ABC Blames Society for Lack of Children's Health Insurance

     American taxpayers have a moral obligation to make sure all children – the “most vulnerable members” of society – have insurance, according to ABC “World News Sunday.”


     Reporter Dan Harris made that case with a one-sided story on the “Crisis of Care” in the U.S. by presenting left-wing Clinton supporters and tragic personal stories. The June 3 broadcast also claimed that universal health care would save money, but failed to present any argument about the massive costs to manage such a program.


     The story aired as the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates prepared to debate. The subject of children’s health insurance could figure prominently in the presidential race.


      “If you judged a country by how it treats its most vulnerable people, we're certainly failing when we leave 9 million children behind,” said Ron Pollack of Families USA.


     Harris neglected to inform viewers of Families USA’s liberal agenda. Pollack and his organization have consistently promoted more government involvement and control of health care. In 1994, Pollack supported the Clinton administration’s plan for a federal takeover of health care.


     The second liberal advocate quoted by ABC News was Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund. It was not stated that Edelman is a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton. The two interned together when Clinton attended Yale.


      “It’s a national disgrace,” Edelman said of uninsured American children. “It also not only costs lives of children and stress for families, but it also costs taxpayers money.”


     Harris’ story ignored the free market perspective that expanding entitlement programs is a bad idea. Beyond Pollack and Edelman’s comments, the report included only Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt’s response to Pollack’s talking points:


Harris: “How do you explain that we have 9 million kids in this country one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, who don’t have health insurance?

Leavitt: “There is a widely held aspiration that we change that.”

Harris: “The argument has been made that you can judge a society on how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

Leavitt: “They need health insurance. Every person in this country needs to have access to a basic insurance policy at an affordable price.”


     This report comes on the heels of a bill that made its way through Congress and signed into law by the president. HR 2206, a supplemental appropriation bill, included $650 million for the State Children's Health Insurance Program.


     Nina Owcharenko from the Heritage Foundation said the brakes should be put on any expansion of the government subsidy SCHIP.


      “To protect taxpayers and preserve private sector options for enrollees, Congress must stop the erosion of legal and structural distinctions that is turning SCHIP into an extension of Medicaid,” said Owcharenko.


     But the ABC reporter didn’t ask how a government-run universal care system would be better.  Harris  included the story of a boy with a tooth infection that spread to his brain and killed him, as well as a child undergoing cancer treatment when he became uninsured.


     Ironically, Harris made it clear that in two of those three cases, the families had to fight government “red tape.” In the case of Devante Johnson who died of kidney cancer, Harris even blamed a failure of the government-run Medicaid program.


     Joseph R. Antos a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute told Congressional Quarterly he fears the Democratic-controlled Congress isn’t addressing the real problem of the bureaucracy by expanding the program.


      “I view that the Democrats really want to make this an entitlement,” said Antos. “They want to make it permanent; they want to lock in the high rates of growth we’re going to see if we don’t do something about inefficiencies in the health system; and they’re not very much interested in looking at how that SCHIP money is being spent and whether there’s a better way that doesn’t require so much money.”


     “World New Sunday” also focused on Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died when an infection that started in his tooth had spread to his brain.


     “And my son had to die at 12 years old, because of a tooth,” said Alyce Driver.


     Driver’s tragic story has become a rallying cry of the pro-universal health care left. But, Harris failed to point out a couple of points.  The original Washington Post story that appeared in the Feb. 28 story reported Driver’s family had spent time in a homeless shelter prior to his death.


     While the story is tragic, Harris ignored issues of personal responsibility. Where was the child’s family? Why didn’t social services (another part of government) intervene? Even the left-of-center Washington Post editorial board admitted there was at least some degree of a personal responsibility issue in an editorial on March 7. But ABC News pinned the blame on a failure of society to provide health care that might have saved Driver’s life.