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Obama Care Under Fire on Capitol Hill

Aired October 30, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, what have we learned about Obama care, after a day of answers...


ANNOUNCER: ... questions...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you commit today, Secretary, to shut down the system and do an end-to-end security test?

ANNOUNCER: ... theater...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not in Kansas anymore.

ANNOUNCER: ... and exasperation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is ultimately responsible? It is the president, correct?

SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In CROSSFIRE, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who supports Obama care, and Congressman Tim Murphy, who opposes it.

Obama care, under fire tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, representatives Jan Schakowsky and Tim Murphy.

People seem surprised that I've drawn a parallel between Richard Nixon and the dishonesty of this administration, but let's look at what's happened in just the last few days.

We've had a White House tweet saying, quote, "Nothing in Obama care forces people out of their health plan." That's patently not true.

Today the secretary of health and human services said the Obama care Web site hadn't crashed, which is so wrong it's painful. She also alleged she's barred by law from enrolling in Obama care. More on that in a moment.

And CNN is reporting the administration is pressuring insurance executives to keep quiet, which would be an illegal abuse of power, if it turns out to be true.

Which part of this does not resemble some of what happened in 1973-74, including a president whose operative explanation keeps changing? Van, here's in October.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody is losing their right to health-care coverage. For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it. For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.


GINGRICH: Before you -- let me just point out, this is the man who spent three years and thousands of references to no one will lose their health insurance. Today for the first time, he began to modify that blanket commitment, but I suspect you don't totally agree.

JONES: There's so much wrong on what you said, it's going to take the entire show to try to correct the record.

I will say this. To even mention Nixon in the middle of all this is to put the "hype" in hyperbole. And there is no -- I'm almost speechless to hear this. The idea that we've come to the point in American politics we can't tell the difference between a glitchy Web site and high crimes and misdemeanors is a shock to me and everybody listening.

We're going to fix this tonight, I promise.

In the CROSSFIRE we've got two House members who got a chance to question Secretary Sebelius today. One is Democrat Jane [SIC] -- Jan Schakowsky, my good friend from Illinois. And Republican Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania.

First question to you. You, sir, are a psychologist, in addition to being a congressperson.


JONES: Isn't this evidence of some crazy derangement? I mean, have we now gotten to the point where we, in the nation's capital, can no longer speak to each other rationally, make rational comparisons? Don't you see pure hysteria now over Obama care, taking over the capital? MURPHY: There are a lot of concerns about Obama care.

JONES: Do you think that Nixon should be drug into this? Are you going to compare the president of the United States to Richard Nixon over a glitchy Web site?

MURPHY: No, my concern is the president continued to say that if you wanted your health care plan, you can keep it. And that's simply not true.

JONES: And then he burgled somebody?

MURPHY: The issue is you can't keep your health-care plan. For many people, that's a much greater concern, and I've been getting a lot of letters from people who said, "My plan has been discontinued. I can't keep it. What do I do?" Moms and dads alike, deeply concerned. And that isn't hyperbole. That is a fact, and that has me deeply concerned about what they're going to look for.

JONES: Listen, fair enough. Here is my concern about where we are right now.


JONES: The roll-out has been bumpy. This law is not perfect. You've never passed a perfect law. Nor have you. Nor have you. Usually, we come together; we try to fix these things as we go. We did that with Medicare Part D. Why can't we do this now? Why all the hysteria?

What -- I don't understand from your point of view -- you're a good reasonable congressperson. Why aren't you leading for an upgrade of Obama care coalition to fix this rather than all this grandstanding and hyperbole?

MURPHY: You know, I was on the committee, too, when this bill went through. And we didn't get a chance to have our amendments stick. They mysteriously disappeared on the way to the floor. And so we did try and do a number of things.

Now, I certainly say there's a lot that should be done. This -- I think this -- the law, as I said, is far from what it should be in terms of reforming health care. And I think to a large extent, because people can't keep their plan, they can't keep the kind of things that they want on there. They can't go out of state. They can't even keep their doctor.

I know from my constituents in Pittsburgh, a lot of them will specifically be forbidden, because of the way these plans work, to be able to go to another plan. That's a dramatic problem for people to have that. And we should fix those things.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you, Congresswoman, you were in the hearing today. And I want you to just watch for a second, this example of how complex and how difficult this is, even for the secretary of health and human services, this particular segment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't you losing your health insurance?

SEBELIUS: Because I'm part of the federal employees...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't you in the exchange? You're in charge of this law, correct? Why aren't you in the exchange?

SEBELIUS: Because I'm part of the federal employee health...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't you in the exchange? Why won't you go into the exchange?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the architect of the whole program, and you won't go into what the rest of the American public...

SEBELIUS: I did not say that, sir. I think it's illegal for me to actually...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's not illegal, will you go in?


GINGRICH: Now, here's the point I want to make. We spent a good bit of time this afternoon checking this out.

The fact is she's in Medicare. She's not in the federal -- she has the federal employee health benefit plan as part of her package, but she's also in Medicare. And the way the law was written, it gets very complicated at this point.

It will be interesting to watch with Congress, because you have a number of congressmen and congresswomen who are old enough that they're on Medicare, and supposedly, they can't be sold any private -- anything through the exchange if they're on Medicare, even though they're not supposed to go into the exchange.

But doesn't it illustrate how complex this is when the secretary of health and human services couldn't sort out -- in terms of her own personal health, what her status was? And doesn't that worry you a little bit about trying to have the federal government watch 315 million people?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: You know, this was just a gotcha moment. This was an effort to, you know, just attack the secretary. Why aren't you in the plan? Which is totally irrelevant, really, to -- to Obama care.

You're right, it is complex, but the idea, I think, is -- is for people like Tim and myself to get together and try and make a plan that will lift the burden of preexisting conditions off of millions of Americans, put millions and millions who have waited, some all their lives, to get health care, to make it work. We could do this together. We did it with Medicare Part D, worked together, and we could do it now. MURPHY: But surely, you understand the frustration that Americans feel, that somehow people in government aren't subjected to the same plan they're making other people subjected to, and the frustration that they feel when they can't sign up for things. And on their part...

SCHAKOWSKY: You know what, Tim? I don't think people give a darn whether or not Kathleen Sebelius is in the plan. What they want to know is what's in it for me? And so I think making sure that that question can be answered, and I think you would agree that -- well, we're going into the plan, right? I mean, members of Congress. I think, actually, that is significant and important.


SCHAKOWSKY: But I think more important to individuals is not that kind of back-and-forth, but rather how can I get the health care that I need for myself and my family?

MURPHY: But it's part of the frustration when there's -- my policy's being canceled. Why doesn't everybody take part in this. But it is a complicating factor, because she's in Medicare, too.

SCHAKOWSKY: Can I say something about those letters? Can I -- can I just...


SCHAKOWSKY: This is a Blue Cross/Blue Shield letter that went out in Illinois. It says the new health-care law is effective, blah, blah, blah. "This means the Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance plan you now have will no longer be available for renewal as of December 31, 2013."

And then it says, "You may find your premiums are lower due to a new kind of tax credit in the marketplace. You might also qualify for plans with reduced deductibles and co-payments. Even though help with deductibles and co-payments isn't available outside the marketplace, the health-care law also guarantees that you can choose a new plan outside the marketplace, even if you have a preexisting condition."

My point is these insurers either want to keep the people on their -- in their -- that work in their policy, or they want to tell them -- they tell them about what's available in the marketplace.

GINGRICH: If it's available.

MURPHY: But they have to do that, because the grandfather part of the bill says you can -- if you have a plan that continues on, but the law says they have to provide different coverage, and if...

SCHAKOWSKY: Better coverage.

MURPHY: Different coverage, OK, whatever that is. For the 50- year-old woman who's writing to me, she says, "I'm not going to have any more children, but I don't..." SCHAKOWSKY: And I don't have a prostate, OK?

MURPHY: That's fine. But the point is, for folks saying they're now going to pay so much more, because they're not the grandfathering option. That's a myth there for a lot of people, because if a plan changes its coverage, if a plan changes how much they're charging, co- pays, deductibles and premiums, there is no grandfather option.

And that's what some people are saying: "Look, I can't afford to make this adjustment." And the compassionate thing we ought to be saying is how do we help these people? And I don't think they have an out right now.

GINGRICH: I guess the question I'd ask is, do you honestly believe the administration is open to any significant fixes? I mean, everybody now -- the new word from Democrats is we should work together, which I think is great, but that would actually imply that the president admitting to look now at fixes to Obama care that would have to be bipartisan. I don't have a sense that, for now -- maybe you have -- any...

SCHAKOWSKY: I have absolutely no doubt about it. There was the postponement of the mandate for some businesses. There's absolutely no question that if we were able to sit down, come up with some agreeable changes, that we could actually move those forward.

JONES: Well, you know, we're going to keep talking about this after this break, but you know, you point to that letter. At the hearing we saw an awful lot of letters being waved around. Democrats waving letters from people saying they were helped by Obama care. Republicans had letters that say they were hurt by Obama care.

When we get back, I'm going to tell you why I think both sides would be very smart to knock it off waving letters around. I'll tell you something when we get back.

SCHAKOWSKY: This is their letter.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, representatives Jan Schakowsky and Tim Murphy. We have been debating Obama care.

Now look, in my view, both sides need to be very careful right now. Under the old health-care system, Democrats were passionate about defending the losers, the people who were getting denied, duped and dumped by the big insurance companies. And that passion is what ultimately won the day.

But today you've got a lot of Democrats in town totally tone-deaf from hearing complaints from people who feel like they're the losers in the new system, under Obama care. That is not smart. We've got to show more compassion for people who are going to have to buy different plans than they were expecting. And their fear and their pain is real. At the same time, the GOP was totally indifferent to the pain of all the people who were losers in the old system. And now they seem totally indifferent to the gains of all the winners under Obama care. That's not smart, either, for them.

The Democrats should show a lot more concern for people, even if their numbers are few, who fear they might be losing ground. And the GOP should be willing and courageous enough to celebrate for the millions of people who are clear winners under Obama care.

So, to you, I think you are missing a huge opportunity here to actually celebrate with women in this country. Your party has got a tough problem with women.

Women are winners under Obama care. People with preexisting conditions are winners under Obama care. And you rush past them to demagogue, from my point of view, I see your party demagoguing on people who have been losing out. What about the winners? Can you stand up and appreciate and celebrate the victory for the women?

MURPHY: Absolutely. Look, I have a daughter and wife who, you know, I want to make sure that, as my daughter is growing and on her own, that she has these opportunities. Absolutely. And I've always felt, and even as a state senator -- and I offered a patient's bill of rights to change it -- I understand the importance of women having access to care and dealing with people with pre-existing conditions. Absolutely true.

But what about the other 2,700 pages of the bill? And this is where I'm very concerned. And I hope you will be, too. What happened is sometimes we build such a massive government bureaucracy that it's hard to do the very things you're saying.

I agree with you. This -- we need to look at the compassion in things to help people and to make sure they have the options out there. What is happening is the argument that's taking place in Congress is how the government is running this. And I'm -- I'm concerned that it's going to trample over the needs of the very people who need help.

JONES: Good enough, but part of the thing that I think people are not understanding, people are starting to get some of these letters. It almost seems like, when you hear from the Republican side, that everybody thinks they're going off their plans.

My understanding of it is that before Obama care now, it was an awful system, and only 17 percent of people on the individual market were able to keep their plans in the first place. You've got Medicare, Medicaid. You've got the employer system. But for the people in the individual market, wild, wild west. Only 17 percent of those people before Obama care could keep their individual plans. They were getting thrown off before.

Now, we're hearing from you guys as if Obama care is the cause of something. Obama care is trying to fix that. If there is people who are being hurt, we can work together to fix it. But don't you think the old system had a bunch of losers in the individual market?

MURPHY: That's a lot of points (ph). First of all, by law they can't deny people care.


MURPHY: Under HIPAA laws and before, if a person's plan was discontinued, there had to be an offer of something else. The -- but there's a difference here. This is something that, Jan, you brought up. Some are getting the discontinuation letters from your insurance companies, saying you're not going to get it. I mean, some people will be able to go onto the exchange, and they'll get a better deal, because they'll have a subsidy or something else because of their income. That part is new.

These two groups are not necessarily exactly the same. And so some people here are not going to be able to be in -- and so that's the concern, too. And so we're going to find a big chunk of people, and I don't see an answer yet to what's going to happen to those folks.

SCHAKOWSKY: Here's the thing. We need a baseline understanding that Obama care is here to say. There has been a 3-1/2-year relentless campaign to defund, to repeal, to get rid of it. If we can all just agree, this is the law of the land, now how are we going to go forward? I haven't seen that yet.

MURPHY: I find this amazing. I don't know if you were in the committee when we had the mark-up on this, but every amendment we offered to try and modify -- and a lot of them were improving amendments -- were either voted off, or when the bill appeared on the floor, it disappeared.

Now, granted, that's old history now, to say, OK, we're going to work together. What can we do now?

But I would like to see enrollment (ph) in health. I think you would, too, because I know you carry deeply about this country and about your community. Say all right, where do we go now? What are the parts to see that's going to merge?

I think what's going to happen is we're going to see this whole thing with the Web site miss -- and it is a debacle. Everybody agrees, the president, the secretary. We all agree it's a mess. What's going to happen next is a way for issues of people with questions about access and price. And I think from January people are going to start saying, "Wait a minute. I have coverage. I don't have coverage. I can't see the doctor I want to see, or I can see the doctor I want to see." We can expect these waves to come through.

But the question is, will we be able to come up with proposals that will make it through committee, make it through the floor, through the Senate? I don't know yet.

SCHAKOWSKY: If you're willing, if Republicans are willing to sit down and acknowledge, this is a great thing, that being a woman is no longer a preexisting condition. That is absolutely true. That women have paid about 40...

MURPHY: There are a couple of things...

GINGRICH: Can I just say, this is exactly where it all breaks down here. OK. If you can just agree to postpone that argument, that is to say Republicans don't have to give up the fact that they don't like Obama care. You don't have to give up the fact that you love Obama care. It is currently the law. So is there a way to work today on fixing it without having -- essentially saying to Republicans, look, the minute you guys surrender, we'll be glad to talk to you? No, that's not going to happen.

SCHAKOWSKY: No, not -- exactly. Surrender the idea that Obama care is going to go away.

GINGRICH: But I think -- my question is...

SCHAKOWSKY: If you heard -- if you heard the hearing today, there wasn't one person who said, "Why don't we sit down, and here's a problem that we ought to continue to continue to work on."

GINGRICH: So if we did...

SCHAKOWSKY: And Tim and I, I would love to see that. I would love to see that.

GINGRICH: If people could agree to suspend the ultimate fight and let's just say, what can we do right now to fix this? We're going to have millions of people who potentially are going to be in a mess in January. And no one wants to talk about delay. And somebody better figure out a clever answer for that.

But let me ask you again. This may be, from your perspective, negative. It's part of the same problem.


GINGRICH: CNN has reported that the White House is actively pressuring insurance companies to not say anything. Now I think this is part of the same challenge you've got with you can't figure out what's wrong with the Web site. You can't figure out what the real internals are in terms of who's signing up and not signing up. We can't figure out what's really going wrong.

Because the very people who really understand the industry are being told, don't say anything. And somehow, doesn't it bother you that there is so little information available that you could then build a rational non-confrontational effort?

SCHAKOWSKY: There were a lot of questions about that. And I believe that that information is going to be forthcoming.

The idea that the Obama administration is pressuring insurance companies. We saw an insurance executive on the weekend talk shows. I think that's just nonsense. But I do want to say that the Republicans sent a letter -- It was Mitch McConnell and I can't remember who else -- to the NFL, to all the sports teams, saying, "Do not promote the affordable health care." You know, so you know, it happens. And that was actually true. I have a copy of that letter.

GINGRICH: If you don't mind, stay here. Next we're going on "Ceasefire." Is there anything the two of you can agree on? I'm actually pretty optimistic tonight.

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Do you accept Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's apology over the Obama care Web site debacle? Tweet yes or no, using #CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results after the break.


GINGRICH: We're back with representatives Jan and Tim Murphy. Let's call a "Ceasefire." Is there anything we can agree on -- Jan?

SCHAKOWSKY: You know, Tim is a psychologist, and obviously, mental health issues cross over into so many other things, even the issue of gun violence. We talked about the need for mental health services. I really think this is something that is desperately needed for our soldiers, for our kids, and I think that's something that we could work on.

MURPHY: I think that's where I've been working with a number Democrats and Republicans on this. I'd love to work with you, too. Where look, in some areas, mental health is a big part of health care, and we've got to deal with this. We owe it to the families of Newtown. We owe it to Gabby Giffords. We owe it to any American who is worried about the two -- the 11 million Americans with serious mental illness, and the couple million Americans who have no treatment points at all. Even with access, we've got some serious problems. We can work on that.

GINGRICH: Well, that could be a very exciting, very positive thing.

JONES: If you start working on that, maybe you build momentum to work on some other things that actually have to get done in terms of some of the fixes and upgrades for Obama care.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, that's a given. We're going to have to work together on those fixes. They're going to have to come.

GINGRICH: Let me just say thank you to representatives Jan Schakowsky and Tim Murphy.

Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "Do you accept Secretary Sebelius's apology over the Obama care Web site debacle?" Right now, 42 percent of you say yes; 58 percent say no.

JONES: Well. SCHAKOWSKY: I said yes.

JONES: I said yes, too.

Listen, the debate is going to continue online at as well as on Facebook and Twitter. From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. Join us tomorrow for another edition of cease -- CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.