Interviews

Rep. Hoyer: ObamaCare will 'grow' in acceptance

House minority whip on state of health care law

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, now to the president's health care law, and it looks like the staffers, or this was the staffers of the folks who wrote it. Increasingly, they're fearing it.

More than 90 percent say that they are worried about possible changes to their own health benefits, 82 percent worried about their ability to access local health care providers.

Reaction now from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

Congressman, very good to have you back with us.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-MD., HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Good to be with you, Neil.

CAVUTO: This concern among the troops, sir, is it legit? Are you worried? Does it tell you something? What?

HOYER: Well, I think, clearly, there's going to be concern on any new program of this size.

However, we see increasingly manyfold increases in applications, manyfold increases in people who are signing up. We see young people having increased their numbers. So the answer is, I think that this program is starting to get momentum and, I think, credibility. And I think it's going to grow in acceptance, not diminish.

But there's no doubt that the -- no doubt that the rollout was rough.

CAVUTO: OK.

Nancy Pelosi sort of winced when a reporter called this ObamaCare. What do you call it?

HOYER: Well, I call it the Affordable Care Act, but I call it ObamaCare a lot as well.

But the reason she winced and the reason that I try not to use it, if I think of it, because so many people have called it ObamaCare for so long, is because that phrase was coined not as a supportive phrase, but as a derogatory phrase to say, this was Obama's plan to socialize America, or to make it a more socialistic environment.

In point of fact, it's a private sector marketplace.

CAVUTO: Yes, but the president seemed to like it. He always seemed to like it.

HOYER: Well...

CAVUTO: I guess I would like it if I called it CavutoCare. I would call it, know...

HOYER: Well...

CAVUTO: Yes.

HOYER: ... let me tell you, I think he does, except for what it implies.

CAVUTO: Yes.

HOYER: And it is obviously used by many as a derogatory term, not as a -- either an expression of support or simply an explanatory term.

But let me say what Obama says. He says, you know, Republicans are going to call it ObamaCare right up until the time it works.

CAVUTO: Well, we're waiting for that.

And hopes springs eternal, as you know, Congressman.

HOYER: Yes.

CAVUTO: But there are a lot of fears among some of your colleagues, particularly the more vulnerable Democratic ones, that this is going to cost them.

Whatever you want to call it, the number of Americans who have had problems signing up, the number of Americans who have seen their policies canceled or their premiums increased is a lot of those than they envisioned, and that even those who supported this early on are ruing the day.

How bad is this? How worried are you?

HOYER: Look, I think -- I think it's going to work. And I think if it works, then, over the next six months, I don't think we're going to be worried about it. I think it's going to be a positive...

CAVUTO: When you say works over the next six months, what's going to happen?

HOYER: People are going to see that they -- what they're getting is good, their alternatives are better, that their preexisting conditions don't preclude them, seniors are getting better health care dollars on the -- for their prescription drugs, so that the positives built in here.

And if health care costs keep being contained, at some point in time, we are going to have to give credit to the Affordable Care Act, not just to a recession.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But what happens when -- you mentioned six months out, sir, and then you have got all of a sudden the employer mandate kicking in soon thereafter, and then a lot of these companies might decide on their own, well, these provisions are so tough, we're going to have to let go or increase the premiums of maybe millions of folks.

And so, like, a second storm is coming. What do you say?

HOYER: Well, again, if it's perceived as a success, as I think it's going to be by the late spring or early summer, then I think we're fine. Very frankly, if it's not perceived as that, will it cause problems? Yes, it will. But I don't think that's going to happen.

CAVUTO: Did you see any of this coming, Congressman, that when this was being debated that you could keep your doctor if you want your doctor, you can keep your plan, that maybe some of your staff -- you have a pretty good staff -- you're a pretty smart guy -- were crunching the numbers and said, that's not possible, that can't be done?

HOYER: Let me tell you something.

First of all, on the, if you like it, you keep it, that statement was true as we were considering the bill. And, in fact, the provision in the bill says, if you had your insurance before the bill was enacted, you could keep it, notwithstanding what the language of the bill required.

The problem was, as I said, none of us were very precise and we should have made it clear if you have it now, later on, we have higher requirements, more coverage. We want to make sure that...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes, but you weren't clear there.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I mean, now, the very, very -- wait. I don't know if you're a lawyer or not, but there's no legalese way to...

HOYER: I am a lawyer.

CAVUTO: OK. Well, there's no legalese way to say that. If you had a policy in good standing before this law took effect, the understanding was...

HOYER: You could keep it.

CAVUTO: ... on the part of the American -- you could keep it, when, in fact, the -- whatever the requirements that came after that virtually nullified it for millions of folks. Right?

HOYER: No, no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

HOYER: Let's go through what I just said. I don't -- we don't want to take a lot of time.

I said, if you had a policy the day before the health care bill was signed, the health care bill said you could keep it. And you could keep it. That didn't mean that we were going to force the insurance companies to keep offering it. Most of these people in the private sector, not through their employer, had insurance, as you well know, kept it less than two years for the most part, because they kept changing policies, and the insurance companies kept changing policies and prices on them.

One of the problems, frankly, Neil, with the Affordable Care Act is, we have adopted a bill. Now every piece of anger that was directed at insurance companies before the Affordable Care Act, the insurance companies now say, and people presume, oh, it's because of the Affordable Care Act.

A lot of people would have lost their insurance notwithstanding the Affordable Care Act.

CAVUTO: No, you're quite right. The system was pretty roughed up to begin with.

HOYER: Yes.

CAVUTO: But I will say this. And, Steny, you and I talked while this was being debated when I was in Washington.

HOYER: Yes.

CAVUTO: I had the pleasure of being with you guys through this whole debate.

HOYER: Yes.

CAVUTO: One of the things that came up again is that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you want to cover 30 million more Americans, and you want to cover preexisting conditions, and you want to keep your kid on your policy into they're -- until they're 26, or whatever, all that might be well and good, as you said, removing lifetime caps, all good.

HOYER: Right.

CAVUTO: But to think that you wouldn't pay more for that or that a lot of Americans wouldn't pay a lot more for that or at the very least be disrupted by that was a little hood-and-winking going on, don't you think?

HOYER: Well, the theory was -- and this is a correct theory -- the greater number you have in the risk pool, the less cost there is to each and every person.

Obviously, if you had drivers that were all drivers who had a wreck every year, your insurance costs would be sky-high. One of the reasons that automobile insurance is affordable, for the most part, for all of us is because not very many of us have accidents every week or every month.

Therefore, we spread the risk over a great number of people. That was the theory, Neil. Clearly...

CAVUTO: And something went wrong, something went wrong, right?

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: Well, I think -- I think, in the short-term, there -- there are dislocations that occur in change.

CAVUTO: Right.

HOYER: And they're uncomfortable and people are angry. I understand that.

And, of course, all of us are angry about the rollout...

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

HOYER: ... because the rollout just fed in to all the bad fears that people had.

CAVUTO: All right.

Steny Hoyer, we will see how it goes. Maybe, like you say, with the next six months, it's all a memory, but we would do the under and over on that.

Steny Hoyer, thank you very, very much.

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