FLASHBACK: Media Denounced GOP Bill to Save Billions in Health Costs

If one ever needed a case study in how the liberal media use their clout to push government spending ever higher, there’s the example of the Affordable Health Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Seven years ago this month, liberal talking heads emotionally denounced a Republican plan to repeal-and-replace ObamaCare, proposing a bill that would have saved an estimated $473 billion over ten years, according to the final Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate.

Yet as the bill moved through Congress, the media offered no deep investigations of whether ObamaCare had succeeded or failed in controlling health costs (as many in the media had wrongly claimed as they pushed the original bill in 2009-10). Nor did the media host debates about whether broadly regulating health care was an appropriate function for the federal government, vs. something better left to the states, or to individuals and their employers.

Instead, viewers heard a stream of emotional claims about “real people with very real problems” who would be “hurt” by a partial rollback in law enacted only a few years earlier. Republicans were “monsters” like the “Zodiac killer” who would have “the blood of a lot of innocent people” on their hands, the liberal media narrative insisted.

Comparing a new bill’s proposed spending level to a fast-growing baseline amount is a dishonest Washington budget trick employed to make any reduction from the baseline seem like a devastating cut. Yet instead of exposing such trickery, reporters appropriated the dishonest language as their own. George Stephanopoulos, for example, lashed out at White House advisor Kellyanne Conway: “I don’t see how you can say more than $800 billion in savings is not cuts.” (ABC’s This Week, June 25, 2017).

In fact, the Republican bill would have merely held the increase in Medicaid spending to the rate of inflation; the government’s spending on this program would have increased every year, just not as much as the current law (that they were trying to fix) had allotted.

When journalists demonize such efforts to responsibly restrain government spending, while cheerleading for every new benefit proposed by politicians, they contribute to the dysfunctional policies that have pushed the U.S. government’s total debt to a level even larger than the entire U.S. economy (122.3% as of June 27, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis).

The media’s protective attitude toward government spending will certainly be an issue if a new Trump administration in 2025 moves to re-set policy priorities after the big-spending Biden years. So, from the NewsBusters’ archives, here’s a sample of how the media trashed the GOP effort to (modestly) curtail health care spending back in June 2017):

Fill-in co-host David Muir: “One quick question, Matt, on health care today. Millions of Americans finally learn what’s in the Republican senators’ plan. Why the secrecy?”
Political Analyst Matthew Dowd: “Well, you obviously have the secrecy because they think they’re doing something that the American public doesn’t want. It’s as if you walk in your living room and your kids are trying to hide something under the cushion. You know they did something wrong. And I think that’s a real problem.”
— ABC’s Good Morning America, June 22, 2017.

■ “On Capitol Hill, police are currently removing protesters in wheelchairs outside of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office….[It’s] a brutal image for Republicans and supporters of this bill, frankly….The power of these kinds of images is not to be discounted in this kind of debate.”
— Host Andrea Mitchell over images of a small number of left-wing protests being moved out of a corridor, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, June 22, 2017.

■ “I’m so angry about this ridiculously stupid piece of legislation that is honestly nothing more than a tax cut and a political agenda disguised as a health care bill…There are over 125 million of the 312 million Americans who right now suffer from a chronic illness. Out of that 125 million, 70 percent of them suffer from two….This 125 million people as of today will be as high as 140 million by 2020. And in 2020, they are going to be looking for somebody to give them medication and health care. And what this bill does is sends them all to death.”
— Talk show host Montel Williams on CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, June 23, 2017.

■ “Paul Ryan has been dreaming about cutting this program [Medicaid] since he was sitting — hanging out at keggers in college — he’s told that story. What kind of a monster is he? Who dreams of cutting Medicaid? They act like people are merely takers — they don’t act like they understand hardship of any kind….I mean, the cruelty….it’s the only word we can use — the cruelty of this bill is beyond belief.”
— MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh on MSNBC’s The Last Word, June 23, 2017.

■ “The Senate unveiled their super-secret health care bill….Everybody’s saying it was unveiled. Unveiled? Unveiled is not the right term. You unveil a sculpture. Nobody goes, ‘Behold, a turd.’ This is more likely something that was excreted. I mean, health care bill? More like a manifesto from the Zodiac killer. They should have published this by cutting out letters from the newspaper.”
— Host Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time, June 23, 2017.

■ “If I were him [Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin Democratic challenger], I would tie this health bill…I would tie it to Paul Ryan….I would just bring out what a heartless, soulless Washington creature he’s become. I don’t think the district knows. You’ve made some good points about, ‘It’s nice to have somebody in leadership,’ but if you have somebody in leadership who’s devoted their life to hurting people in the district, let’s think twice about that.”
— MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh on MSNBC’s AM Joy, June 25, 2017.

■ “How do [Republicans] justify the fact that it [ObamaCare repeal] will hurt the people that supported them most enthusiastically during the election?”        
— Co-host Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, June 27, 2017.

■ “You just see the numbers and they are just devastating. There’s no attempt to hide the fact that Donald Trump is breaking every promise he made and that they will have a disproportionate impact hurting older, middle-income Americans.”
— Co-host Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, June 27, 2017.

■ “[If] you slash $750 billion, Mike Barnicle, from Medicaid, after you’ve already slashed another $300 or $400 billion in an underlying budget, over $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts, that destroys health care in rural America, in Trump America. We’ve said it again, let me say it again, not just for the poor. For the middle class and the upper middle class, their parents in nursing home, their children in NICU units, you name it, it devastates health care for half of America.”
— Host Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe, June 28, 2017.

Correspondent Adrian Diaz: “The opioid epidemic claimed 4,100 lives in Ohio last year, 308 here in Akron. What would you say to the folks in Washington who are talking about cutting back on Medicaid?”
Addict Leah Kohen: “Please, don’t do it. You’re going to have the blood of a lot of innocent people on your hands.”
CBS Evening News, June 29, 2017.

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.                       

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