OTR Interviews

Sen. Rand Paul: ObamaCare 'worse than I ever imagined'

Sen. Rand Paul responds to revelations that emails suggest the White House 'feared' HealthCare.gov wouldn't work a week before launch

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 20, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a FOX News alert. There is new evidence, just days before the launch, people inside the White House feared HealthCare.gov would not work.

FOX News Chief White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is here with the latest -- Ed?

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Greta.

Interesting, these emails coming out tonight, first broken by FOX News. Republican Darrell Issa obtained them from the Health and Human Services Department, some of the contractors involved in HealthCare.gov. What they suggest is that about a week before the October first rollout, there was a meeting in which at least one top White House aide expressed concern. This is an email by Henry Chao, from CMS, saying Todd Park, who was the president's chief technology officer, had sat down with a meeting several people, including the CMS chief, Marilyn Tavenner. You'll remember she testified on Capitol Hill at the beginning.

There's Henry Chao, who testified yesterday. Chao wrote at one point, quote, "When Todd Park, against from the, and Marilyn were here yesterday, one of the things Todd conveyed was his fear that the White House has about hc.gov being unavailable September 30th." He went on to say that it was likely that Todd Park would come back on September 30th, one day before the rollout. Chao wrote, quote, "I think we should have a comprehensive answer as to how he will assure high availability on the site." He also -- that email you saw was another email suggesting that they do something with the page. When people had trouble logging on, they come up with better way saying you can't get on so that the media didn't jump on it with, in the words of Chao, "hyperbole" to make it seem like things were worse.

Here is the bottom line. The president last week at that news conference suggested it was sort of a surprise, these major problems. And that if he had known about this before the October 1st rollout, he said, I'm not stupid, I wouldn't have gone forward. This raises more questions tonight about why they did go forward despite these concerns.

A top White House official a few moments ago told me, look, even before the rollout, they warned that there might be glitches as there are in any rollout of any product, and they also take some heart inside the White House that part of what these officials were worried about, the fear that was referred to there, was high, heavy traffic on the website. They did get that as you know, and they still think that means that there is a lot of interest in this product, ObamaCare. And that they realize they have got to get the website fixed. That's obviously a big if, to get that done. Once they do they believe, in the long run this, law is going to work. But tonight, there is new questions about what they knew and when they knew it -- Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: And I got my information. Obviously, I got this email which -- or this copy of the screen shot attacked to the email that was going on that you sent me, which says that the system is down at the moment. Obviously, they were making emphasis of how bad it was.

But the most shocking thing to me in this whole thing is what they were worried about was not -- they mentioned nothing about the consumers trying to get on the website. Oh, wasn't this horrible what's happened to the American people? What they were worried about was the media ramping up the hyperbole about the government's website not being functional. No mention of the American people getting access.

HENRY: You are right. Now, we should note in fairness that we don't have the other emails. There is undoubtedly more documents likely to come out in the days ahead. We will see if they expressed a fear, as you say, that they should have about how this would affect consumers, obviously. But you are right that part of this email does show how worried they were one week before the rollout about the media jumping on people being unable to get on. If there is one thing they have got right, Greta, is that. They knew that the media would jump on this if it was a failure, and the rollout turned out to be just that -- Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: Ed, so that we are fair to them, you are at the White House. Maybe if they have emails where they show concern about the American people at that time, they can just run them out to you. It's a live shot.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: We will be here for an hour. And you can read them to us if they got all those other emails that show that.

HENRY: We'll ask at the next briefing. You're right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah. Right.

HENRY: We will say, where are the rest of the emails.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ed, thank you.

HENRY: Good to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And moments ago, Senator Rand Paul going ON THE RECORD.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY: Good to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: Shocking news to many tonight, the email from Henry Chao about the rollout. Your thoughts?

PAUL: Well, I thought the president said if he knew anything about this he probably wouldn't have opened up and started the exchanges. It's surprising, startling that a lot of knowledge was that they weren't ready for prime time and yet they went ahead with it anyway.

VAN SUSTEREN: First of all, if I were on any of the committees, I would go back and look at Henry Chao's testimony, see if anything he said under oath conflicted with this email because this email shows, on September 25th, he certainly knew. In fact, actually, what he attached to it was a screen shot of the website. And the screen shot of the website says, "The system is down at the moment." So he knew that.

PAUL: Yeah, we are finding out that -- my staff and myself, we are trying to get on ObamaCare because we have to sign up through the exchanges. We are familiar with the error screen.

VAN SUSTEREN: In looking at Henry Chao's emails -- and he is the CMS tech official -- what struck me is what is not there. In the courtroom, we do something called impeachment by omission, what are you not saying? What he is not saying is absolutely nothing about the American people. What he is saying is he is worried about the media ramping up the hyperbole about HC.gov not functional. So he is worried about what the media would say about them. Not one word about the American people.

PAUL: See, if this were a private business, they would be worried about it being functional, not a media reaction. They would want to make sure it was going to work. And it's really the problem here. We were turning over a sixth of our economy to the government, which doesn't work on profit motive, doesn't have to please the customer. I know this firsthand. I have been a physician for 20 years. I have already been dealing with the health care through government through Medicare and Medicaid, and personally, it's not very friendly. But it's always been the physician that had to deal with an unfriendly government. Now it's every consumer in America. Every individual patient in America has to deal with unfriendly government. I think we are finding they are not going to be too pleased.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, these emails tonight. And last night, President Obama pretty much suggested that the GOP was in the way of fixing these glitches. Are you in the way?

PAUL: Interesting thing is we offered -- before all of this came out we offered him a pass. We offered him a whole year where he didn't have to go through this individual mandate. None of this that he is going through right now would have happened if he would have taken us up on his offer. And our offer really was, during the middle of the shutdown, we were offering a compromise. One year delay of the mandate and he would have avoided a lot of this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where does this leave us now? I mean, you know, I guess it might be particularly appalling to the American people to find out that they care more about the media going after them for a website they knew about wasn't going to work as of October 1. But, what about the American people? Where does this lead us?

PAUL: Well, I don't think it's fixable. I will vote to try to fix it. I will vote to try to help people not have their insurance canceled. Really, it's too late. What have happened is the five million people that have been canceled, even if you say you can go back to your previous policy, the policies don't exist. And the insurance companies have been given a perverse incentive. They are told, you know what, we are going to force your customers to buy more expensive policies. So they are not going to offer the cheaper policies anymore.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you can't fix this and if they are not going to offer the cheap policies and if this is a mess that can't be fixed, is there any way to roll it back to where we were? Are we too far down the track?

PAUL: You could, but the president would have to admit that he has failed and that it is not going to work. He may have to. I never really thought it could be this bad. This is worse than I ever imagined it could be. But it could spiral and get worse. Because, over the next year, if young healthy people don't sign up because it costs too much, then it costs even more. So, if by the end of the year this becomes a high-risk pool and only the sickest people get insurance, and no young healthy people buy it, they have to readjust their prices and they go higher, and there is even more incentive for young people not to buy insurance, which drives the prices even higher.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is sort of interesting. Your home state, actually Kentucky, actually seems to be working well. It's a state exchange. You took a Medicaid expansion, your state did. You have young people signing up in a proportion that at least statistically looked good.

PAUL: Maybe. I mean, still 40 times more people have been canceled than are signing up. 7,000 people have signed up, and 280,000 people have been canceled. Many of them are young and healthy that have been canceled because this is the individual market. So, by far and away, more people have been canceled than have signed up. So, I'm not sure they can really call Kentucky a success.

VAN SUSTEREN: Before we go, one quick question on Detroit. Detroit is a mess but you have an idea?

PAUL: We're excited. We are going to go announce something called Economic Freedom Zones. This is bringing low taxes and less regulations to impoverished areas. We think this is the kind of stimulus that's leaving more of your own money in your own hands that could actually work to help Detroit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir. Nice to see you.

PAUL: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)