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Congressional Finger-Pointing; Blade Runner's Bail Battle

Aired February 21, 2013 - 22:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

Tonight, only on 360, the high cost of health care. It's already enough to make you sick. It's also making some people rich, hospital CEOs making $2 million, $5 million, even nearly $10 million a year running nonprofits, and who is paying for it? Why, you are, of course. We will show you how and how hospitals try to camouflage the cost of medical bills that are loaded with bull.

Later, why on earth is this man smiling? He came within inches of death by avalanche and lived to tell his incredible story. And you will hear from him tonight.

We begin, though, with two major developments in the Blade Runner bail hearing, one, a striking change in the defendant's demeanor, and, two, the kind of twist you would be laughed at for trying to put in a movie. No one would believe it, a key member of the prosecution, the lead detective on the case, revealed to be an alleged would-be killer.

Now, granted, a celebrity defendant coupled with a glamorous and sympathetic victim mean this was never going to be a run-of-the-mill court proceeding. But the way things are going, this one isn't even close. And, bottom line, one of the fastest runners alive is now on a slow, strange and sad walk through his country's criminal justice system.

More on day three of the bail hearing from Robyn Curnow in South Africa.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hot and claustrophobic, the courtroom exploded with flashbulbs as Oscar Pistorius came in.

In previous days, he was visibly emotional, frequently crying, today, though, frozen and immobile, seemingly unmoved by the latest twists in an already dramatic case. The lead investigator in the past days has struggled to offer clear evidence Pistorius killed Steenkamp was removed from the case because he himself is facing charges of attempted murder in an unrelated case.

RIAH PHIYEGA, SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE COMMISSIONER: The case that is being spoken about, it is a case that took place during the course of his duty. He was at work, and they were patrolling, they saw this car, the car refused to stop, and they called for support, and they shot the tires of the taxi.

So we cannot prejudge the matter. It's got to be investigated. Charges have to be laid and justice has to prevail, both criminally, as well as internally to the department.

CURNOW: The police have now put one of their most senior detectives on the case.

Back inside the courtroom, Pistorius' lawyers argued that if Pistorius really wanted to kill his girlfriend, he could have done it in the bedroom, that her empty bladder proves she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, that Steenkamp probably locked the door frantically as she heard Pistorius shouting about a burglar.

And his lawyers insist that Pistorius carried her downstairs to take her to hospital, desperate to save her life. It all sounded plausible until the state delivered a strong, final argument.

I was inside the courtroom the whole of today and obviously took a copious amount of notes, but the key issues came from the state's prosecutor towards the end of the day. They basically ripped apart Oscar Pistorius' affidavit.

In particular, they pointed out some forensic inconsistencies, such as, for example, why were the cartridges inside the bathroom when Oscar Pistorius alleges that he shot from outside the bathroom? Also, crucially and quite damningly, the state's prosecutor says Pistorius lacks an insight and realization of what he's done.

Because he's conceded he fired the gun, the state said he shot to kill, but whether his target was at Reeva or a burglar, the stark fact is that act is still considered to be murder. And while Pistorius waits to hear if he gets bail, photos and videos are all their friends and family have of Reeva Steenkamp, memories and dreams shattered.

GINA MYERS, FRIEND: She used to see kids, she would be like, G., she was so excited to have kids, just not now.

CURNOW: Gina Myers was her best friend.

MYERS: She actually -- she, the irony of it is she actually sent me a message in the beginning of the month, and she said, G., this month is going to be amazing and it's going to change our lives forever.

CURNOW: Those who loved her say they just hope that they will learn the truth about how she died one day.


TAPPER: Robyn Curnow was in the courtroom. Robyn, take us inside the courtroom. What did you see? What did you hear?

CURNOW: I think the key thing is that Oscar Pistorius was immobile, frozen, immobile, he didn't move. We have had conversations over the past few days. Initially when he walked into the court, he could barely control himself, he was shaking, he was crying. Today, I sat in that courtroom the whole day, and I watched and listened, and he literally was like this, his head bowed slightly. Once or twice he had a little cry, but really this is a man who seems to be, you know, under the weight of the realization of what is in front of him.

He really seemed bowed, but I was really struck by the fact that at times it felt like he was asleep even or he had checked out completely. So I think from what I from what I observed, Oscar Pistorius is really slowly digesting the fact that, you know, it's inevitable perhaps that he gets a jail term, according to legal experts I have spoken to, unless he has an extremely efficient legal team and they get off on some sort of technicality.

But the fact is that he's already admitted to shooting and killing somebody. He thought it was a burglar, and that in itself carries a charge of murder, which the sentence is about three to seven years. So things aren't looking good for him and you can see it in his physical demeanor.

TAPPER: And arguments in the bail hearing will continue in the morning. Do we expect a decision to be made tomorrow?

CURNOW: I do believe a decision will be made. I have got a sense from sources with -- inside the prosecution that they were aware this case was perhaps taking a bit too long. The court itself is backlogged. Their backlog already is messing with the court's schedule.

And then also I think they realize the decision has to be made because of the high-profile nature of this. How the magistrate is going to rule, I found it difficult to judge the way he was asking his questions. And there was the sort of flip-flopping between each side, this ebbing and flowing of the arguments as sort of one legal team took precedence over the other and then the argument flips.

I find it very hard to look ahead and project what the magistrate is going to rule. But if he doesn't get bail, just remember, his legal team can appeal and go to the high court, so it won't be over then.

TAPPER: All right, Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg, thank you.

Digging deeper now into why this is playing out the way it is and what could happen next. At this point, it seems like anything could. We're joined by criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos. He's co- author of "Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works, and Sometimes Doesn't." Also, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, I'm going to start with you.

The fact that the lead investigator was removed from the case today because he's facing charges of attempted murder in another case, is this a big setback for the prosecution?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not, for a very important reason.

There are no jury trials in South Africa. This will be a judge trial when it ultimately goes to verdict. A judge is not going to be shocked by the fact that the detective has something bad in his past. That is not the kind of thing that a judge who has been around the criminal justice system for a while would be affected by the way a jury might be. Obviously it's not a good thing, but in the long run I don't think it will matter much at all.


I would agree with that if this were -- if they had a jury here, this would be the death knell for the case.


GERAGOS: Are you kidding me? Can imagine, have you ever had a case or seen a case where you have got your lead investigator on the case who has contaminated the crime scene and then, oh, by the way, I have got seven counts of attempted murder?


TOOBIN: Mark Fuhrman.


GERAGOS: Those were just racial epithets.


TOOBIN: But there you didn't have a guy who shot someone four times at point-blank range. That is the key fact in this case.

And the attempt to make it into something more complicated is obviously what the defense is going to do here, but this is a woman who was killed in cold blood and that's the key fact in this case.


GERAGOS: I really don't -- I don't think we're -- I think even the fact that you have a judge here -- and that's generally -- we have the baseball bat rule in my office. If you waive jury in a case like this, you would get a baseball bat between the eyes, because you never want a judge deciding a case like this.


TOOBIN: We would have another trial.


GERAGOS: Right, exactly. But, clearly, I think he has got more than a plausible defense. I will go out on a limb. You have got me on tape. I will speculate and say that I think this magistrate gives him bail. I think some of the questions he was asking are indicative that he will give him bail, and I think that the prosecution has a tough row to hoe on this case.


TAPPER: Go ahead, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Well, I would just like to make an observation about South Africa.

It is a different country than the United States. They have different rules. And so any sort of categorical predictions about how the South African legal system is going to act I think is really misguided at this point.


GERAGOS: Except remember something too. Part of what you see when you turn on CNN or other stations are people in America projecting their cultural kind of assumptions onto South Africa.

I saw somebody the other night, may have been on this show, saying, wait, he didn't call 911, which factually was not correct. They have something there. But that isn't -- the person that he would have called is perfectly normal, according to people I know in South Africa for who you would call.

I agree with you, it's not the American system, but you -- I think this guy has a pretty good defense based on what I talked to people in South Africa, his kind of paranoia, his fear of crime. I don't think that that's something that is so outlandish.

TAPPER: Well, Mark, let me ask you. The prosecutor has really been trying to portray Pistorius as a flight risk, saying that his unwillingness to recognize his crime increases the flight risk, the idea that he's prone to violence, do you think that that is a solid argument against bail?


GERAGOS: No, I think the opposite.

I think what the magistrate replied, which is, why wouldn't he have every incentive in the world to clear his name? He has got a very able defense team. I think that that's very compelling. I think he will get bail. I will be crazy and make the prediction.


TOOBIN: As I understand South African law, it has to be extraordinary circumstances for bail to be granted in a case like this, and I don't see extraordinary circumstances.


GERAGOS: If it's a Schedule 6. If the judge downgrades it to what is called a Schedule 5, it does not have to be extraordinary circumstances. That's why Mr. -- is it Roux, who is the defense lawyer, was arguing for a Schedule 5, which -- I don't want to get inside baseball -- but that basically takes it out of there, takes it out of that extraordinary circumstances.

TAPPER: Jeff, let me ask you, I talked to a South African legal expert earlier today and she told me the prosecutor backed himself into a corner, because he so aggressively is pursuing the case the way he is, that forced him to have to present the evidence as early as he did.

TOOBIN: See, I just -- I don't see that at all. The person who backed himself into a corner is the defendant here.

He did something that defendants should never do. He put forth this affidavit which locked him into a story before anyone knows what the forensic evidence is. Suppose it does show she was not shot through the door, that some of the shots were before that? How does he explain that? How does he explain that it is so dark that he can't see the woman in bed with him, yet he can go to the balcony, he can go back, he can go to the bathroom, he gets all around there without any problem?

I mean, I just think his story is preposterous.

GERAGOS: Well, I agree with you, it's extraordinary to put somebody in or their story in a declaration that early on. That's extraordinary.


TAPPER: You would not have advised him to do that?

GERAGOS: Well, it depends. This is a high risk/high reward. People talk about the South African jails and the South African prisons where he would be detained pre-trial, maybe this was the gambit that they decided.

So far, I will tell you the defense to me looks like they are wiping the floor with the prosecution based on everything I have seen.

TOOBIN: Is that because of the case they are waging or is it just because of the circumstances?

GERAGOS: I think that they have taken, they have staked out a position that I think is inherently ridiculous in some ways.


TOOBIN: That is always what a defense attorney wants to do. Inherently ridiculous, that's the goal.

(CROSSTALK) GERAGOS: They have taken the position, number one, that he is a flight risk. And that I think even the judge or the magistrate wasn't buying any of that.

So if that's the case, then that tends to kind of paint them in a different light on all of the other allegations that they have. So when you start talking about testosterone and you start talking about whether he was wearing the legs or not and that I think is all going to be the ballistics, which you said, and that could or could not end up destroying his affidavit.


GERAGOS: But my guess is they have been out there. Remember, the defense found a casing in the toilet. So the defense has been to that scene.

The defense knows whether or not that door was shot through. It doesn't require all kinds of analysis to figure out did he shoot from outside the door or did he shoot inside of the bathroom? And they knew whether or not that cricket bat had blood on it or at least some kind of flesh or hair.

So they understand I think a lot more than we give them credit for.

TAPPER: All right, to be continued. We will have much more in the days ahead.

Jeff Toobin, Mark Geragos, thank you so much.

Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @JakeTapper.

Next, a friend who says he is certain that the Oscar Pistorius he knows didn't murder his girlfriend. I will ask him how he can be so sure.

And, later, dangerous weather to tell you about, what you need to know about all that snow, who got hit and who is next.

Also, how is this for a budget plan? Congress takes a vacation, you get laid off and they make a promise to cut their own pay that they know they can't keep. We're "Keeping Them Honest."


TAPPER: Day three of the Blade Runner bail hearing and a visibly different Oscar Pistorius, downcast, almost frozen in place, seemingly resigned according to CNN's Robyn Curnow to a grim future. His family calling this a difficult time for them all. They have been there for him.

So has his friend Kenny Kunene who has been watching the proceedings in court. We spoke earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Kenny, you're a friend of Oscar Pistorius. You have been in court every day. You strongly contend that he is innocent. Why are you so confident?

KENNY KUNENE, FRIEND OF OSCAR PISTORIUS: I have always believed in Oscar's innocence, and once he gave his version of what happened on that morning of the 14th, I became more convinced that he is innocent.

I don't believe that Oscar is capable of being a murderer.

TAPPER: Have you been able to speak with Oscar Pistorius since Reeva's death, either in person or on the telephone?

KUNENE: I haven't been able to speak to him, but he knows of my presence in court, inasmuch as he knows of the presence of others who are giving him the moral support and who believe in his innocence.

TAPPER: Had you ever met Reeva?

KUNENE: No, no, no. I haven't met Reeva. Their relationship I think is fairly new, and as you would have had that they met I guest last year.

TAPPER: You have been in court with Oscar. What is it like being there? What can you tell of how he's holding up?

KUNENE: It's not easy for anyone, I think especially in Oscar's case, where an accident has happened, and yet you are being accused of a very serious offense. It cannot be easy.

As we -- we would have seen in court that he would break down every now and then, it just shows you a bleeding heart and a good man that is -- that is in pain with what has happened. And, yes, it's not easy for him. It's not easy for his family, it's not easy for his friends.

TAPPER: Lastly, Kenny, as a friend of Oscar Pistorius, what is your message to people out there who are following this trial? What do you want them to know about Oscar? And what's your message for those who are watching who think, well, this looks pretty bad?

KUNENE: This is a trial.

Let Oscar's trial be treated like any other trial. Just because he's an international athlete, let us not make it an exception and make stupid, irresponsible comments that would be seen to influence the proceedings of the court.

Oscar is a great man, he's a legend, he's an icon. Oscar is an inspiration to many young people in the country, both abled and people with disabilities. I just want to say to Oscar that tough times never last, but tough people do. And I know he believes in prayer and I know that his family prays for him and we pray for him.

And I know that he -- they also pray for the family of Reeva. But all that I can say is let us all give Oscar an opportunity to clear his name within the ambits of the law. The principle of innocent until proven guilty is an integral part of our constitution. And, therefore, let us respect it.

TAPPER: All right, Kenny Kunene, friend of Oscar Pistorius, thank you so much for talking to us tonight.

KUNENE: It's a pleasure. Thank you very much.


TAPPER: One quick programming note. We will be devoting a full hour to this story tomorrow night, Anderson Cooper 360, "Blade Runner: Murder or Mistake?" You can watch it starting at 8:00 -- I'm sorry -- starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow here on CNN.

Ahead on 360: What's hiding inside your hospital bill? And who is getting rich off of it? We're talking about CEOs of nonprofit hospitals -- let me repeat that -- nonprofit hospitals raking in multimillion-dollar salaries while patients are getting charged for every tissue, every warm blanket, every bedpan, numbers you need to know.

And, later, a young husband and dad buried alive in an avalanche, he came so close to losing everything. And he will here to describe that terror ahead.


TAPPER: A massive winter storm has claimed a life in Texas, hammered the middle of the country, and is heading east. About 60 million Americans are under some type of winter weather warnings tonight. The storm dumped a foot-and-a-half of snow on parts of Kansas, forced the closing of Kansas City's airport.

Elsewhere, inches of ice, rivers of rain, and, as we said, it ain't over yet. And it's a monster.



TAPPER: "Keeping Them Honest," if Congress doesn't cut a deal in the next seven days, $85 billion of forced spending cuts will be triggered on March 1.

Over time, a total of $1.2 trillion in cuts will kick in. And did we mention that Congress is on break this week?

That's right. There are no formal negotiations going on right now, zip, nada, just a lot of finger-pointing.

If March 1 arrives with no deal, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the pain will cut wide and deep.

But, "Keeping Them Honest," here is the thing. Members of Congress won't actually be feeling any of that pain in their own paychecks. Here's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pain from forced spending cuts is a week away, and lawmakers are preparing their aides for fallout that could hit them like other government workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've actually budgeted with a 10 percent cut in mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We reorganized our office last December. We had to let people go then, because we were anticipating at least a 16 percent cut.

BASH: But get this. Members of Congress, the very people who voted to put these cuts in place, won't see any change to their own $174,000-a-year paychecks. They're exempt. They didn't include their salaries in these spending cuts.

So before lawmakers left town for a weeklong recess without doing anything to head off the coming cuts...

(on camera): Hey, Congressman, Dana Bash, CNN.

(voice-over): ... we took an informal survey.

(on camera): Do you think that you should take a pay cut, as well, as a member of Congress?

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, certainly. I mean, we're all in this together. We're all suffering together.

BASH (voice-over): Most lawmakers in both parties say yes.

(on camera): And would you take a pay cut?

REP. BEN LUJAN (D), NEW MEXICO: Absolutely. Let's make sure we're doing our part, as well.

BASH (voice-over): But cutting lawmakers' pay now is not so easy. The 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits members of Congress from changing their pay until after the next election. Though they can get creative. Write checks to the charity or the treasury.

Ironically, some Tea Party-backed party lawmakers who campaigned on slashing federal spending are reluctant to give up their own pay.

(on camera): Do you think members of Congress should take a pay cut?

REP. BILLY LONG (R), MISSOURI: I don't think so. I mean, I don't think we should raise our pay.

BASH (voice-over): Republican Billy Long was elected in 2010 to cut Washington spending. LONG: It's such a miniscule part, it wouldn't have an effect.

BASH (on camera): Would you personally, as a member of Congress, take a pay cut, as well?

(voice-over): Michele Bachmann answered that question, asked several times, talking only about her staff, not her.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: We'd like to keep everybody on the payroll if they can, but they'll have to work fewer hours. So we're looking at reductions in our staff. And that's what we need to do.

BASH: Ironically, one of the biggest opponents of Congress cutting its pay is one of the wealthiest. Nancy Pelosi says she knows others are not so fortunate.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Most of my colleagues are the bread winners in their families. A pay cut to me doesn't mean as much.


TAPPER: And Dana, those comments from Nancy Pelosi, I mean, your average American is likely to be hurt by these forced cuts, if and when they come, but somehow members of Congress who approved these cuts should not feel any pain?

BASH: I spoke with Pelosi, and Jake, she reminded me that it's one of her mantras that Congress shouldn't be made up of millionaires. And most of her members, House Democrats, aren't wealthy.

But remember: she didn't want these cuts to begin with. In fact, she called them a Satan sandwich -- Satan sandwich, rather, with a side of Satan fries.

TAPPER: Interesting. And how about negotiations? Is anything happening at all? Or is it looking more and more likely that these cuts are, in fact, going to kick in come March 1?

BASH: It certainly is looking that way. The short answer is no. There are no negotiations going on to avoid this that I can detect.

There's a report that the president did place calls to congressional leaders today, most notably Republicans, the House speaker and the Senate Republican leader. Remember, these are just phone calls. There aren't actual negotiations.

And if you want to know how little is going on, listen to this. I was told by a Boehner aide this is the first conversation that the two of them had since December 28. That was almost two months ago. And McCall's (ph) aide said it's the first conversation the two of them had in the new year, in 2013. I think that probably tells you all you need to know.

TAPPER: My friend Dana Bash, thank you very much. Have a good night.

BASH: You, too.

TAPPER: Just ahead, more secrets. The people who are cashing in on health care don't want you to know. Bulked-up medical bills that are bankrupting patients while some CEOs of nonprofit hospitals -- let me repeat that, nonprofit hospitals -- are making small fortunes.



TAPPER: A skier buried alive in an avalanche in Colorado. He knows how lucky he is that he lived to tell the story and what a story it is. Tony Robinson will be here in studio to talk to me about what it's like to be caught in an avalanche and how he survived when "360" continues.


TAPPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, more secrets to share with you about the high cost of health care. What we're going to show you could save you money, possibly lots of money the next time you get a bill from a hospital.

We've partnered with "TIME" magazine. "TIME's" special report called "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us." Journalist Steven Brill spent seven months investigating why medical bills in the United States are so high, and what he found is jaw-dropping.

Investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has been digging on our end, exploring how a lot of people are profiting from your high hospital bills, even the people who run hospitals who call themselves nonprofit. So how are hospitals pulling in so much money? Oh, let us count the ways. Here's part two of Drew's report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pat Palmer has built a business around helping patients fight hospital bills. She says in no other business are all the costs of doing business itemized and billed separately.

You don't have a separate electricity bill added onto your grocery bill or a refrigeration bill charged separately when you buy ice cream. She argues if hotels ran their business like hospitals, you'd be charged for lying down on the bed.

PAT PALMER, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: Absolutely. If we went to a hotel and they charged us for sheets and towels, there would be a ruckus made over those kinds of charges. And a major issues. But yet we're letting the medical industry do this on a daily basis.

GRIFFIN: Palmer says she's found hospitals billing for everything from tissues to little white cups that hold aspirins. Everything has a charge. The bill, sometimes hundreds of pages long, have hidden codes or names.

Steven Brill, writing a special report for "TIME" magazine, says he makes just one conclusion. Hospitals want to prevent patients from knowing what they are paying for, all in an attempt to charge as much as they can get away with.

STEVEN BRILL, CONTRIBUTOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I defy you to take any hospital bill, anywhere around the country -- and everybody watching this program knows this -- and try to read that bill and try to understand what it says and what the prices actually are, let alone what the prices are based on. I mean, it is the opposite of transparency.

GRIFFIN: But not everyone, of course, is feeling that pinch. In the world of nonprofit hospitals, some people are making a small fortune.

Public records show CEOs of top billing hospitals across the U.S. can garner salaries, deferred compensation and other revenues that rival CEOs of major for-profit businesses.

Just take a look at this list put together by a health care business journal's review of 2010 and 2011 tax filings, which showed CEOs of top grossing nonprofit hospitals making multimillion dollar figures. Watch as the numbers get bigger. The top salary paid in 2010? Dean Harrison, chief administrator of the prestigious northwestern memorial hospital in Chicago. His salary and one-time bonus earned him a whopping $9.7 million.

When we asked about the high salaries and high hospital bills, the American Hospital Association sent us to Taylor, Michigan and to Malcolm Henoch at Oakwood health care system. But even he didn't want to talk about hospital executive salaries.

He was willing, though, to discuss hospital billing. Here the hospital says it tries to work with patients to understand their bills.

DR. MALCOLM HENOCH, OAKWOOD HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM: The information we provide is not perfect. It doesn't disclose everything. And it's not for everyone always easily understandable, but it's a start. And I think this notion of transparency in health care is important.

GRIFFIN: Henoch admits billing at hospitals can be confusing, but he defends the process by noting the cost of, say, a simple blood draw, has lots of costs that patients don't see.

HENOCH: The cost of that is not just the cost of that vial, but the cost of a technician who processes that sample, the cost -- a fraction of the cost of that individual who has drawn that blood from you, a fraction of the cost of that equipment that analyzes that blood sample, a fraction of the cost of that electronic laboratory information system that we need to collect and store and disseminate that information to the physician, to the nurse, perhaps to a number of physicians not even practicing at the hospital.

GRIFFIN: Which is why some people may be billed up to $200 just for a warm blanket.

It is, in fact, all up for negotiation. If you are insured, your insurance company does the negotiating. If you're on Medicare, the government negotiates. If you are paying out of pocket, then the hospitals, paying those million-dollar salaries, determine just how much you will pay. Your wealth or your health.


GRIFFIN: And here is a staggering figure about how much money we are talking about here, Jake. "TIME" magazine reports Americans will spend $2.8 trillion on health care this year. Per person, that's 27 percent more than other developed nations spend on health care, and hospitals are getting a lot of that money.

TAPPER: And, Drew, as you reported last night, while there are some measures to try to control health-care costs in Obama care, there's nothing that seems to effectively address these specific runaway costs in hospital billing fees. Is there any support in Washington to try and drive these costs down?

GRIFFIN: You know, let me -- let me put this in perspective for you, and, Jake, you certainly know how that town Washington works. This is also in "TIME" magazine's special edition.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1998, the health-care and drug industry, including doctors and hospitals, have spent $5.36 billion lobbying in Washington. That is nearly double what was spent by the defense industry and the oil and gas industry combined.

So people who make money in health care certainly have the government's ear, and I might add they have our pockets.

TAPPER: Indeed. Drew Griffin, thanks.

A young husband and dad buried alive in an avalanche. He came so close to losing everything, and he'll be here to describe that terror ahead.


TAPPER: You're about to meet a very lucky man. Tony Robinson was skiing at the Arapahoe Ski Basin in Colorado when an avalanche hit. He says for what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably more like two minutes, he was tossed and turned like a rag doll. Upside down, snow in his mouth, thinking of his wife and son. Miraculously, a small opened as the snow stopped moving so he could breathe. But Tony found himself buried alive.

Tony Robinson joins me now.

Tony, first of all, I'm so glad you're OK. Walk us through what happened.

TONY ROBINSON, SURVIVED AVALANCHE: I was there alone, actually. And found a buddy of mine was at the mountain with his son. He said, "Come on down and meet me down at the base."

We did a little hike up, 20 minutes or so. Got our breath, because obviously at that point, especially you're way up there, and we all were getting to go. And he said, "Now take it easy, because if you go down here and you twist an ankle or you do something, it's really hard to get you out."

And I thought -- I went back to my military days and I went back to my safety officer, and I said, "What if there's an avalanche?" Just kind of, you know, threw that question out.

And he said, well, "Ski left or ski right." Matter of fact.

Somebody in the back said, "Make sure you cover your mouth. I hear it's hard to breathe." And with that, we were off.

And we jumped in and I bet it wasn't, you know, a minute later, and I'm talking a hundred feet in, I heard a sound...

TAPPER: Like what was it? Like a rumble?

ROBINSON: Well, more like the earth kind of moaning a little bit. Giving you a warning, if you will. And then, the -- it just -- the snow started to move underneath you. I mean, wherever you would look at your feet, the snow was moving downhill.

TAPPER: So I just can't even imagine it. What does it feel like to be tossed around in the middle of something like that?

ROBINSON: You're basically gasping for air. And fighting to just figure out which way is up and down. And there's moments where, like, you're so tight and enclosed and can't breathe. And I know at one point, I swear I was upside down. I don't know if that's possible. I could swear I was upside down, rolling down the hill. And I thought, this is not going to end well.

TAPPER: Does it feel anything like when you get caught in a wave in an ocean and you have no idea what's up, what's down?

ROBINSON: Exactly. That's it. Someone had said like a washing machine. I'm like, it's no -- it's no Maytag washing machine. It's more like a wave, a tidal wave is hitting you, and you don't -- you don't even know which way up is.

TAPPER: So after the slide had finished, how long did it take before they dug you out?

ROBINSON: Well, so once the snow stopped, it really like, weights you down and at that point, is when you're supposed to get your hands to your mouth. I wasn't able to.

TAPPER: You couldn't lift your arms?

ROBINSON: No. It came quick. But it comes to pretty much a screeching halt. And it stopped, and like you mentioned, a small hole opened up. And I could breathe and see the sun and the blue sky. And I probably was there five, ten minutes before someone found me.

TAPPER: Why did that hole open up? Was it just luck? You just were lucky that...

ROBINSON: I'm a God-fearing man. That's why I believe that, you know, luck, fate and you know, it -- a lot of things came at once to open that little -- little space. And again, it was -- the picture, it wasn't much of a hole when they came to dig me out.

TAPPER: And the smile on your face in that picture says it all. You must have just been -- I mean, you thought you were going to die.

ROBINSON: Oh, yes. It was -- I was pretty sure. I mean, I was hoping to live, let's put it that way. I didn't think I was going to die. I'm an optimistic guy. So I was hoping and praying to live, not saying, "What should I have done in life?" There was no time for that.

TAPPER: Were you thinking about your wife? Were you thinking about your son?

ROBINSON: That was -- that was the only three thoughts. My wife, who's expecting our second. And my 18-month-old little son, and God hoping that, you know, he would help me through it.

TAPPER: And the thing is, you actually talked about avalanches before you set out. But was there any sort of sign? Was there any sort of warning? Was there any sort of, "do not do this" indicated to you?

ROBINSON: My last Facebook post was crossing the fence, out of bounds. And there is a large sign that says, "Danger, avalanche area." So there's sign No. 1.

Sign No. 2 on the lift, they'd set off quite a few charges. So they were trying to cause the mountain to, you know, naturally have an avalanche. So you know, there were two signs. You know, maybe a wiser man than I would have said, "Heck no, I'm not going to go that direction."

TAPPER: So Tony, you ever going to go skiing again?

ROBINSON: I'm going to keep living, I'm going to keep skiing, yes.

TAPPER: Well, we're very glad that you made it back OK. And we're very glad that your wife and your soon-to-be two children have their daddy and their husband. Thanks for joining us.

ROBINSON: Thanks, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Just ahead, they spent a fortune to get a degree. And now they're driving taxis and mopping floors. What it's costing the economy to have so many underemployed college graduates. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: President Obama has been out talking to voters about his ideas for revitalizing the job market, especially for the middle class. That's a message he's pushed before but one that's growing more urgent for some people who had hoped the lingering effects of the recession would never reach them.

Tom Foreman has this week's "American Journey."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day on the busy streets of New York, Kellock Irvin is hunting. He received his college degree last year. He moved here from the West Coast and thought finding a job in marketing was the next logical step.

KELLOCK IRVIN, JOB SEEKER: Not necessarily that it would be an easy task but it won't be something that almost eight months out of -- since graduating I am still struggling with.

FOREMAN: He's not alone.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our economy is adding jobs, but too many people still can't find full-time employment.

FOREMAN: When President Obama took office, 134 million Americans were working in nonfarm jobs. Today, after massive losses and a slow recovery, we're only 1.2 million jobs better off. And many pay less than those that were lost.

A recent study by the Center for College Affordability found almost half of college graduates are now in jobs that do not require four-year degrees. Things like janitorial services, taxi driving and retail sales.

Professor Richard Vetter at Ohio University helped author that study.

RICHARD VETTER, OHIO UNIVERSITY: Let's say each one of them were making $20,000 a year more in income, which is quite plausible. We're talking about $400 billion a year in lost wages.

FOREMAN (on camera): Numbers like that have made some economic analysts argue that underemployment may be every bit as damaging to the economy as unemployment.

(voice-over): And Kellock Irvin is caught in the middle of it all. For now he's taking freelance jobs as a photographer and part- time work with moving companies. But...

IRVIN: That can only support me so long before I need to head home.

FOREMAN: He might be the next one moving back home.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.