After reporting on CBO analysis of partial health reform bill, ABC and CBS ignore analysis of full bill

››› ››› MATT GERTZ & MORGAN WEILAND

ABC and CBS evening newscasts both reported on the Congressional Budget Office's June 15 preliminary analysis of an incomplete version of the Senate, but they have yet to report on the CBO's analysis of the "complete bill."

During June evening news broadcasts, both ABC and CBS reported on the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) June 15 preliminary analysis of an incomplete version of the Senate health committee's draft health care reform bill. Both the CBS Evening News and ABC's World News highlighted claims that the bill cost too much for the number of Americans it insured. However, on the July 2 edition of the programs, neither reported on the release of CBO's July 1 preliminary score of what the committee's chair referred to as the "complete bill," which included both a public health insurance option and an employer mandate requiring businesses with over 25 employees to either insure their workers or pay a fee per uninsured worker. The CBO calculated that the updated bill would cover more of the uninsured for a lower cost than it had estimated the earlier version of the bill would.

According to CBO's July 1 score of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee's (HELP) bill, under the legislation, 21 million fewer Americans would be uninsured in 2019 than under current law. In a July 1 letter to members of the HELP committee, publicly released the following day, committee Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Kennedy's chief deputy on health care reform, wrote that the "Congressional Budget Office has carefully reviewed our complete bill, and we are pleased to report that the CBO has scored it at $611.4 billion over 10 years, with the new coverage provisions scored at $597 billion" -- a cost they noted was a "significant reduction from earlier estimates." The preliminary score of the complete bill that the committee released stated that Title I of the bill would increase the deficit by $597 billion over 10 years.

By contrast, CBO's June 15 score of an incomplete version of the HELP bill -- which CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf made clear did not include a public option or an employer mandate -- found that under the legislation, 17 million fewer Americans would be uninsured in 2019 than under current law, at a cost of approximately $1 trillion over 10 years.

Indeed, President Obama said in a July 2 statement that "[t]he Congressional Budget Office has now issued a more complete review of this bill, concluding that it will cost less and cover more Americans than originally estimated." Obama also stated that the bill "reflects many of the principles I've laid out."

Additionally, Obama noted, as did Kennedy and Dodd, that "[w]hen merged with the Senate Finance Committee's companion pieces, the Senate will be prepared to vote for health reform legislation that does not add to the deficit, reduces health care costs and covers 97% of Americans." Addressing this point, washingtonpost.com blogger Ezra Klein explained in a July 2 post that Medicaid expansion is under the Senate Finance Committee's jurisdiction and thus could not be included in the HELP bill. From Klein's post:

The short version is this: CBO estimates that by 2019 the bill will cover 21 million people at a cost of $597 billion. But -- and this is important -- the HELP Committee's bill doesn't include the Medicaid expansion, because Medicaid is under the sole jurisdiction of the Finance Committee. But if Medicaid is expanded to 150 percent, it will cover an additional 20 million at a cost of about $1 trillion. Add in the savings that Finance is expected to get from reforming Medicare and you're looking at a bill that will cost $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion and cover 42 million people (which would mean 97 percent of the legal population in 2019 would have health insurance) by 2019.

On the June 15 edition of ABC's World News, Jake Tapper reported that "this evening the Congressional Budget Office has offered an analysis" of the HELP bill and "concluded that the plan would cost at least $1 trillion over the course of 10 years with a net increase of 16 million people insured." George Stephanopoulos then stated that "Republicans are already weighing in on that report. They're doing some back-of-the-envelope math saying it's going to be $62,500 for every new person covered." As Media Matters for America noted, Tapper did not point out that the CBO had stated that its assessment was incomplete.

Similarly, on the June 16 edition of the CBS Evening News, Wyatt Andrews reported, "The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, said Senator Ted Kennedy's health care proposal could cost $1 trillion over 10 years and 36 million Americans would still be uninsured." Andrews also aired a clip of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's assertion, "The news yesterday from CBO is the turning point in the healthcare debate."

From the June 15 edition of ABC News' World News with Charles Gibson (transcript from the Nexis database):

TAPPER: And George [Stephanopoulos, guest anchor], this evening the Congressional Budget Office has offered an analysis of a different Senate Democrat's plan -- that of Senator Ted Kennedy. They concluded that the plan would cost at least $1 trillion over the course of 10 years with a net increase of 16 million people insured. George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jake, Republicans are already weighing in on that report. They're doing some back-of-the-envelope math saying it's going to be $62,500 for every new person covered. What's the White House saying about the report?

TAPPER: Well, they're saying, first of all, that the president is insisting that any plan be deficit-neutral, that it be paid for, and they're also saying that there are a lot of different plans on Capitol Hill, they're all going through the legislative process, and they have not seen the Congressional Budget Office report yet, so they cannot officially comment.

From the June 16 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (transcript from the Nexis database):

JEFF GLOR (guest anchor): Still ahead on the CBS Evening News, health care reform. The president says he knows how to pay for it, but can he really afford the bills? A reality check.

[...]

GLOR: We always knew overhauling our health care system would not be cheap, but today we learned more about the staggering sums involved. At least a trillion dollars over the next ten years according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And there are growing concerns that President Obama lacks a realistic plan to pay for this sweeping reform. Details now from Wyatt Andrews in tonight's "Reality Check."

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are we going to pay for that, Mr. President?

ANDREWS: That one question, how the nation really pays for a health reform, just got a shocking wakeup call. The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, said Senator Ted Kennedy's health care proposal could cost $1 trillion over 10 years and 36 million Americans would still be uninsured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a preliminary set of numbers.

ANDREWS: Democrats called the numbers inconclusive. Even the CBO called its own report incomplete. But the sheer magnitude of what Congress is considering is undeniable.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (House minority whip): The news yesterday from CBO is the turning point in the health care debate.

ANDREWS: So what will health reform cost? The president has also estimated $1 trillion.

OBAMA: And will be deficit neutral.

ANDREWS: And claims he can achieve reform without raising the deficit. The fact is, this means raising taxes. And where the president claims he can raise $267 billion by limiting the tax deductions of high-income wage earners, the fact is most of Congress opposes this idea.

JONATHAN OBERLANDER (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill): And if they're unwilling to do that, they`re going to have to pick an option that has other political difficulties. And so the question is which kind of poison do they want to drink?

ANDREWS: The president has also outlined more than 600 billion worth of spending cuts, some of which cut Medicare payments to hospitals. Last month, the hospitals claimed at the White House they would support billions in savings, the fact is they now say they never meant cuts, that payment cuts are not reform.

[end video clip]

ANDREWS: What's coming and very soon is a dog fight over that trillion dollars and every interest group that promised to compromise to achieve health care reform will be arguing someone else should go first. Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, Washington.

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