NPR Boosts California's SEIU-Assisted ObamaCare Enrollment

Sarah Varney's report on Friday's Morning Edition is just the latest example of NPR's one-sided coverage of the health care issue in general, and ObamaCare specifically. Varney spotlighted how California's government gave a local chapter of the SEIU – a major supporter of President Obama during his two presidential campaigns – $1 million to enroll people in the state's insurance exchange.

The journalist also turned to UCLA's Gerry Kominski, who downplayed the "bumpy roll-out", as she put it, of ObamaCare enrollment since it began on October 1, 2013. Varney didn't mention, however, that the professor trumpeted the Supreme Court's decision upholding ObamaCare in a June 2012 video:

This a great day, and this is a great victory – not only for the [Obama] administration, but for millions of Americans who are now going to have access to affordable health care for the first time....The federal subsidies that are going to be available in the exchanges...are going to make health insurance affordable to millions of Americans...So, this is a great victory for the administration, but it really is a great victory for America, because we are now going to move forward with what is the most significant piece of health legislation since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

// | NewsBusters.orgThe correspondent, who works for Kaiser Health News (a division of the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation, which has a joint partnership with NPR), led her report with how Covered California – the Golden State's ObamaCare marketplace – gave the $1 million in taxpayer money to the SEIU chapter. Varney noted that "the using some of the money to call people in their homes at night and on the weekend, as part of a massive education effort."

The NPR journalist continued that "it's been a rocky hand-off to counselors who can sign them up for coverage. Many counselors are still attending training, or awaiting background checks and state-issued licenses." But she let the top official at Covered California put the best spin on the situation:

SARAH VARNEY: The month of October was always supposed to be about drumming up interest, says Peter Lee, Covered California's executive director. The state never intended, he says, to have all counselors certified this early.

PETER LEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COVER CALIFORNIA: We have 20,000 county workers – the vast majority of whom have been certified – and people can go into county offices. Licensed insurance agents – you know, we've got about, I think, three to four thousand of 15,000 completed training. A lot of training is happening every day and every – every week.

Later in the segment, Varney spotlighted how Edward Avalos, an employee of a health clinic in San Jose, has had problems with the online sign-up process. Avalos pointed out that "there's been a lot of times when you get through all the process; you're on the last page; and unfortunately, you run into a stumbling block – the page freezes or something." But she then played her look-at-the-silver-lining soundbite from Professor Kominski:

VARNEY: It's easy to get apoplectic about the bumpy roll-out, says Gerry Kominski, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. But he says tracking enrollment, with the fervor of a stock market watcher, obscures the fact that the state is well on its way to meeting its goal of signing up 600,000 people by March.

GERRY KOMINSKI, CENTER FOR HEALTH POLICY RESEARCH, UCLA: A hundred thousand a month is roughly thirty-three hundred people a day. In the first week, they enrolled almost 30,000 people in five days. That's much more than 3,300 people a day.

VARNEY: Kominski says to keep its frontrunner status, California needs to keep up the pace.

[Update, Friday, 7:18 pm Eastern: the full transcript of Sarah Varney's report from Friday's Morning Edition on NPR can be read on]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan was a news analyst at Media Research Center