ABC, CBS, and NBC all devoted air time to the Obama administration's latest "fix for the botched health care rollout"on their Friday morning newscasts, but failed to include any conservative or Republican reaction to this development. Good Morning America minimized their coverage, airing just two news briefs on "the White House offering relief now for people who lost their health insurance because it didn't meet standards required by the...health care law."
Today and CBS This Morning both spotlighted the insurance industry's worries over this change, but didn't get around to the possible political fallout over the White House announcement. Guthrie only vaguely asserted how the "fix" might be "more ammunition for the critics of the law."
During his report on CBS This Morning, correspondent Bill Plante noted how HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to "six moderate senators who pushed for the relaxed rule...[and] called the option 'the smoothest transition possible for Americans whose plans were canceled for failing to meet ObamaCare's requirements.'" An on-screen graphic listed these "moderate" politicians – five Democrats and an independent who are all left of center (New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen actually had an ACU rating of zero in 2012).
Planted also featured two soundbites from a New Jersey woman who lost her health coverage, and had pondered just paying the fine under the Affordable Care Act for those who don't purchase insurance:
BILL PLANTE: The move comes in response to the concerns of Americans, like 56-year-old Beverly Cena. The Middletown, New Jersey mother lost her insurance plan. In an interview before the new ruling was announced, she said the government needed to do something.
BEVERLY CENA: We would actually like to have catastrophic insurance. That's actually what we would take, but they don't give us that option.
PLANTE: Without the exemption, her family was considering going without coverage.
CENA: I'd rather pay the fine and – than spend a lot of money, and have a health care plan that really isn't going to do much for me or my husband.
On Today, NBC political director Chuck Todd devoted his entire report to the explaining the Obama administration's move and the insurance industry's negative reaction:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: ...It seemed to me that insurers were really blindsided by this announcement and not happy about it.
CHUCK TODD: Well, they're not happy about it at all, but let me explain what's going on here. Part of it has to do with the fact that the administration fears that all these people that got these cancellation notices about their policies, because they didn't meet the minimum requirements the new law allows – well, not enough of those folks have signed up for new health care. The deadline is three days away, if you want to have coverage begin on January 1 and not have it uninterrupted. So, they feared as if these folks weren't going to do it – so a little part of the law that allowed for folks under 30 to have a hardship clause and get an exemption to buy these catastrophic policies – well now, they're opening it up to anybody who's gotten a cancellation notice.
But here's the issue Savannah – is essentially now, if you got a cancellation notice and you just think the plans are too expensive, but you don't – you aren't eligible for any subsidies, you can claim hardship and use your cancellation notice as the reason. If you think the policies are too expensive; you don't qualify for the subsidies; but you never got one of these notices, you can't file for one of these hardships. So, it essentially creates an arbitrary – two classes of people that don't have insurance, and that's what the insurance companies are upset about. They say that it's messing up the marketplace here at the very last minute, and it really messes up their finances. Remember, they're being asked to cover more than they've ever had to cover before. So, this is why there's such confusion now at the last minute.
Guthrie ended the segment with her "more ammunition for the critics of the law" phrase.
On Good Morning America, ABC news anchor Josh Elliott did point out something that wasn't mentioned on either CBS or NBC – that "HealthCare.gov still has critical security flaws – three months, now, after the website's launch. Tests found two serious risks in the last few weeks, but no breaches of personal data have been reported."
[Update: the full transcripts of the relevant briefs and reports from ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today are available at MRC.org.]