CBS Hypes Medicaid, Medicare Sob Stories; Omits Group's Liberal Agenda

On Monday's Early Show, CBS's Susan Koeppen profiled a doctor who hyped that "people are dying because they don't have simple access" to health care and spotlighted two of his patients who chronicled their difficulties with the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Koeppen also failed to mention the liberal leanings of an organization she labeled as merely "an advocacy group for health care consumers."

Anchor Erica Hill introduced the consumer correspondent's report by noting that "a new proposal would cut reimbursement rates for doctors who accept Medicare by 30% in 2012...the potential cuts are raising concerns for the more than 100 million Americans who rely on the program, as well as the doctors who treat them." Koeppen then led her segment with Dr. David Ansell's "people are dying" clip and described how the Rush University Medical Center physician "has been treating patients who can't get help anywhere else."

The CBS journalist continued with Dr. Ansell's claim that "he's seeing a growing number of patients with Medicaid or Medicare who just can't find physicians willing to treat them....He says the main problem is the government's low reimbursement rates."After lending support to this claim by citing a study from Colorado which found that "a doctor earning $100 through private insurance would be paid about $71 through Medicare, and only about $50 through Medicaid," Koeppen then played her sound bites from the Chicago-based doctor's patients:

KOEPPEN: His patient, 64-year-old Wallace Harris, came to him when he had nowhere else to turn.

WALLACE HARRIS, MEDICAID PATIENT: Some specialists- they just refuse to accept my Medicaid card.

KOEPPEN: Some would consider Harris a hero. He was shot while trying to help a woman who was being attacked.

ANSELL: Take a deep breath.

HARRIS: I've worked over 50 years in this country and I paid taxes. So, why shouldn't I have some kind of benefit when I need it?

KOEPPEN: And it's not just Medicaid. Seventy-three-year-old retired school teacher Jean Callahan thought being on Medicare meant she would be protected.

JEAN CALLAHAN, MEDICARE PATIENT: Medicare is our insurance. For people to reject it, I felt stymied. I just felt helpless.

Later in her report, the correspondent played two clips from Ron Pollack of Families USA, the supposed "advocacy group for health care consumers." However, just as two of her colleagues on public radio did earlier this year in March, Koeppen failed to mention the organization's support for ObamaCare. She also failed to include clips from conservatives during the segment.

The full transcript of Susan Koeppen's report, which aired 15 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour of Monday's Early Show:

ERICA HILL: In this morning's 'HealthWatch,' possible changes in the government's health insurance programs. A new proposal would cut reimbursement rates for doctors who accept Medicare by 30% in 2012.

Consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen reports the potential cuts are raising concerns for the more than 100 million Americans who rely on the program, as well as the doctors who treat them.

DR. DAVID ANSELL, RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: People are dying because they don't have simple access.

SUSAN KOEPPEN (voice-over): For more than 30 years, Dr. David Ansell has been treating patients who can't get help anywhere else.

ANSELL: I've always taken patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

KOEPPEN: He says he's seeing a growing number of patients with Medicaid or Medicare who just can't find physicians willing to treat them.

ANSELL: Come on in.

KOEPPEN: He says the main problem is the government's low reimbursement rates.

ANSELL: I don't fault the doctors. I fault the system.

KOEPPEN: One study in Colorado found that a doctor earning $100 through private insurance would be paid about $71 through Medicare, and only about $50 through Medicaid.

ANSELL: Doctors just want to see patients, but they also want to be paid fairly.

KOEPPEN: His patient, 64-year-old Wallace Harris, came to him when he had nowhere else to turn.

WALLACE HARRIS, MEDICAID PATIENT: Some specialists- they just refuse to accept my Medicaid card.

KOEPPEN: Some would consider Harris a hero. He was shot while trying to help a woman who was being attacked.

ANSELL: Take a deep breath.

HARRIS: I've worked over 50 years in this country and I paid taxes. So, why shouldn't I have some kind of benefit when I need it?

KOEPPEN: And it's not just Medicaid. Seventy-three-year-old retired school teacher Jean Callahan thought being on Medicare meant she would be protected.

JEAN CALLAHAN, MEDICARE PATIENT: Medicare is our insurance. For people to reject it, I felt stymied. I just felt helpless.


KOEPPEN: We wanted to find out how widespread the problem is.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Hi, I'm interested in making an appointment-

KOEPPEN: So, we called 40 primary care physicians at random across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Would you accept United Health Care?

KOEPPEN: Ninety-five percent told us they accept new patients with private insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Do you accept Medicare patients?

KOEPPEN: And most, 78%, still accept Medicare patients.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: You don't accept Medicaid?

KOEPPEN: But only 13% said they would see patients on Medicaid.

Ron Pollack, Familes USA | NewsBusters.orgRON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: These results don't surprise me at all.

KOEPPEN: Ron Pollack is the executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group for health care consumers.

POLLACK: Clearly, we have a real crisis right now with respect to Medicaid.

KOEPPEN: But health care providers on the front lines, like Dr. Ansell, are concerned that with more cuts on the horizon, the crisis could spread.

ANSELL: The first Baby Boomer hit 65 this year. There's going to be 78 million Baby Boomers, and they are going to come flooding into this health care system, and we ain't seen nothing yet.

KOEPPEN: Susan Koeppen, CBS News, New York.

HILL (on-camera): A first-of-its-kind study released just last week found Medicaid benefits the people who receive it not only physically, but also emotionally, as well as financially.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center