Two topics of conversation ruled the roost on the Sunday morning political news programs on November 17: Obamacare and the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The biggest political points about the Affordable Care Act were made on Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and This Week, as politicians and insurance industry types used the small screen to make the case for their actions.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her unwavering support for the health care reform law appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press. Pelosi called President Barack Obama’s actions and administrative fix “gracious” and didn’t concede an inch on the promise of “If you like your policy, you can keep it” being a misrepresentation. Pelosi, as she has in the past, refused to call the law Obamacare. “I’ll get back to the Affordable Care Act, and the ‘affordable’ is named that because it makes it affordable,” she said.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) appeared following Pelosi on the program. Ayotte viewed Pelosi’s statements as attempts to spin a complicated situation. “So this really is a mess,” Ayotte said. “And so she can try to spin it, but I think it’s time — you know, the president said that he fumbled the rollout. It’s time for a timeout, which I’ve been calling for, so that we can go back to the drawing board and really talk about bipartisan solutions for health reform in the country.”
Over on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was as supportive of the president as Pelosi, but Gillibrand was slightly more willing to acknowledge gaps between what Obama had said and what has happened. Gillibrand maintained that she did not feel misled by the president. “He should have just been specific,” she said.
Like Pelosi, Gillibrand was focused on how the health care reform law is intended to provide affordable, comprehensive health care instead of being “a terrible health care plan that, the minute you get sick, you’re going to have to go into bankruptcy.”
As Meet the Press and This Week discussed the political ramifications of the law and its administrative fix, Fox News Sunday turned to its insurance implications. Opening the show was a discussion with Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans — a national health insurance industry trade association – and former Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who is now CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Neither assigned political blame, nor did they say the president was using the fix to shirk responsibility. Instead, they focused on insurer concern and finding a way for Obamacare to remain affordable.
“The question is what happens: Who will join the markets? Will it be the young and the healthy balancing out the old and the sick? Which is absolutely important to make sure that whomever buys, they’ll have affordable coverage,” Ignagni said on Fox News Sunday.
“Under the rules of law of large numbers, which is what you get with actuarial science, the more people you have in the plan, generally the better the plan is. So excluding some people from the plan creates certain issues,” Nelson said, before adding that “the commissioners are focused on solvency. They want to make certain that this doesn’t the cost to the point that the insurers face and risk insolvency.”
Face the Nation took a completely different approach, devoting its entire program to the Kennedy assassination. Although all shows touched on the Kennedy legacy, Face the Nation provided by far the most in-depth review of its history and significance. The show weaved archival footage with present-day interviews, including with Luci Baines Johnson Turpin, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter, who described where she was and how she learned of the news on November 22, 1963.
Toward the end of the show, columnist Peggy Noonan stated why she believes taking the time to commemorate the event is important: “Well, it is the 50th anniversary. This may be the last time we remember this shattering historical event, the last time we remember it on this level. You know, the 60th and 70th won’t be like this, and so many people who can talk about it will have left.”
Also appearing on the Sunday circuit were Liz Cheney, discussing her senatorial run with Fox News Sunday, and Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who praised Rep. Paul Ryan. “I love Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan, if he had a fan club, I’d be the president of that,” Walker told This Week.
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