Nets ignore substance of health care town hall

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

The evening newscasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC ignored President Obama's substantive argument supporting the creation of a health insurance exchange at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin.

In their June 11 evening broadcasts, all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- reported on President Obama's town hall meeting earlier that day, but none of the three reported on the substance of his remarks, rather limiting their coverage to a note Obama wrote on behalf of a 10-year-old girl who was missing school. None of the reports mentioned that Obama spoke at length about a public insurance option as a key component of health care reform. By contrast, guest host Steve Inskeep noted during the June 12 edition of NPR's Morning Edition that the public option is the "single issue" that "dominates the vast and complicated debate over health care." Moreover, a June 12 New York Times article reported that Obama's comments were "the first time Mr. Obama had used his presidential platform to defend the idea at length."

From the June 12 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

INSKEEP: A single issue now dominates the vast and complicated debate over heath care. It's whether the government should offer to sell you health insurance. Private insurance companies, health-care lobbyists and lawmakers on all sides have shown intense interest. So we're going to spend some time this morning asking how it matters to you and your health care. We start in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That's where the issue came up when President Obama held a town hall meeting.

A June 11 CBS.com article about the town hall also called the public plan "one of the most contentious issues in the current health care debate" and quoted Obama as saying, "One of the options ... should be a public insurance option. ... The reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care." Indeed, Obama also said during the town hall that "if you've got a private plan that works for you, that's great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it'll keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down."

From the June 11 town hall:

OBAMA: So what we're working on is the creation of something called the Health Insurance Exchange, which would allow you to one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, choose the plan that's best for you. If you're happy with your plan, you keep it. None of these plans, though, would be able to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. (Applause.)

Every plan should include an affordable, basic benefits package. And if you can't afford one of these plans, we should provide assistance to make sure that you can. (Applause.) I also strongly believe that one of the options in the Exchange should be a public insurance option. (Applause.) And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care -- I've already said if you've got a private plan that works for you, that's great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it'll keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down. (Applause.)

Discussing the event, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reported that Obama "insisted his goal is not, as some critics claim, to nationalize health care," while ABC World News anchor Charlie Gibson said Obama spoke about the "acute need to pass health care reform this summer." NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams did not mention the topic of the town hall at all.

From the June 11 New York Times article:

President Obama, taking his case for a health care overhaul directly to the American people, on Thursday vigorously defended his call for a government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. But back in Washington, a leading Senate Democrat seemed to be looking for a compromise that would limit government involvement.

Mr. Obama came to Green Bay, a city he praised for getting "more quality out of fewer health care dollars than many other communities," as part of an intense push for overhauling health care, his highest legislative priority. But with his insistence on a "public option" generating increased skepticism on Capitol Hill, he defended it as necessary to spur competition in the marketplace.

"If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and it will help keep their prices down," Mr. Obama said. Arguing that controlling health costs is crucial to the nation's economic health, he said Republican criticism of a public plan was unfounded.

[...]

Mr. Obama began the health care debate this year by setting out his goals in broad strokes: he wants to extend health care to the nation's 45 million uninsured, while preserving consumer choice and cutting health care costs. He said at first he would leave the details to Congress, but over the past week, he has been increasingly involved in the legislative process. In a letter to top Senate Democrats last week, he stated his strong preference for a public plan.

The appearance in a high school gymnasium here on Thursday, however, was the first time Mr. Obama had used his presidential platform to defend the idea at length. He said the public option would "ensure coverage for people where the free market system fails," adding, "We've got to admit that the free market has not worked perfectly when it comes to health care."

The idea of a public option also has strong support from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. At her weekly news conference on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi asserted that a public option would indeed be part of any legislation emanating from the House and said she would be opposed to a co-op proposal offered as a substitute for a public option.

From the June 11 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

COURIC: Meanwhile, President Obama is taking his case for health care reform directly to the people. He held a town meeting on it today, and he insisted his goal is not, as some critics claim, to nationalize health care. The audience in Green Bay, Wisconsin, included a man, who, like the president, is the father of a 10-year-old girl.

[begin video clip]

JOHN CORPUS (town hall attendee): I'm fortunate enough to be here with my 10-year-old daughter, who is missing her last day of school for this. I hope she doesn't get in trouble.

OBAMA: Oh, no.

CORPUS: Yeah.

OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?

CORPUS: I'll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

[end video clip]

COURIC: And with that, the president wrote a note for the girl and told her he thought she had a, quote, "cool name." Her name, by the way, is Kennedy.

[begin video clip]

OBAMA: There you go, you got it.

KENNEDY CORPUS: "To Kennedy's teacher. Please excuse Kennedy's absence. She's with me. Barack Obama."

[end video clip]

COURIC: Pretty cool. And Kennedy is a smart kid. She says she's going to keep the note and frame it.

Coming up next, the class of 2009, graduating with a degree of uncertainty.

From the June 11 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: Interesting moment at a presidential town meeting today. The scene: Green Bay, Wisconsin. A man who had a question for the president explained he brought his young daughter along, but she had to skip her last day at school to attend the town meeting. The president was worried and offered to help.

[begin video clip]

OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?

CORPUS: I'll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

OBAMA: All right. Go ahead. I'll start writing it now. What's your name?

CORPUS: John Corpus.

OBAMA: No, her.

CORPUS: Oh.

OBAMA: No, no, I'm serious here. What's your daughter's name?

CORPUS: Her name --

OBAMA: Huh?

CORPUS: Her name is Kennedy.

OBAMA: Kennedy, all right.

CORPUS: Yes.

OBAMA: That's a cool name.

CORPUS: That's a very cool name, thank you.

OBAMA: All right, I'm going to write to Kennedy's teacher.

[end video clip]

WILLIAMS: And he did. The president delivered the note in person to the little girl, who, of course, thought better of it -- made a copy for her teacher, and kept the original for herself.

From the June 11 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: Finally tonight, President Obama visited Green Bay, Wisconsin, today to talk about what he feels is the acute need to pass health care reform this summer. One father in the audience had let his daughter skip school to attend. That led to this.

[begin video clip]

CORPUS: My name is John Corpus. I'm fortunate enough to be here with my 10-year-old daughter, who is missing her last day of school for this. I hope she doesn't get into trouble --

OBAMA: Oh, no.

CORPUS: Yeah.

OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?

CORPUS: I'll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

OBAMA: All right. Go ahead. I'll start writing it now. What's your name?

CORPUS: John Corpus.

OBAMA: No, her.

CORPUS: Oh. Well, considering I have some people here from work that are very interested in --

OBAMA: No, no, I'm serious. What's your daughter's name?

CORPUS: Her name --

OBAMA: Huh?

CORPUS: Her name is Kennedy.

OBAMA: Kennedy, all right.

CORPUS: Yes.

OBAMA: That's a cool name.

CORPUS: That's a very cool name, thank you.

OBAMA: All right, I'm going to write to Kennedy's teacher. OK, go ahead, I'm listening to your question. ... Here you go, Kennedy. There you go. There you go, you got it. All right.

KENNEDY CORPUS: He wrote, "To Kennedy's teacher, please excuse Kennedy's absence. She's with me. Barack Obama."

[end video clip]

GIBSON: And Kennedy described the whole thing as, like, really awesome.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
CBS, NBC, ABC
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, World News with Charles Gibson
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