ABC's liberal medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson, appeared on Wednesday's "Good Morning America to boost Barack Obama's universal health care plan and critique the more market oriented proposals of John McCain. Co-host Robin Roberts began the segment by seriously asserting, "We're not endorsing one plan over the other. We're just showing the differences between the two."
But after she mentioned Obama's assertion during Tuesday's presidential debate that health care is a right, Johnson marveled, "But, I'm struck by the language of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Without good health, and that usually means without good health care, it's hard to have those other rights." Johnson, despite being a doctor, adopts the standard, liberal positions of most journalists and has a 15 year-plus history of advocating universal health care, including once asking if Republicans who opposed the policy were "immoral."
Regarding Senator McCain's idea to give people the opportunity to buy individual plans, even if they don't have an employer, Johnson criticized, "That's a difficult thing to do because there are so many different plans marketed." Accentuating the negative, he added, "So, you've got to do a lot of work on your own and read the fine print. It's a very difficult job for an individual."
Johnson found no such criticisms for Senator Obama's proposal. After describing the various insurance plans the Democrat would offer, he approvingly observed, "But these plans will have been vetted by the government, just like they do for federal employees...But you know they've been vetted for basic care and coverage and that the cost is fair."
On October 19, 2007, Johnson interviewed then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her health care proposals and rhapsodized, "She certainly knows health care better, I think, than any other candidate....I'm very impressed with her knowledge base." Speaking of GOP members, he offered this loaded question: "Do you think the Republicans who are against it are immoral?"
On April 26, 2007, the medical expert touted a universal health care plan proposed by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Democratic Representative John Dingell. Introducing Johnson, co-host Roberts enthused, "You’re very happy about this. You say it's bold and politically brilliant."
Going back to the early '90s, Johnson was even more laudatory towards the Clintons and their plans to nationalize health care:
"So at least from the physicians represented here, you get a 100 percent vote, including mine, for universal coverage." -- ABC reporter Dr. Tim Johnson to Hillary Clinton on Good Morning America, July 19, 1994.
"I say the Clintons are almost heroes in my mind for finally facing up to the terrible problems we have with our current health care system and bringing it to the attention of the public....Most people, I think, will be better off." -- ABC Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson, September 24, 1993 20/20.
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A transcript of the October 8, 2008 segment, which aired at 7:43am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And now, health care. Big topic in the debate last night, with each candidate trying to convince the American public that he had the better answer. So, what are the real differences in their plans? And how will they affect you? Our medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson, is here to explain. Tim, it's good to see you this morning.
TIM JOHNSON: Thank you, Robin.
ROBERTS: We're not endorsing one plan over the other. We're just showing the differences between the two. Because it's a personal choice, what works best for an individual. What are the main differences between the two plans?
ABC GRAPHIC: Health Plan Fact Check: Which Candidates' Plan is Best For You?
JOHNSON: Well, in this case, there is a profound difference between them, as it regards employers health insurance. [Coughs.] Excuse me. McCain basically wants to move people out of employers' health insurance, into the individual market. And he's going to do this by taxing your benefits, as though they were additional salary. But then, providing tax credits so you can buy an individual plan. Obama, on the other hand, is trying to encourage even more employers insurance. Right now, about two-thirds of Americans under 65 get insurance from their employer. He wants that to be even more. And so, he has a plan he's going to say to big businesses, if you don't provide insurance for your employees, you're going to have to pay into a plan for the uninsured. In the meantime, for those who can't get that, he's going to have individual plans, but in a very different way than McCain. And we'll get to that in a minute.
ROBERTS: 'Cause, we wanted to talk to folks and we did. To get into the details and major concerns. And here's one.
PAUL STEVENS: Hello. I'm Paul Stevens from Princeton, Indiana. Four years ago, I lost my job. I've been unable to purchase any kind of health insurance, due to diabetes and coronary artery disease. I'm wondering what kind of solution the candidates would offer someone like me?
JOHNSON: Well, here, we're talking about the possibility of buying individual plans, since you don't have an employer. On the McCain side, he's going to give you these tax credits. $2500 for an individual. $5,000, for a family, to go out into that vast individual market and buy a plan on your own. That's a difficult thing to do because there are so many different plans marketed. And McCain wants to open up buying across state lines. Meaning you can go to one state and have different sets of rules and regulations. Another state might not have any. So, you've got to do a lot of work on your own and read the fine print. It's a very difficult job for an individual.
ROBERTS: And Obama's plan?
JOHNSON: Obama's plan has on national exchange. Where he's going to have a list of plans, including a public, Medicare-like plan. But these plans will have been vetted by the government, just like they do for federal employees. It's really the basic, same idea that both senators now have. You get a list of plans. But you know they've been vetted for basic care and coverage and that the cost is fair.
ROBERTS: And the criticism there is that he, Barack Obama hasn't explained how he's going to pay for that plan. But first, let's get to another question. Another major concern out there.
JAN STEVENS: Hi. I'm Jan Stevens from Anaheim, California, former registered nurse. I suffer from eight chronic illnesses and pay $500 monthly for prescription co-pays. I also purchase health care insurance for $639 a month, by myself. How will each candidates' health plan help me?
JOHNSON: Well, in general, the larger the group that you can be a part of, the better the negotiation with drug companies were prices. And so, under Obama's plan, there will be these exchange plans. And they will negotiate with drug companies for the prices. Individual plans have less clout. And so, they're typically, not always, but typically, their prices for drugs are going to be higher. In your case, you've got to read fine print, very, very carefully, in buying an individual plan from either source.
ROBERTS: And, quickly, last night, something that really piqued your interest is when the candidates said, Barack Obama said health care is a right. And John McCain said health care is a responsibility.
JOHNSON: Yeah. You know, you could conduct year-long philosophy classes on each of those words. But, I'm struck by the language of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Without good health, and that usually means without good health care, it's hard to have those other rights.
ROBERTS: And, again, this is helpful for people to know the distinct differences between the plans and to make their decisions.
JOHNSON: And we'll be talking more about it.