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Does House Bill Spell Beginning of End for Obama Care?

Aired November 15, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, President Obama rejected by the House again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's going to be my way or the highway, we'll try and do whatever we can to help people.

ANNOUNCER: Is it the beginning of the end for his more cherished accomplishment?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It is essentially pull the plug on the Affordable Care Act.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright, who's supporting the president's plan, and Republican Representative John Fleming, who's voting against them. Are Congress and the public tuning out the president?

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I am S.E. Cupp on the right.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: And I am Van Jones on the left.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got two congressman who are in the middle of the fight over everything that President Obama is trying to do. Look, I want to say at the very top of the show, I am proud of President Obama. He is apologizing and trying to take responsibility, trying to fix stuff. That makes him a class act.

But apparently, the Republicans don't have enough class to accept his policies and work with them and move on. I think that's terrible. And it's really too bad when you remember our last president, George W. Bush, never found the courage to apologize for anything. He started a trillion-dollar war on false evidence and forgot to pay for it. No apologies.

Republicans love going back decades and rolling up Ronald Reagan, and they hate it when Democrats mention that George Bush ever existed, but he did exist and he never apologized. Not even for Katrina. Not for anything. So maybe we finally have a commander in chief who's willing to acknowledge some faults. The GOP could meet him halfway. Is that too much to ask for, S.E.?

CUPP: Well, look, taking responsibility and admitting accountability for something, that's a baseline. That should be rote. It's a pretty low bar when we're congratulating and applauding someone for taking responsibility. But we can start there.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright and Republican Representative John Fleming, who's also a medical doctor.

Gentlemen, I was on my honeymoon last week, and naturally watched some news. I hate to admit. And I overheard Debbie Wasserman Schultz talking. Here's what she had to say.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: I think, actually, Candy, that Democratic candidates will be able to run on Obama care as an advantage leading into the 2014 elections.


CUPP: Now, I've got to be honest. The dulcet tones of Debbie Wasserman Schultz didn't exactly set the mood, if you know what I mean, but regardless, Congressman Cartwright, you ran in 2010 as the more pro-Obama care Democrat. Tell your viewers and your constituents tonight to their faces, are you going to run on Obama care in 2014?

REP. STEVE CARTWRIGHT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: First, congratulations, S.E.

CUPP: Well, thank you. Don't avoid the question.

CARTWRIGHT: Also, I don't mean to correct you, I ran in 2012.

CUPP: That's what I mean. I'm sorry.

CARTWRIGHT: I'm a freshman in Congress.

CUPP: Yes.

CARTWRIGHT: I didn't have the opportunity to vote one way or the other...

CUPP: Right.

CARTWRIGHT: ... on the Affordable Care Act when it first came up, but I am a supporter. I think the broad brush strokes are having good. I think there are a lot of things that people like about the Affordable Care Act. Obviously...

CUPP: Such as? CARTWRIGHT: Well, I mean, in Pennsylvania, people under the age of 65 with preexisting conditions. You know how many people we have? 2.4 million of them. We need to take care of these people. We have 1 million uninsured people in Pennsylvania. We have hospitals...

CUPP: How many have signed up? Do you know?

CARTWRIGHT: I don't. Obviously, it's a very disappointing roll- out. And it's been disappointing that the president didn't get his talking points right either.

But I do like that he's owned the problem. He understands the principle of the buck stops here in the Oval Office. And anybody who thought that the roll-out of Affordable Care Act or Obama care was going to be smooth and without hitches is not living in the real world.

CUPP: OK, but answer the question: are you going to run on Obama care and its accomplishments in 2014?

CARTWRIGHT: I've going to run on everything I've done, my whole record. And I'm not going to run away from the Affordable Care Act, because I think this is what we need to strengthen our hospital system in this country.

JONES: Speaking of strengthening our system, I want to first of all acknowledge you don't like Obama care very much. But I want to tell you about a friend of mine. His name is Kwame.

This summer, he actually died and was resuscitated twice. He's still with us. You know why? He had a cold and he didn't have health care. It turned into viral pneumonia, and we almost lost him. That's the bad news.

Here's the good news. Yesterday -- he lives in California, was able to go onto an Obama care exchange. You're talking about 10 minutes. He was able to find a plan for himself and his family for about $500.

Are you prepared to tell him that the status quo that he was having trouble with and almost died in two months ago is what you want to go back to?

REP. JOHN FLEMING (R), LOUISIANA: Well, first of all, Van, it's unfortunate that he found himself in that situation. But the truth is, under EMTALA, a person can show up to any emergency room at any hospital and be cared for, whether they ever pay the bill or not. So he should have gone to the emergency room.

JONES: Actually, he went to the emergency room, and he died there twice. They were able to bring him back. He got hit with a huge bill. If he had had health care, he could have gone a couple weeks earlier.

FLEMING: He should have gone much earlier, of course, and then maybe wouldn't have had such a big bill. Secondly, over 30 states -- and I have a family member that's in one of the these states -- has their own high-risk pools that work very well. And while they -- the cost is a little bit higher -- it's subsidized by the state -- we don't have to completely capture one-sixth of the nation's economy, the largest economy in the world, and convert it through socialistic practices in order to provide good health care.

JONES: So the status was fine for you?

FLEMING: No, I came to Washington, actually, Van, to reform health care, but to use the tools of market forces in a centered approach to get better results. Not the government takeover that we have now.

JONES: Now, you say it's a government takeover.


JONES: But my understanding is, it's actually -- the exchanges themselves are marketplaces. There's market competition and that people actually have choices. Why do you say government takeover? Now listen, government takeover would mean Medicare for everybody. You're not for that.

That's single payer.

FLEMING: But this is a -- this is an "O" market; it's not a clean market. What you're actually seeing is there are less choices. In many of these places, like in Louisiana, most of the exchanges only have one insurance company at all with maybe two or three payers. No real competition exists.

JONES: Is that your view?

CARTWRIGHT: Well, I want to echo something that Dr. Fleming said, and it's true. Uninsured care happens in this country, and here's the problem. It's not properly accounted for. The people who pay for uninsured care at the moment are the hospitals, and the doctors and all of the medical providers.

Right in my district in the last two years, we've had two community hospitals close, because they keep absorbing this free care, absorbing the uninsured care, absorbing it. So right now if you live near Carbondale, Pennsylvania, you don't have a local community hospital. If you're having a dissecting aortic aneurysm, instead of a five-minute ride to the hospital, it's a 25-minute ride. And Dr. Fleming will tell you that could be the difference between life and death in that kind of situation.

FLEMING: But I'd also have to say that, since Obama care's passage and going into law, a big wonderful hospital like the Cleveland Clinic actually downsized. I mean, that's reducing, laying people off because of the cuts. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars are being cut from Medicare and to help pay for Obama care. So we're actually going to see more hospitals closing as a result.

CUPP: Let me get to the big political picture here. Van's friend, Kwame, is happy with Obama care. And that's great. That's one good story. One good story is not enough.

The president in the past few months seems to have thrown the country, entire industries, small businesses, millions of American families into total chaos, not just because of a glitchy Web site, but because of this onerous, huge, cumbersome program that is having a hard time working. Are you worried, Congressman Cartwright, that Democrats are going to pay a political price for this failure so far?

CARTWRIGHT: Well, I'm kind of new at politics, S.E. And I couldn't really hold myself out as the political expert in the United States.

But I'll tell you this. I've noticed that Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah, the secretary of HHS during the rollout of Medicare Part D. That was as rocky as you can imagine. And he's been on television just recently, much to his credit, to talk about what horrible headaches there were rolling out Medicare Part D. You know, what plan should I take? What -- there were four different options. And it was seniors they were trying to explain it to. It was a mess. But that was eight years ago.

CUPP: Look, you know...

CARTWRIGHT: And now it's a wonderful thing, and we all know that.

CUPP: I'm glad there's optimism. And I'm -- based on I'm not sure what.

CARTWRIGHT: Let me tell you what he said.

CUPP: It's been pretty rocky so far.

CARTWRIGHT: What he's saying recently is what -- he's watching this rocky roll-out, and what -- what Secretary Leavitt is saying, you know, the Republican governor of Utah, he's saying we should all take a deep breath and just let this thing play out, because in the end history will smile on the Affordable Care Act.

CUPP: We are taking a deep breath, but I just want to put some poll numbers up real quick, because it seems like, regardless of how well this goes or better it gets, the meantime, the now it's not good for President Obama. His approval rating has dipped tremendous in just a month and a half. Aren't you -- aren't you worried that the president's going to have a tough time selling this and getting the young healthy people he needs to sign onto Obama care to make this thing work the way you want it to.

CARTWRIGHT: Of course.

CUPP: So what should we do about it? Give me some advice. Give me some advice.

CARTWRIGHT: Stay the course and take Governor Leavitt's advice, is to take a deep breath.

CUPP: Take a deep breath. OK. We'll see if that's going to satisfy a very angry public.

President Obama did something this week that persuaded me to do the impossible: sympathize with the insurance industry. I'll tell you why, next.


CUPP: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight representatives Matt Cartwright and John Fleming.

President Obama just wrapped up a meeting with heads of insurance companies, and you know what? I sort of feel bad for them. The president changed all the rules of the game, then changed them again yesterday. So why is he meeting with them now? Apparently, it wasn't to apologize again.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're going to brainstorming on how do we make sure that everybody understands what their options are? We're going to be soliciting ideas from them. This is a collaborative process, and we want to make sure that we get this done.


CUPP: Brainstorming with them now? Soliciting ideas now? Collaborating now? Why didn't he do this ages ago before he changed and re-changed the rules? Congressman Cartwright, explain this.

CARTWRIGHT: Oh, I think that's an overstatement to say he was not involving the insurance companies. Insurance companies are an integral part of the Affordable Care Act. And a lot of people do like to say, as my colleague has just said, that it's socialized medicine, that the government's taking over one-sixth of the economy. It's not true at all. The market forces are at play here. We've private for- profit insurance companies deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act.

One of the options was the public option. They were talking about single payer, like Medicare. None of those things happened. We're talking about for-profit insurance companies in on the take with the Affordable Care Act.

CUPP: I'm sure that they're thrilled.

JONES: Well, I mean, how do you respond to this? I find it just shocking. I feel like in some ways it's alarmist, and in my point of view really irresponsible. To continue to tell a big part of the American public that there's some socialistic takeover by the government, when in fact, what we have is regulation of corporations. I mean, we've got regulation of corporations when we told car companies to put in seat belts. This is a part of the American system, consumer protection. What's wrong with that?

FLEMING: Oh, this is not free market at all. What we have is a president who called the insurance companies in on the carpet to dictate to them what they should do to reverse course all of a sudden at the last minute, and do something it was probably going to cost them millions, if not billions of dollars.

But what about the crony capitalism going on here? We had a no- bid deal for the Web site that failed that cost over $600 million. Again, this is government at its worst, trying to control the economy.

JONES: Well, I think we have a disagreement between the parties about the rollout. Let me ask you just a couple questions.


JONES: Do you think that if somebody has asthma, an insurance company should be able to tell them, "You're not going to help you"? You think that that person should be discriminated against and not be able to buy insurance?

FLEMING: I think that, again, insurance under the former model, where it's a choice as to which kind of insurance you purchase, if you choose to purchase an insurance that covers for asthma -- and certainly if you're subject to that in most general conditions, fine -- but you shouldn't be upset if you want to have some kind of a treatment -- let's say cosmetic surgery -- that isn't covered by your insurance. JONES: I'm asking you a very different question. I'm asking about preexisting conditions. If somebody has asthma, should they be disallowed to buy insurance from them? Like myself. I have --- I have slightly high blood pressure. That's a preexisting condition. Do you say it's all right for insurance companies in America to say, "We are not going to give you anything?"

FLEMING: Well, let me answer...

JONES: OK with you? Is that your free market?

FLEMING: Let me answer it this way. I think that we should reform our market so that that option is available to them, that they can get coverage.

JONES: Doesn't Obama care do that, though? It does, but it does so many other things that actually drives up the cost and takes away the efficiency.

So for instance, again, as I say, over 30 states now have high- risk pools. I have a family member who's in one of them, and it works very well. He has a preexisting illness, and it works beautifully.

FLEMING: But when you take it over by the federal government, one sixth of the largest economy in the world, and look at the results we're getting, terrible.

JONES: Hold on a second. Do you think that the results are terrible when half -- when women in America are no longer being discriminated against? Can you explain some of the terrible outcomes that you're going to by running on at the end of the year with Obama care? CARTWRIGHT: Well, if you want to talk about high-risk pools, I mean, high-risk pools and funds in states was part of the Affordable Care Act in the first place. In Pennsylvania, we have the Pennsylvania Fair Care Fund, and I need to tell you, people with preexisting conditions are already benefiting.

A personal story. My sister-in-law's aunt came down with -- she was diagnosed with tongue cancer, a very dangerous form, a lethal form of cancer. We tried to sign her up with about 60 different insurance companies. Nobody would touch her in the free market.

Then we found out about the P.A. Fair Care plan and that they would subsidize, and they would come in and help with that. They saved her life. They did.

FLEMING: And these programs have been around for years, and we should encourage them. That's part of our plan, is to actually supplement state -- state high-risk pools, because they're far more efficient than the government high-risk pool.

CUPP: I want to go back to the political consequences of this, because I think all of these issues will be sorted out over time, hopefully.

Those poll numbers I put up about Obama's approval rating. To me I'm far less concerned with Obama's legacy, and I'm sure, Congressman, you're less concerned with Obama's legacy than preserving your values and your principles. And I think ultimately that faith in government is in jeopardy here.

Let's view what John Judis said to liberals in "The New Republic" today. He said, "If Obama care doesn't work as promised, the failure will have reinforced for a generation the argument against any government initiatives."

Does it worry you that -- that this roll-out, or an Obama care that is clunky or doesn't work as it was supposed to, will really make people question the role of government, writ large?

CARTWRIGHT: S.E., I don't lay awake at nights worrying about political philosophy and political theory. I'm here in Washington, as John is, to help people. And I'd like to see Obama care work. I make no bones about it. There are a lot of kinks in the law.

CUPP: Right.

CARTWRIGHT: A lot of -- a lot of...

CUPP: But to help people, I assume you want Democrats elected. To get Democrats elected, people have to have faith that they're going to be honest, that they're going to be confident and that government is going to solve their problems. Those are the promises the Democrats make. So this doesn't worry you at all watching government in action?

CARTWRIGHT: I think you've got your finger right on it. Is that if the president's numbers are low right now, it's because he had a credibility problem, stemming right from the "If you like your policy, you can keep it."

Now he's working double time to try to make that promise come true, and you have to give him credit for that.

CUPP: But what if that guts the signature part of this legislation. What if it fundamentally changes it?

CARTWRIGHT: I don't think it will. I think it could cause some fluctuation in rates.

I do know that the Upton bill, if it went all the way through -- it passed out of the House today.

CUPP: Yes. With 39 Democrats for it.

CARTWRIGHT: Right. But I don't think it's going to go through the Senate. The problem with the Upton bill is that it's not just keeping the promise "if you like your policy, you can keep it." It adds more. If you like that other guy's policy that he had but you didn't have, you can go and get that. That's a completely different promise.

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: You know, one of the thing that I just don't get is, you know, you say this is a socialistic takeover, a government takeover. The problem is that that's just not true. And what I think -- it really is, in fact, the case that there are -- look, I'm from the Left Coast. I'm from California.

FLEMING: Why is it failing so badly? The government tries to control the economy. Look at the Soviet Union.

JONES: Now we're talking about the Soviet Union?

CUPP: Van wishes -- Van wishes it was more like socialism.


Now, look, people on the left really want a single payer system. They really want -- so even the left doesn't want Obama care. They want single payer, and we want a market-driven patient-central system.

JONES: Here's the deal.

CUPP: Start over.

JONES: Well, here's the deal. Right now, here's what we have. We have the plan that Nixon wanted. We have the plan that Newt Gingrich wanted. We have the plan that the Heritage Foundation wanted. We have the plan that Mitt Romney wanted until Obama wanted it, and now it's socialism.

FLEMING: I don't agree with you on that. Look, I supported -- real quick, I supported Part D. I wasn't here, but as a physician I did. It's a good program, and it's market- based.

JONES: We're going to come back and talk about that and a number of things. I got -- I want you guys to stay here.

Next we're going to "Ceasefire," and we're going to see if there is anything the two of you can actually agree on.

I also want you folks at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Should the president fire someone over Obama care's failures? Tweet "yes" or "no" using the hash tag CROSSFIRE. We will have the results after this break.


JONES: We are back with congressmen Matt Cartwright and John Fleming. Now, we're going to call a "Ceasefire." Is there anything that we can actually agree on? Let's start with you.

CARTWRIGHT: Well, I think one thing John and I agree on is the value of competition. That's part of -- we're all good little capitalists here. And I like...

CUPP: Are we, Van? Are we good little capitalists? OK. Just making sure that's accurate.

JONES: Good to check. Good to check. It's a free country.

CARTWRIGHT: And S.E., when the Web site finally gets working...

CUPP: Yes.

CARTWRIGHT: ... you're going to be able to get on there and compare apples to apples of a bunch of different insurance companies offering gold, silver or bronze plans. And you can compare them against each other so that they have to compete with each other for your business. You'll love that.

CUPP: Congressman Fleming.

FLEMING: Well, yes. I -- as you know, I'm pro-competition. I'm pro-free enterprise. And certainly, we can agree on the ultimate outcome of health-care reform. And that is to get more care, better care, better quality care to more people.

CUPP: Right.

FLEMING: Again, my concern is that a highly-regulated market that's controlled by government actually gets you the reverse results. Less competition, higher prices and lower quality.

JONES: Let me just ask you a question. We've been talking about this all night. Sometimes it sounds like to me you're saying it's either a total free market with no regulations or it's socialism. That's not what you're saying, is it?

FLEMING: No. Not at all.

JONES: OK. I'm trying to figure out what regulation.

FLEMING: The government has a key role in regulating and making sure there's an even playing field and protecting consumers. No question about it.

I just think we need to do more in the competitive field. Doctors really don't do their own charges, their own pricing. It's dictated to them. We need to open that up, and I think we'll get much better results like we see with Lasik and cosmetic surgery.

JONES: I just think that if we could dial back on the socialistic government takeover, we could get that out the way.

FLEMING: That's what I want you to do.

CUPP: Having fun with this (ph).

JONES: Honestly, look. I'm a southerner. I grew up in Tennessee. There are people who actually are afraid that somehow Obama bots are going to come and take over America. And that's not happening. We're just trying to...

FLEMING: Maybe you remember the tin care (ph) that collapsed. Because that's exactly what happened to them.

JONES: We -- we've got to have you back on the show. Thanks, Matt Cartwright and John Fleming. I think I want him back. I'm not sure.

CUPP: Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "Should the president fire someone over Obama care failures?" Right now, 66 percent of you say yes; 34 percent say no.

JONES: The debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Proudly from the left, I am Van Jones.

CUPP: More proudly from the right, I am S.E. Cupp. Join us Monday for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.