CNN Glosses Over ObamaCare Failings Amidst Debt Ceiling Coverage

Lost in the midst of CNN's debt ceiling coverage was its own list of ObamaCare's shortcomings. Investigative correspondent Drew Griffin authored a report on "ObamaCare woes" that aired only three times on Monday and Tuesday.

Griffin reported trouble with ObamaCare's website, cited a March GAO report on missed deadlines for the system's construction, and quoted a consultant who said that insurance executives had waved red flags that the "whole system is not ready for primetime."

Yet even though ObamaCare's exchanges are the third week of their rollout, and the law the centerpiece of the shutdown and debt ceiling standoff, CNN largely ignored the report on Tuesday. Griffin's piece only aired on Monday night's Anderson Cooper 360, Tuesday's 4 a.m. ET hour of Early Start, and the 1 p.m. ET hour of Tuesday's Newsroom.

In addition, CNN ignored an embarrassing incident for ObamaCare from last Thursday. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius headlined an ObamaCare "education and enrollment" event that only 100 people showed up to. Attendees also had problems logging onto Healthcare.gov despite the presence of certified counselors to help them look at insurance options. CNN has still not reported the story.

Below is a transcript of Griffin's report, which aired on Early Start on October 15 at 4:05 a.m. EDT:

(Video Clip)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN investigative correspondent (voice-over): Since day one, CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has tried, day after day, night after night, even in the wee hours of the morning, to sign up for Obamacare. It was not until day 14 she could finally log in.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN senior medical correspondent: You know, even with your own computer, you have to be incredibly diligent. I mean, I sat there and tried to log in three times and failed and had to create three new accounts in order to get success. It took a lot. Not everyone is going to want to game the game the way that I did. It took a huge amount to get in today. This was on day 14.

GRIFFIN: What's troubling here is that the failed rollout wasn't a surprise to anyone involved with it.

ROBERT LASZEWSKI, Health Policy and Strategy Associates: Insurance executives have been warning the administration bluntly that this whole system is not ready for primetime.

GRIFFIN: Bob Laszewski heads a consulting firm trying to help guide physician groups, HMOs, and major health insurance companies through the industry changes.

LASZEWSKI: The administration didn't seem to understand the seriousness of it. They were blase about it. They continued to assure the industry that there weren't going to be any problems.

GRIFFIN: Back in June, two more alarms. The government's own accounting office found the rollout was having technical problems, critical deadlines not met. One report concluded that despite the $394 million spent, "nevertheless, much remains to be accomplished within a relatively short amount of time."

In fact, even before the rollout, the Obama administration, behind the scenes, was warning there would be glitches. No big deal. A theme even the President himself repeated once the rollout got off to a troubled start.

OBAMA: Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system. And within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads, or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't.

GRIFFIN: The main problem with the system, according to the administration, is it is just overloaded, suffering from its own popularity, too many people in need of health care rushing to sign on all at once, even though they have until March 31st to sign up. That sounds good, but is it what's really going on? Short answer: It's impossible to tell because the administration won't tell us how many people have signed up, and have changed their story in the process. At first, the administration said it didn't know.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: 48 hours, we have – no, we don't have that data.

GRIFFIN: Then we were told to ask someone else.

CARNEY: You should ask HHS. I don't have a number.

GRIFFIN: A few days later, wait a month.

CARNEY: I want to clear this up. We will release data on regular monthly intervals, just like was done in Massachusetts and just like what was done and is done when it comes to Medicare Part D.

GRIFFIN: So while we can't get the national numbers, we got a hint by calling individual states. As of this Monday, in the 14 states and the District of Columbia that have their own state-run health care run exchanges, we were able to get the actual numbers of people who have signed up and paid for Obamacare. That number? 20,994. There are another 96,980 signed up who have not yet paid.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(End Video Clip)

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014