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Rare Interview With Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch; Climate Crisis In Alaska Impacting The Entire World; Hospital Sues Thousands Of Patients For Unpaid Bills. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR. All right. New this morning, a crucial new voice on the Supreme Court opens up in a rare and revealing interview. For the first time, really, we're hearing from Justice Neil Gorsuch.

He sat down with CNN's Ariane de Vogue, who joins us now live from Washington. And, Gorsuch really opened up to you about what he sees his role in on the court.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. He's heading into this new term -- President Trump's first nominee on the bench -- and he sat down to discuss this book.

And, John, the timing is interesting here because, of course, the court is about to start this blockbuster term. They're going to hear immigration cases, Second Amendment, LGBT rights, maybe even health care and abortion.

And I asked him about the fact -- I said, look, many people are thrilled that you're on the bench but there are a lot of people who are concerned. They're seeing now a solid five-member conservative majority and they're worried about the direction of the court. And, John, he chafed a little bit at my characterization.

Take a listen.


NEIL GORSUCH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think all a judge can do is fulfill his or her oath as best they can, putting all the other stuff aside, right -- politics, your personal points of view. You leave that over there. When you put on the robe you put that stuff aside and you open your mind and you listen.


And that's all a judge can ever promise. You can't promise outcomes, you can only promise their best efforts in the process.

DE VOGUE: So, do the people who say this court is going to move -- they're going to overturn precedent and now, there are five solid members. We could see a hard right turn.

GORSUCH: I just don't view judges that way. I reject that idea of how judges operate.

As we talked about earlier, about half -- 40 percent of our cases are decided unanimously. We've talked about the five-four cases. They make up a quarter of our docket -- maybe a third. Those numbers have been consistent since the Second World War.

The only thing that's new is that nothing is new.

DE VOGUE: Some people do think things have changed when you say nothing has changed. Now there are a solid five conservative members on the court. Something has changed.

GORSUCH: Yes, I just -- again, you -- to my mind, it hasn't. The wonder of the rule of law in this country is its consistency over time.

And as troublesome as sometimes our times may seem and as difficult as they may appear to us, this country has been through a lot of challenges and always risen resiliently to them, whether it's the civil rights movement, surviving through our Civil War, or today's challenges whatever they may be.

I've got great confidence in America. And I say to those who don't, look elsewhere. Where else would you rather be?


DE VOGUE: Right, John. You see, he's a solid conservative. He allowed the travel ban to go into effect. He would have allowed a citizenship question on the census.

In some ways, he's carrying on the torch of Justice Antonin Scalia.

He looks to the original meaning of the Constitution. He doesn't believe that judges should invent new rights. And, of course, that's where he comes under criticism because many people -- his critics say that that's an outdated way to look at the Constitution.

A lot has changed since 1787. There was slavery there, women didn't have the right to vote.

And they say that look, his view writes certain individuals out of the Constitution. But he comes back strong and he says he rejects that. He says if you want to change the Constitution, then you've got to amend it.

So it was really interesting on his philosophy, John, on the eve of this huge term that's coming up.

BERMAN: And so interesting to hear, ever, from a Supreme Court justice. What a revealing interview.

Ariane, great to have you on. DE VOGUE: Thanks.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, up next, the Last Frontier on the front lines of the climate crisis. See how a brutally hot summer is transforming Alaska and what that could mean for the rest of the planet.



BERMAN: So, Alaska has endured a blazing hot and dry summer, setting record after record, and there is alarming evidence that the climate crisis there is happening much faster than scientists predicted and might, in fact, impact the entire world.

GOLODRYGA: CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir traveled to Alaska and joins us now with more. Bill, some people say it's unrecognizable this time of year now.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It's really something else up there, Bianna, John.

You know, the arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet so it seems like the extreme changes are twice as dramatic. The permafrost ain't so perma anymore.

And some of those changes are obvious, some are harder to see, and all of them are a warning for everybody.


WEIR (voice-over): Take a trip across Alaska this summer from the iceless north to the smoky south and you'll see that when it comes to alarming changes, the Last Frontier feels like the first in line.


WEIR (voice-over): Fire season used to end on August first like rainy clockwork, but it is so hot and dry the Swan Lake fire has been burning for three months. And the most populous part of the state is swallowing more smoke than ever before.

BRIAN BRETTSCHNEIDER, CLIMATOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA: If you look at the actual observations, we've had more than twice as many smoky hours in 2019 than in any other season. And, in fact, almost as many as all other years combined.

WEIR (voice-over): And when Anchorage is hotter than Key West on the Fourth of July, it can turn the steady drip of a glacier into something much more dramatic.

That was a calving event last month at the Spencer Glacier, just one of dozens of melting red flags.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: This whole lake was -- there was no lake in the early 1950s.

WEIR (on camera): Really?


WEIR (on camera): The ice -- so the ice went all the way down to the --

BRETTSCHNEIDER: To the end of the lake --

WEIR (on camera): -- end of the lake down there.


WEIR (voice-over): A recent study finds that since the sixties, melting Alaskan glaciers have contributed more to sea level rise than Greenland, Antarctica or any other part of the world.

WEIR (on camera): Since every one of these molecules goes into the ocean and goes everywhere, this is not just a changing Alaskan landscape story. This is a Miami story. This is a Charleston and San Francisco Bay story.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: You know, once this water melts off and goes into the ocean -- you know, as long as we have all this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere --

WEIR (on camera): Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- it's not coming back here.

WEIR (voice-over): Health scientists, like Micah Hahn, are equally worried about changes harder to see, like new kinds of ticks bringing new kinds of disease north.

And when Dr. Jeffrey Demain studied insect bite trends since the nineties, he found that way up in the Arctic Circle stings from yellow jacket wasps jumped over 600 percent in five years.

DR. JEFFREY DEMAIN, FOUNDER, ALLERGY, ASTHMA AND IMMUNOLOGY CENTER OF ALASKA: So the queens are now under snowpack without severe weather and they're surviving. So the more queens, the more colonies. The more colonies, the more yellow jackets.

WEIR (voice-over): And then there are the fish, so vital to this economy. While Bristol Bay saw another epic salmon run, more and more streams are just too hot for the fish to spawn.


SUE MAUGER, SCIENCE DIRECTOR, COOK INLETKEEPER: And the temperatures we saw this summer were what we expected for 2069.

WEIR (on camera): Really?

MAUGER: We're 50 years ahead of where we thought we would be for stream temperatures --

WEIR (on camera): Oh my gosh.

MAUGER: -- so that's very alarming.

WEIR (voice-over): Meanwhile, out at sea, this research team from NOAA is spending the summer measuring all kinds of arctic change, including those at the bottom of the food chain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we are looking at harmful algae blooms, though --

WEIR (on camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- so they are taking samples for toxins in the water for the harmful algae.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it's warmer, they're coming up farther north, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And sooner, maybe, yes. So -- but that's a big concern for the communities because that's food safety.

WEIR (voice-over): This state is such a gorgeous reminder of how earth's Goldilocks climate held so many forms of life together in harmony. But in a too hot future with more fire than ice, what comes next is anyone's guess.


BERMAN: What an amazing view, Bill. And as you said, this isn't just an Alaska story. It's a Florida story, it's a Charleston story.

WEIR: Right.

BERMAN: You've been to Alaska quite a bit over the last few years and I remember last time you were there the people in the state have a different relationship with their environment.

WEIR: They do.

BERMAN: And politically, it's a fairly conservative, libertarian state.

Has this summer changed anything?

WEIR: It's a great question.

It's a petrol state, you know. Every -- all the million residents of Alaska get a check thanks to that pipeline. Oil prices went down so the budgets are starving and they're bankrupt.

And so it's this weird tension where the fishermen can see it. They can see the changes and worry about the changes.

But at the same time, the libertarian ideal is there. They voted down a ballot initiative last year that would have protected salmon streams and made it harder for mines and logging companies.

But now, the governor, Mike Dunleavy -- every time Air Force One lands there to refuel, he and the president get together and talk about opening Alaska for business -- big controversial mine projects, roads.

Today, I'm working on the next part of this, which is the last great old-growth rainforest left in the world is in Alaska and they want to start clearcutting that again, much to the dismay of even conservative supporters.

So who knows where the politics goes from here.

GOLODRYGA: It is mindboggling though when you hear the Fourth of July in Anchorage, Alaska is hotter than at Key West. That stops you in your tracks.

WEIR: That one stat is why I went there, yes. I had to talk to people and see what -- how they're dealing with it.

And people say this is not why we moved here. It feels weird. It's too nice.

GOLODRYGA: It's so important for you to be on this story. Thank you.

WEIR: Thank you, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Great to see you.

BERMAN: All right, we're getting an urgent warning about vaping. The new message from doctors about the potentially life-threatening risks from e-cigarettes.



BERMAN: An important new development this morning.

The American Medical Association is now urging the public to avoid using e-cigarettes. This, after five deaths and hundreds of cases of lung illnesses.

A group of doctors is also calling on the FDA to speed up the regulation of e-cigarettes and ban flavors and marketing that targets young people.

On Monday, the FDA warned e-cigarette maker Juul about illegally marketing its product as a safer alternative to cigarettes. The company has been ordered to respond by next month.

GOLODRYGA: And we'll be watching this space. This is a very important story.

Another important medical story. Medical debt is a reality for many Americans. Two out of three bankruptcies in the U.S. are tied to medical issues, according to a study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health.

Sometimes, hospitals go after patients who don't pay by hounding them with collection calls.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen went to a New Mexico facility and visited with a hospital that's going even further.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, these patients say that it was the last thing that they expected -- to be sued by the hospital that cared for them. But then, it got worse.


COHEN (voice-over): Carlsbad, New Mexico, where the Pecos River winds its way through the desert and the valley, stunning and remote -- some restaurants and shops and one hospital, Carlsbad Medical Center.

COHEN (on camera): When you have an emergency in Carlsbad, New Mexico -- a heart attack, a broken bone -- is there any choice about where you go?




COHEN (on camera): How many hospitals are in town?




M. PRICE: One.

COHEN (voice-over): Patients here are at its mercy, forced to pay whatever it charges.

Patients, like Donna Hernandez, who manages a local hotel here. Last year when she had the flu and went to the emergency room, she received a bill for $6,000.

HERNANDEZ: And it was $6,000. Two and a half hours in that hospital.

COHEN (on camera): What did you think when you got a $6,000 bill for two hours of care?

HERNANDEZ: I was shocked.

COHEN (voice-over): And when patients like Donna can't pay, the hospital will sometimes sue them to collect the money.

A CNN investigation of court records shows that in the past 10 years, Carlsbad Medical Center has sued more than 3,000 people to collect debts.

Everyone here -- Donna, Victoria Pina, Misty Price, and her husband, A.J. Price have all been sued by the hospital. Sometimes as part of the lawsuit, Carlsbad Medical Center takes money right out of their paychecks.

It happened to Victoria, a teacher's aide.

PINA: Like, why would -- why would the hospital do that? You're not just hurting me or making me pay, you're hurting my husband and my kids, and our livelihood.


COHEN (on camera): So many of you have either had your wages garnished or are about to have your wages garnished?

(All four raise hand)

COHEN (on camera): Everybody?

M. PRICE: Yes.

COHEN (on camera): So they go right into your paycheck and take out the money?

M. PRICE: Yes. They contact your employer and --


A. PRICE: And they go straight to your H.R. department.

M. PRICE: You have -- you can't do anything about it.

COHEN (voice-over): Misty was a single mom when she was sued, raising three kids. She saved stacks of bills and legal papers from her fight with the hospital.

M. PRICE: I had a car repossessed, I almost lost my house. I didn't know how I was going to, you know, support my kids. I mean, it makes you not want to get medical care because, I mean, they're going to come after you.

And I have insurance. I've had insurance the entire time.

COHEN (on camera): You were working at the time?

M PRICE: Three jobs.

COHEN (voice-over): Carlsbad Medical Center says it sues as a last resort.

In a statement, the hospital's CEO told us, "We sue less than one percent of the patients who receive care at our hospital. Before initiating a collection suit against anyone, we make multiple attempts, usually trying to contact our patients 10 to 12 times to offer manageable payment plans and additional discounts off of already discounted charges. In many cases, patients do not respond to our calls or letters."

Most other hospitals in the area make a different choice. Artesia General Hospital, Nor-Lea General Hospital, and Lincoln County Medical Center -- over the past 10 years, none of them have sued patients for debt collection.

It's not known how many hospitals in the U.S. garnish patient's wages like Carlsbad Medical Center does. A study in one state, Virginia, found that in 2017, 36 percent of hospitals garnished wages.

Dr. Marty McKary, a physician at Johns Hopkins University, is one of the study authors.

COHEN (on camera): And tell me about Carlsbad, New Mexico.

DR. MARTY MCKARY, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "THE PRICE WE PAY": This is a wonderful small town of about 28,000 -- kind of your classic Americana town.

COHEN (voice-over): In his new book, "The Price We Pay," he has a whole chapter on Carlsbad Medical Center.

COHEN (on camera): So, we met Misty Price. She's been sued and had her wages garnished. Her husband was sued, her sister was sued, her sister's husband was sued, her best friend was sued, and her best friend's husband was sued.

MCKARY: It's a disgrace. How does one local community hospital create all this terror and financial hardship to so many people? We talk to a lot of people whose lives have really been ruined financially.

COHEN (on camera): But some people might say look, they incurred the bills. They need to pay their bills.

MCKARY: Look, doctors and hospitals should be paid fairly. I firmly believe that. But oftentimes, these patients are being shaken down with the most aggressive and predatory practices we've ever seen in the history of medicine.

COHEN (voice-over): In a statement, Carlsbad Medical Center's CEO told us, "Absolutely no patient pays the full price of our services. We provide charity care for anyone who qualifies. For those who struggle to pay their hospital bills, we offer additional discounts and reasonable, extremely low-payment plans."

Donna, who's uninsured, eventually got one of those discounts. Her bill was cut in half to a little over $3,000. Still steep, she says, for a simple visit for the flu.

HERNANDEZ: And it makes me mad. It angers me that you would take advantage of people that are in a -- in a situation where they need medical care.

COHEN (on camera): Do you feel like Carlsbad Medical Center is taking advantage of the fact that they're the only game in town?

M. PRICE: Big-time.

PINA: Yes.


A. PRICE: Yes, definitely. They are going to get every case. Every injury, every accident is going to come right here and I think they prey on that.

COHEN (voice-over): After being contacted by CNN, the hospital told us it has a new policy. They'll stop suing patients whose income is below a certain level. For example, if a patient is single, the hospital won't sue if they earn less than about $19,000.

But for many other patients, the lawsuits will continue, leaving them here at the Eddy County Courthouse.

COHEN (on camera): This hospital has a big law firm working for it. Do you have lawyers working for you?




COHEN (on camera): Could you afford to hire lawyers to work for you?



COHEN (voice-over): Without legal help patients often lose these lawsuits from Carlsbad Medical Center, putting them in good company with so many others living in this valley.


COHEN: Donna says she expects to find out very soon whether her wages will also be garnished -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Elizabeth, thank you. It's so important to remember that paying down medical debt is a huge problem and burden for so many Americans, those with and without insurance. We appreciate your reporting.

Well, thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH MAX FOSTER" is next.

And for our U.S. viewers, a special election that could reveal clues about 2020. NEW DAY starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The do-over election in North Carolina's Ninth District offering a glimpse into the future.

DAN MCCREADY (D), CANDIDATE, NORTH CAROLINA'S NINTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: We've got a chance to change this country and that's why we're here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polling indicates a very tight race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's possible Democrats will turn out in force. Trump is hugely worried.

JIM SCUITTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": The U.S. successfully extracted one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know that Trump has made a habit of giving classified information when he shouldn't.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It's going to become even harder to collect human intelligence in Russia. It takes years to recruit and develop a source like this.