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The Censorship Election

How the Broadcast Networks Buried the Bad News That Threatened Barack Obama's Quest for a Second Term

No legislation is more associated with President Obama than the gargantuan health care “reform” law of 2010, nicknamed “ObamaCare.” Yet as the President ran for re-election in 2012, the networks were virtually silent about new official estimates detailing the negative consequences Obama’s signature law would have on small businesses and health care consumers — and how the reality of ObamaCare was already proving to be starkly at odds with his past promises.

■ Harm to small businesses: Amid the post-recession jobs crisis, ObamaCare is one more obstacle to job growth, as many small businesses will be deterred from expanding past 50 employees, the level at which they would be forced to provide expensive health insurance or pay a fine to the government. Even companies that currently provide health insurance could be fined if their coverage doesn’t meet the more expansive standards set in the ObamaCare law.

Yet the potential damage to small businesses, and the obvious negative consequences for job creation, were all but omitted from network coverage in 2012, garnering just two partial stories on June 28, the day the Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare. ABC’s David Muir included three sentences (15 seconds) in a World News story, including a soundbite from small business owner Jorge Lozano: “I know for a fact that it’s going to be impacting us very badly.”

On the NBC Nightly News, correspondent Anne Thompson devoted 46 seconds to profiling a small businessman who confessed he’d either delay hiring new employees or shift to more part-time employees to avoid the onerous penalties. It’s “a potential unintended consequence of a law aimed at expanding health care,” Thompson admitted.

As for the CBS Evening News, that program never in 2012 specifically talked about the damaging consequences of ObamaCare for small business, although on Sunday, June 23, anchor Jeff Glor showed a bakery owner in Massachusetts griping about the similar mandate in his state: “If we had to put health insurance into our company, that would totally make us unprofitable....that’s just not right. We feel we should be able to make our own decisions to run our business.”

Total coverage on the broadcast evening newscasts from January 1 through November 6, 2012: 61 seconds.

■ Tens of millions Americans still uninsured: A March 2012 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that after ObamaCare is fully implemented in 2016, even with all of the new taxes, subsidies and regulations, about 26-27 million Americans would remain uninsured (about half of what it was when the law was passed).

And, despite President Obama’s oft-repeated promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” that same CBO report determined that “3 million to 5 million fewer people will have coverage through an employer compared with the number under prior law.”

The month that report was issued, there was heavy broadcast evening news coverage of the health care law (then being argued before the Supreme Court), but not one word about the millions who would lose their employer-based health insurance, or the tens of millions who would remain uninsured after the law took full effect.

ABC’s World News did cite one of CBO’s ObamaCare estimates that month — just not the statistics that showed the health care law’s deficiencies. Instead, ABC’s Terry Moran on March 26 cited the CBO to argue that if the Supreme Court struck down ObamaCare’s individual mandate, “the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 16 million fewer Americans would have health insurance. So the stakes are very high.”

In July, about a month after the Supreme Court decision, CBO revised its forecast again. This time, they predicted that 30 million would remain uninsured after the law took effect, and between 4 and 6 million Americans would lose their employer-based health insurance.

The Big Three evening newscasts let those dour predictions pass without any coverage whatsoever.

■ Higher premiums for consumers: Before he won the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama pledged to “sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as President that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”

The PR effort surrounding ObamaCare stressed that it would lower costs; indeed, the bill’s official name was the “Affordable Care Act.” Signing it into law on March 23, 2010, the President re-iterated: “This legislation will also lower costs for families and for businesses.”

Yet in September 2012, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual health benefits survey showed average premiums rising again. From 2009 through 2012, Kaiser found, health insurance premiums rose by an average of $2,370 per family.

The Big Three evening newscasts had absolutely no time for this news, giving it zero airtime.

But those same newscasts found the annual Kaiser survey worth mentioning in previous years. In 2006, when Republican George W. Bush was in the White House, ABC’s World News played it as a crisis. Reporter Lisa Stark: “The Kaiser Family Foundation study finds health insurance premiums, for a family of four, have now hit an average of $11,480 a year. That’s up 87% since 2000, far outstripping wage increases and inflation.”

And in 2009, when President Obama was lobbying Congress to pass his bill, the CBS Evening News relayed that year’s stats as proof of the problem. Correspondent Jim Axelrod: “It’s not getting any easier to provide health insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost of a family health insurance policy is now more than $13,000, having more than doubled this decade.”

During the first presidential debate on October 3, President Obama tried to explain away the problem: “The fact of the matter is that, when ObamaCare is fully implemented, we’re going to be in a position to show that costs are going down. And over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up — it’s true — but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years.”

But according to PolitiFact, Obama’s explanation wasn’t true, either. It was incorrect to say health insurance premiums were rising at the slowest rate in 50 years; it was overall health care spending — which includes both insurance costs and out-of-pocket expenses — that had slowed to a crawl.

And, according to health economist Dr. Bradley Herring (cited by PolitiFact), the credit doesn’t go to ObamaCare: “Most health economists attribute much of the slowdown (in) the growth in health care spending to the recession.”

That was a mistake all three network evening newscasts let slide by.