All-Star Panel: Reaction to president touting improved ObamaCare site

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 3, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, the web site is working well for the vast majority of users. More problems may pop up, as they always do when you're launching something new. And when they do, we'll fix those, too.

I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively. You've got good ideas? Bring them to me. Let's go. But we're not repealing it as long as I'm president. I want everybody to be clear about that.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R – OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: It's not just a broken website. This bill is fundamentally flawed. It's causing people to lose the doctor of their choice, causing them to lose their health plan. And if that isn't enough, they're having to pay much higher prices at the same time.


BAIER: President Obama with a re-launch today on his health care bill, the health care law, and the House speaker today. This is what Politico wrote today about this effort by the White House, "President Barack Obama will launch a coordinated campaign Tuesday by the White House, Congressional Democrats, and their outside allies to return attention to why the Affordable Care Act passed in the first place." Republicans sent out "Did anyone tell congressional Democrats? The House radio TV gallery lists not one single health care related event by House Democrats today. The caucus stay focused on a non-ObamaCare related item. Senate Democrats are still in recess."

Let's bring in our panel. Syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist and author of "Things that Matter" Charles Krauthammer. George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I suppose it's fitting that this president, who's the first president who's campaigned for the presidency was his qualification for the presidency, is now campaigning yet again. And as he speaks, the more he speaks the more carefully you have to parse his sentences.

On Sunday the administration said we have fixed -- this is bragging -- we have fixed more than 400 software problems. Confession -- they launched this thing with more than 400 software problems already in it. Then today, the president gave that rather strange statement where he said almost half a million -- translation fewer than half a million -- Americans out of 315 million Americans are poised to gain health care coverage. Now, if you can tell me what that means you're way ahead of me.

Down the street from the studio today, there was the court challenge to the plan reading of the law that the IRS exceeded its authority in authorizing subsidies to the federal exchanges that Shannon Bream talked about. And coming to a courthouse near you soon is another case. The Constitution says all revenue measures must start in the House. The chief justice in his creative defense of the Health Care Act said the penalty is actually a tax, which makes this a revenue measure which originated in the Senate and therefore, under Article I, Section VII, is unconstitutional.  Aside from that everything is going swimmingly.

BAIER: And that was a big, heated Hill committee hearing today about that, Article I. Mara, but back to the president's re-launch and all of this effort -- what about this, and where this White House stands, where it thinks it stands right now?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think the White House understands that it's in a very deep hole. And the hole is vastly or mostly of its own making. They're re-launching the health care website.  It actually had 1 million visitors and it didn't crash, so that's pretty good.

Now the health care law itself gets tested. In other words, it's no longer about the website. I think Republicans understand that. Republicans also are not talking about repeal. I think they feel that they're going to let this law collapse of its own weight, they're going to highlight ObamaCare horror stories. They're going to keep on focusing on vulnerable Democratic incumbents, particularly in the Senate who went out and repeated the president's promises about how if you had a plan that you liked you could keep it, period. But now we have to see if a lot of things fall into place for the White House. Are they going to get 7 million people, the right mix of 7 million people, enough young people to sign up by March 31st, and can they turn around public opinion on this law? It's now more negative than it's ever been, like about 56 to 40 percent negative. They have to have a lot of things go right for them.

BAIER: Charles, yesterday we talked about the back end – in other words, the data going to the insurance companies that they are reporting is garbled, sometimes not accurate, other times just totally incomplete. But really the back end back end is the payment of the premium, because you can't have the insurance unless you pay the premium and there was testimony on Capitol Hill a couple of weeks ago that that was never set up through this system. So insurers will have to reach out to those people individually, otherwise, no matter what the numbers are on healthcare.gov, it would be a big zero if they don't pain the premium.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, it's another linguistics sleight of hand here. The back end sounds like some obscure curlicue in the progress. It's the cash register. It's the point at which you make the purchase. And if you don't have correct information or any information, you don't have a purchase, you don't have enrollment, you don't have a plan -- you have a catastrophe. And everybody understands that.

I don't agree that the web site issue is over. It's still a rolling issue. The cancellations and the other issues are just added upon it and they're going to get worse next year when you get the cancellations from the employers. But the website's a catastrophe. What we heard Jay Carney say breezily today – well, a million people went on the website. Well, how many enrolled? Apparently that number is not obtainable. Either they know it and are suppressing it, which I suspect is probably true, or they have no way of knowing, which tells you that this thing is a turkey. After I mean Amazon refreshes its best seller list every hour. I know because I check it every hour.


KRAUTHAMMER: Every hour. These guys say we're going to have to wait a month until we'll be able to tell you how many enroll? This thing is absolutely nonfunctional.

And Obama -- I mean, it's sort of touching the way he believes in the power of rhetoric, his rhetoric, in denying and trumping reality. He can't. He can issue all the words he wants, but unless he fixes what's out there, people are experiencing the cancellations, experiencing the pauses.  And if they show up on January 1 thinking they are enrolled in a plan, see a doctor and current expense and aren't, that's going to be the end for ObamaCare.

BAIER: But George, what about this talking point that "I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively?" In other words, what do you have?

WILL: Well --

BAIER: Because that's what you'll hear.

WILL: Sure. The Republicans have a whole lot of proposals, which together make a coherent plan. Premium support and Paul Ryan's budget, John McCain's 2008 premise, health savings account, buy insurance across state lines, tax employer-provided health insurance is what it is, compensation.  But give people large tax credits to go into the market and shop. That's a Republican program.

The president knows you can't pull out one little strand of ObamaCare and plug in something sensible because the whole thing collapses. That's the problem with this. And the real problem is, the most tech savvy, one might almost say tech snobbish, portion of our population are young people.  They've watched this disaster, and they're saying I want to trust my health to these guys? I don't think so.

KRAUTHAMMER: And I'd add one item. The absence of tort reform in a bill that's 2,000 pages long is an absolute scandal. Everybody understands that the reason we have the most expensive health care in the world is because we have an insane malpractice system, and this did absolutely nothing. And the reason is, and Howard Dean admitted once, we didn't want to anger the trial lawyers.

BAIER: Last thing, Mara. As far as we can tell there still has not been an end to end security test on this website. And when we hear these security experts testify, they're still really concerned about the --

LIASSON: Yes. There are concerns, and the White House says they're addressing them. And that's still an open question among many. But look, I think one of the problems for Republicans is if they're not going to be for repeal, and we know repeal is not popular even though ObamaCare isn't popular, they have to be for something. And we don't know what they are for. And yes, there are a lot of ideas, and George just listed them, but I don't think anybody could tell you what the Republican health care plan is.

BAIER: And they'll I have to.

LIASSON: They'll have to eventually. I think eventually.

KRAUTHAMMER: ObamaCare refutes itself even in the absence of a Republican plan.

BAIER: The city of Detroit gets its bankruptcy ruling. Now many city workers think they're not happy with it. That's next.

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