All-Star Panel: Weighing potential health care law bailout

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


REP. ERIC CANTOR, R - VA: The demographics and the actuarial soundness of the program are being brought into question. If the numbers are as bad as they seem with the lack of information, just imagine, perhaps, how bad it really is.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE PRESS SECRETARY: What we saw in Massachusetts, what we have seen in every other comparable past experience is that young people will sign up late and in large numbers. And that's what we expect.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: And 60 million people clicked on the websites, 2.2 million actually signed up, and most of them got paid to do it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the ObamaCare situation continues as the administration is talking about the new numbers out. We brought you those last night. Tonight, some more analysis of that. Four out of five of the people who have signed up, the 2.2 million, as you just heard, are receiving some sort of subsidy or tax credit. We're back with our panel. Tucker, what about this prospect of a bailout for insurance companies and how that fits into this whole scenario?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: It looks inevitable. The numbers you put up were bad, but I think they're even worse. Reuters does a nightly tracking poll of Americans, trying to figure out who is signing up, exactly. What they found out is the average person signing up is older but also much sicker than the average person. That is a flat out disaster. And as you said, a lot of those people are receiving subsidies anyway. ObamaCare is turning into just a massive welfare program and a really expensive one.

And so at the end of that, when that all becomes clear, and I think it's happening pretty quick, you're going to have to have bailout. There is no other option. That's why, I think, legislation has already been offered up in Congress to prevent that. But it won't pass because they need it.

BAIER: The administration's take, Julie, is that they are squeaking by the death spiral threat and that they think by March they can get the numbers they need?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. They feel like even though they missed their target for the young invincibles that need to sign up for this program that they reached a program sustainable even if it stayed here through March.

To Tucker's point, when you have people who are older, who are sicker who are signing up, you can understand why those are the first people who want to get into a marketplace when they have health insurance available either with a subsidy or insurance for the first time. But you can't have a program like this that is sustained on a vast majority of those people alone. Eventually, we will need to see young, healthy people getting into this marketplace, each if it's end of March. But eventually they have to come to the table and participate.

BAIER: Otherwise, all of the premiums will be restructured by insurance companies by the end of this year.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They do not have to come to the table and participate. They can go on strike. The ObamaCare always has counted on the mass irrationality of young people. Now, normally that's a good bet. But in this case it's not so for two reasons. First, the analogy to Massachusetts is all wrong for two reasons. First, the youth today as opposed to when RomneyCare went into effect, are the principle sufferers from the Obama economy. They are just not feeling prosperous.

Second, RomneyCare did not instantly become a buy word for incompetence as this has done. So the young people who are, A, suffering economically, and, B, recoiling from what they sees as people who can't run a website are not going to come in and come to the table.

PACE: Well, they certainly -- we can't say for sure that they are going to, but in order for the program to succeed, they are going to have to. If they don't, then we are talking about cost restructuring, people who are in the program facing incredibly high cost in their second year of having coverage.

BAIER: But how will the administration explain this bailout when it comes to that point, when the numbers don't add up and suddenly they have to get through this massive amount of money to insurance companies?

CARLSON: The same way they have always explained it -- the insurance companies are shafting you. That was the original rationale for ObamaCare.  At the same time they argued that your health care is too expensive because insurance companies are greedy, they were signing up insurance companies, right, to be signed on, of course, because they had a captive mandatory market in customers for their product. So in the end, they will do exactly the same thing. They will publicly blame insurance companies for the debacle and then they will bail them out.

BAIER: What about the efforts on Capitol Hill from Senator Marco Rubio and others who want to pass something that prevents this? Feasible at all?

WILL: Does he have 60 senators? I don't think so.

BAIER: No but they pass it in the House and put the pressure on Senate and put the pressure on Democrats like Mary Landrieu, and Mark Begich, and Pryor and others?

WILL: We bailed out Detroit because the executives of General Motors and Chrysler made a lot of dumb decisions and bad cars. The Affordable Care Act is the Edsel in this story. The insurance companies can't make it work because the economic model is just faulty. Now, the trouble is people kind of like Fords and Chevrolets and that's a brand they can identify with. No one identifies with an insurance company. So it's going to be intensely unpopular, but it will happen.

BAIER: Julie?

PACE: I think the politics on that would be really interesting when you talk about a Mary Landrieu or a Begich who kind of feel like now maybe they've turned the corner on this a little bit, maybe things aren't so bad as they looked in October or November. But if do you have another round of votes, particularly like a bailout for insurance companies which are not wildly popular with the public.

BAIER: I mean, that was the original prospect or idea behind pushing to get the shutdown back and forth. That's what Ted Cruz and his supporters talked about. A lot of critics said it was misplaced at that time. But the pressure would be on these red state Democrats if it had already passed the House and now is coming to the Senate.

CARLSON: Yeah, it absolutely would. And maybe out of that mess comes single payer, which is something that the left wanted from day one and some the president's most fervent critics predicted ObamaCare was a stocking horse for. They were dismissed as conspiracy nuts. But in the end you can make a pretty good case. I don't agree with it. But you can say we spent all this money and the system doesn't work. How much better would it be if we just directly gave that.

BAIER: You are making a good case for single pay?

CARLSON: I'm not. I'm merely saying there is internal logic here, right, when we get to the point we have to bailout insurance companies, someone's going to just stand up and say wouldn't we have saved a lot of money and taken that money and sent it directly to hospitals to care for people who don't have medical care? Then you wind up with single payer, which is an abomination, but you can see how you could get there.

BAIER: George?

WILL: Well, that's the ultimate conspiracy theory that the Affordable Care Act was written to fail.


WILL: And that the economic model is so obviously flawed they must have meant it that way, and to create chaos, cause a crisis in the insurance industry, and go the distance you are talking.

BAIER: That's a long way from point A to point B, but we will see.  We will follow every step on the road. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned as lawmakers review some tough tweets.

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