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GOP On Damage Control Over Health Care Price Tag; GOP Senator: "Can't Sugarcoat" Price Tag Of Health Bill; Dangerous Winter Storm Blasting East Coast. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 14, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- Bolduan. It's the plan that President Trump and Republican leaders say is the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare. That, of course, is according -- but according to Paul Ryan, it is also the closest that the -- according to Paul Ryan, it's also the closest that they're going to get to repealing and replacing.

But millions of Americans are waking up to this. Take a look, my friends. Headlines like these and a number like this, 24 million. That's the number of Americans who could lose coverage under the Republican repeal and replace. That's according to the Congressional Budget Office, the long-awaited analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

About these headlines, one Republican -- senior Republican source says it's terrible and so far as Republicans play damage control, not a peep from President Trump.

So let's get straight over to the White House and find out what they're saying now. Senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is here now from Washington. So Jeff, if not from the president, what are we hearing from the White House this morning.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, so interesting. All those headlines there that means one thing. This is a local story. Health care, of course, is something that affects every single person individually. The cost of premiums, the amount of coverage, insurance.

So this is something that is different than any other piece of White House or Washington intrigue we cover. This is uniquely personal and these numbers are not good. Republicans who are supportive of this plan are stunned by these numbers this morning.

They weren't expecting great ones but that 24 million number is higher than they thought. They do say that it would save some $337 billion over ten years, largely because it removes the mandates from the coverage.

But it simply is not good. You're right. We've not heard from the president yet at all and we're not scheduled to hear from him at all today. He could always change that at this point. But his -- the director of the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney was out on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning trying to explain why that CBO number is not right. Let's listen.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I'll say that again. The CBO is assuming if you get Medicaid, once the mandate is gone, you will give up your free Medicaid and replace it with nothing. The CBO report is full of errors, not errors, just bad assumptions like that.

It's the only way you can get to these bad numbers. So I don't think it's damage control as much as laying out to people exactly what we thought would happen. The CBO doesn't do a very good job at counting coverage.


ZELENY: So that is certainly their argument. The CBO is not saying it's exactly right or perfect, but it is the best argument and it's a nonpartisan group that analyzes this. They analyze the bill in front of them.

Kate, the question here is, will this make President Trump open to any more negotiations? Open to changing this anymore? And that worries House Republican leaders as well because that could upset the whole system here.

But he'll be on the road tomorrow in Tennessee selling this plan. That's the first time we're scheduled to hear from him, but, boy, all those headlines are certainly settling in and he's not yet using his power of his bully pulpit to push back.

KEILAR: Yes, we'll see if those headlines push him to speak out at some point today. Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much for keeping an eye on the White House. While we're hearing obvious big concerns from some, if you look to the House Speaker Paul Ryan, he is encouraged in what he sees in this report. Watch.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Actually, I think if you read this entire report, I'm pretty encouraged by it and exceeded my expectations. Of course, the CBO is going to say if you aren't going to force people to buy something they don't want to buy, they won't buy it. At the same time they're saying our reforms will kick in and lower premiums and make health care more accessible.


KEILAR: All right. That's from House Speaker Paul Ryan. Look at this. States that 31 states who took the Medicaid expansion, advantage of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, one of those states is the great state of Arkansas. And Arkansas' governor, Asa Hutchison is joining me right now to discuss. Governor, thanks so much for the time.


KEILAR: Thank you so much. So Paul Ryan is encouraged from what he sees in this Congressional Budget Office report. Are you encouraged?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I was concerned before the CBO report came out, and I'm concerned about a cost shift to the states. And if you're looking at 20-some million that might be not covered based upon the CBO report, who is going to have to pick that up?

It's either going to be individuals who are not covered, perhaps that's because their individual decision, but it also could be that they are going to have to have that emergency room care. And so I'm concerned about that cost shift to the state.

Clearly Speaker Ryan has a challenge ahead of him trying to keep the coalition together to get something passed because what we have doesn't work. It needs to be repealed. I support that.

But this certainly signals that there's more work to be done and there needs to be some adjustments to relieve some of that cost shift to the states.

[11:05:05]And to make sure that we don't go back to where we were before, which was that we just had our emergency room fill with those who did not have any coverage.

KEILAR: And what the adjustments are, that's, obviously, the toughest thing right now. Your state, as I mentioned before, your state has -- is taking advantage of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. And I recently heard you say that 330,000 people in your state, that's a lot of people in your state, are on that expansion.

That, obviously, is to be sunset and according to some conservatives, they want to end that Medicaid expansion even sooner. We're talking 2018. What would that mean for the people in your state?

HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, I'm not for ending it in 2018. I'm for repealing the Affordable Care Act now and that's important to give us flexibility that we don't have to manage those numbers. The 330,000 is too high.

And I've presented a proposal that I expect to be approved by the Trump administration that will allow us to have work requirements that will allow us to reduce those covered down to 100 percent of the federal poverty level and control those numbers and the cost to the state and the federal government.

Whenever that happens, if you shift them, then where do they go? And those that are off the Medicaid expansion will right now get their subsidies on the exchange under the Congressional plan, that's not going to be sufficient for them to have coverage.

And that's where we have to start is to make sure that, one, we're targeting the low income, the middle income individuals who want to go into the marketplace to have the tax credits. The focus has to be on them and not the high income.

Secondly, we want to make sure it's high enough so that they can have access to coverage. We recognize not everybody will choose that, but we want to be able to provide that opportunity and that's a change that needs to be made.

KEILAR: So as that's being debated if we look back in the not too distant past, you have a president who has said during the campaign, he said very clearly he would not cut Medicaid. With this bill then as it stands right now, is he breaking a promise?

HUTCHINSON: No, because under the bill, the Medicaid can continue. It's just that the states have to pick up a greater percent of it after 2020. And that's what I refer to as the cost shift to the states. Some states, including Arkansas, would have to look at that and say, can we afford that?

We cannot afford that unless we had flexibility, which is to manage that. So there is two things need to happen. One is, let's change the tax credit to make sure there's more there for those who need to be covered.

Secondly, give us the ability to control the numbers and the cost. Then we can manage the population even though we might not get the same level of reimbursement. We need to have continued federal participation, flexibility of the states.

So I don't see it as breaking a commitment. It's just a cost shift to the states that we're very concerned about.

KEILAR: And very concerned you should be. Right now, President Trump does not have your support as this bill stands?

HUTCHINSON: I do not support this bill as it stands. It's OK if it passes out of the House. We just have to remedy this in the Senate. This cannot be the end product. It can be a beginning of the process.

It's got to change as it goes through to give some relief to make sure that we're not going simply back to the old system that we can have some stability in the marketplace, that we can have coverage that's needed but also that we can bend that cost curve that will help the states and the federal government. There needs to be changes.

KEILAR: What those changes are, though, that's where the big divide is right now, Governor. You're on one side of it. It looks like Republican leaders and the president are on the other side. We'll see what happens as you work through it. Great to see you, Governor, thanks so much.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: All right, joining me now to discuss, Abby Phillips of the "Washington Post" and of the "New York Times," Alex Burns is here as well. Alex, what is a Republican governor like Asa Hutchinson to do? Many people in his state have taken advantage of this Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. They know that's a huge problem if the cost of that gets dumped on the states. What do they do?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, someone like Asa Hutchinson is in one of the toughest positions out there because, you know, what the Republican Congress is proposing is not just to yank away health insurance from everyone on Medicaid immediately.

But to sort of gradually and then abruptly reduce the amount of money states get in order to service that population. And so he's describing it as a cost shift. It's also a shift of political pain away from the Republican Congress so they don't have to wait to see they're all off their health care now and putting the burden on someone like Asa Hutchinson to say over a period of time we're going to give you less and less, right.

[11:10:09]And that's a politically clever thing for Congress to do. It's not the first time they would have done that, but for Republican governors in Arkansas, as you said, it's certainly not the only state. They're speaking up to say this is not going to work for us.

KEILAR: Abby, you had Paul Ryan and today, last night saying these are the good things about this. He's encouraged boo what he saw in this CBO report, overtime, over 10 years on average, 10 percent premium drop for folks. You see over $300 billion in deficit reduction. That's no small feat.

But then when folks are waking up to the headlines that we've laid out at the top of this show that say 24 million in all of their local papers, 24 million people could lose their coverage, how do you contend with that?

ABBY PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that Paul Ryan is thinking people will look at the top line numbers and make a determination base on that. But the 10 percent number is fairly small compared to some of these really eye-popping numbers in terms of the cost that older Americans in particular would be having to shoulder, at least under this part of the proposal.

And they are in a tough spot because I mean, I think the dynamic between someone like Asa Hutchinson and conservatives are actually pulling in opposition directions. There are conservatives in the House who want this bill to become more right -- shift more to the right.

They want Medicaid, that drop-off on Medicaid to happen sooner rather than later and then you have folks like the governors in Republican states who have expanded Medicaid who want this whole thing to just slow down.

So there is no easy way out here for Trump or for Paul Ryan. What it might take to pass this bill in the House might be a poison pill in the Senate and we're just moving forward kind of on a tightrope at this moment.

KEILAR: So, of course, with any major legislation like this, it's about how you frame it and sell it. If what the House speaker is saying when he says he's encouraged, is he saying we're giving you what you asked for. We're removing the mandate. We're giving you freedom. Choose health insurance if you want. Don't if you do not. That's what the Tea Party was -- that's how the Tea Party was born. Why wasn't he selling it that way, Alex, from the very beginning?

BURNS: Well, and why isn't the White House selling it that way now, right? When you listen to what Paul Ryan is saying and Mick Mulvaney is saying about the CBO report, they're actually not on the same page. The fact that the House speaker is out there saying, this is actually great news. You just need to read it in closer detail.

KEILAR: He says don't read it at all.

BURNS: This is garbage. That's not actually unified political front here. I do think your point is very well taken that Paul Ryan is putting all his political chips on this idea that what Americans want more than anything else is more options and more freedom.

KEILAR: Choice.

BURNS: In their health insurance, And what you hear certainly from Democrats and then this group of Republicans in the middle who are really uncomfortable with the bill as it stands is maybe people are looking for stability and savings more than they are looking for freedom as such.

KEILAR: There's also this. Let me bring this up to you first and then I'll bring Abby in on this. This is a president who campaigned on the opioid crisis in this country, tackling addiction in this country. He said it as recent as in his joint address to Congress. He even brought it up. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth, and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.


KEILAR: So you have that, but as folks are reporting this out if you look in the current GOP plan, it would actually end the requirement that the Medicaid expansion cover addiction services. That decision would now be left to the states. States who have tight budgets. States who often do not choose to put money there. How can this president support that?

BURNS: It's unclear. He's been not asked about that directly. When we think back to the campaign, there are very few times that Donald Trump proposed taking away benefits from people that they currently have.

KEILAR: That's a good point.

BURNS: He talked about repealing Obamacare broadly, but he also said not going to cut Medicaid. Your health insurance is going to get better and more affordable, et cetera, et cetera. Now to be in the position of, you know, having been handed this bill by the House that actually does take away benefits from a lot of people. We actually haven't seen him come out and indicate that he's really comfortable with that in detail. I think his first comments after the CBO report will be really revealing.

KEILAR: Abby, that's the thing. The CBO report was going to be the game changer. It might still be the game changer, but so far there is no indication that Republican leaders or the White House is changing course at all. Where does this go now?

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, one of the interesting things is that in a bunch of meetings the president had last week, you know, I talked to some of the folks who were in those meetings and they said that throughout the president kept expressing how he wanted to be open to changes.

[11:15:06]The problem is that that view is not shared on the Hill so we have to wait and see how or whether the president is going to assert himself in this environment to push for changes in the bill.

Secondarily, I mean, I think Paul Ryan is looking at this project from an ideological frame. He wants to make health care more conservative and sort of like small government terms. Donald Trump wants to do the right thing for his people, which might not -- those goals might not be the same thing.

Which is one of the reasons why you see Mick Mulvaney speaking a very different language, basically talking to the president, telling him that he doesn't believe in the coverage numbers will be all that bad.

Whereas Paul Ryan is talking about a completely different set of metrics for whether or not this bill is going to be a success. Will the president speak up? I think everybody is waiting to see whether he exerts any force or influence over this process over the next couple of days and weeks.

KEILAR: He has been more quiet than usual this past week, but if the CBO report said that 24 million people were going to gain coverage, I'd almost be assured we'd be hearing from the president already. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, new fall out after leaked tapes of House Speaker Paul Ryan separating, distancing himself from the president last fall. And that's the operative word. This happened last fall. Hear who posted it and why it's out now.

Plus, did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson use a secret e-mail alias while he was CEO of Exxon? Why New York's attorney general is looking into it and who is "Wing Tracker."

And right now millions are getting hit by a massive snowstorm. We're going to take you to some of the places getting hardest hit right now. That's a live look. We'll take you there.



KEILAR: Well, the groundhog appeared to be right. Maybe too right. Not quite six weeks after Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, tens of millions of people from West Virginia to Maine are dealing with a massive nor'easter. The monster storm blasting the east coast with heavy snow, high winds, bitter cold and causing widespread disruption.

Some areas could get two feet or more of snow. Winds up to 60 miles an hour is making travel dangerous if not near impossible. The storm has forced airlines to cancel almost 8,000 flights at this point and has even brought the federal government to a halt. That's not so hard if you've ever worked in Washington.

Federal employees in D.C. operating on a three-hour delay today. We'll take you where this storm has already hit, where it's hitting now and where it is headed next.

Let us start with CNN's Brian Todd. He is chasing this storm from Washington to Philadelphia. Brian, where are you now? What have you been seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On I-95, we're actually on Southbound 95, we've been heading north, but we noticed a few minutes ago, we were heading north. We saw an accident here. The southbound side. I'm going to get out and show it to you.

It's really just a slushy and icy mess. As we get out of the roving vehicle. We talked to this motorist in this vehicle here. He spun out three or four times on his way to work about a half hour ago. He is OK. He didn't want to talk to us on camera but police are here to help him.

We talked to the state police. These state police troopers and others throughout Maryland. What they are telling us is a lot of motorists are making the mistake of looking at blacktop road like this on I-95 and mistaking it for being somewhat safe or at least a condition where they can go a little faster.

That's what they say the problem is here. Speed is the problem for a lot of motorists. A lot of them are going too fast for these conditions. You should not get deceived by blacktop because there are a lot of slippery conditions and slush and unseen slippery material that you just don't really get a read on when you're going 60 to 70 miles an hour on the highway.

State police here in Maryland tell us there have been more than 100 accidents since midnight. We've talked to state police in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Hundreds of accidents. Most of them conditions like this, Kate. Spinouts on the roads.

We've not heard of any major injuries or major accidents but as we head north toward the Philly area and up into Pennsylvania, which we're heading toward from here, we expect conditions to get worse as rush hour comes. So from D.C. to here, Kate, it's really just been a snow, rain, sleet mix that has really caused problems on the roadways. And we expect that to get worse as the snow really hits in earnest up north of here -- Kate.

KEILAR: Yes, exactly. If he spun out a few times on his way to work already, it's going to start getting worse as you keep heading north. Be careful, Brian. Thanks so much. We'll keep checking in with you.

Let's go north to Boston. The city and region preparing to take a monster hit from this blizzard. CNN's Ryan Nobles is there. Ryan, what are you seeing? It does not look good.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Kate. Not at all. We're in Framingham right now about halfway between Boston and Worcester making our way to Worcester because Worcester is the area in Massachusetts which meteorologists are predicting will take one of the biggest hits.

Take a look here, this is I-90, the Massachusetts turnpike. Perhaps the busiest highway in all of Massachusetts. Not today. Officials warning people to stay off the roads with good reason because when many woke up this morning it wasn't too bad here in Massachusetts.

The snow didn't start picking up until around 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. depending on where you live and once the snow started it's been intense falling about 2 to 4 inches every hour. This rest area here in Framingham, nobody here right now.

You can see it's pretty much a ghost town. What's interesting is I-90 because they've been ahead of it, they've had hundreds of pieces of equipment, thousands -- tens of thousands of tons of salt put on this road, it's relatively clear given the conditions.

But, still, officials warning no reason to be on these roads. Stay home and most people are. All the schools in this area shut down. Many businesses closed as well.

[11:25:09]The other big thing we're dealing with, Kate, is the wind. You can tell it's just pelting me right now. Winds gusting somewhere in the range of 30 to 50 miles an hour where we are here in Framingham.

Further out to the coast they could get up to 70 miles an hour. So there's obviously a concern about power outages across the state of Massachusetts. But this is really just the beginning for folks living in this part of the country.

They've got a long way to go before this storm gets by them and there's also that possibility that it could turn to rain further east which could make things even messier than they already are -- Kate.

KEILAR: So when the governor said when this thing hits, it's going to hit hard. It's looks like you're seeing that and feeling it right now. Thank you, Ryan. Thank you so much. Everyone keep safe there.

All right, so let's get the very latest on this monster storm's path. Where it is? It seems to have shifted a little bit. Let's get to CNN's Chad Myers in Central Park.

So Chad, some good news here is that the blizzard warning for New York City was canceled a couple hours ago. What do people need to know?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They need to know the wind is still coming, but the snow is not fluffy enough to blow around so there's not going to be a blizzard. We're not going to have a lot of snow coming from the sky. We had sleet coming from the sky, about an inch of sleet.

Now that could have been and should have been according to the weather models, ten inches of snow, didn't happen. Now one inch of sleet to shovel off. That's still very heavy, Kate. Here's what we have. Kids are now playing in it. It's crazy to be 10 again and you don't know that you're cold.

I could stay out for hours. Didn't even know I was cold. Little puppies over here, they're not cold either. They were mushing through Central Park. This is the calm after the storm. It's not completely done here, but we've certainly missed the worst of it.

If you go another 40 miles west of here into parts of New Jersey, that's where the heavy snow is. So they are looking at this picture and they are going, you guys got lucky because we're getting pounded. Harrisburg, Lancaster, Somerset, up into the Hudson River Valley all the way to Rutland and into New England.

Still going to get that 24-inch snowfall that we thought we could get here. Good news is we did not get it. The bad news, because there's so much sleet it is still weighs the same thing.

As you move one square foot of this snow, that will weigh 11 pounds. If you have a 1,200 square-foot driveway, you'll move 12,000 pounds of snow today, even though it's only about six inches deep -- Kate.

KEILAR: And cold temperatures overnight. Not good things with that. Great to see you, Chad. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, the conservative website that President Trump's top adviser used to run is now posting audio of House Speaker Paul Ryan ripping into then Candidate Trump. Why now when this happened in fall? And folks reported on it in the fall? What it could signal about a growing divide among conservatives. Be right back.