On Tuesday’s World News, for the second day in a row, ABC delivered a "fact check" on the health care bill, offering up perspectives sympathetic to the sweeping legislation. Confusing opinions for facts, David Wright spun that it was "true" that "95 percent of the people" would be able to keep their current plan. However, Politifact has labeled this claim a half truth.
An August 11 posting conceded, "[Obama’s] plan seeks to build on the system we have now, where most people get health insurance through their employers." However, it goes on to add, "But the plans also introduce new ways of regulating health insurance companies that will surely change the current health care system. That could prompt employers to change their health plans..."
The political debunking site concluded, "It's not realistic for Obama to make blanket statements that ‘you’ will be able to ‘keep you health care plan.’" [Emphasis added] So, why is Wright using blanket statements for his fact check?
Later in the piece, the ABC correspondent featured an unidentified man at a town hall meeting asking this reasonable query: "My question is, how are you going to keep my employer from stopping offering insurance and forcing me onto the public option if that's cheaper for their bottom line?"
Wright breezily dismissed the point by proclaiming, "That’s a common concern. The facts are, the bill includes tax breaks and mandates designed to prevent a mass exodus from the current employer-based system." He then condescendingly concluded with a quip about the volatile town hall protests that have been occurring across the country: "But finding the facts in the midst of the noise can be difficult."
Wright did point out that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, "...An estimated nine million people who currently have insurance through their jobs would change their insurance plans, but not necessarily changing their doctors."
However, the conservative Heritage Foundation, along with a Lewin study found, "Approximately 103 million people would be covered under the new public plan and as a consequence about 83.4 million people would lose their private insurance. This would represent a 48.4 percent reduction in the number of people with private coverage." Of course, this perspective wasn’t featured in Wright’s segment.
On the August 10 World News, ABC’s Kate Snow contributed a fact check into conservative concerns about end-of-life care in the health care. Anchor Charles Gibson announced, "So, tonight, we begin an occasional series to fact check what's really in the bills."
Thus far, this fact check series has gone after two health care-related issues that would be friendly to the liberal, pro-universal health care agenda. Politifact dismissed another Obama claim that health insurance companies are making record profits. The website concluded:
We reviewed the income statements of the other largest publicly traded health insurance companies — WellPoint, Aetna, Cigna, Humana and Coventry Health Care — and found similar trends. Generally speaking, profits were higher during 2007 and 2006, before the economy began its slide. So Obama's modifier "record" does not appear to be correct.
Still, UnitedHealth did make healthy profits, and we asked Steve Shubitz, a health care financial analyst with the investment firm Edward Jones, about it.
"The profits are still significant, there's no question about that. But the reality is they're losing a lot of customers in this economy," Shubitz said.
This is an example of a liberal health care assertion that ABC could look into fact checking. Will they do it? Or is this segment to be reserved exclusively for debunking conservatives?
A transcript of the August 11 segment, which aired at 6:33pm EDT, follows:
CHARLES GIBSON: And one of the President's selling points is a phrase he repeats often. He says, if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Well, we're fact-checking the key aspects of health care reform. Tonight, ABC's David Wright on whether you would indeed be able to keep your current coverage.
CHANTING CROWD: No Obamacare! No Obamacare!
DAVID WRIGHT: Opponents of health care reform insist the proposed changes would put private insurance companies out of business. That's false.
DREW ALTMAN (The Kaiser Family Foundation): So, if anything, this expands private health options insurance for people.
WRIGHT: But at contentious town hall meetings across the country, the issue keeps coming up.
SENATOR BEN CARDIN (D-MD): We want people to stay in their private insurance. That's our goal.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Bull! That's not true at all!
WRIGHT: This is really a crucial question, because polls show that most Americans are perfectly happy with their own doctor, and they're wary that any reform might force them to make a change. The President has been unequivocal.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you've got health insurance, you keep your plan. You keep your doctor. I don't want to take it over.
WRIGHT: His opponents quote chapter and verse to challenge that. President Obama says that you’ll be able to keep your doctor. Do you believe that?
SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Not from page 16. Page 16 effectively regulating out private insurance.
WRIGHT: What page 16, section 102 of the House bill actually says is that insurance companies have five years to comply with new government standards. For instance, banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and prohibiting caps on coverage. Today, the President hit his point hard.
OBAMA: If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.
WRIGHT: And that's true for 95 percent of people. According to the Congressional Budget Office, an estimated nine million people who currently have insurance through their jobs would change their insurance plans, but not necessarily changing their doctors.
BROOKS JACKSON (Fackcheck.org): Well, they’re going to shift it because they’ve got a very expensive policy and the federal plan would be cheaper. Or, in some cases, employers may say there's a federal plan out there, I'm not paying for yours anymore. You're on the federal plan.
THIRD UNIDENTIFIED MAN: My question is, how are you going to keep my employer from stopping offering insurance and forcing me onto the public option if that's cheaper for their bottom line?
WRIGHT: That’s a common concern. The facts are, the bill includes tax breaks and mandates designed to prevent a mass exodus from the current employer-based system. But finding the facts in the midst of the noise can be difficult. David Wright, ABC News, Towson, Maryland.
GIBSON: And we will continue, from time to time, fact checking health care reform.