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Intel Officials to Explain NSA Spying; Many Could Lose Existing Health Plans; Hearing on NSA Spying at 1:30 Today; Interview with Reps. Blackburn and Jackson Lee; Atlantic City Rebuilding after Sandy; Interview with Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Lanford

Aired October 29, 2013 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll have live coverage. The NSA's decision to spy on American allies. Maybe we'll learn something new.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Washington. It was a repeated promise from President Obama. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. He said it often. But an insurance industry source now says most Americans on individual plans will see their existing coverage changed or even cancel. The White House says Obamacare will mean better more comprehensive coverage but at what the cost? The head of the agency in charge of creating the Obamacare Web site was asked about that at a Congressional hearing today.


REP. DAVE CAMP (R), CHAIRMAN, WAYS AND MEANS: This man wrote me and said, my wife has been recently informed by her insurance carrier that her health care policy does not comply with the Affordable Care Act. Now we must purchase a new policy to get the same coverage at an 18 percent increase in our premium. So, what happened to the if you like your insurance, you can keep it?

MARILYN TAVENNER, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICE: What I would tell that individual is if their carrier is telling them they're changing the plan and they're offering an increase, that they would need to go take a look what's available in their state and in their market which is certainly something that's available to them through the exchanging.

CAMP: Yes, at a -- at a -- at an 18 percent increase.


BLITZER: Joe Johns has been digging into this sensitive issue for us. So, -- all right. So, John, did the White House knowingly or perhaps not knowingly mislead the American public when the president so often said, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you look at some of these statements, they do appear to have made some statements at the outset while they were selling the program that appear to have been over broad. They made a made a blanket statement, made it sound like they were talking about all insurance. And they were talking about most insurance, especially the insurance that people get through their employers.

The president said again and again that you could keep your insurance but it's not clear how many times he actually distinguished between employer-based insurance and people who bought private insurance after Obamacare was signed into law or if that insurance changed, for example, after Obamacare was signed, then, we all know now, your insurance could go away. It's not clear how often they told people that insurance companies might cancel policies because they didn't comply with Obamacare and that's happening, too. The administration points out this is information that's been out there a long time and in a statement today, the White House said, in part, these protections will improve the plans that insurance companies offer today unless you're in the same plan that you were in when the law passed which is grandfathered out of these changes.

In other words, nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces people out of their health plans because the law allows plans that covered people at the time the law was enacted to continue to offer that same coverage to the enrollees. So, it's a little bit complicated. Long and short, there might have been an oversell when they were trying to get this through.

BLITZER: Well, it's -- there must've been an oversell because a lot of people now who like -- presumably liked their plans are being told they're no longer eligible for those plans and getting letters from Blue Cross, Blue Shield, from Kaiser, from other companies saying in order to comply with the much more intense requirements of Obamacare, this plan you used to be on no longer exists.

JOHNS: Yes, something like 300,000 people with Florida Blue alone in the state of Florida getting that letter, very recently, we're told that number could go as high as between 11 million and 15 million people across the country who could get these letters.

Now, it's also important to say that the administration says probably almost half of the people who find themselves in that situation with private insurance will end up getting subsidies from the government that cut that substantial -- the higher number as much as in half.

BLITZER: And the federal registrar back on June 17th, 2010, 2010, there was an estimate that anywhere between 40 percent to 60 percent of people on those individual plans, about 15 million --

JOHNS: That's right.

BLITZER: -- Americans wouldn't -- would no longer be able to keep those plans assuming some of the assumptions they had here from insurance companies.

JOHNS: Right. And somebody should have come out and said -- sort of waved the flag and said, on private insurance, all bets are off. And they didn't do that.

We have been talking about this issue of grandfathering which is kind of complicated for some time now. So, this is not a huge surprise to people who are very close to it. Nonetheless, it's a very big surprise for those people getting those letters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, of the 15 million who have those individual plans, mostly self-employed people, anywhere between let's say 7 million and 10 million, 12 million of them will have to get new -- they might get better insurance. They might get more affordable health insurance. On the other hand, they may have to spend more and they may not --

JOHNS: Right.

BLITZER: -- get the doctors they wanted either.

JOHNS: Yes, and I've talked to at least one person who found himself in a situation where he was not going to get the subsidy and that's a very bitter pill to swallow because you heard what the president had to say then suddenly you get this letter and all you can see is your insurance is going up and you're going to end up paying more in premiums. It's tough.

BLITZER: Joe Johns, good explanation. We're going to have more on this part of the story coming up, including a significant debate this hour on Obamacare.

At the bottom of the hour, we're expecting to hear more insight into the NSA surveillance techniques and targets. The House Intelligence Committee will hear from the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and the head of the NSA, Keith Alexander. We're going to bring it to you live.

Today's hearings come on the heels of the "L.A. Times" report that the White House not only knew but signed off, actually signed off on the monitoring of the world leaders' phones, including the phone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. The administration has denied this saying the president didn't know until a review over the summer. Here's the reaction to that from the House floor earlier today.


REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: According to the administration official, the president did not sign off on this stuff and was unaware of the depth of the surveillance of foreign leaders. Well, who did sign off? Mr. Speaker, is there a shadow government in America that operates outside the law, outside the knowledge of the administration? Sort of spooky, isn't it, Mr. Speaker?


BLITZER: We expect more questions like that when the hearing begins later this hour. We'll have live coverage here on CNN.

Joining us now is our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. Another story, surveillance world leaders. The sensitivities enormous right now. So, the -- what the president's role is in all of this, it still remains murky.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I had a long conversation with a senior administration official about this last night. And the White House position, in effect, is this. That the president is different. He approves the broad strokes, the priorities but he doesn't get into the weeds of the tactics of the individual targets. You'll remember another U.S. official spoke to our own Evan Perez yesterday and he said that at least the president, though, would he have to approve the framework of a program like this that included in its targets our allies and the leaders of those allies.

And now, you have other intelligence officials speaking out in the press in articles this morning with some frustration saying, hey, wait a second. We didn't do this on our own. We weren't going rogue. We had the White House approval. These are presidential programs empowered by executive orders. We would need that approval. And you're also seeing some frustration because even other allies of the intelligence community, for instance Senator Dianne Feinstein, who you'll remember yesterday being very critical here, and now demanding a wide-ranging review of this surveillance as a whole.

BLITZER: Yes, that's obviously a very sensitive subject. Question, does the White House -- would the president personally have to authorize the wiretapping of the German chancellor's personal cell phone?

SCIUTTO: Our best information is that at a minimum, when he comes into office, when he assumes the presidency in 2009, he would have to approve these frameworks, these programs that include those kinds of targets. So, although Merkel's name as you referenced was on a list going back to 2002, the Bush administration, that when President Obama came in, he would at least have to, and this is the White House position, approve the broad strokes of a program that included her or her country and her as a leader as one of those targets.

BLITZER: You'll be back with me later when that hearing starts. I want to get -- see what these people have to say, what the members of Congress, Mike Rogers and others have to say as well. Thanks very much, --

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto.

As I said, that House Intelligence Committee hearing on NSA is open. It will -- there will be cameras there. The subject surveillance of international leaders scheduled to begin right at the bottom of the hour. There you see a picture of the committee room, very few members inside so far. But they presumably all will be in there at the bottom of the hour. We'll have live coverage.

So, did President Obama mislead Americans when he said repeatedly that people could keep their existing health insurance under Obamacare? And the other significant question that is gaining some steam out there, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, what should she do? Should she resign? We're going to talk about that and much more. Two Congressmen from opposite sides of the aisle, they are both standing by. There you see them up on Capitol Hill. Representative Marsha Blackburn and Sheila Jackson Lee. An important smart debate, that's coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Obama administration is facing new questions today about the president's signature health care reform law. The focus on a promise the president often made.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor under the reform proposals that we put forward. If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep it.


BLITZER: Bringing in two members of Congress with different perspectives on Obamacare. Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Ladies, thanks very much for coming in. So, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, did the president mislead Americans? Because, as you know, millions of Americans now are being told that their existing insurance plans are no longer up to par with what Obamacare requires and they have to apply for new plans.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: It's good to be with you Wolf and absolutely not. You know, Republicans are trying to have an early Halloween by having monsters in every corner. Everything that is regarding the Affordable Care Act giving millions of Americans the opportunity for health care, our Republican friends will find a monster. What is happening is and what has been noted by insurance leaders is that, yes, there are grandfathered plans. But there are plans that are not adequate or responsive to the Affordable Care Act new benefits, ones dealing with pre-existing conditions and wellness care.

And so, these plans are being upgraded. No insurance company, based on the Affordable Care Act, is being forced to eliminate individuals from having insurance. They are upgrading those plans. But what we do know is 700,000 persons have applied for information. We know that it's working fabulously in Kentucky and California, two distinctly different states. And we know that millions of Americans will have access to health care and better health care.

BLITZER: All right.

LEE: So, the president did not misrepresent. Plans are being upgraded and Americans are getting better plans and, as well, Wolf, they're getting tax subsidies, something they never had before.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Blackburn, go ahead.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Yes, absolutely. What we are seeing is there are millions of Americans, Wolf, as you have said, who are getting termination letters. The insurance they've had, the insurance that they like, the insurance that fits their needs and their pocketbook is no longer going to be available. So, you have to ask, why did the president continue to say that? And if they did know that many people were going to lose their plans three years ago, why did he continue over the three-year period? Who was informing him or who was not informing him that there were millions of Americans who were going to see a loss of health insurance?

Now, when you talk about what is working in some of the states, and Sheila referenced Kentucky and California. Basically what they have is Medicaid expansion. And in Kentucky, 21,000 of the 26,000 enrollees are those that have enrolled for Medicaid. What we are seeing in Tennessee is that people are losing. We've got about 28,000, 30,000 people that have lost a small business, access to a small business insurance program due strictly to the new president's health care law regulations. So it has changed the marketplace.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right. Let's let -

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Wolf - Wolf, let -

BLITZER: Go ahead, Sheila Jackson Lee.

LEE: There again, you have untruth and misrepresentation. And Marsha knows well that all the Republicans are trying to do is recover from their dastardly and horrible avocation for the shutdown of the government. This is giving them a birthday gift and, as well, this allows them to scare Americans and put on the Halloween mask early before Halloween. The governor of the state of Kentucky has said it is working well for the private sector. And good for him. He has expanded Medicaid, which is part of the program that the president promised and is given through the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Americans will come through that. I'm sorry that my state, among others, is not one that accepted that.

But the key is, did the president misrepresent? No, he did not. And insurance leaders will tell you, they're not canceling and taking individuals off of insurance plans that are, in fact, adequate and compliant. They're taking them off of plans that do not have the new benefits, the benefits that every person is looking to in new plans based on the Affordable Care Act. And what Marsha fails to acknowledge is that these individuals, working Americans, will get tax subsidies, legitimate payments will come because they are in a new plan.


BLACKBURN: OK, Wolf, let me respond to some of that.

LEE: This is a good plan. This is a working plan and millions of Americans will benefit and lives will be saved.

BLITZER: Go ahead. Congresswoman Blackburn, go ahead.

BLACKBURN: Yes. Yes, absolutely. When Sheila talks about subsidies, I think it's important to note, this is money coming from the federal treasury. Many people say we're $17 trillion in debt. We're borrowing $2 billion a day. We cannot take on a new entitlement which is going to push us further into debt. So that is issue number one.

LEE: There we go again.

BLACKBURN: We - well, it's very true, Sheila. You can look at the Treasury Department. We're borrowing $2 billion a day to keep the doors open.

And, number two, the programs, the mandate, these essential benefit mandates, these are things that people are being required to pay for even though it may be a health service that they don't need or don't want or doesn't hit their family's needs, but yet they're going to be charged for it. And the premium is going to reflect that.

LEE: Wolf -

BLACKBURN: Now, the president made another promise that this would save the average family about $2,500 a month. The letters and the things that I am getting, the e-mails I'm getting from my constituents, there is no one that is saving money. I have not gotten a single e-mail from a person who is saying -

BLITZER: I think what he said was $2,500 a year -- $2,500 a year, not $2,500 a month.

BLACKBURN: Yes, you're correct. I'm sorry.


BLACKBURN: That's right. But, see, nobody is saving $2,500 a year. They're paying more.

LEE: But, Wolf, let me - let me respond to again what Marsha is saying. She is not allowing the plan to work. That's the problem. She is not allowing the plan to work. Do I need to go back to the horrific Medicare Part D that no one liked and was enormously expensive and really caused the deep deficit climb that we had from the Bush administration into the Obama administration? But look where it is today. The Affordable Care Act has reformed it and refined it and made it work. It was enormously expensive. It did not work, but we've made it work.

BLACKBURN: That is incorrect.

LEE: On this issue of the deficit, mixing apples and oranges. First of all, we have a $4 trillion economy. And the United States is not broke. Of course we need to deal with this. But the Affordable Care Act is paid for. And the Republicans, during the shutdown, wanted to undermine the pay for by dismantling the medical device issue, of course, because they don't want to see this legislation pass. They want to see it fail, not pass, succeed.

BLITZER: All right.

LEE: There are millions of Americans that will get health care. The president did not misrepresent. You will keep your health insurance. And you'll have the ability to get a more refined, a more updated, a more current and more expansive for you and your family. I'm here to save lives. I'm not here to frighten people. I want to save lives. BLITZER: All right.

LEE: I hear the stories, I know the stories and I know that women, children and families --

BLITZER: Sheila -

BLACKBURN: Wolf, let me respond to what -

BLITZER: Sheila Jackson - hold on a second, Sheila Jackson Lee, I gave Congresswoman Jackson Lee the first word. I'm going to give Marsha Blackburn the last word, but keep it brief.

BLACKBURN: The program is too expensive to afford. You cannot keep the health insurance or the doctors that you have been seeing. This is changing the entire health care marketplace. The incompetence on this rollout has been staggering. The American people are looking at this and saying, if you can't manage a website, then you certainly cannot manage health care and you cannot manage one-sixth of the nation's economy. So they think it is time for us to just suspend all of this and start over.

BLITZER: Marsha Blackburn, Sheila Jackson Lee, a good solid, serious debate, as I knew it would be. Thanks to you both of you ladies for joining us.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

BLITZER: On the first anniversary of the Superstorm Sandy, we're going to talk with the Atlantic City mayor, Lorenzo Langford, about the ongoing recovery in his city. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Flashlights and candles will light up the beaches tonight along the New Jersey and New York shores. It's all designed to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which killed 181 people from the Caribbean to Long Island. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has ordered flags at state buildings lowered to half-staff to honor the victims. Sandy caused about $65 billion of damage at popular resorts like Coney Island. The New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was there today to talk about ongoing recovery efforts.

The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is also attending a number of Sandy-related events today. He said the Jersey Shore has come a long way in its recovery, but thousands of people are still waiting for help to rebuild their homes. Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford is joining us now from nearby Philadelphia.

Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.

MAYOR LORENZO LANGFORD, ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY: Good afternoon, Wolf. You're welcome.

BLITZER: So what's the state of recovery in Atlantic City? LANGFORD: Well, I'm very pleased to report that in Atlantic City our recovery process has been moving along quite nicely. I would say that about 95 percent of our residents who had been displaced have been relocated into their humble abodes. And so we're well into our recovery process and I'm happy with that progress.

BLITZER: Are you getting the state and federal assistance you need to rebuild?

LANGFORD: Absolutely, Wolf. The one thing that I can absolutely attest to is that all of our partners in government have been absolutely fantastic. Starting with the president on the federal level and Secretary Donovan, the state of New Jersey, everybody has stepped to the plate and rolled up their sleeves and done all that they should do to help us recover as best we can.

BLITZER: What about the governor, Chris Christie?

LANGFORD: The state of New Jersey has been wonderful.

BLITZER: What about the governor, Chris Christie?

LANGFORD: Well, the state of New Jersey and those professionals who are in certain positions in the state government have done what has been asked of them, and I'm pleased with their cooperation and support.

BLITZER: I asked the question because you've had a rocky relationship with the New Jersey governor. He criticized you severely back in 2012 for not evacuating Atlantic City. Let me play that clip.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Evacuation is no longer possible and we're no longer able to come and rescue people. This has become particularly problematic in Atlantic City, where, for whatever reason, Mayor Langford urged people to stay in shelters in the city. Despite my admonition to evacuate, he gave them comfort for some reason to stay.

I'm going to have federal and state emergency personnel going in there first thing tomorrow morning with live downed electrical wires all over the place risking their lives because Mayor Langford was worried that some of his people were angry? That's not leadership.


BLITZER: That's not leadership, he said. So has your relationship with him at all improved? Is there a relationship over this past year that has developed?

LANGFORD: Wolf, what is important is that the governor has a job to do and so do I. The governor was wrong in his comments. I pointed that out. All of us who hold titles and serve in public office need to retain a degree of humility. None of us are infallible. None of us are perfect, not even the governor. And so when mistakes are made, and the governor was wrong, I clearly pointed out that what he said was not true. And it's OK to admit when you make a mistake. Obviously the governor has not seen fit to do that.

But that whole situation, Wolf, quite frankly, is water under the bridge. That's not important. That spat, it's over. The governor misspoke. I checked him. I corrected him. That's over with. What's important is that we continue to move towards healing the residents of Atlantic City and getting close to being 100 percent restored from that catastrophe that befell upon us one year ago today.

BLITZER: Well, was the governor right when he said you should have evacuated Atlantic City?

LANGFORD: Again, we've been over this a million times. You have the footage. Your affiliates have the footage. The governor said I countermanded his order. The governor was dead wrong, plain and simple. I don't want to spend a whole lot of time talking about who shot john. You have the proof. The governor knows what happened. Nothing is served by this back and forth - this spat, if you will, between the governor and the mayor. We have a job to do, and that's to move the city forward. The governor was dead wrong. I checked him. Let's move on.

BLITZER: I think you're right, you should move on and, by all accounts, he's going to be re-elected probably very impressively next week. And he's going to be in office, what, for another four years. And you're in office right now, Atlantic City, a major city in New Jersey. How do you repair this damage with your governor?

LANGFORD: And here's the good news, I expect to - I expect to be popularly reelected, as well. As I said, I don't have a problem working with anybody. I'm always going to do that which is right for the city of Atlantic City and support any initiative that is good for the population that I serve and those who sent me to this office to represent their legitimate aspirations. Whether we can get along on a personal level or not quite frankly is irrelevant. The only thing that's necessary is for both of us to do what is expected us in our respective positions.

BLITZER: Yes, but I think you have to admit, as the mayor of a major city in New Jersey, it would be good if the two of you spoke, coordinated, helped each other, for the benefit of not only everyone in New Jersey, but the benefit of the city - of the people of Atlantic City.

LANGFORD: No question about it. It would be better if we got along personally, but we don't need. We don't need to get along personally. All we need to do is respect each other for the job that we have to do. If we do respect each other and endeavor to work cooperatively for the greater good of the whole, it will happen and everybody will win.

BLITZER: Mayor Lorenzo Langford is the mayor of Atlantic City.

Good luck to you and Governor Christie. I hope you guys can have a beer, get together and talking about this, and move on for the benefit of all of your constituents.

LANGFORD: Well, I don't drink so there will be no having a beer. But I can work with anybody.


BLITZER: Have a lemonade or something, Coca-Cola or whatever, and try to make peace.

LANGFORD: As a matter of fact -- as a matter of fact, I'll be happy to buy him one.

BLITZER: All right, good. Maybe he's listening and maybe he'll accept your invitation, which is generous. And the two of you -- there are a few nice places in Atlantic City where I suspect the two of you could have a quiet meal and enjoy, as well, right?

LANGFORD: More than a few. I look forward to the governor coming back to Atlantic City. As a matter of fact, he hasn't been back in the entire year since that storm devastated the city.

BLITZER: So are you inviting him to come back now as your guest?

LANGFORD: I am not. But should he come, I certainly would welcome him.

BLITZER: OK. Mayor, thanks very much. Good luck.

LANGFORD: You're welcome, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Lorenzo Langford, the mayor of Atlantic City.

Other news we're following, including serious pressure on the president, under fire for an admitted lack of knowledge on some key issues. Should he have known more about the failing Obamacare website and worldwide phone taps on allied leaders? Stay with us. We'll take a closer look.