All-Star Panel: Breaking down the numbers on ObamaCare

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 13, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R - WY: For every one person who has selected an ObamaCare plan either from the state or the federal exchanges, 40 people have received cancellation notices. This isn't what the president repeatedly promised, and it's not what the American people deserve.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We continue to believe that with the progress we are making that we are on track to meet the goal for the website to be functioning smoothly for the vast majority of users. And I can tell you right now that as of today we are on track.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: On track, but the ObamaCare enrollment numbers dismal, according to Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill. Here they are, the official numbers. Of the 106,185 in the 36 federal exchanges, the 36 states where the federal government is running the exchanges, 26,974 enrolled. That's far less -- far fewer than expected. In the 14 state exchanges, 79,391 enrolled. And the goal as you see on the bottom there is seven million enrolled by March, 2014.

President Obama's handling of health care, the new Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll, you have here the approval 36 percent, disapprove 61 percent, changing from October. And level of confidence in President Obama's leadership, and there you see the breakdown, not at all now at 42 percent.

Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at large editor of National Review online, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist George Will. George, we have a lot of numbers to digest here. They told me there would be no math, but your thoughts on this day.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The mathematics of small numbers as far as the enrollment is concerned. Well, it's not working. The exchanges themselves and the website aren't working and neither is the explanation of both failures. The problem is we have no experience rolling out things like this, at least for about 200 years of our history. When we rolled out, if that's what you want to call it, Social Security, it was a simple thing. Reach a certain age, we'll mail you a check. They know how to write checks, they know how to mail them out. This is a complicated system in which when you change something, something else changes, and all the whole structure of incentives goes sideways.

I think the blazing insight I've had from this is that there's no need to repeal ObamaCare. If you pass a bill that the Republicans I think are going to want to pass saying if you can buy insurance policy x before the 1st of October you can still buy it and if you were selling it before then, you can still sell it, that's all you need to do. After that ObamaCare disappears.

BAIER: Juan, there's a few hearings up on Capitol Hill today. One of them dealt with the website and the web team that's working on this website. You can see Farenthold -- Congressman Farenthold asking about the timeline here. Take a listen.


REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD, R - TX: You've got to tell us when it's going to be in good shape. Can you give us a shape? Is the end of the month realistic?

TODD PARK, U.S. CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: The team is working really hard to hit that goal and that's what I'm able to say right now, sir.

FARENTHOLD: So to me that -- as a former web developer, that's what I was telling clients when we were going to miss a deadline. We're working real hard to meet it.


BAIER: Juan, there wasn't exuding confidence today up on Capitol Hill that November 30th is going to happen. Now the phrase is a vast majority of the people logging on will be able to use it.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Correct. And I think what we've seen from newspaper reports is that internally, they have lost a certain degree of confidence that the November 30 is a hard date in which everybody will say it's functioning, so in that sense it will again feed the critics who are looking for any ammunition available to say this thing isn't working.

I mean, the fact is that I think today they had a report out in the papers I saw about more Americans are going to be given statin drugs to prevent heart attack and stroke. I think they could just send a big load to Democrats these days, because I think people are very much concerned about the failures of the website. Now, having said that, let me just say that these numbers that you're pointing to here on the show tonight, these are numbers for a broken web system. So people can't register in the way that they'd like. And I think what you're hearing from the supporters and from the White House is, you know, the fact that a number of people are interested is evidence of a hunger for a fix to the status quo health care system in America, and secondly, that if you look at the Massachusetts rollout, the Massachusetts rollout was just as meager.

BAIER: This is not about a website, this poll question, number two. President Obama telling Americans they could keep their health care plans, he knowingly lied? 50 percent of those polled in the Fox poll, 40 percent he didn't know.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, we know he knew. Eric Cantor is touting this clip of video from the White House meeting where Obama says flat out, seven or eight million people will have to lose their insurance. They knew. The White House aides, according to the Wall Street Journal, debated whether he could say this and were overruled by the political people who said he had to say it to help sell the thing. The New York Times, which has been in delicious agony trying to figure out how to characterize what were in effect blatant lies by the president --

BAIER: Let me pause there. The New York Times quote today, "The split between lawmakers and the White House reflects the dilemma the president finds himself in as he seeks to follow through on last week's acknowledgment about his incorrect promise on health care coverage of the coverage. Hundreds of thousands of people have received cancellation notices."

GOLDBERG: Well, incorrect promise, it gets closer to the truth, which is simply that they lied. And this is the thing that everyone in Washington is having a very difficult time getting around is that the cancellation of the private insurance policies that we're witnessing is not a glitch of ObamaCare. It is a feature. It is not a bug, it's a feature.  It was designed to do this. And when the president says, or when Bill Clinton says the White House could have been more clear, it makes it sound as if they were a little clear about the truth when in reality they were very clear about a lie, which is a very different thing.

BAIER: George?

WILL: Wendell Goler said earlier in the program, that the White House is working on measures to enable people to afford plans that are more expensive than they counted on. Well, in sixth grade I learned that the legislative branch makes the laws. If that is a change in the law, the administration is hostage to a Congress which is simply not going to cooperate with this.

GOLDBERG: And somewhere there's going to be lawsuits and someone is going to point out that the president is not empowered to write the laws in this country and it's going to go back to the courts.

BAIER: Practically, what can happen here? If you hear Jay Carney saying we are going to very soon, and that sounds like in a day or so, announce the fix that the Obama administration has for these people who have lost insurance and are having a hard time getting it, what can they do short of these pieces of legislation up on Capitol Hill that deal with if you like your plan, you can keep your plan?

WILLIAMS: Well, you have to realize the insurance companies don't want, do not want, President Obama to change this structure, because that would then, I think, as George Will suggested earlier in the evening, cause the entire structure to collapse. The insurance companies are working with the administration, and I think what you'll see is that the insurance companies and the administration then will strike a deal in terms of how to offer subsidy support to people who currently are incurring additional cost by changing the plan.

BAIER: So increased subsidies for the people who have been kicked off. Now, how is that going to fly?

WILL: A, it won't fly. B, increased subsidies is spending. Spending has to come from the legislative branch, particularly in the House. And they're just not going to get that passed. This administration must dread the prospect of going up and asking Congress to fix this.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, because I think what you're seeing is -- I mean it's clear there's a political agenda at play here, and Republicans are trying to prevent this from ever getting any traction. But the idea from the administration's point of view is this is something we can do with the insurance companies.

GOLDBERG: The only reason the White House has to do something this week, it has to announce some fixes that will only delay the problem, but they have to announce something because the House and Senate Democrats are on the verge of a stampede to essentially the Upton or the Landrieu bills, which again, I think George is absolutely right, essentially destroy Medicare -- I mean destroy ObamaCare. And -- but if they don't do that, they're going to see Obama be completely undercut by his own party and they're just going to abandon him.

BAIER: Republicans are sending out e-mails saying who do you agree with, former President Clinton or President Obama?


GOLDBERG: The Democrats' tears are delicious to Republicans at this point. And you can't blame them for enjoying -- it used to be hypothetical that ObamaCare was a disaster. Now it's real. It's out of the platonic  realm of ideals into real life, and Republicans will point it out at every turn.

Bing looks a little different tonight. But we are monitoring all this. We'll still have all the data at the end. We'll continue the conversation about ObamaCare. Jonah teed up the sound bite we'll play next after this. 

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