health care, direly proclaiming: "We're going to begin tonight with a crippling trend in America that simply cannot go on without taking entire families with it." Missing from the coverage was any mention of ObamaCare contributing to the increased costs.

In the report that followed, correspondent John Yang detailed how the new study, "says premiums for family coverage now average more than $15,000 a year, that's a 9% jump from 2010 and triple the rate of the previous's years increase." A sound bite of Kaiser CEO Drew Altman was included: "This is really the first time in as long as I can remember when we've seen a big jump in premiums at a time when wages are actually, not only flat, but actually losing ground."

Concluding the segment, Yang asserted: "The authors of this study say it's too early to tell whether this big premium jump is a one-time thing or the start of a new trend. They also say it's too early to tell what'll happen in 2014, which is when the key elements of President Obama's health care reform take effect."

In reality, Altman actually acknowledged that provisions in ObamaCare were responsible for 1 to 2% of the 9% increase. He specifically explained: "That reflects the costs of providing prevention benefits without cost-sharing....It reflects the costs of covering young adults up to 26 years of age under their parents' policies. Those are also very popular benefits, according to our tracking polls." NBC chose not to include that information in its reporting.

The ABC and CBS evening newscasts on Tuesday only included news briefs on the new study. World News anchor Diane Sawyer announced: "And we have a startling new number out today, showing how much more Americans are paying for health insurance." Evening News anchor Scott Pelley declared: "While the value of homes has been falling, the cost of health care has been rising." Neither made any reference to the role ObamaCare played.

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Here is a full transcript of Yang's September 27 NBC report:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Paying the price, the soaring cost of health insurance hitting home for millions of families. And news tonight about the tough choices some are being forced to make.

7:01PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: We're going to begin tonight with a crippling trend in America that simply cannot go on without taking entire families with it. If we all agree that those with health insurance are the lucky ones in this economy – and because that usually means someone has a job with benefits – then listen to what we learned today about the cost of being among the lucky.

The cost of health care insurance premiums has now more than doubled for American families since 2001. But of course no wages are rising that fast. It comes down to the choice American families are being forced to make on a daily basis. As millions of families already know, it's too often between your money or your health. We begin here tonight with NBC's John Yang.

JOHN YANG: When Jeri Wood had surgery and radiation treatment for a brain tumor in 2002, her employer's health insurance covered nearly all of it. Her out-of-pocket cost, about $500.

JERI WOOD: It wasn't something that we had to worry about. We knew that there was going to be some cost, but it was manageable and we could focus on getting me well.

YANG: Since then, her premiums have gone up and her coverage has gone down. Her family's estimated out-of-pocket costs this year, nearly $7,000.

WOOD: Everywhere you go, it's like you're being nickeled and dimed with increases. But they aren't nickels and dimes, they're $5, $10.

YANG: In a new report out today, the Kaiser Family Foundation, which advocates health care reform, says premiums for family coverage now average more than $15,000 a year, that's a 9% jump from 2010 and triple the rate of the previous's years increase.

DREW ALTMAN [CEO, KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION]: This is really the first time in as long as I can remember when we've seen a big jump in premiums at a time when wages are actually, not only flat, but actually losing ground.

YANG: At the same time, insurance is covering less, requiring workers to pay higher co-payments and deductibles. 31% of workers now pay at least the first $1,000 of medical costs.

ALTMAN: What we call health insurance in the country is really changing very dramatically.

YANG: Employers say rising insurance costs force them to chose between providing good benefits and hiring new workers or giving raises. For employees, it can mean skipping non-urgent procedures. For Jeri Wood, that's not an option. She needs two MRI's a year to check on the part of the brain tumor doctors couldn't remove.

WOOD: Every day is a good day because it's another day. It's just that we have to learn that we don't get to define good any more.

YANG: The authors of this study say it's too early to tell whether this big premium jump is a one-time thing or the start of a new trend. They also say it's too early to tell what'll happen in 2014, which is when the key elements of President Obama's health care reform take effect. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Dangerous numbers, John Yang starting us off tonight in Chicago. John, thanks.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC