CBS, ABC Point Out 'Very Troubled' HealthCare.gov is 'Far Short' of Sign-Up Goal; NBC Punts

ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning on Tuesday both picked up the Wall Street Journal's Monday revelation about the HealthCare.gov website – that "fewer than 50,000 people had successfully navigated the troubled federal health-care website and enrolled in private insurance plans as of last week".

CBS anchor Norah O'Donnell zeroed in on the "newest blow to ObamaCare – how the White House enrollment expectations could be off by 80 percent." On GMA, Jonathan Karl underlined that this figure is "far short" of the Obama administration's target of 500,000 enrollees. However, NBC's Today ignored this development. Instead, the morning show devoted an entire segment to trying to get Vice President Joe Biden to be a co-host. [MP3 audio of the CBS report is available here; video below the jump]

Karl noted that the under-50,000 number doesn't "include those in the states that have their own exchange and don't have to go through the messed-up website", but soon added that "this much is clear: the number of enrollees...will fall short of the 500,000 goal that the White House set for itself". He also reported that "the White House is saying there's no need to panic over there because it's a six-month enrollment period....But make no mistake, this is far short of where they wanted to be."

O'Donnell previewed correspondent Major Garrett's report with her "newest blow" line, and later stated that "the first estimates on the number of Americans who've actually signed up for coverage...are much lower than what the administration had hoped for". Garrett spent much of the segment outlining how these "very low" enrollment numbers could threaten the future of the Affordable Care Act – something that colleague Sharyl Attkisson also hinted at two weeks earlier on CBS Evening News:

MAJOR GARRETT: ...The administration has long said that these first enrollment numbers would be very low, and indeed, they are. And here's why they matter: low enrollment figures, even in the early stages, could undermine the law's financial stability, because if there are not enough consumers signing up, there won't be enough premiums paid in to pay out the insurance for those who are covered who were uninsured before.

Also, we don't know the composition of those who have signed up for coverage. If, in fact, these people who have signed up now are older and sicker – use more insurance – and are not younger and healthier, the system's stability could also be threatened.

The full transcript of Jonathan Karl's report from Tuesday's Good Morning America on ABC and Major Garrett's report from Tuesday's CBS This Morning:


11/12/2013
07:05 am EST
ABC – Good Morning America

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn to Washington now and the first government figures adding up how many Americans have signed up for health insurance on the troubled ObamaCare website. Administration officials warned that the numbers would be low and on that, at least, they appear to be right.

ABC's Jon Karl is here with the latest. Good morning, Jon.  

[ABC News Graphic: "Low Numbers for ObamaCare Sign Up: Reports: Fewer Than 50,000"]

JON KARL: Good morning, George. That's right. The Wall Street Journal is out with a report this morning saying it will be fewer than 40,000 people who signed up for the health care plan through HealthCare.gov. Now, George, he administration is not confirming that number. And it wouldn't include those in the states that have their own exchange and don't have to go through the messed up website. But this much is clear: The number of enrollees, which we will officially learn this week, will fall short of the 500,000 goal that the White House set for itself. And George, the White House is saying there's no need to panic over there because it's a six-month enrollment period. And remember, even if you bought your insurance today, it wouldn't go into effect until January. But make no mistake, this is far short of where they wanted to be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, still a lot of problems with that website. Only a couple weeks away from the end of November deadline the administration promised the website would be fully ready then. Will they make it?

KARL: Well, that's a great question. They still tell me they believe they will make it. Although they say it won't be perfect. It's not going to be entirely fixed. But they will say it will be largely functional by the end of the month.


11/12/2013
07:10 am EST
CBS This Morning

NORAH O'DONNELL: And ObamaCare faces new pressure this morning from within the President's own party. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina is calling for an investigation into the troubled launch of the health care website. And this morning, we're getting the first estimates on the number of Americans who've actually signed up for coverage. They are much lower than what the administration had hoped for.

Major Garrett is at the White House. Major, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "ObamaCare Blunders: New Calls For Investigation Into Botched Launch"]
                   
MAJOR GARRETT: Good morning, Norah and Charlie. The administration will not comment on these figures – neither the White House, nor the Department of Health and Human Services –  principally, because they're tabulating their own figures, set for release later this week. The Wall Street Journal estimated 40,000 to 50,000 consumers have signed up on the federal website –  meaning, HealthCare.gov – that very troubled website where consumers have had so much trouble even signing up for coverage.

[CBS News Graphic: "Enrollment Shortfall: ObamaCare Signups Fail To Meet W.H. Expectations"]

CBS has collected data from the state exchanges – those are separate health insurance exchanges –  and found that about 50,000 consumers have signed up there. The administration has long said that these first enrollment numbers would be very low, and indeed, they are. And here's why they matter: low enrollment figures, even in the early stages, could undermine the law's financial stability, because if there are not enough consumers signing up, there won't be enough premiums paid in to pay out the insurance for those who are covered who were uninsured before.

[CBS News Graphic: "ACA Enrollments: 50,000 federal enrollments + 50,000 state enrollments | 100,000 total enrollments; 400,000 short of goal"]

Also, we don't know the composition of those who have signed up for coverage. If, in fact, these people who have signed up now are older and sicker – use more insurance – and are not younger and healthier, the system's stability could also be threatened.

[CBS News Graphic: "Enrollment Shortfall: Low Signup Numbers Threaten Strength Of Law"]

All of this comes as Capitol Hill is looking very closely at the implementation of this law, and these low enrollment figures, Charlie and Norah, could increase pressure among Senate Democrats for the White House to extend the current six-month enrollment period. That's something the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services have been adamantly opposed to, but they may have to revisit. Charlie and Norah?

[CBS News Graphic: "ACA Medicaid Enrollment: 444,000 people in 10 states; Source: Avalere Health"]

O'DONNELL: All right. Major, thank you.

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