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Delay Deadline to Sign Up for Obamacare?

Aired October 28, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, diagnosing what's wrong with Obamacare.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, this computer glitch, it's a bad thing deal, but they'll fix that.

ANNOUNCER: Even if he isn't worried, should he be? Should the president have known more about the problem?

On the left, Brian Schweitzer. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Ron Pollack, who's for Obamacare, and Grace-Marie Turner, who thinks it's wrong for America. Can Obamacare's problems be fixed? Should it be delayed? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


BRIAN SCHWEITZER, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Brian Schweitzer, on the left.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp, on the right.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight Ron Pollack, and one of its critics, Grace- Marie Turner.

This just in. You can all breathe a sigh of relief. is back up and running. It crashed briefly yesterday, although you might not have noticed the difference.

By now everybody knows just how bungled the Obamacare roll-out has been. Democrats are frustrated. Silicon Valley is incredulous, Jon Stewart is apoplectic, and just over the weekend "Saturday Night Live" was hilarious.


KATE MCKINNON, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Tonight I have a number of friendly tips to help you deal with those technical problems. For example, have you tried restarting your computer? Sometimes it helps to turn the computer off, and then turn it back on. We don't know why. It just does.

If our Web site still isn't loading properly, we're probably just overloaded with traffic. Millions of Americans are visiting, which is great news. Unfortunately, the site was only designed to handle six users at a time.


CUPP: As for the steady stream of jokes at Obamacare's expense, it seems the one person who wasn't at all prepared for this was the president. Apparently, no one felt the need to tell him the Web site isn't ready. This is going to be bad.

Mr. President, they have this cool thing called Google Calendar. It lets you know what you're doing when and what's coming down the pike. Just a suggestion.

Governor, I'd like to welcome you, first of all. And please give the president some advice.

SCHWEITZER: Mr. President, fix it. Fast.

CUPP: I like it. Nice and simple. In the CROSSFIRE tonight Ron Pollack, who supports Obamacare, and Grace-Marie Turner, who doesn't.

Governor, as our guest tonight, I will cede the first question to you.

SCHWEITZER: Grace-Marie, you have actually been advocating against insurance reform for years. And now we have a system that costs Americans roughly twice as much as all the rest of the industrialized world. And according to international studies, we have an outcome that is, I guess, 36th or 37th place. Just behind or in front of Costa Rica? I can't remember.

But you've actually been taking money from the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Why are you for the status quo?

GRACE-MARIE TURNER, OBAMACARE CRITIC: First of all, I am not against insurance reform. In fact, if Republicans, conservatives had been in charge, we would have had real insurance reform rather than having the federal government taking over the system and really making insurance companies like -- kind of like utilities, like regulated utilities.

And that number, that 37th in the world, has been widely discredited by studies right and left. There are all sorts of reasons and we can get into those separately. But everybody knows that we have a health sector that's one of the best in the world. When people are sick, where do they want to come? They want to come here because of the innovation, because of the vitality of our health sector, and we are crushing that under all these regulations from Obamacare.

CUPP: But you'll -- but you'll admit, Grace-Marie, that the health- care system as it was currently operated needed some tweaks. It was not perfect.

TURNER: Tweaks, yes, it needed tweaks. It did not need to be completely reengineered from the bottom up .

CUPP: Well, Ron, let me ask you. The Affordable Care Act was controversial before it was implemented, and now it's just mired down in a constant stream of bad headlines. We can put some up on the screen there for you. "Wall Street Journal," "Politico," "New York Times." You just got a $1 million grant to find and tell good stories about Obamacare. Why aren't we hearing those?

RON POLLACK, OBAMACARE SUPPORTER: Well, right now, because the -- we've had all these computer glitches, which are unmistakably a problem, but that doesn't mean that the Affordable Care Act is a problem.

First of all, you say minor fixes. There are 48 million people in the United States who are uninsured today. That's more than the aggregate population of 24 states plus the District of Columbia.

And besides that, you've got lots of people who have health coverage. And with each passing year, they're finding that the costs have risen enormously. In the past decade, they've risen more than twofold.

And so the Affordable Care Act is there to do a number of things. No. 1, let's make sure that we do something to make health coverage affordable.

No. 2, let's make sure that the insurance company practices that deny coverage to people, when they have a preexisting condition, like asthma, or diabetes, or high blood pressure, or a history of cancer, they no longer can do that. They can't charge discriminatory premiums based on health status. They can't charge women higher premiums. So these are things that a lot of people want fixed.

Remember, about a third of Americans have some form of preexisting condition. And they're either denied coverage by an insurance company, or if they lose their coverage from an employer, they're at great risk. Those things need to be changed.

CUPP: So you're very confident -- I've read some of the things that you've said. They're very confident that Obamacare, the Web site is going to be fixed. It's going to accomplish the things you laid out, making health care affordable. Why are you confident? Based on what?

POLLACK: So, S.E., you know, we've had a similar experience a bunch of years ago --

CUPP: Let me guess, Medicare Part D.

POLLACK: Absolutely. You're -- you've got it absolutely right.

TURNER: We need to talk about Obamacare.

POLLACK: And actually some pretty good public servants who were running it. Mike Leavitt was the secretary of health and human services. Mark McClelland was running the Medicare program. These are good public servants. And we had the exact same problems. And October 13, 2005 --

CUPP: Please tell me the difference between Obamacare and Medicare Part D and why the roll-out is different.

TURNER: And I think we really need to attack this issue, though, about the uninsured. Yes, 48 million uninsured right now. How many does the CBO say are going to continue to be uninsured after Obamacare takes over our health sector? Thirty-three million. We're not solving the problem.

POLLACK: That's -- you know, that's terribly misleading.

TURNER: Are premiums going down by $2,500 a month? A year for seniors? No.

SCHWEITZER: That's not even true. That's not just misleading; it's not even true. If the Republican governors would have extended the Medicaid coverage, then it would have covered all the people up to 133 percent.

TURNER: But that still would have left 30 million people uninsured.

POLLACK: What -- what Grace-Marie is saying, there are about 10 to 12 million people, who she's right, are not going to get covered. There are people illegally in the country --

TURNER: Thirty!

POLLACK: And the Affordable Care Act says we're not going to help those folks, but everybody else is eligible for coverage. Now Grace- Marie's numbers are a projection of how many people might get enrolled --

CUPP: Based on the Congressional Budget Office.

SCHWEITZER: Grace-Marie, let me ask you a question. Let me ask you a question. So my wife and I, we're private business people. And so we have a private insurance company, and we pay about $1,200 a month.

TURNER: A month? Just for the two of you?

SCHWEITZER: Just for the two of us. We live on the end of a dirt road on a mountaintop, and so we don't have fiber-optic cable. And it took us about eight days to break through all of this insurance exchange Web site, what we broke through, and here's what we found. We found a policy just like the policy we have right now, for $800. So what's wrong with that?

TURNER: That's a great deal. But talk to all those people in California who said, "My policy cost me $97 a month before. And that's being dropped because of the Obamacare, and now it costs -- "

SCHWEITZER: Wait a minute. I know about the policies. Those are policies that have caps at 4,000 or $5,000. They are ones that throw you off lifetime caps. No preexisting conditions, charge women higher premiums, and it's simply not fair. It's not American.

POLLACK: And, Governor, what's really misleading is what she was talking about are Swiss cheese insurance policies. They don't insure. They have high deductibles. They've got high copayments. They don't cover a whole lot of --


TURNER: In California --

POLLACK: -- lifetime caps.

SCHWEITZER: So was it usual and customary, so they just refuse to pay once you had the care?

POLLACK: Of course. And --

TURNER: Let's talk about the deductibles with Obamacare: $8,000.

POLLACK: You always had this fine print and you didn't know what you were getting. But when you need health care, it's not there to insure you. So what the Affordable Care Act does is it provides comprehensive coverage, so if you need care, you're not going to be left in the --

TURNER: If you have -- if you have a policy in California, you are likely to have a $4,000 deductible for an individual. That's higher than the policy with the person that had the $97 premium. Her deductible is higher. You still have to pay $45 when you go see a GPA, 65 when you go see a specialist. Yes you have caps and lifetime limits, and yes, women may pay less, but men pay a lot more.

POLLACK: So, so --

TURNER: These are the problems.

POLLACK: One of the things that the Affordable Care Act does, and you were alluding to it, Governor, is that no longer is there an annual cap. So if you have a major illness, and you have an accident, you're in the hospital, and all of a sudden you're cut off from care, or you have a lifetime cap.

What the Affordable Care Act says, if you buy insurance, no longer should there be an annual cap or a lifetime cap. So it's real insurance. It's not Swiss cheese coverage.

TURNER: Right --

POLLACK: So that's really helpful.

CUPP: And let's point out, once again, that the whole premise of Obamacare hinges on all of these young healthy people signing up on exchanges to support all these older sick people, which they've never done in history. I mean, these are a group of people who do not buy health insurance.

POLLACK: S.E., I am so delighted you raise that. Because young adults are going to do really well under the Affordable Care Act, and here's why.

CUPP: If they sign on.

POLLACK: Of course. But -- CUPP: Rather than take the penalty, which might in some cases be cheaper. A lot.

POLLACK: It's going to be much better to have the coverage that will be subsidized coverage.

And the reason you're asking the right question is that we do want to have young adults in the pool, but young adults are going to fare better than any other age group for the following reason.

What the Affordable Care Act does is it provides significant premium subsidies for people up to 400 percent of poverty. If you're living alone, you're a young adult, up to $46,000. And it's provided on a sliding scale. That means the greater the help you need, the greater help you're going to receive. Now for young adults -- let me just make this point.

CUPP: Sure.

POLLACK: For young adults, they're the ones who have the lowest incomes. They may still be in education.

CUPP: Right.

POLLACK: They may not have a job. If they have a job, they're in an entry-level position.

CUPP: Right.

POLLACK: And as a result they're getting paid less, so they're going to get the highest subsidies.

CUPP: Ron, it makes --

POLLACK: And therefore, it's going to be a really good deal for them.

CUPP: It makes sense to my ears, but this is a huge group of people that you have to convince to actually get on to receive all of the benefits.

TURNER: And you're telling somebody that they have had to spend 200 or $300 a month for a policy that's more generous than they want.

CUPP: OK. Well, it's a good things you guys are friends. Because we have a lot more to discuss in the next segment.

Governor, you told me earlier that Obamacare is making Republican governors forget one of their core principles. I want you to share that story with all of us, next.


SCHWEITZER: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we have Ron Pollack and Grace-Marie Turner.

You know, folks, I'm a former governor, and I know a thing or two about decisions that governors have to make. And, well, some of the Republicans are making a colossal mistake with your money. Now let me explain what I mean.

In 33 states, governors, many of them Republicans, chose not to build their own health-insurance exchanges. Apparently, they wanted the federal government to do the work for them.

Now, don't you think it's odd for Republicans to say that, "Never mind those states' rights we've been talking about. We want the federal government to come up and fix things for us"?

And to make things worse, 21 governors -- again mostly Republicans -- have rejected the money for Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid. Now if they don't want the federal money for Medicaid, maybe they'll just give back the hundreds of billions of dollars also for highways and bridges and military bases, too.

Now, Grace-Marie, don't you agree that it was a mistake for these Republican governors not to build their own health insurance exchange, No. 1. And No. 2, literally, it's $100 billion in taxes for health care. In Alabama, they want it's going to cost them 20-some thousand jobs. So this is billions of dollars going to Republican states, and now their taxpayers will send the money to Washington, D.C., and it will be redistributed to other states.

TURNER: OK, two points. First of all, with these exchanges, can you imagine that there is a single governor out there that decided to not create their own exchanges that is now sorry about that decision? Because look at the fiasco? I mean, imagine even the states that are completely all in are having a hard time. Oregon hasn't been able to even open its Web site exchanges. So I don't think they regret it at all. They didn't support the law in the first place. They said, "If you want to come in and set this all up, fine, you do it." And with Medicaid --

SCHWEITZER: If you don't want to be competitive, then don't be a governor. And that's what we governors do. Fifty states, 50 different models.

TURNER: This is not competitive exchange (ph) competition.

SCHWEITZER: And now they're saying they want to punt it. It is the law of the land. We've said to the states we've got money for you. We'll pay for these exchanges. Design it if you would like, but otherwise, we'll have to do it for you.

POLLACK: And Governor -- Governor, it's really clear that those governors that have opted to do this, they're very happy with this. California, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, District of Columbia, they're very happy with it.


POLLACK: And they are -- Kentucky is doing a terrific job. And they are succeeding in getting people covered. You know, the only reason there's opposition to it is because President Obama supports it. TURNER: That's not simply not true.

POLLACK: If this was a conservative idea, create a marketplace, allow the marketplace --

CUPP: And force people into it.

TURNER: And mandate it.

SCHWEITZER: Stop here. We've got to stop right now, Grace-Marie, because the mandate came from the Republicans in the '90s. You were there in the '90s. The Heritage Foundation said, "We've got to have it." You wanted an insurance-based exchange. Hell, I wanted to have a single payer. That's a system that's working all over the world. We've got the system that you've --

CUPP: No, but --

SCHWEITZER: This is the system that you were begging for. It's the private insurance companies running it.

TURNER: But they only conservative that I know of that supported the individual mandate, and they have now repudiated it, is the Heritage Foundation.

SCHWEITZER: I know you were for it before you were against it.

TURNER: I never was for this. Because I knew where this was going to lead. It was going to lead to mandates and higher taxes and a government takeover of our health sector.

CUPP: Let's focus on Democrats for a second, Ron. We've got a growing list of them who want the individual mandate delayed, whether because of the Web site glitches or the program's just not ready for prime time yet. You can see a list of them up there.

The folks who are desperate for the Affordable Care Act, they will find a way to get the coverage they need.

But again, as we talked about, the folks that we need to make the program work, young healthy people, might not sit through all of the delays.

Now it seems to me, if you want to incite a group of people to do something they're not inclined to do, the last thing you do is give them more time to think about it. It seems to me, delaying the mandate would be a very bad thing for Obama. But where are you with all of these Democrats who want him to?

POLLACK: So what most -- most of those members want is they want an extension of the enrollment period. And that may very well happen. Remember, this enrollment period, there's nothing magic about it. It starts October 1. It started October 1, and it ends March 31, 182 days. We've not even gone through 30 days of it.

CUPP: Right. POLLACK: I think, first, this is going to get fixed fairly soon. But I do not oppose at all, extending the enrollment period so that young adults can learn more about this, can learn --

CUPP: Can hear more terrible stories of the rollout?

POLLACK: No, you know --

CUPP: That doesn't seem smart.

POLLACK: All you're focusing on, S.E., in due deference --

CUPP: Yes.

POLLACK: -- is that there is a computer problem. There's no question there's a computer problem. But the underlying -- but the underlying -- but the --

CUPP: People in rural areas can't get affordable health care. It's more than just the Web site. And now we've got scores of folks pointing that out.


SCHWEITZER: I found one.

POLLACK: S.E., the policies that are being changed are policies that are really Swiss cheese policies.

CUPP: But the problem --


POLLACK: They have annual lifetime -- they've got annual caps. They've got lifetime caps. They don't cover a whole bunch of services. And now when people get insurance, they know they are going to be protected.

TURNER: But there's some people who are not going to get it, because it costs so much.

This insurance for a young, healthy man that you want to sign up for this insurance is going to cost up to 100 percent more than a policy that he could have bought in the private sector before, which he wasn't buying then.

POLLACK: If it was a lousy insurance policy, that's insurance --

TURNER: He wasn't buying it. Many of these people are not going to apply --

POLLACK: If it's insurance that doesn't insure. And now we're going to make sure that when people buy an insurance policy, they are truly protected. Now --

TURNER: That's wrong. Listen. POLLACK: -- one other thing that's really important, in terms of cost. You know, sometimes we focus on the premiums. For consumers, what's really important are the premiums, the deductibles, the co- pays. The things that are not covered.

TURNER: The deductibles are twice as high.

POLLACK: Really good insurance, people are actually going to save money --

TURNER: The premiums are twice as high. They're not going to buy it. They can't get to the Web site. These are the very people you want to insist on.

SCHWEITZER: Grace-Marie, if -- if we delay, then the young healthy people aren't going to get in the pool. And the 30 million people with pre-existing conditions --

TURNER: You're agreeing with me.

SCHWEITZER: -- aren't going to get in the pool. Now in Massachusetts they kind of beta-tested this. And what they found is during the first 30 days, only 123 people signed up. People don't sign up until they get to the deadline. Even me. I found a policy that's $400 cheaper than the one I currently have, and I haven't signed up yet. I'll do it later.

So what's the concern? Don't you think people will sign up by March 31?

CUPP: But you're responsible. Young people are not.

TURNER: The incentives and prices are not going to change. It is still going to be twice as expensive for a young man that you want to enroll in this plan as it would have been before. They are only going to have to pay a $95 fine the first time.

POLLACK: You know, that's like --

TURNER: They're going to take it -- they're going to say --

POLLACK: That's like saying, you know, if you buy a car that works it's going to be twice as expensive than a car that doesn't work. Well, that's absolutely absurd. We are now going to provide real insurance for people. And that --

CUPP: All right. Stay here guys. Stay here. Stay here. It sounds like an impossible task. But we about to ask these two if they can agree on anything. Next up, the "Ceasefire."

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question.


CUPP: In five years, how will Obamacare be viewed? Reply now with success or failure using #CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results after the break.


CUPP: We're back with Ron Pollack and Grace-Marie Turner. Now let's call a "Ceasefire." Is there anything we can agree on? Grace-Marie.

TURNER: You know, the starting point of this law was to make sure that people who have pre-existing conditions are able to get insurance. And I think that we would agree that this is something that we absolutely must take care of.

And also that the people who need coverage the most are the ones who know least about this.

And finally, I'd say I think we probably agree that the "Saturday Night Live" skit was really good.

CUPP: Ron, do you cosign all of that?

POLLACK: I'll buy that. You know, I agree with Grace-Marie. We want to help people with pre-existing conditions. And thankfully, the Affordable Care Act does that by saying you can't deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition. You can't charge a discriminatory premium due a pre-existing condition and you can't cut somebody off when they get sick.

SCHWEITZER: What about "Saturday Night Live"? Was it funny?

POLLACK: "Saturday Night Live" was terrific.

CUPP: And also, you all agree that Governor Schweitzer was a great fill-in host. Thanks for joining us.

Thanks to Ron Pollack and Grace-Marie Turner.

Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "In five years, how will Obamacare be viewed?" Right now 61 percent of you think it will be viewed as a success; 39 percent say it will be viewed as a failure.


CUPP: Yes. Surprising. All right. The debate continues online at From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp.

SCHWEITZER: And from the left, I'm Brian Schweitzer.

CUPP: Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.