All-Star Panel: The changing face of ObamaCare

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star Panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 6, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT  BARACK OBAMA: On a program like this that has so many people involved, and millions of people who are trying to find health insurance or get better health insurance, there are always going to be some smoothing out of the process that has to take place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why then are you allowing people to keep these substandard plans for a couple more years? To get it past the midterm election?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. The fact of the matter is, is that we are working to implement the Affordable Care Act so that millions of Americans can have the benefits of quality affordable health insurance.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The president calls it smoothing out, another big change in ObamaCare, another delay. This as Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the architects of ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, writes in his book this, quote, "In the short-term the ACA, Affordable Care Act, has been a political disaster for President Obama and the Democrats, and it has left the Obama administration in a perpetually defensive stance, depleted of the political capital needed to achieve progress in other important policy areas such as immigration and the federal budget." He goes on to say, "Regardless of the short-term political costs in the longer sweep of history beginning in 2020 or so, the ACA will increasingly be seen as a world historical achievement."

We're back with the panel. George, beginning in 2020?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's how many more election cycles before we wake up to this?

BAIER: If Hillary Clinton, if she is the nominee, she has to get through a first term?

WILL: By now this is both amusing and amazing. It's amusing because with metronomic regularity, a new day a new delay, people must be having office pools on what will be delayed next about this. It's amazing, because this is called his signature achievement. It's not his signature achievement. The affordable care act is his only achievement. He didn't get climate change, the cap and trade, immigration reform, let's talk about foreign policy or not. Worst recovery on record. This is all he has got, and he has paid this huge price for it. It's one of the reasons the Democrats lost the House in 2010. It's the reason they may lose the Senate in 2014.

Yet he somehow won't defend it. It's a tapestry of coercions. He had to know there'd be resistance to it. It's mandates, taxes, regulations. And as soon as people get unhappy with it, he delays it, he retreats from it now. Now, if he won't fight for it at this point and insist that it makes sense and stay the course, to use Reagan's old language, who will? He is not even running for office ever again. Who will defend it if he won't?

BAIER: So we're on, again, the delay, we're on a number of different delays. Here is the president again talking about this -- that it's working.


OBAMA: It doesn't mean that at some point there won't be some additional problems or improvements that we can make.


OBAMA: At this point I think actually it is working the way it should.


BAIER: It's working the way it should, Juan. If it's working the way it should, why are they delaying key parts of it past 2016?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I think to take away the political pressures that exist, because the criticism --

BAIER: But that's not working the way it should then.

WILLIAMS: No. The political pressures have been intense. Clearly, that's the one thing -- any Republican you bump into will say they hate ObamaCare.


BAIER: Of course, but when you're writing the law, it doesn't say, well, if the political pressures get tight then we are going to punt.

WILLIAMS: No. But if you have some Democrats who are extremely vulnerable -- the playing field this year, especially in the Senate as George was saying, definitely favors Republicans. This is an effort to say to those people, look, ObamaCare is not going to be a problem for you, to try to remove some of that criticism, the potential also that some of these policies might be canceled right before the election this year, and going forward, that some of the rate increases would be minimized in terms of their political impact.

But, you know, the overwhelming thing to me, listening to George, is I just so strongly disagree. I just think that the president is actually right, that if you look at this program, absent the tremendously flawed rollout of the computers at the start, the idea that somehow now there are 3 million or 4 million people already signed up would suggest there is a hunger in the American public for better equality health care.

WILL: Just a point of order here. Remember, this was not about the rollout today. What they said today was, great news, you get to keep the substandard policies that have been foisted upon you by bad apple insurers.

WILLIAMS: Correct. And remember the criticism that came from Republicans, which was the president lied to you, you don't get to keep the plan you want.

BAIER: Just to clarify, Juan.


BAIER: When Republicans said this should be changed and this should be delayed, it was, like the sky was falling. And this was the worst thing ever. You should not change this. It should go ahead.


BAIER: Now this delay is happening. And it's just smoothing out the kinks.

WILLIAMS: Well, remember, a lot of the state insurance commissions are not going to go along with this anyway. But he is trying to smooth out a kink that is for a small percentage of people in the individual market.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, "FOX AND FRIENDS WEEKEND": Can we just be really, really quick. They are not even pretending Jay Carney's pathetic denial notwithstanding, that this is political. In the denouncement of the delay they pointed to, among others, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Gene Shaheen in New Hampshire, both of whom voted for the law and are now running away from it. So this is absolutely an attempt to hold the Senate in 2014.

Second, what no one ever remembers is you can't do ObamaCare halfway. It doesn't work as a numbers question. You have to get full buy in from the country, young health people participating without a delay, with penalties if they don't, or else the insurance companies will go under without a bailout. So it's not a thing that you can do 50 percent or 75 percent. You need 100 percent for this to work.

BAIER: Here is what Hillary Clinton said last night, "I believe we have to get through this election, and then" --

CARLSON: You can imagine they are saying that out loud? They don't even care anymore.

BAIER: So, we will follow it. The latest poll has approval for the president on health care at 36 percent, below his job approval rating. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to hear a change in tune,
possibly, to the presidential anthem. 

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