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No Mentions of Conservatives/GOP in Networks' Coverage of Latest ObamaCare 'Fix'

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."

The full transcripts of the relevant briefs and reports from ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today:

12/20/2013
07:04 am EST
CBS This Morning

NORAH O'DONNELL: Monday is the deadline for Americans to buy health insurance, if they want to have coverage under the Affordable Care Act by January 1. This morning, the White House is making some last-minute changes to the law. It will now offer a cheaper alternative for people who lost their insurance because of new ObamaCare requirements.

Bill Plante is at the White House. Bill, good morning. So, why this change?

BILL PLANTE: Well, Norah, this opens the door for almost anyone who's been shut out of the marketplace to get what's called a catastrophic insurance policy. That's the kind originally meant for healthy, younger people under the age of 30.

[CBS News Graphic: "Catastrophic Coverage: White House Makes Last-Minute Change To ObamaCare"]

PLANTE (voice-over): In the latest change to the already complex and controversial health care law, millions of Americans, whose insurance policies were recently canceled, may now qualify for the catastrophic plans – regardless of their age. It's a bare bones option, which comes with lower premiums, but provides more limited benefits. It's designed primarily to cover unusually-high medical costs after the patient pays big deductibles required by law.

[CBS News Graphic: "Catastrophic Insurance Plan: -Lower Premiums; -Limited Benefits: -Designed to cover unusually high medical costs; -Patients still required to pay big deductibles; Source: The Wall Street Journal/The Associated Press"]

In a letter to the six moderate senators who pushed for the relaxed rule, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the option 'the smoothest transition possible for Americans whose plans were canceled for failing to meet ObamaCare's requirements.'

[CBS News Graphic: "Sen. Mark Warner, (D), Virginia; Sen. Angus King, (I), Maine; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, (D), North Dakota; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D), New Hampshire; Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D), Louisiana; Sen. Tim Kaine, (D), Virginia"]

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.

PLANTE: But the health care insurance industry is now raising concerns about the latest administration policy shift. A national advocacy group representing insurers issued a statement, saying, 'This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace, and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers.

PLANTE (on-camera): Now, the big question is, how many people will the new rule affect? The administration says fewer than a half million. People who lost their coverage still need to sign up for another plan. Insurers fear that it could mean millions more, and there's a lot of upset about what the administration has done at the last minute. Charlie, Norah?

O'DONNELL: All right. Bill, thank you.


12/20/2013
07:07 am EST
NBC – Today

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, now to a late-night surprise announcement from the Obama administration – another fix for the botched health care rollout, specifically for all those cancelled policies. The White House now says people that don't get insurance in 2014 can apply to get a one-year exemption from penalties, and they can now buy catastrophic coverage. This is something previously not permitted under the law.

Let's get right to Chuck Todd, NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director. Chuck, good morning to you. It seemed to me that insurers were really blindsided by this announcement and not happy about it.

[NBC News Graphic: "ObamaCare Exemption Announced: Insurance Industry Frustrated By Last Minute Move"]

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: Yeah, and needless to say, more ammunition for the critics of the law – Chuck Todd at the White House with this late breaking story, thank you so much.


12/20/2013
07:10 am EST
ABC – Good Morning America

[ABC News Graphic: "New Obama Exemption: Surprise Move Before Monday Deadline"]

JOSH ELLIOT: George, we're going to begin here with a new case now of the White House backtracking on ObamaCare. The administration now says it will allow the millions of people –  whose insurance was canceled because it didn't meet minimum standards – to buy catastrophic coverage instead, and be exempt from paying a penalty. The announcement comes as the Monday deadline fast approaches. That, of course, [is] the last day that you can enroll if you want coverage by January 1.

Meantime, ABC News has learned 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.


08:04 am EST

ELLIOT: The White House [is] offering relief now for people who lost their health insurance because it didn't meet standards required by the new health care law. Those people will now be allowed to buy simple, catastrophic coverage, and won't have to pay a penalty.

Monday is the deadline to buy insurance that kicks in by January 1, as officials are now bracing for a surge of traffic on the ObamaCare website – even as ABC News has learned the site still has serious security weaknesses.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.