In search of a “Prescription for Change” for “fixing American health care,” anchor Dan Harris of ABC’s “World News Sunday” promised viewers a weeklong look at “one of the most urgent and expensive issues facing this country.” But the medicine the Disney-owned (NYSE: DIS ) network seems to be ordering so far is more government control of health care.
Harris quickly turned his October 15 story into a forum for former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D).
The problem with American health care involves “a series of choices, and Kitzhaber says we’re making the wrong ones,” Harris noted, adding that “the United States is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee health coverage for everyone.”
Harris informed viewers that Kitzhaber, a physician by profession, pushed through the “Oregon Health Plan” when he was governor. Yet Harris failed to find any conservative critics of Kitzhaber’s track record on health care reform.
Steve Buckstein, founder of the Portland, Ore.-based Cascade Policy Institute  argued earlier this year that Kitzhaber “diagnosed the illness correctly; he’s just chosen the wrong medicine to cure it.”
“Think about it. If Kitzhaber's Oregon Health Plan had actually saved taxpayers money by rationing health care for the poor, then why is our Medicaid budget exploding like all other states?” the conservative policy analyst asked in his March 4 speech to The Dorchester Conference.
Buckstein reminded his audience that Kitzhaber’s “Oregon Health Plan was supposed to ration care by ranking treatments based on cost-effectiveness” but that it was found by “a team of Harvard medical researchers” to have prioritized health care services “almost entirely without regard to cost-effectiveness.”
In other words, putting government in charge of health care to lower costs and eliminate waste failed to accomplish either goal.
The following morning, ABC’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson added his prescription for bigger government to address the uninsured.
“We would never think of making police care or fire protection based on income of a family. Never! But we do that all the time as you’ve just seen with health care,” Johnson griped to “Good Morning America” substitute anchor Chris Cuomo, adding, “morally, it’s simply the wrong thing to do.”
Prompted by Cuomo to answer why health care coverage in America was getting “worse,” Johnson concluded that “the only answer is going to be, eventually, some kind of national, universal coverage. A guaranteed system that everybody regardless of income will have at least basic health care.”
In contrast to the Disney-owned network’s one-sided focus on liberal prescriptions, USA Today, ABC’s print partner in the weeklong series, devoted a story to how public support for government-provided health care drops when taxpayers learn of the potential side effects.
“76% would oppose universal coverage if it meant some medical treatments currently covered by insurance would no longer be covered,” while “68% would be against it if it led to limits on the choice of doctors,” and “60% said they would be opposed if it led to higher payments, either through taxes or health premiums,” noted USA Today reporter Julie Appleby in the October 16 paper .
“I don't think we can afford $6-a-gallon gas to pay for health care,” quipped one Long Island man who participated in poll commissioned by ABCNews, USA Today and the Kaiser Family Foundation.