All-Star Panel: Critics press WH for answers on ObamaCare rollout issues

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 4, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. 


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Once you get on the phone with a trained representative, it usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual to apply for coverage.

JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Did the president know that the very same problems would be facing consumers when they called on the phone when he said that they could apply in 25 minutes --

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: John, as you know, the answer is yes, as was reported widely at the time. The whole point was to beef up the calling centers to give the American people were looking for information a way to avoid the frustrations they were having online.

KARL: He said you can bypass the website and apply by phone or in person and it can be done in 25 minutes. But these memos say that at the end of the day we are all stuck in the same queue because they all have to go through the same portal.

CARNEY: John, I get it. But the person who calls isn't the one who continues to wait after the paper application is filled.

KARL: You're mocking is entertaining, but the president said you could apply within 25 minutes. That was not true.

CARNEY: The point was to relieve some of the frustration that Americans were understandably experiencing.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The White House briefing room a little tense today. Jonathan Karl with ABC asking those questions. This goes back to a story first reported on ABC from an HHS war room memo released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in which it says, quote, "The paper applications allow people to feel like they are moving forward in the process. At the end of the day, we are all stuck in the same queue." In other words, it has to be put into the website.

We're back with the panel. Julie it's interesting to watch these briefings get more tense as the days goes on.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Who says the White House briefings aren't fun? Come on.


PACE: This is another one of these angles of this story that is I think going to have some legs mostly because you can't get on to the website, so you do have to call over the phone or you do have to fill out a paper application at this point. And there has been this sense that that is a faster, easier way for you to enroll in health care, and if everybody is getting funneled eventually through HealthCare.gov and HealthCare.gov is still having problems, well, then that's simply not happening.

BAIER: Bing, are you surprised the furor over ObamaCare has not passed? No, 94 percent here on the tablet. And then, will ObamaCare the individual mandate be further delayed? 73 percent yes, 27 percent no.  Tucker, your thoughts?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: It's a Potemkin application process. The operator is there to make you feel good but it doesn't expedite your application at all. It goes to the same place the rest of them go, which is into the ether.

To watch Jay Carney to attack John Karl of all people who is really a good reporter and fair and smart person really shows you the depths to which they have sunk. It's just appalling, like it's John Karl fault for asking a totally straightforward and honest question. Carney, 20 years as a reporter, part of him has got to know this is not an adequate response to a straightforward question. But I don't think they have another answer. So it's just another sign of their desperation I would say.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The whole point is that they are trying to make people feel better over a process that doesn't work. It's ultimately not going to make any difference whatsoever if they call and feel like they're making progress when they are in fact not making progress. That's the problem with the entire White House explanation of what's going on for the first five weeks of this process. They can't actually provide progress. They can't say for one day to the next, things are getting better, everybody should feel better about it.

And when Jay Carney goes up and makes a comment or whether it's Dan Pfeiffer on the Sunday shows or the president in a speech and pretends that things are actually improving when people know they are not, again, we have made this point before. This is no longer theoretical to Americans. Everybody has either been on the website or made a call or gotten cancellation letter or knows somebody who has gotten a cancellation letter. So it's not like people have to think about what this might mean in terms of the practical applications to their lives. They see and feel it every day.

BAIER: Julie, Ezekiel Emanuel out this weekend on Sunday shows, on "Fox News Sunday," saying that it's really about the equation here that this all matters.


DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, AFFORDABLE CARE ACT ARCHITECT: There is a potential death spiral if we don't get enough people signed up. But, by the way, it's not in just six months. We have a couple years to get this up and running and working. And my firm belief and everything we know from Massachusetts is that we will get those people.


BAIER: It was just an eye opener to hear of a potential death spiral for one of the architects of ObamaCare.

PACE: This is one of these plans where not only do you need about 7 million people to sign up by March 31st but you need the right mix of people, and that's very tricky. You need to have people who are healthy, who are generally young and haven't felt an incentive and don't necessarily feel an incentive to buy health care. You need get them to sign up.

And these are people who tend to be tech savvy who want to register online. They don't want to fill out a paper application; they don't want to make a phone call. And so if they don't get the right mix of people it's going to make costs go up. And that is actually I think the biggest concern in all of this. Put the website problems aside. Put some of these issues with the president's rhetoric aside. If this plan doesn't have the right mix of people, there are going to be some pretty widespread policy issues.

CARLSON: You are not asking healthy people to buy health care. You are asking healthy people to buy other people's healthcare. That's a key.  It's a matter of people who don't need it subsidizing the health care of those who do. We know exactly where this is going. It's not going to work. So you can either force people at gunpoint to do so -- that's politically unpalatable. Or you can do the obvious thing, which is expand Medicaid and Medicare.

The Virginia governor's race is tomorrow and the person who is leading, Terry McAuliffe, has made this a platform in his campaign, expanding Medicaid in the state of Virginia. And that looks pretty popular. So they are just going to drop the numbers for eligibility, make people who make more money than they do now eligible for Medicaid, drop the retirement number for Medicaid, and those programs will just get bigger.

BAIER: The problem is some doctors aren't taking Medicaid anymore.


HAYES: Some? A lot of doctors.

BAIER: And the whole you can keep your doctor is not working in that scenario.

HAYES: States have the option to opt out of Medicaid expansion. So the idea of just doing that – I think this is where they ultimately end up. I think Tucker is right it's probably a couple of years. But it's a better political argument than the one that you are hearing people like Ezekiel Emanuel make on the Sunday shows where he has to basically embrace this paternalism where he says, in effect, you don't know what's best, we know what's best.  That's why you have to do it.

BAIER: Something tells me this won't be the last panel on this topic, but I'm just guessing. Stay tuned for clarification from the White House on ObamaCare and what is really for keeps. Plus the SR Bing Pulse highlights. 

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