ABC Medical Expert: Hillary Knows Health Care Better Than Anyone

Hillary Clinton is smart and clearly knows health care better than any other 2008 candidate. That's according to ABC's medical expert, Dr. Tim Johnson. On Friday's "Good Morning America," the network contributor gushed, "She certainly knows health care better, I think, than any other candidate....I'm very impressed with her knowledge base." Johnson lauded Clinton for "offering a wide range of options" and regurgitated the candidate's use of the word choice in relation to her health care plan. He also failed to ever mention taxes or how the government would pay for universal health coverage.

Video (:52): Real (1.40 MB) and Windows (1.59 MB), plus MP3 audio (402 kB).

Johnson may be a respected medical expert, but he's clearly a Clinton cheerleader. He has a long history of backing Bill and Hillary, as well as other liberal politicians. On Friday, the doctor casually asked Mrs. Clinton, "You have said that providing health insurance for everyone is a moral issue. Do you think the Republicans who are against it are immoral?" The ABC contributor also praised the 2008 contender for speaking "eloquently" on issues related to health care and, after noting that America has only had male presidents, sycophantically wondered, "Do you think being a female president would make any difference in leading the health care reform debate?"

At one point in the interview, Johnson asked about the fact that the number of women getting mammograms has been dropping. He quizzed, "How can we change that, short of an edict?" Now, one could see that as a challenge of Clinton's yearning for a nanny state. But the GMA correspondent has a long history of touting Clinton government-run health care plans. An October 2003 CyberAlert noted some of his more effusive comments from the early '90s:

"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.

The above comments make Johnson's statements on Friday, in which he tried to mildly criticize the Clintons, seem somewhat disingenuous. He told co-host Robin Roberts, "Back in the '90s, they met behind closed doors in the White House....And they were very rigid in their plan. They had a very detailed, bureaucratic plan that was difficult, difficult for people to understand."

Finally, perhaps the biggest problem with Tim Johnson interviewing Hillary Clinton is the fact that it was touted as a hard hitting look at her health care plan. Co-host Chris Cuomo teased the segment by announcing, "People are wondering, how would your health care change if Hillary Clinton were elected president?" And yet, Johnson never once asked about taxes or how the candidate would pay for her proposals.

For more on Johnson, including his endorsement of a "bold" health care plan from Ted Kennedy, check out NewsBusters and coverage by the Business and Media Institute.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:42am on October 19, follows:

7:31am tease

CHRIS CUOMO: All right, so here's the question: We're wondering now-- The biggest, one of the biggest domestic issues of the election is health care, right? People are wondering, how would your health care change if Hillary Clinton were elected president? Well, you're going to get your answers this morning 'cause Hillary Clinton talks to our Dr. Tim Johnson about the key issue of breast cancer and what she would do to make sure all women have access to mammograms.

7:42am

ROBIN ROBERTS: And turning now to health care and Hillary Clinton. Over the years, voters have heard a lot about this issue from the former First Lady, now Senator Clinton. And on Thursday, our medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson, had a chance to sit down with her to talk about health care.

Dr. TIM JOHNSON: We've had an unbroken string of male presidents. Do you think being a female president would make any difference in leading the health care reform debate?

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I hope to find out, you know? I'm very excited at the prospect of being the first woman president but I'm not running because I'm a woman.

JOHNSON: I know that.

CLINTON: I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to do this.

JOHNSON: Let's talk about one issue very much on the country's mind this month, breast cancer.

CLINTON: Right.

JOHNSON: As you know, the rates for mammography are dropping. The number of radiologists going into mammography is dropping. The number of places that do mammography is dropping. How can we change that, short of an edict?

CLINTON: Well, Tim, I'm deeply concerned about this. And I've of, course, been following Robin's experience and I wish her well. She's been absolutely magnificent in how she's communicated all of this.

JOHNSON: I agree.

CLINTON: But we need to look hard. Because actually there's increasing evidence that mammography works. People can get their breast cancer diagnosed early, which is a big help in terms of treating it and surviving it. And I think we've got to have an outreach again. We need more public health outreach.

JOHNSON: Let's turn to general health care for a minute. You have talked eloquently about the need for an electronic record keeping system that will help bring some systemic ideas to the health care system that we don't have now. I remember sitting in Senator Frist's office a couple years ago when you and Newt Gingrich were also there and everybody was so excited that this was going to happen, right around the corner. Still hasn't happened.

CLINTON: I know.

JOHNSON: If you can't get that, that everybody agrees on to happen, how are we going to make all the other changes in health care that are so controversial?

CLINTON: Well, Tim, I remember that dinner we had in Senator Frist's office. And it was a meeting of some strange bedfellows, but we were all from our different experiences committed to the electronic medical record. We were able to get that legislation passed in the Senate and it died in the House. It died, in part, because after evidencing some interest in it, the White House retreated. It wasn't a priority. And in the absence of presidential leadership to break logjams and try to convince people to do something which, you know, is not on the headlines but is a long-term investment, that was a problem. It would have cost some money for us to get this architecture set up and the Bush administration didn't want to spend the money because by then the Iraq War was taking off and the costs were escalating. We have gone back. We have a bipartisan piece of legislation in the Senate again. We're going to push it again.

JOHNSON: You have said that providing health insurance for everyone is a moral issue. Do you think the Republicans who are against it are immoral?

CLINTON: No. I think, though, that they are not looking at the facts. Because they, first of all, don't see apparently what I see, which is that we have a lot of hard-working Americans who just can't afford it. That's what this children's health insurance program fight has been all about. You know, some Republicans say, 'Well, you know, you're making $48,000, $50,000 a year, you don't have insurance even though you work full time. Your child gets in a car accident, sell your house.' You know? That's just a different approach. I don't think in America you should have to sell your house to get your child health insurance when you're a working person. So it's a difference in how we see our country, what we think of the bring yard priorities and I think we're going to have a big debate about it in this presidential campaign.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much for your time.

ROBERTS: I know it's a debate that you're welcoming with all the candidates, Tim. So, what's different now with her plan now, as opposed to what she proposed back in the '90s?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, the way she's doing it. Back in the '90s, they met behind closed doors in the White House. They didn't consult Congress. There was a strategic mistake. And they were very rigid in their plan. They had a very detailed, bureaucratic plan that was difficult, difficult for people to understand. Now she uses the word choice all the time. She basically says if you like what you got, keep it. But if you don't, we're going to offer you some public alternatives like a Medicare-like plan or federal employee-like plan. And so, she's offering a wide range of options. And I think that's going to be the key to whatever success she has. She certainly knows health care better, I think, than any other candidate. She's learned by hard experience and she studies it. I'm very impressed with her knowledge base.

ROBERTS: Well, thanks for bringing to us. We appreciate that, Tim. Have a good weekend.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org