White House PR? CBS Highlights Young ObamaCare Enrollee's 'Peace of Mind'

As the networks reported on President Obama's Tuesday "victory lap" over ObamaCare's new enrollment numbers, CBS played right into the administration's hands by highlighting the "peace of mind" of a young adult who signed up for health care.

In what could have passed for a White House commercial, CBS's Ben Tracy interviewed an uninsured 33 year-old who "felt like a ticking time bomb" before he signed up for ObamaCare at the deadline. He told CBS "now I have it, so it's – it's sort of a peace of mind thing for me."

ABC's Jonathan Karl hailed Tuesday as a big day for Democrats: "But Diane, in the four years since the Affordable Care Act passed, when it comes to health care, this is the best day that Democrats have had."

All the networks noted Obama's "victory lap" of a speech at the Rose Garden, although they also pointed out that "questions remain" on the law. As CBS's Major Garrett asked, "How many young healthy Americans the so-called 'invincibles' crucial to ObamaCare economics signed up? How many enrollees did not have insurance before? And how many enrollees have actually paid for a policy?"

Below is a transcript of the segments:

CBS
EVENING NEWS
4/1/14
[6:34 p.m. EST]

SCOTT PELLEY: A late surge has pushed enrollment in ObamaCare over the top. This was the scene in the Oval Office today when Mr. Obama was told that just over seven million Americans had signed up for health insurance by yesterday's deadline. That's the number that was projected before the web site's failed start last fall. How did he do it? Major Garrett's at the White House tonight. Major?

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS News White House correspondent: Scott, the enrollment surge, a million more in the last week, reflects a White House media campaign that targeted the 20 cities with the highest number of uninsured residents. Enrollment there was 12 percentage points higher than nationwide, and that gave President Obama a reason to celebrate.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: This law is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast. All of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand. I gotta admit, I don't get it.

GARRETT: (voice over) But questions remain. How many young healthy Americans the so-called "invincibles" crucial to ObamaCare economics signed up? How many enrollees did not have insurance before? And how many enrollees have actually paid for a policy?

(End Video Clip)

GARRETT: And, Scott, we also don't know how many people enrolled after having their original policy canceled under ObamaCare rules. Top officials say it will be two weeks and possibly longer before those questions are answered.

PELLEY: Major, thanks very much. Now Major just mentioned that the insurance pool isn't sustainable unless a large number of young, healthy people sign up. Ben Tracy has been looking into this in Los Angeles.

BEN TRACY: The lines were long at last-minute enrollment events for California's health care exchange. The Covered California web site could not keep up, and logged people out as they tried to sign up. California has now enrolled more than 1.2 million people, nearly 156,000 in just the past week.

Arty Carlson dropped his insurance five months ago, because it was costing him more than $400 per month. He says he felt like a ticking time bomb.

ARTY CARLSON: You never know when something's going to happen to you, and I feel like I'm young enough that I don't have any problems now, but you never know if something – some accident's going to happen.

TRACY: Carlson is 33, a so-called "young invincible." These 18- to 34-year-olds who are generally healthy are needed to help offset the costs of the older and sicker people in the new health care system. As of March 1st, younger people accounted for 25 percent of all enrollees, but health care studies initially said it should be 40 percent. Arty Carlson did sign up just before the deadline. His new plan will save him more than $150 per month.

(On camera) Why did you wait until the last minute to sign up?

CARLSON: I think I didn't see it as super-- like necessary at that time. But then as I started to think about it, I was like I need to do this. So now I have it, so it's – it's sort of a peace of mind thing for me.
 
TRACY: You're no longer a ticking time bomb?

CARLSON: Exactly, yeah. It's nice.

(End Video Clip)
 
TRACY: Covered California says nearly 400,000 people have started enrolling for a new health care plan but not yet finished the process. Scott, those folks will have until April 15 to complete it.

(...)

NBC
NIGHTLY NEWS
4/1/14
[7:04 p.m. EST]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And across town in Washington, late this afternoon at the White House, President Obama stepped into the Rose Garden for what was designed as an outdoor public victory lap to make the official announcement that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health care under ObamaCare. He referenced the disastrous start of the web site. He conceded future fixes, and tried to lay down a marker or two to critics. Our chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd was there for it. He's there now from the North Lawn. Chuck, good evening.
 
CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. Obviously, a sense of relief here at the White House, considering where they started back in October with that botched rollout. But there's a lot we don't know about these enrollment figures, including how many people were previously uninsured versus how many people had coverage before this law. How many healthy young people signed up? If those ratios aren't good, then premiums for all of us could skyrocket next year. And it could be weeks, though, before we know the answers to those questions. Yet today the President was in a feisty mood against his Republican foes.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: In the end, history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security. Nobody remembers well those who stand in the way of America's progress or our people. As messy as it's been sometimes, as contentious as it's been sometimes, it is progress.

TODD: Now Republicans still believe an anti-ObamaCare message is a political winner for them this year. But the White House wants to make sure Democrats don't run away from health care, that's why you heard a fired up president today trying to set the tone for his own party. The question remains, Brian, will endangered Democrats follow him?

(...)

ABC
WORLD NEWS
4/1/14
[6:33 p.m. EST]

DIANE SAWYER: And also in Washington today, President Obama took a kind of victory lap. That deadline to sign up for ObamaCare arrived, passed, and more than 7 million Americans enrolled. It beat the goal the White House had set. The President declared that this health care law is here to stay. ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl was in the Rose Garden and tells us what happened next.

(Video Clip)

JONATHAN KARL: In the Rose Garden today –

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces.

KARL: It looked like a victory celebration, and the beginning of a new campaign.
 
OBAMA: The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

KARL: A surge of sign-ups in person at enrollment centers around the country and online helped the White House exceed even its own expectations. But while 7.1 million and counting have signed up, there are still big unanswered questions. How many of those signing up were previously uninsured? And how many signed up after their old plans were canceled because of ObamaCare? And how many are young and healthy? The White House made a big celebrity-studded pitch to get young people, because if not enough of them enroll, premiums will go up.

(End Video Clip)

KARL: For all the celebrating here at the White House, Republicans haven't backed off one bit. They argued again today that ObamaCare is killing jobs and causing premiums to rise. But Diane, in the four years since the Affordable Care Act passed, when it comes to health care, this is the best day that Democrats have had.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center