After offering sympathetic coverage to the disastrous roll-out of the ObamaCare website, ABC on Monday actually uncovered "new troubles" and alerted viewers to misleading comments by the White House. Near the top of Good Morning America on Monday, co-host George Stephanopoulos trumpeted, "ABC News has obtained copies of internal administration memos revealing for the first time that extensive hurdles to signing up for insurance are not limited to the website."
Reporter Jon Karl quoted from internal memos destroying the idea that signing up for ObamaCare by mail or phone is any easier. Karl quoted from one of the people working on fixing the website: "The paper applications allow people to feel like they're moving forward...At the end of the day, we're all stuck in the same queue." According to the journalist, attempts to sign up with these alternate methods are simply "an effort to buy time." [MP3 audio here.]
Karl added, "In other words, while the President was pitching the telephone hotline, those call centers were using the same troubled system as the website."
He contrasted this with a clip of Obama announcing, "In the meantime, you can still apply for coverage over the phone or by mail or in person."
To make the point clear, Karl reiterated, "President Obama has repeatedly reassured frustrated customers that they can easily bypass crash after crash on HealthCare.gov by enrolling in other ways."
Monday's coverage is a change from how GMA had previously covered the website's launch. On October 31, Jim Avila derided "rude" Republicans for attacking Kathleen Sebelius. He complimented the Health and Human Services Secretary for "falling on her sword."
On October 30, Avila knocked the health care plans millions are losing as "cheap" and "underperforming."
A transcript of the November 4 GMA segment is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We have new troubles on the ObamaCare front. ABC News has obtained copies of internal administration memos revealing for the first time that extensive hurdles to signing up for insurance are not limited to the website. ABC's Jon Karl brings us that from the White House. Jon?
ABC GRAPHIC: Internal ObamaCare Memos Uncovered: Problems Signing Up By Phone, Mail
JON KARL: Good morning, George. Well, the White House said repeatedly that people with bypass the problems on HealthCare.gov by sending an application over the mail or calling a hotline. But it turns out that is not the quick and easy fix that the White House suggested it would be. President Obama has repeatedly reassured frustrated customers that they can easily bypass crash after crash on HealthCare.gov by enrolling in other ways.
BARACK OBAMA: In the meantime, you can still apply for coverage over the phone or by mail or in person.
KARL: And he said enrolling over the phone is easy and quick.
OBAMA: Once you get on the phone with a trained representative, it usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual to apply for coverage, about 45 minutes for a family.
KARL: But internal Obama administration memos obtained exclusively by ABC News from Republican congressional investigators shows that applications over the phone have the very same problem as those over the website. Why? They use the same computer system. "The same portal is used to determine eligibility no matter how the application is submitted," reads one memo written by the team in charge of fixing the website. The memo describes filling out paper applications as, basically, an effort to buy time. "The paper applications allow people to feel like they're moving forward," it reads. "At the end of the day, we're all stuck in the same queue." In other words, while the President was pitching the telephone hotline, those call centers were using the same troubled system as the website. But the White House is saying that the call centers were designed so people could give their personal information and that it can be entered into the website at a later date when the website was working better. What officials are telling me this morning is that the President was not saying you could enroll over the phone only that you could submit your application. And George, as you know, the White House is saying that website will be fixed by the end of the month.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jon, these troubles are already becoming fodder on the campaign trail. Big elections tomorrow in New Jersey and Virginia. And the President was out in Virginia yesterday.
KARL: Yeah, that's right. And they're hoping for some news in Virginia. Polls suggest the Democrats could have a clean sweep in what had long be a Republican-leaning state. Now it will be dominated, if the election goes the way the polls suggest, by Democrats. That is some much needed good news at the White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, Chris Christie, Republican, headed to victory in New Jersey. Okay, Jon Karl, thanks very much.