CNN's American Morning Leans Toward Supporters of ObamaCare

Monday's American Morning on CNN slanted toward guests who supported ObamaCare versus opponents, by a margin of six to two. The program also devoted three segments specifically to interviewing supporters, versus only one to opponents. Correspondent John Zarella interviewed customers at Lester's Diner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, asking them for their take on health care "reform." During a segment 43 minutes into the 6 am Eastern hour, Zarella questioned two supporters of ObamaCare. Over an hour later, the CNN correspondent found two who objected to the proposed legislation, thereby covering both sides of the debate.

Anchor John Roberts, on the other hand, shifted the balance to the left by interviewing two supporters of ObamaCare who have an autistic child during a segment 13 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour. Roberts sympathetically introduced Esther and Paul Hawkins: "Six months after President Obama signs the health care reform bill into law, insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage for kids because of preexisting medical conditions. The bill widens that measure to the rest of us by the year 2014. Now, critics say that's only going to add to the growing cost of delivering health care, but for some parents with uninsured kids, it's an awfully big relief."

About an hour later, Roberts brought on former Senator Bill Frist and former surgeon general Dr. David Satcher, both of whom support health care "reform:"

John Roberts, CNN Anchor; Former US Senator Dr. Bill Frist; & 
Former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher | NewsBusters.orgJOHN ROBERTS: The health care bill may have passed on Capitol Hill, but we all know that that won't stop the debate. So, what's going to work and what won't? Here to talk about the good, the bad and ugly: former Senate majority leader for the GOP and surgeon, Dr. Bill Frist, along with the former surgeon general for Presidents Clinton and Bush, Dr. David Satcher. He's now at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Gentlemen, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for being with us. Let me address if I could, both as doctor, just to keep the playing field understandable and even here, and Dr. Frist, let start with you. You are in favor of sweeping health care reform. What passed the House last night- is that what it should look like?

DR. BILL FRIST: You know, John, this is a start. The two issues are access, coverage issues and cost issues. This bill was limited, in the sense that it addressed just one of those issues, the coverage issues, and historically, if you look at what other countries done, they've done exactly the same thing. They said, let's get everybody in the pool and just worry about cost later, and that's what Massachusetts did. But the lesson is going to be- yes, a good first step in covering 32 million people, but we got to control the cost in a time of deficit, debt, global competitiveness, taxes going up, premiums likely going up- all of which is going to drive the cost of health care up and not down.

ROBERTS: Let's talk in a second about ways to do that, but, first of all, Dr. Satcher, you said that this bill is not perfect. What would you liked to have seen in there that's not in there?

DR. DAVID SATCHER: First, let me say that I am delighted with this bill, because I think it's a very significant first step. I think it's good news for the 32 million people who will be included immediately. I think it's good news that people will not be dropped from their insurance because they get sick. I think it's good news because people will not be denied because of preexisting conditions. I'm delighted that primary care will be better supported, and even prevention. However, I wish that we were moved toward more emphasis on incentivizing prevention. I think we got to get to schools involved, in terms of physical education and nutrition. I think every family needs access to safe places to be physically active and fresh fruits and vegetables. So, how do you do that? You have to partner with the social determinants of health. But I'm delighted that we have made this great first step.

ROBERTS: All right. Some people argue that prevention is one way to lower health costs because healthy people use less health care. Dr. Frist, what else would you like to see done to contain the cost of health care? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta last week talked with the CEO-

FRIST: Yeah.

ROBERTS: A former CEO of the Mayo Clinic, which has, like Cleveland Clinic, a new model where everybody is on salary. You pay to treat the disease, as opposed to piecemeal fee for service type of thing.

FRIST: Yeah.

ROBERTS: Is that a model that can go forward or you got some other idea?

FRIST: That's- you know, I think it's very important, and now is the time to focus on these costs, because they are going to start just skyrocketing right now, because 32 million people now are going to have plans. They're going to be spending a lot more, no constraint. First of all, I agree with what David said. Let's look at prevention, wellness, behavior. Michelle Obama's initiative is not going to use government. It's going to use public/private partnerships. That's a way to go there. I would look at some obvious things: tort reform- we hear it again and again. Is it the most important issue you out there? No, but it does affect doctor behavior- doctor/patient behavior, defensive medicine.


FRIST: Number two, I would go ahead and open up the insurance markets to more competition. There's not that much competition and/or market-based reform in this bill, and, at the end of the day, I think consumers are smart enough, if they've got good information in a regulated market. So, being able to shop across state borders- I'd put number two. Number three, and I think in truth, is probably number one, is what you mentioned. We need to have a lot more payment reform. Only by having payment reform are we going to be able to align incentives of the patient, the consumer, the doctor, the hospital, the wellness programs. Right now, it's a free for all. Everybody is billing everybody. It's fee for service. There is no incentive out there to align around a goal of value with value-based health care reform. Now, it is all volume-based. The more you do, the more you get, the more money that's spent in the system. So, I would have put in this bill a lot more focus on aligning interest around value-based reimbursement.

ROBERTS: Right. Dr. Satcher, Doctor Frist mentioned this idea of the public/private partnership that arises out of this health care bill. Now that the bill has passed the House, and looks like may pass the Senate with the fixes, what needs to be done to ensure that that public/private partnership actually works?

DR. DAVID SATCHER: Well, I think the national exchanges certainly allow for public/private partnerships, and also they have to be monitored. The surgeon general will have a responsibility for looking at what constitutes the components of good care. I think that's going to help. Together, we have to make this work. It's obviously not going to work without a lot of input from people who care. But, I think this tremendous first step is really great news for this country, and it changes our position in the world. It changes our relationships to each other, and for those of us who come from backgrounds where we didn't have access to care. It is a great day in America.

ROBERTS: But Dr. Satcher, you also have some other concerns. Congressman Jim Clyburn called this the civil rights act of the 21st century. But, you are concerned about some racial and ethnic disparities still lingering out there in healthcare? What are your concerns?

SATCHER: Right. As surgeon general and assistant secretary for health, I led the effort to develop the goal of eliminating disparities in health. And the first thing I want to say is that, universal access to care is critical for eliminating disparities in health. We've got to have more minority physicians. The health care system has to be representative of the population and we've got to have initiatives that respond to the unique needs of different cultures in our society. We have some real opportunities here. This is a great first step.

-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.