Breaking down ObamaCare's problems

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 18, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, HOST: The headlines are all over the place about ObamaCare, the health care insurance exchange rollout. And it's now beyond just the rollout itself. It is the data being collected. Insurance companies are saying for the few people who managed to sign up, they are finding a lot of errors and a lot of problems in that data.

Let's bring in our panel, Fox News's media analyst Howard Kurtz, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Howie, you lock at the coverage of this, and now it's across the board. You may see the end of this standoff about the budget, but headlines all over the place are saying ObamaCare.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA ANALYST: They media spotlight is now shining very brightly on what it would have been shining on all along, Bret, had it not been for the 16-day government shutdown. And I think we need to ban the g-word. These are not glitches. The first couple of days, maybe. This is a full out debacle when you have got Robert Gibbs, the president's former spokesman, showing his independence on MSNBC and saying people ought to be fired over this, that was another chip you didn't show. It shows the depth of the problem.

I still think the administration could fix this in a couple of months and enough people could sign up to make the program a success, but it is in a deep hole right now.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Yes. I think there is just no getting away from the problems that they've encountered, and it's a surprise to me that the problems have persisted. Initially you think there are going to be bumps, anything's going to have bumps. But the idea that it has gone on for this long it seems to me is very bad news for the rollout.

Let me just say this, this is a matter of the technology failing, and I think from what I understand they got all the platforms and they don't have the latest on this.

KURTZ: This is also a management failure.

WILLIAMS: No, in part, to be fair to the Obama administration and to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Republicans have not provided the moneys that they asked for in terms of the rollout.

BAIER: Wait a second, Juan.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They spent half-a-billion dollars. If that isn't enough -- three times what was spent on the developing of the iPad, three times. It's not enough?

WILLIAMS: If you have Sebelius here, Sebelius would tell you they asked for specific dollars in order to make this thing work.

BAIER: Juan, the iPhone was rolled out with $40 million. They have spent about a half-billion dollars rolling out insurance exchange websites that don't work.

WILLIAMS: The exchange website don't work. The exchange, the idea, the policy so far, in the 16 states where the states are cooperating where they don't have Republican governors who are just opposed, we had a different outcome.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: We've had a lot of attempts at this kind of stuff. Here is the government attempting to take over 18 percent of the economy. The Soviets attempted it in a lot of areas like steel, construction, and concrete, and drove an economy of a country into a ditch from which it never recovered.

When you do a five-year plan, when you run something this large out of the government, it has no chance of succeeding, and we are seeing the worst possible example of it. The irony here, this isn't, Juan, just a continuation of the glitches, quote-unquote. This is a new kind of issue.  This is an issue of getting the wrong information. If you are coding the wrong information so people are going to show up at the wrong hospital, they are going to lose coverage, you're going to have payment go the wrong way, people listed as their spouses or husband and children, when you have a system corrupted, that cannot work at all even if you fix the glitches.

And the irony is only saving element is that other part of it, signing in is impossible is what is saving the administration because now the individual errors of correctable with a phone call and a manual intervention. That's the only reason to correct some of the mistakes. Had this been automated successful and bringing in all those people, it would be beyond the recall now and the system would be completely unusable.

BAIER: I want to read an e-mail just received from somebody in the industry. I want to put up health care stuff as I read here. "One, the federal government had over three years to develop a website. The federal government spent over a quarter billion dollars to develop the website.  The federal government has known for many months that there were going to be problems with the functionality of the site. Despite all of the time and money, the site does not work.

The original excuse from the Obama administration is that too many people were trying to get on the site. The problem however is that during the second week of the site being live, traffic to get on the site fell by 88 percent. The too much traffic excuse no longer works."

He then goes on to detail state by state how many people are signing up, including just five in Wisconsin, one in Delaware, and five in Iowa.  "According to the original plan for the website, the first month after the rollout was expected to bring in one third of the sales of policies. There is not even enough folks to call it a trickle. There has essentially been no meaningful response to the site going live."

At what point, you had Nancy Pelosi saying, listen, if this doesn't work by December, it's still OK to roll it out in January. At what point does that become a non-starter?

KURTZ: If we are in the Christmas season, and we again may be looking at a possible government shutdown if the two sides can't agree on a budget, and the problems are anything approaching what they are now with this website and the sign up process, I think it's fair to say the success of ObamaCare and the continued rollout and requiring people to have that experience will be in peril.

And what's really corrosive about this, Bret, is there a lot of people in Washington and in this administration who believe that government can work. This unfortunately is a shining example of government not working very well.

BAIER: Is it possible that a one-year delay comes not from Congress, but from this administration?

WILLIAMS: You could have delays. I think by the way that the system so far has failed. I don't think there is any dispute about that. But the idea that it therefore indicates that there is an overall failure or, as Charles suggested, government can't handle major operations like Social Security, Medicare --

BAIER: Three years to develop.

WILLIAMS: I don't know how many years they had. It passed for three years. They had enough time, but they were facing opposition and they didn't want to slow things down because they didn't want to play into the hands of their opponents.

BAIER: It was political is what you're saying.

WILLIAMS: Of course.      

BAIER: Why not delay it until it works?

WILLIAMS: Well, no, they wanted to get it out and get it going and see what they had. But it has not worked. I don't think there is any doubt about that.

KRAUTHAMMER: If the system is working as it is now at the turn of the year, you have to have a postponement, because how can you impose a fine on individuals for not signing up to a system on which it's impossible to sign up? It's so absurd it's Orwellian.

So I think if it persists obviously it will have to come from the administration, which I think it retrospect highlights how reckless and unwise was the attempt to do it in legislation when it was going to happen on its own without any of the noise around it.

BAIER: When we go back to the months before this and you hear Democrats, Senator Max Baucus saying this looks like a train wreck, there will be a history lesson after all of this.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's built in its design and ambition. If the government wants to disrupt and recreate 18 percent of the economy, which is a very complicated ecosystem to doctors and hospitals and patients and plans and tradition and all of that, and issue thousands of pages of regulations rewriting everything, it cannot possibly succeed.  And that's what we're seeing happening.

WILLIAMS: This is about Social Security and Medicare. The Baucus thing, Baucus was complaining that they didn't have enough money to properly advertise and explain this complicated program.

BAIER: I'm telling you, Juan, if you had all the advertising money in the world, the website still would not work.

WILLIAMS: That's the failure, not the policy.

KURTZ: It would be ironic if technological failure accomplished what Ted Cruz could not.

BAIER: Exactly.

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