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American Morning

Pakistan Blast Kills 90; Dems Find Ways to Sell Public Option; Killer Wave, No Warning of Tsunami in American Samoa; Head Trauma in NFL

Aired October 28, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: That brings us to the top of the hour. It's 8:00 Eastern on this Wednesday, the 28th of October. Thanks for being with us. I'm John Roberts.


We're following several big stories this morning. First, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the ground in Pakistan right now, her mission not only to reset relations but to press Islamabad to do more on its crackdown on terrorists. And terrorists just hours ago targeted innocent civilians, killing at least 90 people in a marketplace in Peshawar. In a moment, we're going to be live in Pakistan for the latest.

ROBERTS: He usually sides with Democrats, but Independent Senator Joe Lieberman is throwing a monkey wrench into their health care reform plans. We'll take a look at how Democratic leaders are considering their options to get the bill passed. A live report from Washington just ahead.

CHETRY: Also this morning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as well as many others in football will testify at a congressional hearing on the impact of football head injuries on players. The subcommittee hearing follows a study suggesting retired pro-football players have a higher than normal rate of Alzheimer's or other memory- related problems.

Also, the head of the players association, DeMaurice Smith, will be joining us at 8:10 Eastern to talk about his testimony today.

We begin the morning though with the developing story in a key U.S. ally. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the ground in Pakistan this morning, she touched down overnight on an unannounced trip. Her visit coincides with the brazen and deadly attack by militants in Peshawar. It's a city that's seen its share of blasts and suicide attacks.

This morning, a car bomber tore through a packed market, killing at least 90 people. Our Jill Dougherty is traveling with the secretary of state and asked her about this morning's attack.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: These attacks on innocent people are cowardly. They are not courageous. They are cowardly.

If the people behind these attacks were so sure of their beliefs, let them join the political process. Let them come forth to the people of Pakistan and this democracy, and make their case that they don't want girls to go to school, that they want women to be kept back, that they believe that they have all the answers and that the rest of us who are people of faith have none. Let them make that case in the political arena and see how far they would get.


CHETRY: Very interesting words from the secretary of state this morning. Jill Dougherty joins us now on the phone.

And, Jill, so, the secretary, what is she going to hear from regular people in Pakistan about these attacks that took place?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It was an emotional moment because after all, that market caters to women, and the thought of having all those women killed was pretty strong.

I also asked foreign minister of Pakistan and he gave another very strong statement saying that, "We are not going to buckle, we are going to fight you," talking to the terrorists, "You're on the run, we defeated you," he said, "in Swat." That was the military operation in the Swat Valley, and now, they have major operation ongoing in South Waziristan.

So, it was -- the timing was very important, and that said, one of the messages that the secretary is trying to get across is that it is not only the relationship on terrorism that the United States wants with Pakistan, they also want to try to help the Pakistani people.

So, she was announcing, in fact, a program to help on the energy front, providing electricity -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Jill Dougherty for us this morning -- thanks.

ROBERTS: We're following developing news out of neighboring Afghanistan. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for a deadly attack overnight in Kabul. The gunman killing at least six United Nations workers, including one American -- the machine gun fire followed by two rocket attacks on a hotel there.

Our Chris Lawrence was actually woken up by the violence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We were sound asleep when we started hearing -- we started hearing that. Now there's black smoke rising about -- no more than about -- that's two blocks away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: All of this, of course, creating huge new security concerns ahead of that crucial run-off election scheduled for next week.

CHETRY: Well, the president of Afghanistan's brother is reportedly on the CIA payroll. "The New York Times" is reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai has received regular payments from the agency for much of the last eight years. The paper says he's paid for a variety of service, including helping to recruit an Afghan strike force that operates at the CIA direction. The CIA right now is declining to comment on that report.

ROBERTS: The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the licenses of these two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot their landing by 150 miles last week. Federal investigators say the pilots put their passengers and crew in jeopardy when they failed to respond to radio calls for more than 90 minutes. The pilots claim they got distracted while using their laptop computers. They have 10 days to appeal the FAA's decision.

On now to the make-or-break debate over health care reform, and the road to reform is getting bumpier in the Senate. Independent Senator Joe Lieberman who usually votes with the Democrats says he's going to join a Republican filibuster to kill a bill containing a so- called public option. Meantime, Democratic leaders are considering some new options in the health care fight.

Our Jim Acosta is following that for us this morning and he's live in Washington.

Hi, Jim.


You've heard of the opt-out, you've heard of the trigger. Well, Democrats are starting to figure out that before they pass health care reform, they'll need to sell it better to the American people, and that means potentially branding or rebranding a key component of reform: the public option.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In front of a group of seniors in Florida, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was testing out some options for what to call the public option.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're not throwing them to the wolves of the insurance industry without an option for them to choose which is what I would call not the public option but the consumer option.

ACOSTA: The consumer option she said just sounds better.

PELOSI: Everybody says that there's got to be a better name for this because it can be misrepresented. ACOSTA: And she's not alone. We caught up with Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar who just got out of a meeting with fellow House Democrats where he pitched the Medicare Part E, "E" as in everybody.

REP. JAMES OBERSTAR (D), MINNESOTA: The general public are very comfortable with, attach to, trusting of Medicare. Call it Medicare E, they'll understand better.

ACOSTA: But Republicans say a government insurance program for the uninsured won't work no matter what you call it.

SEN. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: It's time to stop all of this. It's time to hit the reset button and start over in a bipartisan way.

ACOSTA: And if there's one group that's having the toughest time accepting a public option, it's seniors, who already have government health care in Medicare. According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll on the public option, 61 percent, overall, like the idea. But among 65 and older, that support plummets to 41 percent.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: The fact that many seniors are happy with their own Medicare may mean that rebranding this as Medicare will bring a few seniors at least on board. That's the group that the Democrats might be worried about the most.

ACOSTA: And Democrats have worries within their own ranks. Independent Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats, says he'll support a filibuster to block the public option as it stands now.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid's problem.

ACOSTA: Jim Oberstar says a public rebranding may be in order inside Congress.

(on camera): Do members of Congress understand what the public option is, do you think?

OBERSTAR: Oh, there is a great deal of, I think, confusion about what is really in and what is not.

ACOSTA: Really, even in Congress?

OBERSTAR: There are gaps in the understanding of what the public option really means.


ACOSTA: A spokesperson for the speaker says Democrats aren't discarding the public option brand just yet, but members of Congress do recall one line they heard time and again at the town hall meetings: Keep your government hands off my Medicare. Democrats may find it easier to sell the public option if they call it something else - John. ROBERTS: You know, we'll see what happen as to that. Jim, thanks so much.

So, you know, everybody's talking about the politics of the public option. We're going to talk about the nuts and bolts of the public option in the next couple of minutes. Jim Oberstar said there's gaps in understanding.

We've got a professor from Emory University who's been crunching the numbers. We'll give you a nuts and bolts look at what a public option would mean for you in terms of what it will cost, what it will cover, what your max-out-of-pocket payments will be. That's what news you can use instead of just the politics.

CHETRY: And actually, who qualifies. I mean, it might be a moot point for most of people watching, but it will be for people who want to know could this be something that I could benefit from. How does it work?

ROBERTS: Yes. So, stick around for that -- coming up in a few minutes.

CHETRY: All right. Eight minutes past the hour right now.

Congress, a step closer to extending unemployment benefits, and many Republicans are joining with Democrats yesterday to support legislation that would extend benefits by 14 weeks for people whose checks are going to be running out the end of the year. And for people living in 27 states where the unemployment rate is at least 8.5 percent, they get another six weeks on top of the 14. All that's needed now is a final vote in the Senate.

ROBERTS: We're waiting for what could be a nice shot in the arm for the U.S. economy. This morning, the Commerce Department reports on new home sales. Experts are predicting a sixth straight monthly increase.

CHETRY: Sarah Palin's book deal is worth at least seven figures. The disclosed statement shows, so far, the former Alaska governor has been paid $1.25 million for her upcoming memoir "Going Rogue." The book is hitting the store shelves on the 17th of November.

ROBERTS: All right. So, a couple of things that we've got ahead for you -- again, the nuts and bolts breakdown of the public option: what it means to you, what it's going to cost you, as well.

Testimony in Congress today about the extent of head injuries among NFL players. The head of the NFL Players Union is going to be joining us.

All of that ahead in the Most News in the Morning.

Nine minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Incredible scenes in the streets of American Samoa, one month ago, as that tiny island in the south Pacific was overrun by a wall of water. Surveillance video showing cars and trucks being tossed around like toys.

CHETRY: Thirty-four people died in that killer wave and they didn't have warning. But they were supposed to have a warning. In fact, we paid for it.

Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit went all the way to the tiny island looking for answers.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a Saturday morning, villagers in Leone, American Samoa, hold funeral mass for the 33rd victim of this tsunami. Outside the packed church, the village remains in ruins. A boy is still missing here.

One village over, flowers mark the spot where two more died.

(on camera): Nobody sent out a warning.

FIDELIS LEOTA, LEONE VILLAGE CHIEF: No warning at all. And we just...

GRIFFIN: That's why people died.

LEOTA: That's why people died.

GRIFFIN: We decided to investigate why the United States government has sent millions and millions of dollars to this island to prepare for an emergency that they weren't prepared for.

(voice-over): Records show U.S. taxpayers have shelled out nearly $13 million in disaster preparedness grants since 2003, and yet, no sirens, no warning system -- and 34 dead.

And to our surprise, the highest ranking official here on this American territory, an island of 68,000 people, the governor, says there was a study but never a plan for a warning system.

GOV. TOGIOLA TULAFONO, AMERICAN SAMOA: I was trying to get verification of what happened to that application, but I wasn't able to get the definite information.

GRIFFIN: This man says he has all of the information the governor says he lacks. His name is Birdsall Alailima, and he worked for the governor as Samoa's homeland security adviser. He was fired two years ago in 2007.

Today, Birdsall lives with his son in the U.S., and he insists he was testing and preparing the very warning system the governor seems to know little about. So what happened? Birdsall says some of the money from U.S. taxpayers for Samoan homeland security went missing. He says the government of Samoa was using that money to pay salaries of what he calls "extra personnel."

BIRDSALL ALAILIMA, FORMER SAMOAN HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: He's speaking like a bureaucrat. You say keep in mind...

GRIFFIN (on camera): Personnel put on the payroll, me being from Chicago, think I'm rewarding my cronies with a job.

ALAILIMA: Oh, in some ways, yes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Not just new jobs. U.S. Homeland Security investigators reported emergency money instead was being spent on fancy extras like plasma TVs, expensive leather furniture, and government SUVs not used for emergencies.

So, the U.S. stopped the free money train. It froze the Samoan preparedness accounts. Governor Togiola Tulafono claims ever since his hands have been tied.

TULAFONO: I say work with us. We're not bad people. We're not crooked people.

GRIFFIN: Since 1995, the U.S. has sent $2 billion to American Samoa -- that, while the U.S. officially describes American Samoa as, quote, "high risk for receiving federal funds."


GRIFFIN: John and Kiran, we're not the only ones wondering where that money went. We now learned that the FBI is investigating why this tsunami warning system was never installed and by the way, why a second system of radios that the governor told us about was supposedly purchased but guess what, that didn't work either. American Samoa is the only U.S. territory or island not considered tsunami ready despite having millions of dollars in homeland security money for that single purpose -- John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: And where you look, when you look, Drew, where it sits, just a few miles away from the fault line you would think that it would be urgently necessary to have a tsunami warning system in that area for that island.

GRIFFIN: Yes. Homeland security in American Samoa is only four natural disasters. We're not talking about terrorist strikes here. We're talking about big waves and earthquakes. They weren't prepared. And the way the topography is, you guys, I mean, you just have a little bit of warning and you run up the hill. That's the warning they needed. And I can't believe anybody would have died had that warning system been in place.

CHETRY: And meanwhile, as we said, 34 lives were lost because of it. Drew Griffin for us this morning. Thanks. Still ahead, Christine Romans is going to be joining us. She's "minding your business." Look at how reliable U.S. cars are. Major improvements have been over the past few years, so they're put to the test. 16 and a half minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Happy song this morning potentially for some happy news as well. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business." She joins us now with studies about the reliability of American-made cars.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's why this from consumer reports, a really fascinating annual survey about reliability and of course, there is Toyota and Honda at the very top of this list but what might surprise you is that Ford did a pretty good job on this reliability list. Remember when all of this hew and cry over what was happening with American automakers. People kept saying why don't they make cars Americans like that are good and that they want to drive. Well, according to this, Ford is making us some cars that are standing up pretty well with reliability. 90% of Ford products earned average or better than average reliability ratings, the Fusion and the Milan scored high on this list. Also some new GM models scored pretty well. But Chrysler, a third of the Chrysler models were below average according to consumer reports. The Asian cars still dominate the list, here. I mean, they are just, they are on the charts overall. But, this shows that Ford, among the most reliable. It's interesting, too, because Ford is the American automaker that didn't have to take taxpayer bailouts. And as we were going through the whole bailout process of the American carmakers, people kept saying what are we bailing out, what is the future of this industry. Well, according to consumer reports, Ford, some of these new GM models are shining on this list.

CHETRY: Is the Town and Country on the list?

ROMANS: I didn't see the Town and Country. I'm going to go find the Town and Country. Kiran's ride.

CHETRY: Thank you. What's your new report this hour?

ROMANS: It's 71 percent, and this has to do with the Americans' brand loyalty.

CHETRY: 71 percent stick with the same car company from the first car on?

ROMANS: Yes, probably. No. I mean, personally in my family...

ROBERTS: It's an intriguing guess.

ROMANS: In my family that's what we do. Seventy-one percent, folks, this is according to Kelly blue book, this is the percentage of shoppers who say they prefer to buy American. Whether they do or not is another story. But 71 percent of car shoppers, they prefer to buy American. So what that would suggest to me is if the American car companies can make reliable cars, good fuel efficiency, the kinds of things people want to drive, and these consumers say they want to buy them. CHETRY: We'll have no problems if that was the case.

ROBERTS: I'm in the market for a car. I currently don't have a car, first time since I was 16 years old.

ROMANS: Really?


ROMANS: What are you looking for, John?

ROBERTS: I'm not sure.

ROMANS: Let me get you the consumer reports and I can help you out.

ROBERTS: It's either that or, you know, we can take some offers here from car companies, bring some by and we can drive them around.

ROMANS: Well, these folks at consumer reports, they get to drive these cars.


ROBERTS: I'm looking to go hybrid. Not a small city car, but a hybrid.

ROMANS: Well, there are some Ford Hybrids on this list as well.

ROBERTS: Definitely looking to go greener.

CHETRY: I can get you in one of these tomorrow. Come in my office. Ask my manager. I'll be right back.

ROBERTS: I don't think a minivan is on my list.


ROBERTS: Not that there's anything wrong with them.

CHETRY: Exactly. Christine, thank you. Well, still ahead we're going to be talking about some testimony that a lot of people are going to be listening today in the house subcommittee. They're talking about NFL players head injuries and this alarming study that came out of the university of Michigan showing that former NFL players have rates of Alzheimer's and other related brain injuries and brain conditions at far higher rates than other people in their age group. What are they going to do about it. Is there anything they can do? We're going to be talking about that. 22 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Right now, it's 25 minutes past the hour. Washington could be taking sides in a contentious football fight. The house judiciary committee starts hearings this morning on the impact that hard hits and concussions have on players. A recent University of Michigan study that was commissioned by the NFL showed NFL players have a much higher rate of Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems. In fact, 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30-49. DeMaurice Smith is the executive director of the NFL players association. He joins us from our Washington bureau this morning. Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: So, you're going before the house judiciary committee later today to testify and you're calling for the days of suppressing and ignoring the medical findings to end. Explain that. What do you think has been swept under the rug all these years when it comes to head injuries?

SMITH: Well, it is the question of whether or not we have fully embraced all of the medical studies, all of the researchers' conclusions and all of the data that would tend to show that we can do a better job to help manage this risk to NFL players.

CHETRY: You know, when you talk about that, I mean, you know, just thinking about the game, I mean, all the way from, you know, the small little days of playing pee wee football all the way to the NFL. I mean, hits to the head. You wear a helmet, you try to protect against that but that's a big part of the game. How would the fundamentals of the game have to change if the evidence is such that it is very, very dangerous for the head to take these repeated injuries?

SMITH: Well, first, we have to do a better job of understanding all of the studies. And that's why the players of the national football league formed their own traumatic brain injury committee back in May. So, the first step is to fully understand what goes on on the field. Second, to do a better job of making sure that all of the doctors in the national football league adhere to the same standard of how to clear a player once a concussion has happened. Third, to do a better job of managing that risk on the field. And I do believe that the NFL has done a great job over the last few years, trying to decrease hits to the head, hits to defenseless players. But we've got to do a better job and frankly, the NFL players association has to do a better job, as well. And that's why we formed our own committee.

CHETRY: One of the people that is going to be testifying is the head of the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He's talked about offering free medical follow-ups to some of the 56 players, who reported dementia in that study, that we referred to. Also acknowledging that further research is needed. Are these enough steps going forward?

SMITH: Those are very, very good steps. But the reality is, you mention a university of Michigan study. Frankly, over the last decade there's been hundreds of studies showing a greater link between the early onset of mental illness that could result from on field trauma. So, the first step it seems to me, let's go back and let's find out those studies that are right, the ones that are on point. Let's do a better job of embracing the medical science. Let's bring the national football league, the players of the national football league, into 2009, and then start making decisions on how we can help players who play this game, players who used to play this game, and as you mentioned, players on the college, high school, and youth football level.

CHETRY: There are some who were talking about doctors who have been involved in these studies. And you mentioned there are many studies talking about this say that really the best way and the most efficient way to do this is take the head out of the game, no hits to the head. Is that something that could actually fundamentally change about the way football is played or is that unrealistic?

SMITH: Well, you know, I am the first person to recognize that the people who should be making the decisions and the recommendations are the researchers and the physicians. So, we formed our own committee because we did feel that certain doctors were excluded from the process and excluded from real evaluation. So Dr. Amalo, Dr. Bails, those who have done pioneering work, on the issue of traumatic brain injury, I would rather take their opinion, take their conclusions and try to match how we can keep our players safer based upon their expertise.

CHETRY: But I mean, say is it realistic that you know, hits to the head would be no longer part of football sometime in the future?

SMITH: Well, you know, right now we already have rules that would prohibit spearing or hits to the head for a defenseless player so you can certainly do things to decrease the risk. At the same time, when you look at recent concussions to players like Tim Tebow or even Brian Westbrook, in the game here, those were players who took knees to the head at a time when that wasn't a deliberate source of the contact. So I think doing a better job of protecting a defenseless player, but also doing a much better job of how we evaluate and embrace the studies that we have now relating to multiple concussions and their treatment.

CHETRY: All right, well, as we said, you're going to be testifying today. Many others, former players, I know Tiki Barber as well as others are going to be talking about it as well and sharing their experiences with what it has been like. DeMaurice Smith, NFL players association executive director, thanks for joining us this morning.

SMITH: Thank you very much.

CHETRY: And by the way, you've also written a commentary for us that we're posting on our Web site. It's on our blog, We encourage our viewers to check it out and also weigh in.

Meanwhile, it's crossing the bottom of the hour right now. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the ground in Pakistan. She made an unannounced visit to cool growing hostilities toward the U.S. then her arrival came just as terrorists packed a car bomb, exploded it in a crowded market killing at least 90 people.

ROBERTS: And breaking news just across the border in Afghanistan. Terrorists targeting United Nations workers there. At least six are dead, including one American gunman storming the house that they were staying in.

CHETRY: And two Northwest Airline pilots have been stripped of their commercial licenses by the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilots claimed they used their laptops and got distracted when they overshot their landing by about 150 miles last week.

They also failed to answer radio calls for more than 90 minutes. Investigators say their actions jeopardized the lives of everyone on that flight.

CHETRY: In the make-or-break push on health care, you are hearing a lot about the politics of the public option. But what would it really mean to you? Who's eligible? How much would it cost? What would it cover?

Well, here to answer some of those questions for you is Kenneth Thorpe. He's a professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta. And he has been crunching the numbers for us.

Professor Thorpe, thanks for being with us today. First of all, for folks at home who might not be completely familiar with it, what exactly is the public option and who is eligible?

KENNETH THORPE, ROLLINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, a public option would just be a health plan that's administered by the government. Very much the same way that the Medicare program is administered by the government. As it's currently written you'd be eligible to buy the public option if you're uninsured, self-employed or work for a small business.

So it would be important to understand that if you're offered health insurance today through your employer, like I am through Emory, I would not be eligible to buy the public option.

ROBERTS: So this is not government-run medicine then, right? It's just government-sponsored health care insurance?

THORPE: That's right. It's just government administered. All the clinical decisions that a physician or hospital would make would be made by that physician, the patient and the family, just as it is in the Medicare program. So it really is not government-run in that sense.

ROBERTS: What about these criticisms that we see so often leveled at these public health -- public option plans that there's going to be a bureaucrat that gets between you and your doctor. Any validity to those concerns whatsoever?

THORPE: No. Not at all. Again, I think the best example would be our Medicare program which obviously is wildly popular among seniors. I think most seniors don't even recognize that it is a government sponsored health insurance plan. So those decisions would remain as they are made today, between a physician and a patient. ROBERTS: All right. Well, let's get down to the nuts and bolts of it because you've been kind enough to crunch some of the numbers for us. It's difficult people to grasp exactly what this means because nobody's talking numbers on Capitol Hill. It's just all about politics.

So first of all, let's get into the idea of the cost of the program itself. What the premiums would be. We've laid out a couple of scenarios here. First of all, for a single, 45-year-old, what are we looking at in terms of premiums?

THORPE: Well, today that 45-year-old may be able to buy a health insurance plan like the one that's envisioned in the Senate's health care proposal. The silver plan. The premium would cost about $4400 a year. So that's about what -- you know, that's on average what a 45- year-old would pay. Differ by age.

ROBERTS: And we've also got this split into two different income levels. $20,000 per year in income, $60,000 per year in income. So what about premiums for the $60,000 a year person?

THORPE: Well, yes, that person would have a savings, they would pay if they bought the public option about 10 percent less than a private plan, so they'd save about $440. If you earn $20,000 a year you'd have very substantial savings. You'd only pay about $1250 a year for health insurance, saving well over $3,000.

So that's the whole affordability argument is that if you're low to moderate income, don't have health insurance today, the proposal coming out of the Congress would make health care much less expensive.

ROBERTS: So just to run through the numbers once more as we see them on the graphic there. If you're making -- a single 45-year-old person making $20,000 a year, current premium would be $4400. Under a public plan, that would drop to $1250.

At $60,000 income, the current premium would still be $4400 but that would drop to $3960. So greater savings as the income is reduced there.

Now what about -- that same 45-year-old who's a member of a four- person family, again the two income levels, $20,000 and $60,000. What are we looking at in terms of current premiums and how much money would be saved?

THORPE: Again, for this illustrative plan, a family of four premium would be about $11,080. And what you pay would vary depending on your income. If you earn $20,000 a year you'd be eligible for the Medicaid program which has very little, if any, cost sharing.

So the premiums would be virtually zero there with little cost sharing. But if you earn $60,000 a year, you'd pay about $6,365. Again, a very substantial reduction over today's premiums. A saving of about $4700.

ROBERTS: Somebody e-mailed me yesterday and said well, what about out-of-pocket maximums? We here at CNN are going through our open enrollment season right now. Of course, these are all decisions that we're making. But using a 45-year-old single person, same income levels, $20,000 and $60,000, what would the maximum out-of-pockets per year be?

THORPE: Well, they would be capped based on your income. So, for a single person earning $20,000, the maximum would be $1,915. That's the maximum. Most people would spend substantially less than that. That same single person, $60,000 would be capped at about $5,800. So that includes all deductibles, cost sharing and so on.

ROBERTS: And we've got a calculation here for a 45-year-old with a family of four total out-of-pocket expenses.

THORPE: That's correct. So that family of four that earns $20,000, since they are enrolled in the Medicaid program the cost sharing is low and virtually none. So they'd face very little out-of- pocket. That $60,000 a year family would face a maximum out-of-pocket liability of about $5,800 a year.

ROBERTS: All right, so let's just...

THORPE: So they're both capped.

ROBERTS: Let's just run through the numbers again. So $20,000 a year, if you're single, current out-of-pocket would be $1915. Under a public plan, there would be no out-of-pocket expenses at all. $60,000, currently your out-of-pocket max would be $5800. It would be the same under the public plan.

Now what about benefits? Because people say what would the level of coverage be? Would everything that I enjoy now under a private plan be covered? And a lot of people, of course, don't have insurance at all and they're wondering what would be covered under these plans.

THORPE: Well, that's a good question. The legislation lays out that the usual categories would be covered, in-patient hospital care, physician services, prescription drugs and so on.

There's four different plans envisioned in the legislation. It's sort of an Olympic motif going from bronze all the way to platinum. They differ by how much you'd pay out of pocket. So the least generous plan, the bronze plan, you'd pay about 35 percent of the total costs of the health plan.

The most generous plan you'd pay something around 20 percent of the cost sharing. So it varies by how much you pay out-of-pocket. But the benefits would be pretty typical of what a private health insurance package would have today.

ROBERTS: Ken Thorpe, it's so good of you to come in this morning and really explain that for us. I think we've given people a lot of information that they can use to help sort of decide whether or not a public plan is the right way to go. Really appreciate your time.

THORPE: Well, thank you. My pleasure. Thanks. CHETRY: Well, still ahead, Gerri Willis is going to join us. She's been doing a series over the past week, just about how credit card companies are nickel and diming you to death in some cases. New fees, added fees. What happened to the regulations that are supposed to take effect down the road? What about what you get in the mail right now saying hey, your interest rate is going up.

Gerri Willis offers some advice. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Forty-one minutes past the hour. You know, it's hard to get credit or do anything with a credit card or bank account but the cost of those products, what you pay in fees, may be a little bit more than you bargained for.

ROBERTS: Our Gerri Willis is kicking off our new series called "Nickeled and Dimed" this morning and she's here.

Hi, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, good morning. Good to see you, guys.

You know some of the most frustrating fees out there are the ones charged by your bank. We talked to one man charged a fee for a service he didn't even ask for.


WILLIS (voice-over): Harold Abrams is furious at his bank.

HAROLD ABRAMS, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I was furious that they're charging me $35 for an expense that's $1.65. I mean, it's really -- it's crazy.

WILLIS: Bank of America charged Abrams a total of $105 in overdraft protection fees to cover three charges to his checking account totaling less than 15 bucks. Abrams would rather his transactions be declined than pay the tab he didn't even know existed.

(On camera): What's the $8.40 for?

ABRAMS: Stamps. Postage.

WILLIS: And again the $35 fee. Add it all up it's $105.


WILLIS (voice-over): According to an annual survey of bank fees conducted by, most consumer banking fees are on the rise.

GREG MCBRIDE, BANKRATE.COM: Fees have gone up year in, year out over the past decade. Now some of those fees go up at a faster pace than others. ATM surcharges in particular increase at a rate that's far faster than the pace of inflation.

WILLIS (on camera): Use an ATM on your own bank's network, no problem, no fees. But step outside that network you're going to pay fees big time. An average of $2.22, that's an increase of 12.6 percent over last year.

And guess what? It gets worse. Your bank charges you fees, too, for a total fee of $3.54 for accessing your own money.

(Voice-over): If you have an interest bearing account and fail to keep your high minimum balance, the average monthly fee jumped 5 percent to $12.25. And overdraft fees were up last year, too. Fees for bouncing a check rose 2 percent.

Bank of America told CNN, it's changed its overdraft policies just this month. No longer will it charge overdraft fees when a customer's account is overdrawn for a total amount of less than $10 and the bank won't impose more than four overdraft fees in a single day.

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor who chairs Congress' TARP oversight committee says fees are the real way banks make their money.

ELIZABETH WARREN, CONGRESS TARP OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: The truth is there'll be another fee tomorrow and a different one the day after that. And another one the day after that. Because they are all hidden, you can't find them. The first time most people discover them is when they have to pay them.

WILLIS: Abrams complained to the bank twice before going to the top and writing a letter to the then CEO Ken Lewis. And that made the difference. His fees were removed but the frustration remains.

ABRAMS: I really think it's unfair especially coming from -- in light of what's going on with banks now, and they are being bailed out by the government. I think they have some kind of responsibility to consumers.


WILLIS: All right, so it's not just fees for banking services that you have to worry about. Credit card operators boosted interest rates 20 percent in the first half of the year, that's according to a study of the nation's biggest credit card issuers conducted by the Pew Charitable Foundation.

That study released today. It just shows scary stuff about what they're doing to us now.

CHETRY: Yes, and you also pointed out, though, that this is all going to be changing under new regulations but we're seeing some of the credit card companies trying to get ahead of that.

WILLIS: That's exactly right. What they're trying to do is put in place changes that they want to have when that law goes into effect because then they're going to have to start telling people ahead of time when they're changing interest rates. So they're going to make sure they're going to do it before the law changes.

CHETRY: Get you coming and going, that's what my grandmother used to say.

WILLIS: She was right.

CHETRY: Gerri Willis...

ROBERTS: I think, didn't Jim Carrey have a better way of putting it in the film "Liar Liar?" When he got his car to the impound?

CHETRY: You can't say it on national TV.

WILLIS: You'll have to tell me.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you off camera.

WILLIS: During the break.

CHETRY: He'll whisper it to you.

ROBERTS: For those of you at home, Google it.

CHETRY: Anyway, don't miss tomorrow because Gerri is going to be back. She's talking about finding out if your fees are draining your retirement fund. You may be surprised to see what your 401(k) is being nickeled and dimed for. And that's tomorrow. Thanks, Gerri.

ROBERTS: World Series is supposed to start tonight. The first pitch scheduled for 7:57. But will the game be played? We've got some pretty rotten weather here in New York City.

And what about the tickets for that game? How much are they going to go for? Ticket prices actually are on the way down because of the weather problems. We'll take a look at all of that.

Forty-five and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: You might be in an "Empire State of Mind" today, if you're thinking of going to the World Series. But will the weather cooperate? Right now looking out in Columbus Circle, got rain and 53; later on today, rain and 58.

Welcome back to the MOST NEWS IN THE MORNING. The Yankees and the Phillies are about to get world serious.

Game one of the fall classic tonight at Yankee Stadium; first pitch scheduled for 7:57 Eastern time. The Yank's trying to take the title for the 27th time in their history. The defending champion Phillies are trying to become the first national league team since the big red machine back 1976 to repeat as World Series champs.

CHETRY: So a lot riding for both teams on this game. It's going to be exciting. Hopefully though, it won't get rained out. There is rain in tonight's forecast. Ticket prices are falling because of it. Ticket brokers are reporting that prices for game one have dropped from about $330 to $270 for the cheapest seats and they are expected to go even lower about $200 by game time.

There seems to be more demand for the weekend games in Philadelphia, that's where the ticket in the games -- games range from $400 to $1,000 on that ticket site stub hub.

And our Rob Marciano watching this not only as a Yankee fan but a meteorologist, so it's a double-edged sword for you there. Do you think -- do you think they are going to be able to get this game going tonight? 7:57.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, with all of the money on the line, yes, I think they would certainly do that. Those prices don't seem too bad, you know.

CHETRY: No, they say in fact, though, it could be a little embarrassing for the Yankees if they aren't selling out in terms of the business side of the organization. I feel like -- go ahead...

MARCIANO: As much as I love the Yankees for as much as they were charging when they put that new stadium up, they kind of deserve that. I mean, the most embarrassing part about being a Yankee fan was how much they charged for those seats in the new stadium.

All right, let's hit it out at the park for this afternoon or tonight, Phillies and the Yanks; cloudy, drizzle, winds northeasterly. It will be cool. That's for sure. But I think most of the heavier rain will be gone by then.

As far as what else is going on around the country, we've got a pretty big storm out west. This thing has dumped a lot of snow and also a fair amount of wind. Check out some of this wind coming out of central California. Winds gust between 40 and 50 miles an hour in the valleys, at higher elevations over 70 miles an hour.

And that caused some travel problems, dust storms just about everywhere and not only across central and southern California but parts of Arizona as well.

Meanwhile, watch out to Utah into the Colorado and Wyoming Rockies, 12 to 36 inches of snow late October, that's unreal and Denver proper may very well see some of that. And they'll see some delays already at LaGuardia because of the rain; an hour and 25-minute delays. So if you're flying in to try to scoop up some of those cheap tickets for tonight, just be patient. The rains will be eventually moving out later today.

John and Kiran back up to you.

ROBERTS: All right, Rob, it would be nice if they can get that game played. Kareen Wynter is taking a look at the new Michael Jackson film "This Is It" that opens across the country, around the world as a matter of fact today. What are fans saying about it? Certainly the critics are mixed. But maybe fans have got a little bit more of, I guess, impressive thought about it. We'll check it out.

Nine minutes now to the top of the hour.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Michael Jackson fans must be thrilled because the pop star's documentary "This Is It" premieres worldwide today. It includes hours of never before scene rehearsal footage of Jackson in action.

Fans in L.A. got a sneak peak last night. Our Kareen Wynter was there and she takes us to the Red Carpet.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, "This Is It," the night Michael Jackson fans have been waiting for. We're at the world premiere of the singer's documentary "This Is It" that drew thousands.

When the king of pop died suddenly June 25th countless variables were thrown into question including what to do with more than 50 hours of rehearsal footage shot for his sold out London concert dates.

And all out bidding war resulted with Sony Pictures Entertainment paying a whopping $60 million for the right to turn the video into Michael Jackson's "This Is It," a behind-the-scenes documentary style film of the singer's last days on stage.

What does tonight mean to you being here?

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER: Tonight means everything, the whole tragic thing, just a big build-up but this was going to show the humane side to him and to show people what he was prepared to do.

PAULA ABDUL, SINTER: It's an important movie to see because even though Michael would never want anyone to see him like halfway rehearsed, but he gave full out even during rehearsal.

KENNY ORTEGA, DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER: Absolutely no body doubles and it's all Michael and it's unguarded and raw and real and he's beautiful.

WYNTER: From director Kenny Ortega, the Jackson brothers, those closest to the late superstar were all on hand for this historic event. My producer and I also snagged tickets. We're about to go in to check out the film.

Immediately following the packed screening crowds of Jackson fans, friends and family made their way to the after party. MICHAEL BEARDEN, MUSICIAN, PRODUCER: Michael really would have loved the response that the audience gave. They laughed in places I didn't think they were going to laugh. They cried and they applauded. It was wonderful.

JACKSON: It's kind of hard for me at times but that's why I keep this with me at all times.

WYNTER: Tell me what that is.

JACKSON: A token of my brother. I keep it in my pocket at all times; MJ right here.

WYNTER: And despite the rave reviews the film received some criticism including some family members concerned about whether this is something Michael would have wanted the world to see, him doing a dry run, but for one night at least none of that seemed to matter -- John, Kiran.


CHETRY: Kareen Wynter for us this morning. Thanks so much.

Right now, it's 57 minutes past the hour. We'll be right back.


ROBERTS: Continue the conversation on today's stories, go to our blog at Leave your comments on anything that strikes you.

CHETRY: Yes and thanks for joining us today. We'll see you right back here tomorrow.

Meantime the news continues, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins. Good morning, Heidi.