ABC, NBC Hail Arnold's 'Bold, Groundbreaking' Health Plan Covering Illegal Aliens

January 10th, 2007 9:00 AM

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be campaigning to be the liberal media’s favorite Republican office-holder. On Tuesday, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today publicized his "bold" new plan to offer billions in new state government subsidies to provide "universal" health coverage, even to millions of illegal immigrants. ABC co-host Robin Roberts openly endorsed it: "there is definitely a crisis, and it's good to see at least trying something, something, especially to help those that are uninsured." While ABC seemed to offer no opposition, except to frame it briefly as a potential "budget buster," NBC at least noted critics in small business and opponents of subsidizing (and attracting) illegal immigrants.

MRC’s Justin McCarthy reported that ABC promoted the California health plan as a challenge to President Bush and the new Democratic Congress to follow up and do something similar nationwide:

Diane Sawyer: "And back here in the United States, another big headline. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California issuing a kind of challenge to the U.S. government. He has unveiled a bold new plan to give every person in California health insurance coverage. He says it will actually drive down costs. Other states are already joining in, so is this a radical new solution or a budget buster? ABC's David Muir here with more, David."

David Muir: "Diane, good morning. For the 40 million Americans who don't have health insurance they're hoping this is a radical solution. Six and a half million of those uninsured are in California alone. This morning, though, there are many critics, among them small business saying it will be too expensive. But the governor says it is simple: If you can't afford it, the state will help you buy it. But you must be insured. Still recovering from his own broken leg, Governor Schwarzenegger had to speak through a video uplink, about his sweeping plan to cover California's 6.5 million uninsured, including all children, regardless of their immigration status."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA): "I think that this year, in Sacramento, we can again make history."

Muir: "What the governor is trying to do reflects a nationwide trend. So many states got involved in healthcare reform it was a hot issue last year, and experts say it will be even hotter this year."

Jim Frogue, Center for Health Transition: "I'd say just about all 50 of them will tell you that they're wrestling with serious health care reform."

Frogue is the conservative expert in the piece, a former expert for the Heritage Foundation (his current group is a Newt Gingrich project, the Center for Health Transformation, not Transition, which means ABC erred.) But you’d have no idea from ABC that he's seeking market-oriented policies. ABC merely used him to tell you that health "reform" is a hot trend in governing circles.

Muir: "Why? The increasing number of uninsured Americans. There are now 42.4 million, eight in ten come from working families like Cliff Whalen, a single father raising a nine year old son and seven year old daughter, he is a personal care attendant, caring for his quadraplegic brother earning about $25,000 a year. His children are covered by the state. A relief, on this day, his daughter is running 102 degree fever. He cannot afford to insure himself and he worries what would happen to his family if something would happen to him."

Cliff Whalen: "I work 50 hours a week. I'm not asking for, for health insurance for, for free. I'm asking for something that I can afford."

Muir: "Cliff expects that to change. He lives in Massachusetts where universal health care plan was passed last year. And when it kicks in, he will be able to buy insurance at a cheaper rate. So why are states, many with Republican governors, now getting support for universal care, when so many people frowned upon the idea during the Clinton years?"

Leif Wellington Haase, Health Fellow, Century Foundation: "In '94, people who were insured felt it was somebody else's problem. Now I think most people feel that it could be their problem."

It’s less unclear that Haase is a liberal who thinks Bush is all wet.

Muir concluded: "So many big questions though remain this morning. How much will the plans cost? Will they create even more bureaucracy? Governor Schwarzenegger says his plan will actually save $10 billion a year. Critics don't see it. But what the states are clearly seeing is a health care crisis. In fact, nearly a half dozen or more in fact, have set up commissions this year alone to look into expanding healthcare coverage."

Robin Roberts: "Well, there is definitely a crisis and it's good to see at least trying something, something, especially to help those that are uninsured."

Muir: "That's what the governor is saying."

Notice how ABC barely even mentioned health subsidies "regardless of immigration status." MRC’s Geoff Dickens caught the NBC piece in Today’s second half-hour. It was more balanced than ABC’s but Geoff noticed liberal-boosting lingo in the piece, portraying Arnold as a pioneer and his opponents as the entrenched special interests:

Meredith Vieira: "In California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a groundbreaking $12 billion health care plan in an effort to provide coverage to everyone in his state but it is not without controversy already sparking opposition from small business owners to powerful interest groups. NBC's George Lewis has more."

George Lewis: "Almost 7 million people in California, including 750,000 children have no health insurance coverage so the Governor proposes a sweeping remedy."

Arnold Schwarzenegger: "My solution is that everyone in California must have health insurance. If you can't afford it, the state will help you buy it but you must be insured."

Lewis: "California joins a number of states that have either proposed or enacted measures to cover the uninsured after the federal government failed to solve the problem. California's plan would be partially paid for by taxing doctors and hospitals, something that's likely to draw fire from this state's medical lobbies. Small business owners don't like the Governor's idea that any company with more than 10 employees should provide health coverage."

Sean Fisher, tile store owner: "All of us would love to offer health care for the employees but you know businesses our size, there's just not enough money left over."

Lewis: "Another controversial aspect of the plan, a proposal that illegal immigrants, including their children, would be covered."

Schwarzenegger: "The decisions that our team has made was not should we treat them or not treat them, the question really is how can we treat them in a most cost-effective way."

Lewis: "That's angered some activists who oppose helping illegal immigrants get medical treatment."

Jim Gilchrist, Minutemen Project founder: "That burden should not be upon the U.S. taxpayers or the California taxpayers."

Lewis: "The Governor projects his plan will save $10 billion a year by delivering health care in a more efficient manner but as he gets ready for his annual State of the State message tonight he faces a tough fight against some powerful special interests in a battle that will be closely followed across the country. For Today, George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles."

Liberals might be upset that NBC's piece didn't have any Hillary-care liberals hailing the liberal trend like ABC did, but it did balance the governor and his critics. It might have been improved if it acknowledged there are powerful special interests, including the illegal-immigration lobby, in favor of more government subsidies as well.

By the way, both networks were following the lead of Tuesday's New York Times, which put the story at the top of the front page, right-hand side.