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Health Care Showdown; Post-Snow Travel Troubles; Dying for Lack of Insurance; Dying for Lack of Insurance; Health Care Showdown; New Grads Face Tough Job Market

Aired December 20, 2009 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: In the early morning hours of Monday, December the 21st, 2009, one of the most significant votes in the history of the United States Senate will take place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Pushing toward a health care showdown. The U.S. Senate is just three hours away from what could be a historic vote on health care reform. If it passes, and it looks like it will, it will be a huge step toward a sweeping overhaul of this country's health care system.

Hello, I'm Tom Foreman reporting tonight from Washington.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Tom.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Looking forward to an interesting night.

FOREMAN: Good to have you with us, Sanjay. We're going to have a good night indeed.

For the next hour, we're going to tell you what you need to know about tonight's crucial Senate vote. Our Dana Bash is standing by at the capital, and CNN's Dan Lothian is here in Washington as well. We'll also be joined by members of the Best Political Team on Television.

GUPTA: All right. And we're also going to go beyond Washington, Tom, as you know, beyond the politics to some real people out there, including some people who have suffered some painful real-life experiences as part of the current system.

We're also going to cut through a lot of jargon. Some of this is stuff I don't understand, Tom, and trying to read up, as you can see, and tell you what's in the bill and how it could affect you if and when it ever becomes law.

FOREMAN: If you don't understand it, Sanjay, it's going to be a challenge for us both. But we will get through it tonight. We're going to try very hard in the next hour to truly let you know what is happening, what it can actually mean to you, and what is really in this massive, massive bill.

Let's start where the action is up on Capitol Hill. CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been reading through all the details and is joining us with the latest.

Dana, tell us what's happening right now and give us a sense of the scene up there right now.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's about three hours away from what Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat, as you just heard him called, an historic vote. And you know, we've been talking about health care for so long. And Democrats, led by the president, have really been working on the details of this for nearly a year.

But really this vote -- this vote late tonight or early tomorrow morning, depending on how you look at it, is going to be really the critical vote because the United States Senate was the biggest obstacle because of the procedural issues and the fact that the reality is they need 60 votes to get anything passed. That was the biggest deal.

So the fact that Democrats believe they have a compromise, that they can get 60 votes to pass, or at least to proceed with tonight, that is incredibly critical for Democrats. And it's going to be just Democrats who will probably vote for this. We don't expect any Republicans to vote yes tonight, Tom.

FOREMAN: Dana, you wrote a fascinating note just a short while ago about some of the details in this compromise they have worked out.

Can you go over some of the high points for the viewers out there? Because, really, you wrote things in there that were very clear in terms of explaining what has happened with this bill.

Tell me some of the high points.

BASH: Well, obviously -- sure. There is so much that's in this bill. The underlying bill. It's over 2,000 pages. But specifically, the compromise that Democrats struck -- that Democrats struck to bridge the divide between the moderates and the liberals, the philosophical differences on health care. And I'll show you some of the key points.

First of all, the public option, which, of course, is very controversial. That's not in this bill anymore. It was dropped because of opposition from many moderate Democrats.

Instead, what is in here are not-for-profit private plans. That would be created. And they would be overseen, not run, but overseen by a government agency -- the Office of Personnel Management, which, by the way, oversees health care for federal employees.

Now that was obviously to please moderate Democrats.

To please liberal Democrats, who are frankly still not thrilled with this compromise, additional regulation on insurance companies were put in. Specifically, this would mandate that insurance companies must spend 80 percent to 85 percent, so 80 cents to 85 cents on every dollar, that they get from your premiums on your medical costs, which doesn't exist right now.

And something else. $10 billion was added for new community health centers. That's to help low-income Americans around the country. So not everybody is thrilled with this, but enough Democrats think that they have enough to have a good start from their perspective on health care reform.

FOREMAN: And, Dana, let me ask you just briefly about that insurance, the more regulation on the insurance companies here. That and several other items in your note, which we'll get to later on, and these seem like really big, explosive items at this hour that I can't help but think we're going to hear an awful lot of in the next few days.

BASH: Absolutely. I mean, look, the bottom line when you kind of cut through it, the debate within the Democratic Party, Tom, has been about how do you keep insurance companies, quote unquote, "honest" and more specifically, what matters to consumers, to Americans, is how do you keep competition for them to bring costs for Americans and for their medical care down.

Liberals have thought a public option or a government-run health care option all along has been the way to do it, but moderates have said let's do -- just reform the insurance industry, more specifically, put more regulation on them.

And one other thing I should mention that is in this compromise. We've heard a lot about the fact that no longer would people be able to -- or insurance companies be able to discriminate against people if they have a pre-existing condition.

Well, that and many other provisions in this measure don't kick in until 2014. Except they added one thing -- children, 18 and under, would immediately be protected if they have a pre-existing condition. They couldn't get discriminated against. That's another interesting compromise -- provision that's in this compromise that they'll be voting on tonight.

FOREMAN: One last quick question, Dana. Part of the compromise to get this moderate Democrat, Ben Nelson, on board included not only changing this business about abortion law just to make sure that federal funding did not go to abortion, but also some help, some monetary help, for some folks back in Nebraska.

Tell me about that. And I'm guessing that that's also creating a lot of raised eyebrows.

BASH: A lot of raised eyebrows. Specifically, what this bill does to expand coverage, especially to low-income Americans, is to expand the Medicaid system, and that's costly for especially state governments.

So Ben Nelson got a provision that no other state has -- to have the federal government pay all of Nebraska's costs for this expansion.

Well, as you can imagine, this has been an explosive issue. Republicans have been blasting Democrats for Chicago-style backroom deals and even bribery, and this came up on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The Medicaid deal for Senator Nelson -- there's one state of the union where new enrollees for Medicaid will be signed up and it won't cost anybody in that state money. It's not my state. I've got 30 percent African-American population, a lot of low-income African-Americans on Medicaid.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I didn't ask for a special favor here. I didn't ask for a carve-out. What I said is the governor of Nebraska's contacted me, said publicly he's having trouble with the budget, this will add to his budget woes. And I said, look, we have to have that fixed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: I'll tell you, the governor of Nebraska released a statement saying I asked for no such thing.

But this speaks to a big part of the theme of the debate we've heard all day long and frankly all weekend long, Tom, and that is Republicans accusing Democrats of not having transparency, of back room deals, of rushing this through, something that is so important to America and the economy that people don't really have a good grasp on, and Democrats saying what's -- you know, what's the holdup, we need to do this now.

FOREMAN: Dana, we're going to keep you there, obviously. First, President Obama this week referred to news of the Democratic compromise in historic terms. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian for the read over there.

Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, you know, senior administration officials say that they feel good about the process where they are in getting health care reform.

But they also realize that the game is not over. There is a fragile alliance, if you will, among Democrats. These two bills still have to be merged. And as Dana was just talking about, you know, one has a public option, the other, the Senate version, does not.

The president, though, we're told by senior administration officials, will continue to be engaged in this process to make sure that this does go across the finish line.

You know, it was interesting that today on "STATE OF THE UNION," David Axelrod gave a metaphor, a football metaphor, to show exactly where they think they are before the president will get a bill that he can sign. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We're way deep in the red zone. And we're right on the -- we're right on the 1-yard line. And we're -- no, you know, that doesn't mean that we're in and once the Senate passes this bill, obviously, there's work to be done. The House has its version. The Senate has its version. They have to agree. And we're going to have to go through one more round.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Of course, Tom, you know exactly when you talk about football that can happen in the red zone. You can get very close to that goal line but not make it across. But they really believe that while Republicans will be throwing up a lot of procedural barriers that there's the will to get this done.

FOREMAN: We'll have to see, Dan. And we'll check in with you later on, too, to see what's going on with the president over there -- Sanjay.

GUPTA: You know, Tom, if you haven't been interested at how many health care debate up until now because it seems like it's too much noise, too political perhaps, tell you what, it's getting pretty interesting.

Since the early 1900s, politicians have made attempts to provide care for all Americans. That's sort of been the mantra. And tonight we are closer than ever before to seeing that promise fulfilled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice over): The American system of health care is an accident of history. You see, during World War II, the government temporarily froze wages to head off inflation. But they also allowed companies to get tax breaks by providing benefits like health insurance. The system stuck.

Today, more than 157 million Americans rely on their jobs for health coverage. But that safety net is also getting smaller. In just the past 10 years, thousands of companies have stopped offering insurance while at the same time workers were asked to pay 131 percent more.

From the crucible of World War II, France, Britain, Canada, not to mention Germany emerged with government-run health insurance systems. President Truman did want the same thing here.

U.S. PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN: That is about legislation that will provide our citizens with the homes they need, the opportunity for universal good health.

GUPTA: But the American Medical Association fought back. The battle cry? No socialized medicine. Truman's plan was defeated. Sixteen years ago, the country was abuzz about the Clinton health plan. That plan suffered a crushing defeat in 1994, forcing the health care debate out of the spotlight. I saw it firsthand in 1997 and '98 when I worked as a non-partisan White House fellow in Hillary Clinton's office.

Today, 46 million -- that's more than 15 percent of all Americans -- have no health insurance. And in a recent CNN poll, 91 percent say the system needs some sort of reform.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: That's a little bit of a -- a little bit of a history lesson, Tom, as to where we've been, obviously, but tonight's about where we're going.

So many points are going to come up tonight. The public option you've talked about with Dana already, that's not in this bill.

Also, over the past couple of weeks, as you know, Tom, there was this discussion about expanding Medicare as well. Doesn't look like that's going to happen.

Something else that I was very interested in and I've been following along for some time was this idea of re-importing drugs, Tom, from other countries to try and cut down on drug costs. Doesn't look like that's going to happen, either.

But there are some things that are in the bill that are, you know, not discriminating based on pre-existing conditions. And we're going to be talking a lot more about that. Actually, meeting some patients as well who, under the current system, had a certain outcome and what their outcome may have been like under the new system as well.

So lots more to come, Tom.

FOREMAN: Yes. And I think, Sanjay, you're underlying really one of the fundamental issues that lies ahead.

And when David Axelrod says they're pushing toward the goal line here, people should not make the mistake of thinking that this measure tonight means that this entire bill is passing.

Because they really are, when you talk about those things you mentioned, there are still some enormous chasms in here between Democrats, let alone between Democrats and Republicans. And I think that the debate over those is going to have to be very fierce, don't you think?

GUPTA: I think so. And what's interesting, I think, for the average person sort of watching, trying to figure out what this all means for them, just to your point, Tom.

First of all, as you talked about earlier tonight, a lot of the changes that we're talking about won't be implemented for a few years still. So people are going to watch over the next couple of days, see how this transpires. But as far as the impact it has on the average person, it's not going to be felt for some time.

Also, you know, the idea at the end of the day, Tom, as a doctor, is, is this going to improve the health of the average person?

And I think that that's an -- that's an important question. Giving access to people, making sure they have an insurance card, obviously, one part of the equation. But does that translate to better health outcomes as well?

That's something I really want to explore with a lot of our guests tonight. I think a very important question.

FOREMAN: And that's one of the reasons we're so glad to have you with us tonight, Sanjay. It's good to have you here as we go through this.

And we want you to stay with us all evening as we grind through not only the process here, but what it will actually mean to you. If you've tried to endure this debate all these months and you've been lost, we will try very hard to clear that up tonight, so you'll know exactly where we stand.

And a reminder, we will have live coverage of tonight's crucial Senate vote starting at midnight Eastern. Sanjay will be back here, and we will go through it all with the "Best Political Team on Television."

We'll have the final vote plus a look at what's in the bill, what got left out, and what that could mean for you.

First up, next, folks are digging out from one of the biggest blizzards in decades. Yes, there was other news happening. Less than 24 hours later, things are almost back to normal in most places here on the East Coast.

We'll check in with Susan Candiotti at New York's LaGuardia Airport to find out if passengers there are going to make it home for the holidays. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Well, it's been a big snow weekend here on the East Coast. These are pictures from up in Boston, where you see folks out there, making their way through all the busy stuff there. I think it looks like Newberry Street to me, I think.

Huge storm and huge inconvenience for a lot of people here. However, as we had about two feet of snow over much of the East Coast -- that's Clyde McPhatter, by the way, singing "White Christmas" there, it's always fun this time of year.

But life seems to be getting pretty much back to normal in most places now. The streets are being cleared, the airports are reopened, and many folks are now clearly delighted at the prospect of a White Christmas.

The biggest remaining issues are restoring power to about 46,000 people in North Carolina and airports from D.C. to Boston have been working all day, trying to get through the backlog of cancellations and get everyone where they need to be for the holidays.

Joining us now in Atlanta, CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.

Watches and warnings, I guess, have pretty much all expired, haven't they, Bonnie?

(WEATHER REPORT)

FOREMAN: And some exciting times. Thanks, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Sure.

FOREMAN: There's still the task of digging out that backlog of cancelled flights. New York area airports are trying to get everyone where they're going after having cancelled 1200 flights earlier.

Susan Candiotti is live at LaGuardia Airport in Queens.

Susan, how are they dealing with all that?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tom.

Well, it's been quite a day. At this hour, the long lines are gone but not the headaches. For example, flights to Raleigh and Cleveland and Chicago are delayed as are incoming flights, for example, from Miami and Dallas. It has indeed been a long day for a lot of passengers starting this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice over): Whether they were sharing their misery on cell phones or catching 40 winks, weary travelers by the hundreds stood in line for up to four hours.

MEGAN RUZICKA, STRANDED TRAVELLER: It is kind of a disaster.

CANDIOTTI: Student Megan Ruzicka is spending her second night at LaGuardia, trying to get home to Denver. The airlines have tried to zigzag her to Colorado.

RUZICKA: Indianapolis, Cleveland, Greensboro, North Carolina.

CANDIOTTI: Now she hopes to get out Monday morning, if her airline doesn't cancel again.

RUZICKA: I was a little sad to think it might be Christmas. So if I get there before then, then I'll be happy.

CANDIOTTI: At LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark, runways never closed but airlines cancelled 1200 flights Saturday and Sunday, more than 550 at JFK alone. Repositioning equipment and crews caused even more delays.

This woman started her trip from India to Cleveland, Ohio three days ago. She can't get rebooked until Christmas.

MIRA CHOPRA, STRANDED TRAVELER: You sort of crumble once, get it over with, and then put on a smile and just understand that's the weather, that's -- nothing you can do about it, really.

CANDIOTTI: So she's leaving these lines behind and renting a car instead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: So airlines including Delta, Continental and American are offering full refunds if they had to cancel your flight altogether and there was no other option. But that is causing a lot of problems for passengers who have no other way to make it home. Now they have to scramble to find that way.

Tom, back to you.

FOREMAN: Many thanks, Susan.

Sanjay?

GUPTA: All right. And as you know, we're hours away from what might be a historic vote in the Senate on health care reform. Got a lot of resources we're harnessing tonight at CNN.

No matter what happens, problem is it is already too late for some patients. One of them is Mark Windsor. I want to tell you his story. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: So coverage the CNN have of the vote is expected tonight about 1:00 a.m. A lot of discussion about that. We are trying to really dissect what this means to you.

If you get hit by a car, if you have a heart attack, for example, an emergency room is obligated to treat you. Where it does start to get a little bit more tricky is with chronic disease such as cancer. Take a look at one man's struggle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK WINDSOR, CANCER PATIENT: You can just shoot all day, you know. Taking pictures makes me a happy man.

GUPTA (voice over): A happy uninsured man. When Mark Windsor was just 27 years old, doctors removed a large cancerous tumor from his neck. Windsor thought he was cured and left a job with company- paid health insurance to become a photographer.

WINDSOR: I've gone a few years without recurring. And I just felt confident that, you know, I just couldn't let that dictate my life.

GUPTA: But the cancer returned. In the beginning, Windsor was lucky. He found a hospital and surgeons who agreed to remove the tumors at no charge, but there were limits.

WINDSOR: You knew that you weren't going to get anything extra, except getting this tumor out of your body.

GUPTA: Today, 46 million Americans have no health insurance. The American Cancer Society says as things stand now patients without private insurance are 60 percent more likely to die within five years of their diagnosis.

By the fall of 2006, the cancer was back and the surgeon who donated his services was gone. Mark simply couldn't afford the proper care, more surgery and radiation. So he made a desperate decision. He married a good friend and she put him on her health insurance.

GUPTA (on camera): People get married obviously because they fall in love...

WINDSOR: I don't think I want to answer that.

GUPTA: Can I ask you -- did you get married because of health care insurance?

WINDSOR: Well, some, yes.

GUPTA: That's what we -- is that what we've arrived at?

WINDSOR: That's where we've arrived.

GUPTA: You had to get married to get health care insurance.

WINDSOR: Well, I didn't have to -- I'll put it like this. The tumor was getting so bad I would have been dead by now.

GUPTA (voice over): After getting married, Windsor had insurance and he had care, but it was too late. The cancer had spread to his lungs. Today, there's nothing more doctors can do. Mark Windsor knows he will die.

WINDSOR: I wanted to be around a lot longer than I'm going to be around. And I wanted to have hope. I will not see my daughter have grandchildren and watch them grow up. I will not complete my job and tasks in life that I'd like to finish. I'm weak. I'm tired. I only wish that all Americans had the opportunity for health insurance in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, buddy?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Well, unfortunately, Mark Windsor did fight hard. Unfortunately, he did lose his life this past summer. And coming up, we're going to talk to Mark Windsor's family. They're going share their feelings about what's happening tonight and what Mark Windsor would have liked as well. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: We're back for some very special coverage about all that's happening in the world of health care tonight. A big vote expected around 1:00 a.m.

Right before the break, we told you about Mark Windsor. He's someone I got to know quite well. He died before he had an opportunity to see health reform passed in this country.

I want to have a conversation about this. Joining me with their thoughts tonight about what's happening tonight is Mark Windsor's family. Val, his wife, Jennifer, his daughter, and Allen, his brother.

Thanks so much, first of all, for being here. You just watched the piece about Mark again. Was that hard to watch, Val?

VAL WINDSOR, MARK WINDSOR'S EX-WIFE: It was. It was. Because he so deserved better.

GUPTA: We talked a lot about the fact that -- you were married to him.

V. WINDSOR: Yes.

GUPTA: He said he needed to get health care insurance.

V. WINDSOR: It was my idea.

GUPTA: To get married to get him health care insurance?

V. WINDSOR: Yes.

GUPTA: He just simply couldn't get it any other way?

V. WINDSOR: No, he could not. Because he had such a long history. And even with the bill the way it's written now, it does say with pre-existing conditions you can have coverage, but in Mark's case it would have been three years down the road. He'd still be just as deceased.

GUPTA: You're referring to the fact that some of these things that we're talking about don't kick in until three years.

V. WINDSOR: Yes. Yes. And without the public option I just think it's a shame.

GUPTA: So you were not happy with the way the bill stands now?

V. WINDSOR: I'm glad that there is a bill, OK. Don't get me wrong. But the way it stands now is still too exclusive. It's only some people get coverage. And then it's kind of -- any bill that's written by the health care benefit providers, guess who's getting -- you know, guess who's getting most of the benefit. It's not going to be us.

GUPTA: Jennifer, he had health care insurance at one point, Mark, your father. He was employed and...

JENNIFER WINDSOR, MARK WINDSOR'S DAUGHTER: When I was very young, yes.

GUPTA: When you were very young. And then what happened? He became self-employed and was simply unable to get insurance?

J. WINDSOR: My understanding was that it was before that. He was -- he had his first surgery for this tumor when I was a year old and they didn't actually diagnose him with that cancer until a few years later. I think I was probably, you know, 4, 5, something like that. I don't remember.

But he had health insurance for a while then. But my understanding has always been that he lost his health insurance due to changing jobs and then because of the cancer was not allowed to get it. He couldn't get it again.

GUPTA: So he simply would go to doctors' offices or try and apply for insurance with cancer. And I saw the tumors, they were obvious. He simply couldn't get covered.

J. WINDSOR: Nobody would cover him.

GUPTA: Allen, what do you think about all that's happening now? It's worth pointing out that tomorrow would have been Mark's birthday as well. And he talked to me a lot about health care reform. This is something he would have wanted to see. What do you think he would have said? Does it go far enough?

ALLEN WINDSOR, MARK WINDSOR'S BROTHER: I don't think that the health care bill will go as far as Mark would have wanted to go. I think he would have been very happy that something is being done about health care.

But I don't think it's going anywhere close to where he would have wanted it to. He wanted it to be so that everybody could have access to health care.

GUPTA: With regard to the way that he eventually got covered, I mean, was it simply too late? Or what happened at the end, Val?

VAL WINDSOR, MARK WINDSOR'S EX-WIFE: We were too late. Had we reconnected maybe even six months prior to when we did, maybe it would have been a better opportunity for him.

But by the time we re-met each other, because we were friends in high school and all that, by the time we got back together this tumor on his left side had so encompassed and entangled itself in everything else that there was no way to get it all. And I guess previous to that they were getting everything.

GUPTA: There seems to be a belief, Allen, that if, you know, you get very sick, you go to the emergency room. If you're having something that happens to you that you need care, you go to the emergency room, you get care.

Could Mark have done that?

A. WINDSOR: No. Mark went to almost every major hospital in Atlanta at one time or another, and they just simply would not see him.

GUPTA: So he would show up with obvious symptoms...

A. WINDSOR: Obvious symptoms. He went to Grady and they told him that the specialists that could see him were just six-month waiting period. And Mark told them, he says I'll be dead in six months if you don't do something. And they just basically apologized, said there's nothing more we can do.

GUPTA: Was he sort of resigned to this at the end, Jennifer? What was his mood?

J. WINDSOR: No. Not at all.

GUPTA: Was he fighting until the end?

J. WINDSOR: Yes. Three days before he died, we had a long conversation that night. I stayed with him in the hospice center. We had a conversation that night, and it was the last conversation we ever had.

And he asked me if I was OK. And I said, no, I'm not OK. So be OK. I said but I'm not OK right this second. I don't want you going anywhere and I still need you here.

And I said, are you? And he says, I'm not ready to die. I'm not -- I'm not ready for it to be over.

So, no, he was -- he was not resigned to it. He knew what was happening. He was, I think, prepared as much as he could have been. But no, he was not -- he wasn't resigned to it at all. He fought it up until the moment he took his last breath.

GUPTA: I know how passionate he was about health care. We had a lot of discussions about that. I know how closely you'll all be watching tonight as the events unfold.

Obviously, a lot of people focused tonight, Tom, on what's happening here specifically.

But I think at the end of the day as we sort of talked about, it's really about what the impact is going to be on the average person. How is their life going to change or not change anytime soon as a result of all that we're talking about -- Tom. FOREMAN: Exactly, Sanjay. And that's precisely what they're debating tonight on the Senate floor here in Washington, D.C., about a half mile from where I'm sitting right now.

Coming up, we'll get some more perspective on what is happening out there on the floor from two veteran political journalists. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Quick check of the top stories. There are now less than 200 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. transferred 12 detainees to Afghanistan, Yemen and Somaliland this weekend. The move is part of the Obama administration's decision to clear captives out of the facility before it is closed.

And Hollywood has been stunned today by the death of a rising young star. A Los Angeles coroner's official says it appears that 32- year-old Brittany Murphy died of natural causes. Authorities are looking into her medical history. Murphy appeared in such films as "Clueless," "8 mile" and "Girl, Interrupted."

Well, obviously tonight, as we've been telling you, we're keeping eye on the developing situation over at the Senate where they are preparing for that crucial health care vote about 2 1/2 hours from now. That will be 1:00 in the morning, Eastern Time.

Let's bring in April Ryan, she's the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Elizabeth Williamson covers national politics for the "Wall Street Journal."

April, let me start with you with a simple question here. The White House says that they're basically on the 1-yard line going in for a touchdown on this. Do you buy that? Are they that close to saying this thing is done?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKKS: Well, I mean, we've heard this before, that they are -- they've come closer than any other president with health care reform, and really not just health care reform, insurance reform.

And you have to remember that this president is pushing for this. He was pushing for this when he was then candidate Barack Obama for president. So they're closer than any other president.

But the issue is, the sticking point is the compromise bill. And that's where the problems could happen. But they're closer than any other president has been before.

FOREMAN: Fair enough.

Elizabeth, one of the things that I wonder about with this, though, is there are really some hugely explosive issues out there that still seem unresolved in this.

For example, whether or not abortions are really going to be covered or not. There are differences in the coverage of illegal immigrants. That sort of thing. Is that really going to be something that they can -- they can work out?

ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON, JOURNALIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, we'll just have to see. I mean, the abortion issue does have the potential to be enormously explosive in conference, and that will happen in early January.

Some of the other issues are how many people are actually left uninsured by this bill? The House bill goes further. It leaves about -- it insures about 2/3 of uninsured Americans, whereas the Senate bill insures about half of those by 2014.

FOREMAN: So, April, do you think that this is in any way -- you mentioned what the president was running on in his campaign, what he came into office saying.

Even if you came up with the most reasonable compromise of everything that's out there right now, is this going to resemble what it was he wanted, or is this going to be what he can get?

RYAN: The original mandate was to cover everyone. So, it's going to be basically what he can get. But they're still looking at it as a win, that he is going to get something, health care reform.

There are some key elements in this that many Americans like. The issue that if you have a pre-existing condition that insurance companies cannot deny you coverage because of that. They're really excited about that because that's in the Senate and the House bill and that's something that was in the original mandate with the public option.

But the public option no longer is an option. It's not viable anymore really, it looks like. And talking to some people in the House as well, they're saying, look, we may not be able to deal with it.

So, right now the issue is choice and competition to drive the costs down and some key elements that were in the original bill but it will not include a public option.

FOREMAN: Elizabeth, the Republicans are basically saying, look, they're ramming it through in the middle of the night with the holidays breathing down their neck because they really don't want people to see all the details in this. Democrats are saying that's not so.

Which group do you think will get more political traction over that issue, the fact that it's being done in the middle of the night with Christmas a few days away?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I think like any fight that you have in Congress, both sides have a point. One of the reasons that this will probably pass the Senate, we hope, we think, at 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve is that the Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to stall this bill and to get their way. And really, they'd love to stop it.

I think what's really interesting to note here is this is a historic moment. This is further than anyone has gotten toward the cause of universal health care, toward insuring a greater percentage of the American people.

But this has cost Democrats plenty. I mean, you've seen significant erosion not only of the president's support but of Congress itself. In fact, more people think that this is the worst Congress ever, or one of the worst Congresses ever, than felt that way before the 1994 election in which Republicans won control of Congress in a landslide.

So that's a true cautionary tale for Democrats.

FOREMAN: All right. Elizabeth and April, thanks so much. I'm reminded of what Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said earlier today. He said he thinks there will be a day of accounting if this goes through, and he means next Election Day.

Thanks for being here, both of you.

RYAN: Thank you.

FOREMAN: They're words that we hear an awful lot, but an awful lot of us don't know what they really mean. Cloture, quorum. With the Senate voting on the massive health reform bill, we thought this would be a good time to break down a lot of this Capitol Hill jargon.

That's what we've been promising all evening, to clear up this so you really know what's happening and you can be informed over what this means, about what happens tonight. That's up next.

Plus, CNN plans live coverage of tonight's crucial Senate vote starting at midnight Eastern. I'll be here along with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the "Best Political Team on Television."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: We're back with this special coverage of the Senate vote. You know, there's a lot of terms being thrown around out there, terms that you've probably heard but you may not always understand them or understand, more importantly, how they play into your health care.

So with my friend Tom here, we're going to try and create a little Senate bill 101.

Tom, you ready for this?

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

GUPTA: All right. These are some terms that I'm learning as well. Start with this one. First of all, cloture. Cloture basically refers to this idea that you can open or close a debate, sets a time limit on consideration of a bill, and needs 60 votes.

Tom, let me ask you something. Is that part of the reason this vote is happening at 1:00 a.m., because of this cloture?

FOREMAN: Well, let me just speak to the broader question of cloture, and then we'll get back to 1:00 a.m. later on because that's more involved.

The bottom line is that cloture is an idea the Senate used to allow people to just debate as long as they wanted to. And then they decided around 1917, I think it was, they decided that that was just out of hand, that it just allowed people to filibuster something forever and ever and ever and ever, and they simply would never get to an answer.

So they said we have to put a limit on it. They required two- thirds of the people to say we're willing to stop the debate. And then some years later, in the 1970s, they decided that really wasn't working because it was too hard to get two-thirds, so they reduced it to 3/5. That's 60. That's why they have to get 60 people to agree that we've talked about it enough, now let's move on toward the vote. That's what that's about.

GUPTA: All right. 1:00 a.m. That's when this is happening. A lot of senators coming in.

You just used one of the next terms here. Filibuster is another term again that's being tossed around a lot. An attempt to block or delay action. Often includes those lengthy debates and motions. Helps force a decision against will of the majority.

Do you expect any of that tonight, Tom?

FOREMAN: Well, if they have 60 votes, really, what you're talking about mainly, Sanjay, these days is the threat of a filibuster, not an actual filibuster. Usually what happens is if one side says you don't have 60 votes to stop us, they simply say if we have to filibuster we will. And usually the other side says we'll give up rather than subject everybody to it forever and ever.

GUPTA: All right. One more really quickly. Quorum is another term that people have probably heard quite a bit lately. 51 senators needed to be present to do business. Usually refers to the majority of a group. A quorum or roll call establishes the number of senators present.

Tom, you just talked about this. But again, 51 is the majority. But 60 necessary for the vote tonight.

FOREMAN: Yes. That's what they have to have tonight, and they've known that for quite some time. And basically, you know, what a quorum is, is like your 4-H Club, it's enough people to do business. And that's what they've got to have here. And, boy, they've been working on this business for a long time, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Tom, anytime you want to go over some brain surgery terms, happy to do it for you. I appreciate the little -- the little 101. Thanks.

FOREMAN: Yes, but before this is over, I'll need some.

The classic formula, you know, there's other news out here. The classic formula is you go to college, you get a degree and a good- paying job. But how good are the jobs for graduates coming out of school?

We're going to take a look at some of that other news with the market with slim pickings for job applicants out there. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: For all this talk about health care tonight, the economy and jobs still remain the number one issue for so many people out there, which brought up something we were thinking about earlier today -- about college graduates.

You know, so many of them are now hearing from the colleges about whether or not -- young people, whether they'll be accepted to a college. But once they get there, they graduate, they make the grades, they get the degree. But many of them are now emerging, finding they can't really do anything with it.

CNN's chief business correspondent Ali Velshi took on this subject. He talked to some students who face that very dilemma in tonight's "Mastering Your Money."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): You're all of a generation where you've not seen this in your lives. It's not been -- I mean, a lot of people haven't seen this in their lives. So, this is pretty serious.

NEDRICK RIVERS, ADVERTISING MAJOR: This is a very competitive world, very competitive field. I wasn't prepared for that, basically.

AJA SANDERS, TOURISM/HOTEL MANAGEMENT MAJOR: We go to school, you know, for four years, and most of us don't hope to be paid hourly, but you know, we hope to have like a salaried job. But I really can't complain right now. A lot of people don't have jobs.

VELSHI: Has that hit your confidence?

SANDERS: Nobody is too great to take a low-paying job. And the people -- I mean, it's really America. I mean, people start from low and they go up real high. You know, you just have to start somewhere.

CATHERINE MCABEE, PHARMACOLOGY MAJOR: Well, and hopefully our generation will learn from these mistakes that led up to the recession. We won't be going out and buying outrageous houses that we can't afford and getting mortgages. We really appreciate our jobs.

VELSHI: How are you different than somebody who graduated five years ago?

SANDERS: I graduated in a depression. I mean, not like just economic depression. Like everybody's depressed.

JEFF BARNHILL, CHEMICAL ENGINEERING MAJOR: No doubt that I have the job that I have now because I kind of got in while the getting was good, for lack of a better term. You know, I started the internships back in, you know, '05, '06, when they were very intent on hiring lots of people and kind of stayed with it. And if I didn't have that, I would probably be in the same boat as most other people now.

VELSHI: Anybody having disagreements with their families or siblings, or friends about the direction that they're going in?

DANIELLE MCQUEEN, RETAIL SALES & FASHION MERCHANDISING MAJOR: I was a nursing major for two years. And when I changed my major to retail, everybody was like, what, what are you doing?

VELSHI: Nursing's got to be one of the biggest growing jobs in the country.

MCQUEEN: Nursing wasn't my passion. My passion was retail and fashion merchandising. So, you know, I'm just going off with faith and that's what I really want to do.

VELSHI: You'd rather struggle a little bit and do the thing you want to do.

MCQUEEN: That I want to do. Because it will fulfill me.

SANDERS: I understand there are majors that pay more. But if it doesn't make you happy and you go to work hating your job, then there really was no point in you doing it. Because I'd rather go to work every day and be happy and be paid less than go to work and be miserable and hate my life.

VELSHI: The point of this trip, as I said to you earlier, was to take things that we're learning on the street from people, put them on TV, and have our viewers, who may see themselves in each of you, get some lesson out of it.

And what's interesting in this conversation is that each of you, I think --- I'm going to ask you for the lesson. If somebody's looking at you right now, what's your advice to them?

MCQUEEN: Study hard.

MCABEE: Plan for the future.

SANDERS: Make sure you're happy.

RIVERS: Don't ever feel like you're too good to do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help people out so that when you need help they can help you.

BARNHILL: Don't be intimidated by the situation. I mean, it's a horrible situation, but, like you said, we've been talking about that for a year. Everybody knows it's a horrible situation. Can't use it as an excuse. You've got to put on your big boy pants and go for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: We're back with special coverage of the Senate vote happening at 1:00 a.m. tonight. All the resources of CNN really dedicated to making sure you're informed.

You know, we've talk about this bill a lot, but I think the question for a lot of people, including myself, is what does it mean for people once this bill -- if this bill is passed?

We wanted to give you some examples here of what this might mean specifically.

So for example, hypothetically, you have the Smith family here. This is a family of four, let's say. And they, on average, making about $28,000 a year. Having a hard time keeping up with health insurance costs. Therein lies part of the problem.

What's going to -- the father is self-employed in this particular case. What's going to happen here with him specifically and the entire family is they are immediately going to be able to qualify for Medicaid, which is going to be made more universal across the country.

So one particular standard for Medicaid in this particular case. The key number here is people who are 133 percent above poverty -- below poverty, rather. They're the ones who are going to qualify for this specifically. And they will have no expenses really until the year 2016.

So that's an example of one family and how this might help them right away.

Let's take someone else for example. Someone who has a pre- existing condition. We talked about this a lot. Someone, for example, who had a heart attack in the past, having a hard time getting insurance. So, he has a heart attack. He's having a hard time getting insurance. His salary is about $43,000 a year.

So he's making enough money where he doesn't qualify for Medicaid. He's just simply having a hard time making ends meet. What's going to happen for someone like him is he is going to have to buy health care insurance, but he's also going to be eligible for what is known as a public exchange.

So he can go out there and shop around for various insurance plans and try and find something that works for him. The key, though, is he is going to be able to get a subsidy as well.

So while his insurance may have cost around $4,500, with the subsidies, we calculated this, it's going to be closer to $3,800 for someone like him, getting about $700 in benefits.

Again, we'll have much more of this throughout the night to really give you an idea of how much of an impact this particular bill will have. We'll have much more after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Big night in the capital. I'm Tom Foreman. We have much more coming up.

GUPTA: And I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. By darkness of night, in the middle of a storm literally, Tom, up there, perhaps one of the biggest nights in some time for health care. Very excited to be here.

FOREMAN: Yes. Absolutely amazing, Sanjay. We will have full coverage coming up as the big vote comes up at 1:00. Right now, though, it's time for "STATE OF THE UNION" with John King.