Blackout: 200 Days Since ABC's 'Nightline' Covered ObamaCare

As of June 2, 2014, it's been 200 days since Nightline, the once-vaunted news program, covered ObamaCare. In the 28 and a half weeks since November 14, 2013, the show has continued its descent into tabloid oblivion, focusing on topics such as celebrities, weight loss and pop culture. As a consequence, the program has skipped the myriad of problems associated with ObamaCare.  

When the White House quietly announced on May 20 what amounted to a bailout for insurance companies that might lose money on the new health care law, Nightline didn't notice.  When the Associated Press on May 16 reported a new "cost control strategy" called reference pricing that would put a limit on what health plans pay for expensive surgeries, the ABC program avoided the story. On April 24, Vox explained that the administration was trying to "stamp out" certain health plans, "a decision that industry officials say could trigger yet another wave of cancellation notices." Again, Nightline was silent. But what were the show's hosts covering instead? See a video montage below to find out. [MP3 audio here.]

On May 22, co-anchor Dan Harris enthused, "Queen Angelina. Hollywood royalty Angelina Jolie is back with her first film role in years. And she's opening up to Nightline."

On May 27, co-host Dan Abrams profiled "extreme open houses," teasing, "From glam parties to carnivals. How these brokers are luring buyers with the dream of luxury living."  

On May 21, Harris promoted "Hollywood's new 'it' girl," Shailene Woodley. Asking the tough questions, he wondered, "She's a red carpet regular with some interesting quirks. Why does she eat clay?" 

On March 17, day 123 of the ObamaCare blackout, Nightline examined the phenomenon of "bootleg butt injections." 

Instead of covering such tabloid fluff, the anchors of Nightline could have, for instance, noticed the disastrous shape Oregon's health care exchange. The Washington Post explained on April 24

The Obama administration is poised to take over Oregon’s broken health insurance exchange, according to officials familiar with the decision who say that it reflects federal officials’ conclusion that several state-run marketplaces may be too dysfunctional to fix.

...

In each of the defective state exchanges, consumers have encountered a variety of obstacles in trying to sign up. Oregon’s consumers have been the only ones who have had to resort entirely to cumbersome paper applications because its Web site has never worked for individual sign-ups, despite nearly $250 million in federal funds spent to set up the exchange.

Just under 64,000 residents have enrolled in private health plans there. In becoming the first state to migrate to the federal insurance marketplace, Oregon is trying to make it easier for more people to sign up for health coverage in the future. But the switch also introduces new uncertainties to an already chaotic environment.

On that evening's show, however, Nightline's Harris was too busy asking this deeply irrelevant question: "What do Frozen's Anna and Toy Story's Woody have in common?" 

(For more examples of what the ABC progam could have covered – but hasn't – see an earlier report by the Media Research Center.

Nightline was born in 1979 out of a need for breaking updates on the Iran hostage crisis. The program has fallen quite quite far since then. Two hundred days (and counting) since ObamaCare was deemed news-worthy. 

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