CNN's Berman Gives Platform to Obama CBO Director to Attack GOP

On Monday's CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow, co-anchor John Berman questioned former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf about the upcoming CBO figures of the Republican Party's replacement of ObamaCare. However, the CNN host failed to ask about the same office, under Elmendorf's watch, having inaccurately projected the financial impact of President Obama's health care law in 2009. 

"There will be people who are worse off under what the CBO is likely to say, is what you're saying, if in fact they lose insurance," Berman asserted. He then rhetorically asked Elmendorf, "You know, it is an interesting discussion, and the Speaker [Paul Ryan] is clearly trying to shift it in the direction of, this should be a discussion about quality of care not number of those covered."

"Well, first of all, those of us who have health insurance should be careful about saying to those who don't, ‘Oh, don't worry, it's fine for you not to have health insurance,’" Elmendorf replied. "For lots and lots of people, having health insurance is very important. I think we should take any decline in the number of people with health insurance very seriously. The main reason you'll see a decline under this legislation is the withdrawal of subsidies for some people. It's the shift in the subsidy schedule that's the big problem."

In a 60 Minutes interview Ryan said, "The one thing I'm certain will happen is CBO will say, ‘Gosh, not as many people will get coverage.’ You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate. This is not the government makes you buy what we say you should buy and therefore the government thinks you're all going to buy it. There's no way we can compete on paper with government mandate of coverage. What we are trying to achieve here is bringing down the cost of care, bringing down the cost of insurance, not through government mandates and monopolies, but by having more choice and competition."

Berman said, "It certainly isn't for some people, some people will lose out. There are others in some situations or geographical locations could stand to gain, but it does vary." 

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

At the time of ObamaCare's passage, Elmendorf's CBO projected that by 2017, 23 million Americans would be insured under the health care act. The actual figure is 9.2 million. "The CBO plainly believes in, and is a part of, Big Government. Evidence of this is found in the fact that the CBO generally omits a huge category in its Obamacare scoring: its effect on federal spending," Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Jeffrey Anderson penned in The Weekly Standard. "It lists Obamacare's "gross cost of coverage provisions," but that counts tax breaks and federal spending as being one and the same."

Anderson added, "As congressional members and staffers from both parties wait with bated breath for the CBO to score the newly released House Republican health-care bill (part of which is here and part of which is here), they would do well to remind themselves that (A) the CBO's score will most likely be wildly off, (B) most Americans don't much care what the CBO thinks, and (C) those who debate and pass legislation should focus on whether it would be good policy that can be communicated to the American people on its own grounds, not on the grounds of the CBO's generally dubious scoring."

Here is the March 13th exchange:

CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow

03/13/2017

10:27:55 AM - 10:33:52 AM [5 min., 57 sec.]

JOHN BERMAN: Also today, your first chance to get a look at the possible price tag for the Republican plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. That will come from the congressional budget office. As that's going on, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, the man who is really the architect from the White House side of this plan, he made a pretty interesting promise. 

TOM PRICE: I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we're going through, understanding that they'll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy. 

BERMAN: No one will be worse off financially. That is what the Secretary of HHS said. But Breitbart, this is the site once run by Steve Bannon who is now the President's Chief Strategist, he says this claim could be the contender for the lie of the year. Joining me now, former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf, he was at the CBO when ObamaCare was passed. Doug, thank you so much for being with us. Promises like "No one will be worse off financially," those end up being pretty hard to keep. 

ELMNEDORF: Yes. Secretary Price's claim is absurd. This legislation will cut subsidies substantially. Millions of people will lose health insurance. We don't know how many yet. CBO will make an estimate shortly. But certainly people will be worse off. 

BERMAN: There will be people who are worse off under what the CBO is likely to say, is what you're saying, if in fact they lose insurance. Now, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is a key backer of this plan, maybe the most prominent backer and architect of this plan, he says this is not the way we should even be looking at this at all. Listen to what the Speaker says.

[HIGHLIGHT OF PAUL RYAN’S 60 MINUTES INTERVIEW]

PAUL RYAN: The one thing I'm certain will happen is CBO will say, ‘Gosh, not as many people will get coverage.’ You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate. This is not the government makes you buy what we say you should buy and therefore the government thinks you're all going to buy it. There's no way we can compete on paper with government mandate of coverage. What we are trying to achieve here is bringing down the cost of care, bringing down the cost of insurance, not through government mandates and monopolies, but by having more choice and competition. 

BERMAN: You know, it is an interesting discussion, and the Speaker is clearly trying to shift it in the direction of, this should be a discussion about quality of care not number of those covered.

ELMENDORF: Well, first of all, those of us who have health insurance should be careful about saying to those who don't, ‘Oh, don't worry, it's fine for you not to have health insurance.’ For lots and lots of people, having health insurance is very important. I think we should take any decline in the number of people with health insurance very seriously. The main reason you'll see a decline under this legislation is the withdrawal of subsidies for some people. It's the shift in the subsidy schedule that's the big problem. That's not people who are better off. That's people who are not getting the support and won't be able to go buy health insurance or aren't getting the support and will have to put more out of their own pockets to buy health insurance. Those folks will be worse off. There's nothing else in the legislation that particularly improves the quality of care or brings down the price of care very much. You may end up with health insurance that covers less with larger deductibles and co-payments. So, the price of insurance can be reduced by that sort of change in insurance policy. But the total cost of going to get health care, which is not just insurance premium but also any deductibles or co-payments, isn't going to be down substantially under this legislation. 

BERMAN: It certainly isn't for some people, some people will lose out. There are others in some situations or geographical locations could stand to gain, but it does vary. And to go back to what the secretary of HHS says, there will be people who lose insurance. The unemployment number, good jobs numbers came out, full stop. The jobs numbers were good, 235,000 jobs created, the unemployment rate down to 4.7%. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said something interesting, though, about the way those numbers were handled during the Obama administration.

[HIGHLIGHT OF MICK MULVANEY INTERVIEW ON STATE OF THE UNION] 

MICK MULVANEY: We thought for a long time that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers in terms of the number of people in the workforce to make that percentage rate look smaller than it was. We used to tell people at home, the only thing you should look at is number of jobs created. As long as that number is above 250,000, the economy is going extraordinarily well. That's the number we hit last week. 

BERMAN: Now, he’s not arguing that the unemployment rates are better are better gaged than the unemployment rate. He's actually making the case that the Obama administration manipulated the numbers somehow to make the unemployment rate look better. Did you see any evidence of that when you were running the CBO? 

ELMENDORF: No. That is a shocking accusation by an OMB director or by any public leader. There is no evidence for that whatsoever. The OMB Director has offered no evidence for that whatsoever. I think he should retract that comment. That assertion of dishonesty on the part of civil servants who are working very hard to produce accurate information every month is damaging to our country. 

BERMAN: The unemployment rate comes the bureau of labor statistics, correct? 

ELMENDORF: Yes, exactly. It's calculated according to a set of formulas, a process for collecting data that has been in place for years. And the production of those numbers is not affected by who is in political power. It's done by the best judgment of the civil servants doing that work. And to attack that work or to claim it's been affected by political pressure is really an unreasonable comment, again, for which there has been no evidence provided whatsoever. 

BERMAN: Doug Elmendorf, thank you, we appreciate it. 

ELMENDORF: Happy to be here.


Please support NewsBusters today! (a 501c3 non-profit production of the Media Research Center)

DONATE
CyberAlerts Health Care CBO CNN Newsroom ObamaCare Uncorrected Falsehoods Journalistic Issues Office of Management and Budget Paul Ryan John Berman Doug Elmendorf Mick Mulvaney
Jackson Richman's picture