All-Star Panel: Possible unintended consequences of ObamaCare

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 6, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DOUGLAS HOTLZ-EAKIN, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICER DIRECTOR:  The CBO looked at this issue in August, it said about 4 million. That number is now nearly doubled to 7 million workers who won't get insurance from their employer.

JAY CARNEY, WHIT HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The bottom line here is that no matter where you live, on January 1st, 2014, an insurance marketplace will be up and running and consumers will have more access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: White House spokesman Jay Carney and Republican critic Douglas Holtz-Eakin on the possible unintended consequences of ObamaCare.  And we're back now with the panel. With all the attention over the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office projections, about the debt and the deficit yesterday, we neglected to talk about another big number they had, Mara, and that was the CBO now say under ObamaCare 7 million people will lose their employer based health insurance. Employers will say, it doesn't make sense, we'll take the penalty. You're going to have to go on the public program.  That is up from a projection of 4 million last August. How big a deal is it?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's a big deal. The point is the administration has a gargantuan task ahead of it. It has to get these insurance exchanges up and running in all these states, especially in the majority of the states where there is a Republican governor who has opted not to set up the exchanges themselves. So they have to set up these exchanges, they have to have people operating in all these exchanges to help all of these people, including the millions of people who might be dumped by their employers onto the private individual insurance market to help them find coverage.

And this is very high stakes because the most important thing for the president is he has to prove that this is going to work and that the disruptions are outweighed by the benefits, and people who couldn't get insurance before will be able to get it. But somebody who already had insurance through their employer and no longer has it -- they better be able to sign up pretty quickly and get something that's equivalent or better, or else I think this will be judged harshly.

WALLACE: Charles, I'm going to pick up on that because the real upheaval of ObamaCare doesn't even begin, for all the political upheaval, the operational upheaval of it – for good or ill -- doesn't kick in until next January, the individual mandate, the exchanges, and this precise question. Remember, the president said if you like your policy and you like your doctor, you can keep it. If 7 million workers are being told by their bosses, no we are going to drop you from the company policy, that's a big deal. How big a political issue do you expect the implementation of ObamaCare to be? How it actually works out?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it could be utterly disastrous, and if it is, then I think it will have a huge effect on the presidency, because this is his number one achievement. This is his legacy. If his presidency ended today that is how he'd be remembered, the man who began us on the path of nationalizing health care. And as you say, it all hinges on a fantastically complex intrusion into a health care which is 18 percent of the United States economy. Now when the president said all during his arguments about ObamaCare, that if you like your doctor, you can keep him, that if you like your health care coverage you can keep it, he was technically right. But the fact is, that if you are not being offered it because your company is no longer offering it and is opting to pay a fine because -- as we heard earlier in the program -- it would be cheaper, then in fact, you don't have the choice of having your own health plan or your doctor.  And you said it was an unintended effect, unintended perhaps, but utterly predictable. So it isn't as if any of this is news. And I'm not sure that the president really regrets this. I think his ultimate objective is what he always wanted, nationalize health care like you have in Britain or Canada. But he said you can't get there in one step. And this is a system so complex that ultimately I think the only escape, the only way it can end up is going to be in a nationalized system.

WALLACE: Meanwhile, as if that weren't complicated enough, Steve, governors around the country are trying to decide whether to sign up for the government offer, because the Supreme Court said they couldn't make it a threat and penalty to expand Medicaid to cover even more people at the lower end of the income scale. And the government is offering a 100 percent subsidy. We'll pick up all the costs for the first three years and then 90 percent supposedly and we'll see how long that goes on, but for years to come.

Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett just rejected that, said, I don't want to do it because I don't trust the government. And that 90 percent, what happens if that starts to fall and we have to pick up more of the share?  But six Republican governors including -- and let's put them up on the screen -- John Kasich of Ohio, Jan Brewer of Arizona, and today Rick Snyder of Michigan, say they like the deal and they want to take the federal money and do it as a state expansion. What do you make of that?  

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it's pretty striking to hear some of these Republican governors celebrating the fact that they are getting "free federal money" for joining this program. Look, I think its raw deal. Anybody who believes that it's going to be 90 percent in perpetuity is deluding themselves and I think really putting their taxpayers at risk. You saw the same kind of rejection of these proposals early on in the Obama administration when you had the governors rejected this rail money, this federal money for the rails. Where they said we like the upfront money but we know we're going to be stuck paying the bills down the line. The problem of unfunded mandates has been around for decades. I think that is exactly what this turns in to. And when the federal government looks to reform entitlements, one of the places it's going to look first is Medicaid. And you think that that 90 percent is going to stay 90 percent? It will be dramatically ticked down.

WALLACE: But Mara, let me just pick up on that. Does the fact that quite conservative governors like John Kasich, like Jan Brewer who opposed ObamaCare in the first place are now saying they're willing to sign up for the state Medicaid plan?

LIASSON: I think that is pretty significant. These governors decided what was best for their states. And this was an offer that was designed to be too good to refuse. And in the case of Ohio and Arizona and Nevada it was. And this is the way that they are going to pay for coverage for their low income people. And, you know, I don't think that – I think we'll have to see what happens down the road, but Medicaid is either going to be -- the match would be shrunk or maybe it turns into a block grant to the states, which is what Republicans wanted anybody.

WALLACE: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see what happens when President Obama decides to show that the NBA champion Miami Heat he's still got game.  

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