OTR Interviews

Dissecting the untruths in President Obama's ObamaCare 'apology'

Former Bush senior advisor Karl Rove sizes up President Obama's 'apology' to Americans who have lost their insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act and how the debacle could impact the rest of his term


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 8, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, don't worry, folks. If you like your apology, you can keep it. But apparently, not everyone is convinced.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you like the plan you have -- you'll be able to keep your doctor.

You should be able to keep your health care.

You won't have to do a thing.

If you like your doctor, you'll keep your doctor.

You can keep your health care plan.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He's not apologizing for what he said, folks.

OBAMA: It's a small percentage of folks that may be disadvantaged. I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.

PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: He's not apologizing to the nation, which was systematically and deliberately misled.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: He fundamentally misled the American people.

LIMBAUGH: So he goes out and now compounds the original lie with a fake apology.

BUCHANAN: I think it's unsatisfactory entirely.

REP. MIKE LEE, R-UTAH: I think it's refreshing that the president is acknowledging that this is a problem.

It's also refreshing to hear the president say he's going to do everything he can to take care of this problem.

OBAMA: We're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Options for solutions is something that's under discussion, but there is no specific option right now.

OBAMA: We didn't do enough -- good enough job, and I regret that.

SEBELIUS: Do I wish things had operated totally smoothly on October 1st? You bet.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: We are now more than 30 days into one of the greatest website disasters in history.

SEBELIUS: Was October a bad month? You bet.

OBAMA: I want to go in and fix it myself, but I don't write code.

You know, Kathleen Sebelius doesn't write code.

Ultimately, the buck stops with me.


VAN SUSTEREN: Karl Rove joins us.

Nice to see you, Karl.


VAN SUSTEREN: It's pretty fair to say the president, the administration, is on the ropes, certainly on the website, and a good start is a good apology. A lot of Republicans are unconvinced, as Rush Limbaugh isn't convinced.

ROVE: It wasn't a good apology. You do not apologize for a lie by telling another lie.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is what? What's the other lie?

ROVE: First of all, I meant what I said. Oh, really? You meant what you said, if you can keep -- if you like your plan, you can keep it? And we worked hard to try and make sure that we implemented it properly, but obviously, we didn't do enough -- a good enough job, and I regret that.

The Affordable Care Act was designed in a way that meant that people were going to lose their coverage. In December of 2009, the Congressional Budget Office estimated between seven million and eight million people would lose their coverage in a public letter sent to the majority leader of the United States Senate, Harry Reid. And should be, in March 2010, in a letter sent by the CBO to Nancy Pelosi, updating their estimate, they repeated that they thought that a minimum of seven million to eight million would lose their coverage. That was, again, a public letter. In April, the Health and Human Services Department said, no, no, no, it will be 14 million. There have been a whole series of report since then that have said, no, no. The estimate from the Luan Group (ph) was 17 million, from the American Action Network, 35 million, from the National Center for Policy Analysis, 100 million. Why? Because the law is designed in a way that says, if you have a policy that does not meet higher standards, more benefits, and these exacting requirements, it has to be canceled.

Now, look, this has been a part of the law. And the president knew it was a part of the law. We worked hard to try and -- try to make sure we implemented it properly. The law called for these plans to be outlawed and canceled. And so, the president is sitting here now saying, well, I'm sorry it was an unintended consequence. Was he so out of the loop that he didn't understand this was a consequence of requiring expanded benefits, guaranteed issue, a thing called community rating, a thing called medical loss? Was he out -- was he so out of it he didn't understand it? Was he not reading the documents that his own staff was receiving from the CBO that were mimicked, incidentally, by his own OMB? Did he not understand when the actuary at HHS said, no, these estimates are way too low, it will be at least 14 million? He implemented it as it was required to be implemented.

Now, the other thing in this apology, he said, oh, it's just a tiny -- what is it he said? A small percentage --

VAN SUSTEREN: 5 percent.

ROVE: 5 percent.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's 5 percent of 320 million people?

ROVE: No, no, no. No, it's 5 percent of policies. Let's take a look, though. Here are the numbers. 153 million people in America have employer-provided coverage through a group -- through a group plan. About 15 million policies are in the individual market. These cover all -- all of these cover multiple people. If you got coverage at work, it generally provides coverage for your family. So that's 168 million private insurance policies, roughly. Now, 90 million of them are not subject to ObamaCare. This may surprise you. A self-funded insurance plan, which is roughly 62 percent of the group market and growing -- that number is growing -- those people are not covered by ObamaCare. So they're not subject to medical loss ratio, all of the things that drive up the cost of the premiums. That's why the Obama administration is going to be worried about these people.

But that leaves about 78 million people who are in a group plan that is subject to ObamaCare -- it's not a self-funded plan -- or in the individual market. So 15 million people are going to lose their coverage. That's 20 percent of the people in the private insurance market who are -- those are 20 percent of the policies in the private insurance market that are subject to ObamaCare. American Action Network economist said it will be roughly 35 million or 45 percent of the policies that are in the -- that are subject to ObamaCare.

So, look, this is a bunch of people who got coverage today who will lose their coverage, or have already lost their coverage because the design of the law makes policies that they now have nonconforming and, therefore, policies that have to be canceled when they come up for renewal.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't have much sympathy for the Democrats who are complaining about members of the Senate, who met secretly at the White House on Wednesday, because, you know, no one bothered to look at -- and they thought people were critical of ObamaCare, that you hated sick people, or you hated people you didn't have insurance. It was never that you thought that ObamaCare wouldn't work in its execution, or that it was unfair and unjust.

ROVE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: It was never a consideration. You're just a bad person if you thought the program didn't work.

ROVE: Yeah. In fact, you wanted Americans to be sick. You wanted -- you didn't want people to have coverage.

Now remember, we had, before ObamaCare, according to the estimate, roughly about 45 million people in the United States who didn't have insurance coverage. Now, this is supposed to be universal coverage, and it's supposed to cover everybody. But at the end of it, they admit there will be 30 million people who lack insurance coverage in the United States. So we're discombobulating between one out of every five people with a policy subject to ObamaCare to close to one out of every two. At the end of the whole process --

VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to have all these people --

ROVE: -- we'll have all of the people not covered.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Here's what I understand, that both Secretary Sebelius and President Obama said they'll look into options. They'll do whatever they can. Very vague, nonspecific. But even if I'm trying to think, like, what could they possibly do, if people have lost insurance policies because they've been discontinued by insurance companies, there is no executive order, there's no law you can pass to tell the insurance companies, oh, go resurrect these policies and bring them back and give them to -- what in -- what possible executive order, what possibly could President Obama do now to --


ROVE: Yeah, look, there's a tension between "if you like your policy you can keep it" and the Affordable Care Act. Because if you like what you've got, and it doesn't have the essential benefits provision -- that is to say, you're a single male, 30 years old, you have to have maternity coverage. You're a person of any age, you have to have mental health coverage, et cetera. If you don't have the provisions, which are all driving up costs, then your policy's canceled. If it isn't set up in such way that it's set for community rating -- that's where younger workers pay a higher premium than they should in order to subsidize the coverage of older people -- if you don't have the provisions in it, it has to be canceled.

So the only way that they're going to be able to allow people, if they like what they got, to keep it, is to get rid of the four provisions -- medical loss ratio, community rating, guaranteed issue and essential benefits -- that they say are critical to any new policy.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Here's what the president said yesterday in an interview. He says, "Keep in mind that most of the folks who are going to get these cancellation letters, they will be able to get better care at the same costs or cheaper in these marketplaces because they'll have more choice." The problem with the choice is, if you live in rural Georgia or some place else, even if you get on these exchanges, there really aren't choices. That's the -- you know -- it's a fantasy.

ROVE: Look, this is another untruth. It's another untruth. The whole principle behind the Affordable Care Act is that we have upward pressure on prices in the health market, because we got too many choices. So we got to make everything look alike and we've got to slim up the number of providers that you can get -- you have access in these plans to fewer doctors and fewer providers. So he simply is not telling the truth when he says things like that.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what really bothers me? We've had health problems in my family this year, and more than anything else, I have seen what people have gone through. We're lucky. We had the best health insurance, I think. But it's really upsetting, because I really want people to be taken care of and have access to the medicine. When you put a junk law that can't work in its execution, that's going to create greater upheaval, that you actually do more harm -- you do more harm, because now what are we going to do?

ROVE: Now, here's the problem for the administration. What they're saying is in direct conflict with what people are feeling in their lives. I suspect you're like me. Every day -- today, one of my interns came to me, and said, my family has had their policy canceled. Father has health issues, their policy is canceled, and they're worried about -- they've got a plan, a new plan. They can replace it with a policy, 30 percent more in premiums. But they're also concerned, will they have access to the same set of doctors and the same network of providers that they have.

VAN SUSTEREN: We had a doctor on the other night, who was in the Emblem network, and 950 patients got -- he got removed from Emblem, so 950 patients had to find another doctor. We did the segment and, all of a sudden, Emblem called the next day, we'll put you back on the network, and so they got their doctors back. But all of the people were going to lose the cardiologist, and these were not Medicare patients.

ROVE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: They've got no place to go.

ROVE: This is why the administration is in deep doo-doo as we say. They're arguing against --


VAN SUSTEREN: We're more graphic where I grew up, but go ahead.

ROVE: Yeah, well, I was quoting George H.W. Bush. They're arguing where the reality people are feeling in the lives. I don't know if the president is disconnected from this or just he doesn't understand this law or is telling another untruth. I frankly think he knows --

VAN SUSTEREN: Just say untruth. I think that --


ROVE: I think he knows the things aren't true and he keeps saying them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, nice to see you.

ROVE: Great to see you, Greta.