CBS Lets Sebelius' Former Adviser at HHS Spin For ObamaCare

CBS This Morning did its best over two days to put the most positive spin on the rollout of the ObamaCare insurance exchanges. On Saturday, the newscast turned to Bloomberg's Peter Gosselin, who likened the exchanges to "shopping for anything online on Amazon". However, the program failed to point out that Gosselin once worked in the Obama administration, and advised HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on health policy.

Two days later, the morning show turned to CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger, who followed Gosselin's lead in likening the exchanges to a popular website: "This is really like going to shop for a flight on Travelocity." Schlesinger also noted that ObamaCare "has to get young, healthy people in it, or else the math does not work". However, she insisted just moments later that the marketplaces will "work out all right", despite the initial glitches. [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

The CBS morning newscast brought on Gosselin to explain the health care exchanges. Substitute anchor Anne-Marie Green wondered, "How will it work?" The former speechwriter to former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner led with his Amazon line, and explained that "there's one big difference, which is that health insurance is really expensive and too expensive for many people to afford on their own. And the theory behind the bill is it's good for America if everybody's covered." Of course, the guest omitted that Amazon also doesn't have the power to penalize you if you don't buy health insurance.

It should be pointed out that Gosselin not only worked for Sebelius, but introduced his former boss when she gave the keynote address at the 2013 award ceremony for the Newhouse School Public Communication's Toner Prize. The award is named for the Bloomberg analyst's late wife, Robin Toner.

CBS This Morning did a similar explanatory segment with Schlesinger on Monday, where the analyst played up the supposed upsides of ObamaCare:

NORAH O'DONNELL: So, people who can start shopping tomorrow, where will they be able to find information about where to buy insurance and how much will it cost?

JILL SCHLESINGER: Okay. It's very confusing, but it really isn't, okay? So, what you need to know, is if you go to one of these marketplaces at HealthCare.gov...you're going to see different types of coverage for each – say, like covering 60 to 90 percent of your health care costs. You can choose it. Remember, this is like-

O'DONNELL: There's a gold plan and a platinum plan-

SCHLESINGER: There's – right – the precious metals plans – and you know what's interesting, is this is really like going to shop for a flight on Travelocity. You're going to a place; you're comparing cost; you're choosing coverage. That's what you need to know. This is all starting tomorrow.

O'DONNELL But Jill, you make it sound so easy. There have been so many reports of glitches already.

SCHLESINGER: Well, I think that any rollout – a website and a huge initiative – there are going to be glitches. But the concept should be easy....

O'DONNELL: There's a lot of examples of how much it costs. But the penalty if you don't buy...may cost several hundred dollars a month; or you get to pay – what the penalty? Ninety-five dollars a year. Won't a lot of people end up just paying the penalty?

SCHLESINGER: Well, remember, the penalty is $95 a year, or one percent of your income – whichever is greater. That's for next year. The cost goes up in the next couple of years. So, when we get to the year 2016, it's $695 per person, or two-and-a-half percent of your income. That's a real incentive. Look, this plan has to get young, healthy people in it, or else the math does not work.

CHARLIE ROSE: And if there's a government shutdown?

SCHLESINGER: We're open for business at the Affordable Care Act. The reason is, that this is a funded program. So, everything will work tomorrow – hopefully, as planned. Yes, there will be technical glitches, but everyone – this thing will work out all right. Don't worry.

[Update, Monday, 6:50 pm Eastern: the full transcript of the Peter Gosselin segment from Saturday's CBS This Morning is available at MRC.org.]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center