All-Star Panel: How health care overhaul is playing with the American public

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 13, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R - WY: We know how many people may have put the policy in their shopping cart on the website, but we don't know how many people actually went to the checkout counter and paid for the insurance.

CHRIS KOFINIS, FORMER SENATOR MANCHIN CHIEF OF STAFF: Has the White House and the bad rollout put some Democrats in difficult positions, absolutely. I think that goes without saying. But you've got to find a way to go out there and emphasize the positives in terms of what the health care law does.


BREAM: What are they? We'll talk about it with our panel, syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome to you all. Good to see that you are all safe and sound. Snow plows have done their job. George, I want to start with you. We touched on this last night, but this question about the administration touting 3.3 million have signed up, but industry executives inside the insurance industry say there's still a lot of questions about who has paid, did they actually follow through, or are these things they put in their online cart but haven't really checked out for yet?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think there are really four questions. That's the front of them. As Senator Barrasso has said, how many people have paid? Doesn't count until you've paid. But second, only 27 percent are in the 18 to 34 group, which means adverse selection by age is still under way, and they wanted about 40 to make this fly.

Second, 55 percent are women. Women have higher recourse to the health care system. So that's another form of adverse selection, in addition to the youth adverse selection. And, fourth, most of these people who have signed up, a clear large majority, are in the 36 states that have not established state exchanges. So they are buying this through the federal exchanges, and there are four, count them, four lawsuits in various federal courts saying clearly that the plain text of the law says subsidies shall be available only through exchanges established by a state. Therefore, there are four problematic variables there.

BREAM: And that last one as you mentioned, those lawsuits still proceeding in a very big question which may end up again at the Supreme Court, if they get another bite of this.

We have a lot of new polls out today, so we want to break down some of these. Mara, one of the first Fox News polls we had released at 6:00, if we knew in 2009 what we know today, would Congress have passed ObamaCare? 64 percent say no and 28 percent say yes. With that in mind, what do Democrats do with this this fall, because we see them running ads, some of them as if I'm fighting against ObamaCare? I mean, they seem to be changing --

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Some of the endangered Senate Democrats, particularly in red states and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana were right out of the gate very quick to offer legislation to fixing some of these problems and trying to address them. That's important for them.

Look, I don't think that the net popularity or unpopularity of ObamaCare has changed. When you ask that same question a little bit differently, do you approve or disapprove the law, you still get over 50 percent disapprove. It is a ball and chain for Democrats.

However, I think that right now the White House feels the disasters are behind them. Those are in the rear view mirror, and as long as there are not horrible stories like the website isn't working or a death spiral begins on the part of insurance companies and we just won't know that yet.

BREAM: Or when the employer mandate kicks in, if it ever does fully kick in.

LIASSON: The employer mandate will kick in for large employers. What's been delayed is the midsize employers. But if there are no other big horror stories like you had with the rollout, they think that they can manage this. It's still a net negative politically.

BREAM: In another one of the polls, Charles, this is interesting because it shows a big shift. Your family under the new health care law, back in October, they asked better, worse off, or the same. Back in October, when this was just starting to trickle out, 21 percent said they would be better off, 35 percent worse, 39 percent said same. Major, major change now because now we have just nine percent people saying they think they are better off, 25 percent worse off, 65 percent the same. All that's happened between the polling in October and now is the law has kicked in. Most of it.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right. And people are beginning to feel the effect on them. This isn't a normal issue where you approve and disapprove and thus, you might support your party on the side of the issue. This is something that hits everybody right where they live. Health care, unlike any other issue, is one that is a very intimate subject in your life and one that affects everyone equally. It's not like issues which affect a region, affect a class, affect some ethnicity. This is everybody.

And if you get 25 percent of the population saying they are worse off, what you're doing is you're throwing a dart at a map of the United States, and everywhere you get a quarter of the population who have been personally hurt. When you're personally hurt, it affects your vote a lot more than that you have a disagreement over policy with a party or two.

And that, I think, is why the Democrats are so scared. This is no abstract issue anymore. People are losing their insurance. They are losing their doctors. They are losing their hospitals. Some of them are losing their jobs or losing hours as a result of the law. And it isn't as if people are waiting for another disaster on the website. This is -- as it progresses -- more and more people are going to be affected, particularly as the mandate, employer mandate kicks in over time and people lose jobs and lose hours and lose their coverage. And that's where the Democrats are going to get hurt irreparably.

LIASSON: Just one other point. Those things are happening, not all of them are because of ObamaCare, but right now ObamaCare owns the entire United States health system, and there are a lot of changes going on in it and some of them are negative, and that's what the president and his party can't do anything about. Anything that goes wrong in health care is going to be blamed on ObamaCare.

KRAUTHAMMER: When you decide to revolutionize a sixth of the U.S. economy and to issue tens of thousands of regulations on as delicate an ecosystem as American medicine you deserve the blame for everything that goes wrong.

BREAM: Well, we have a poll, as a matter of fact, on blame. How is that? Blame -- do you blame the Obama administration for problems with the implementation with the health care law?

KRAUTHAMMER: Perfect segue.

BREAM: It was the perfect segue. You set us up. 76 percent of people, if you add up the top two categories, say the administration bears some or a lot of the blame, and the highest percentage went to a lot at 46 percent. George, what does the administration do with that, and are we going to see more Democrats avoiding contact with the president as they are fighting for their lives and their seats?

WILL: Oh, they are avoiding him as if he has an infectious disease. When he comes to their states, they don't want to campaign with him.

There's not much of what you can do because of what Charles said. They now own the health care system. And, as Mara says, there's lots of people having lots of problems with health care that are not related to ObamaCare -- doesn't matter. It's going to be their problem. The question I wish they'd asked is, just of the cohort of Obama voters in 2008, if you had known what you know now would you have voted for him? There would be an asterisk over his election, just as there is an asterisk over his 2012 election because of the harassment of conservative groups opposing him then.

BREAM: So many people would say in the 2012 election, they relied on the promises from the White House and the president that if you wanted your doctor and your plan you could keep it. Obviously, last year rated the biggest political lie of the year for 2013.

I want to make sure we hit this other poll on the way out on this topic. Another interesting topic, is the law more about helping Americans or controlling their lives? And 56 percent of those surveyed said it was about controlling their lives. That is something we didn't even hear six months ago, so folks have certainly soured on this, at least 56 percent of them.

All right, that's it on health care, but next up for the panel, Afghanistan's defiance of the U.S.

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