CBS Touts 'Exclusive' on Quest for 12 Times Hike in Federal Spending on Kids' Health

CBS on Wednesday night turned over a full story to promoting the cause of one interest group which wants a 12-fold hike in federal spending on health care for children. As if it were some kind of scoop to hype a report from a group yearning for media attention, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric trumpeted it as an “exclusive look tonight at a stunning report by a respected children's health care group. It says nearly 24 million children in this country do not have regular access to medical care and that's twice as many as experts believed.”

Reporter Sharyl Attkisson's story was completely devoted to the Children's Health Fund (CHF) study (as of 8pm EDT Wed, not yet on CHF's Web site) that she outlined: “It's estimated nine million children are completely uninsured, but the new study says 11.5 million more kids end up without medical care for part of the year and another three million can't get a ride to the doctor. That's over 23 million children. To close the gap,” the co-founder of CHF, Irwin Redlener, “is on Capitol Hill lobbying for a dramatic expansion of the $5 billion federal children's health insurance program, or CHIP.” Attkisson relayed his quest: “Redlener wants to add nine million more people to CHIP, plus dental and mental health benefits and transportation. The price tag for all that?”Redlener answered: “What we need is $60 billion.” That would be an incredible 12 times more. (More below on CHF connections to NBC News, Bill Clinton and Chris Dodd)

CHF appears to be more program oriented, and much less of a left-wing activist group than the Children's Defense Fund, but its Board of Directors includes former New York City Mayor David Dinkins as well as former NBC News reporter Fred Francis. Another ex-NBCer, Jane Pauley, chairs the Board of Advisors, which like the Board of Directors, includes no obvious conservatives but features former Democratic Senate Leader George Mitchell and liberal Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd. Former President Bill Clinton will headline the group's 20th anniversary gala on May 30.

A transcript of the May 2 CBS Evening News publicity for the interest group and its cause:
Katie Couric's tease: “Also tonight, a health care crisis: an exclusive look at a new report that finds more than 25 percent of our children have no regular access to medical care.”

Couric introduced the subsequent story: “Now to the health of our children. We have an exclusive look tonight at a stunning report by a respected children's health care group. It says nearly 24 million children in this country do not have regular access to medical care and that's twice as many as experts believed. Here's Sharyl Attkisson.”

Sharyl Attkisson, over video of a parent and child on a bus run by the Children's Health Fund: “These uninsured children of the working poor don't go to the doctor's office, it comes to them.”

Dr. Teri Gray Brown, Children's National Medical Center: “They make too much in order to be eligible for Medicaid, but don't make enough to provide insurance of their own.”

Attkisson: “150,000 patients a year nationwide get free care from 21 mobile units provided by the Children's Health Fund. But a new report out tomorrow from this non-profit group says far too many kids are falling into a huge health care crevice. Their report finds, despite billions of dollars in government spending, more than one in four children still don't have full-time health care, a gap twice as big as anyone thought.”

Dr. Irwin Redlener, co-founder, Children's Health Fund, inside a Capitol Hill office building: “It's more than just insurance and lack of insurance that are keeping kids from getting medical care.”

Attkisson: “It's estimated nine million children are completely uninsured, but the new study says 11.5 million more kids end up without medical care for part of the year and another three million can't get a ride to the doctor. That's over 23 million children. To close the gap, President of the Children's Health Fund, Irwin Redlener, is on Capitol Hill lobbying for a dramatic expansion of the $5 billion federal children's health insurance program, or CHIP. Redlener wants to add nine million more people to CHIP, plus dental and mental health benefits and transportation. The price tag for all that?”

Redlener to Attkisson: “Really, what we need is $60 billion, between $50 and $60 billion.”

Attkisson: “Getting that type of government assistance may be a long shot, but Dr. Redlener says it's cheaper than the cost of neglecting the medical needs of a generation of children. Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News, Washington.”
The CBSNews.com online version of the story, “Study: 1 In 4 Kids Go Without Health Care; CBS News Has Learned Researchers Found Bigger Health Care Gap than Thought for Children.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center