In a report about Republicans' opposition to the inclusion of a public option plan in the health care reform bill, Jim Angle reported only GOP criticism of the public plan without noting supporters' responses to those arguments.
On the June 8 edition of The Fox Report with Shepard Smith, reporting on a letter that nine Senate Finance Committee Republicans reportedly sent to President Obama opposing the inclusion of a public plan option in the forthcoming health care reform bill, Fox News correspondent Jim Angle reported only the Republicans' criticism of the public plan without noting supporters' responses to those arguments.
Angle reported, "Critics argue that [the public plan] would squeeze out private insurance, and that a government plan would wind up setting prices." But Angle did not note the arguments of public plan supporters addressing concerns that a public plan would enjoy an unfair competitive advantage over private plans. For example, as Media Matters for America has noted, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during her May 6 testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee that the public plan "can be done as a level playing field. It's about the rules that are established in the beginning." She continued, explaining how a public plan option should be structured and why it is a necessary component of reform:
SEBELIUS: And as I said, the private insurers currently have in fact a -- I would say -- a tilted playing field in way too many areas where cherry-picking on the market is a strategy to make a profit, so that the ability to underwrite individuals' medical conditions to either make insurance unaffordable or unavailable is a current private-market strategy. I think that that measure doesn't work well in a health insurance exchange any more than a measure which would give government huge advantages and huge subsidies doesn't work well. So I think if the rules are the same so individuals who have lower income, who are not insured, have a subsidy benefit as they come into the health exchange and can choose between a public and private plan option with the same kind of rules, I think it can work as a very important competitive situation where it will help drive -- where people will be competing, public and private will be competing, not on underlying price or on unfair government subsidies, but really on practice and protocol, on lowering overhead costs, on lowering administrative costs and driving benefits to their incoming enrollees.
Additionally, on May 4, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly released principles for a public plan option requested by Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) -- whose committee is currently producing a draft health care reform bill -- that are intended to create a level playing field on which the public and private plans could compete. According to a May 5 New York Times report, Schumer said that the " 'public plan ... must be subject to the same regulations and requirements as all other plans' in the insurance market." The Times reported that the principles he released include [emphasis added]:
¶The public plan must be self-sustaining. It should pay claims with money raised from premiums and co-payments. It should not receive tax revenue or appropriations from the government.
¶The public plan should pay doctors and hospitals more than what Medicare pays. Medicare rates, set by law and regulation, are often lower than what private insurers pay.
¶The government should not compel doctors and hospitals to participate in a public plan just because they participate in Medicare.
¶To prevent the government from serving as both "player and umpire," the officials who manage a public plan should be different from those who regulate the insurance market.
As Media Matters documented, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron filed a similarly one-sided report on the public plan option on the May 6 edition of Special Report.
From the June 8 edition of Fox News' The Fox Report with Shepard Smith:
SHEPARD SMITH (host): I'm Shepard Smith, this is Fox Report HD. It's the bottom of the hour; time for the top of the news, and President Obama, facing resistance from Republicans as he tries to overhaul the nation's health care system. A group of GOP senators now sending the president a letter today urging him not to create a government-run insurance plan.
The president has said a public option would keep private companies honest and make the market more competitive. But these senators warn it would take power away from the doctors and the parents, and give that power to another Washington bureaucracy.
Jim Angle is on the top story at the bottom of the hour. Jim, the Republicans also say that the public -- the public option, at least, would actually hurt competition.
ANGLE: Well, that's right, Shep. Critics argue that would squeeze out private insurance, and that a government plan would wind up setting prices, telling people what kinds of treatment they could get, and making decisions that doctors should make. In other words, they say it'll lead to the kind of health care you get in Canada, where patients have to wait months, even a year or two, for treatment after their doctor says they need it, Shep.
SMITH: [Inaudible] how to pay for it either, Jim.
ANGLE: Well, no. We don't know the cost yet because there is no Democratic plan on the table, though even Democrats say it will cost a trillion or more dollars over 10 years. But some Republicans note we can't pay for the government health plans we already have such as Medicare, one part of which has promised some $36 trillion more in benefits than the government projects in revenues. But President Obama insists, Shep, that no new plan will add to the deficit.
SMITH: Jim, he's telling Congress it's time to deliver a health care plan, and he's getting some high-tech resistance there, too.
ANGLE: Well, he is. In fact, over the weekend, while the president and his family were sightseeing in Paris, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa resorted to tweeting, a form of short text messaging, as you know, saying to all the world, "President Obama you got nerve while you sightseeing in Paris to tell us time to deliver on health care. We still on schedule, even working weekend."
And Republicans say how can the president say hurry up when Democrats haven't even put a bill on the table, leaving them with nothing to examine, discuss, or vote on -- Shep.