Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview With Brother of Reeva Steenkamp; Jesse Jackson Jr. Pleads Guilty to Charges of Misusing Taxpayer Funds; Patient Caught in Hospital Bill Hell; Winter Storm Threatens 18 States
Aired February 20, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.
Tonight, only on 360, why, if the disease will not kill you, the medical bills might, even if you have insurance. We will take you inside one patient's bill and show you what the health care industry does not want you to see, line by line, charge by inflated charge, right down by the paper cup in which they bring you your pills. That's $12, by the way. Sound like nickel-and-diming? It could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
Also, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s road from Congress to the courthouse to the possibility of a long stretch in prison. The campaign cash he took and what was bought with it, it will boggle the mind. We will tell you about that shortly.
But we begin with a major development in the killing that has captivated and confounded millions of people around the world, captivated because the shooting death of a glamorous model allegedly at the hands of perhaps the bravest Olympic athlete in modern memory could not be more stirring or tragic in and of itself. It's confounding because each day brings more news that does not seem to establish in any clear direction whether Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner, shot Reeva Steenkamp dead after a loud, long argument or whether it was a horrific accident.
Tonight, for the first time anywhere, the victim's brother, Adam, says that he and the rest of the family are no less confounded, no less torn. Our conversation just ahead.
First, Pretoria, South Africa, and day two of a bail hearing that's playing out more like a complete trial.
Robyn Curnow reports.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A police van takes Oscar Pistorius back to his cell, where he will be spending his seventh night behind bars. The South African athlete's uncle says she is struggling emotionally.
ARNOLD PISTORIUS, UNCLE: He's grieving and he's -- I don't expect him to get over it even soon and so he's still emotionally tough time.
CURNOW: In court, meanwhile, at Pistorius' bail hearing, more riveting details about what prosecutors say happened on Valentine's Day, when Pistorius shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It was a version of events countered vigorously by his defense team.
Prosecutors say witnesses heard arguments coming from the Pistorius home for an hour before the shooting. The defense argues the witness' house was 300 meters, about 1,000 feet away. Pistorius, his lawyers say, thought he was shooting at an intruder in the bathroom. Taking the stand, investigating officers said Pistorius used a cricket bat to break down the bathroom door, that the bat and a cell phone were found splattered with blood.
Using a diagram projected on a large screen, the officer said Pistorius aimed his gun at the toilet, pointing out that he had to turn and fire at an angle in order to hit the toilet. More prosecution evidence, a floor plan of the apartment which the state says shows Pistorius could not have crossed the bedroom towards the bathroom without realizing Steenkamp was not in bed.
Defense attorneys pressed the police officer, who admitted that Steenkamp's body had no signs of an assault or signs of her defending herself. The officer also conceding he could find nothing inconsistent with Pistorius' version of events.
Prosecutors say police found bullets in a safe in the home and they say that will lead to charges of possessing illegal ammunition, but later the investigators said they did not establish whose ammunition it was. Prosecutors say there's no way that killing of Steenkamp was self-defense. They cited two previous incidents of police encounters with Pistorius that suggests he could be prone to violence, adding that since they consider Pistorius a flight risk, he should be held without bail.
But, still, legal experts believe Pistorius has a good chance of spending Thursday night at home.
LLEWELYN CURLEWIS, SOUTH AFRICAN LAW SOCIETY: Personally, I would like to see him receiving bail at this stage, that the law can take its course, normal course, that we shouldn't have a trial by ambush.
CURNOW: Court will reconvene on Thursday morning.
TAPPER: Robyn Curnow joins us now.
Robyn, take us inside the courtroom today. Apparently, Oscar Pistorius was a lot more composed today than he has been the last two days, is that right?
He was not so inconsolable when Reeva's name was mentioned, when words like murder were read out in court. He didn't just collapse in tears as I saw him in court yesterday.
TAPPER: It sounds as if the police investigators may have botched some key aspects of the investigation. Is this something that happens often in South Africa? Generally, how reliable is the police force there?
CURNOW: Bungled, botched, messed up. I don't know what kind of words you want to use, but it's common. I mean, I'm sorry to say it.
Even in this case, we heard from the investigating officer that he didn't wear protective shoe covers when he went into the house after the shooting, so essentially he just contaminated the entire crime scene. And another example in terms of bad detective work, in this case particularly, they said initially that Oscar Pistorius was a flight risk, that they didn't want him to have bail because they thought he would leave the country because he had overseas bank accounts and a house in Italy.
The defense put it to the investigator on the cross-examination, you know, what's this about a house in Italy? How do you know? Do you have proof that Oscar has a house in Italy? The investigator said, well, I just heard he did. You know, that's not the kind of thing -- that's not the kind of, you know, information a prosecutor -- the prosecution should be putting across, this sort of really sort of haphazard rumor I heard things, that let's build our case out of that.
I think there really was the sense by the end of today that not only has the police's case essentially been unraveled, but, you know, the chief investigator looked very red-faced. I mean, I think he really lost a bit of his reputation after coming out of that court today.
TAPPER: All right, Robyn Curnow at the Pistorius trial in Johannesburg, South Africa, thank you so much.
CURNOW: Thank you.
TAPPER: Digging deeper now into the legal case and especially the forensic evidence on which the case could turn, we're joined by criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, co-author of "Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works, and Sometimes Doesn't," also, of course, former L.A. Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark, author of the legal thriller "Guilt By Degrees," and also forensic scientist Lawrence Kobilinsky of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Mark, I'm going to start with you. All this back and forth with the detective on the case, you think the prosecution is unraveling?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I think it's unraveling, and we said here last night that this prosecution when they came up with this kind of harebrained theory that all of a sudden this guy woke up and decided he was just going to kill somebody who by all accounts he loved made absolutely no sense, and then sure enough we had talked yesterday about the urban legends that exist around this case already, which happens frankly with a lot of these cases. And once you get somebody up on the stand and you get an officer up there, and that's one of the great things about cross-examination, it's a great search engine for the truth, and all of a sudden look what happens. All of this stuff that was supposed out there in the ether turns out to absolutely be untrue, and it's nothing but somebody just surmising, and all in all it looks to me at least like clearly he should get bail and that it looks like the magistrate wasn't buying any of what they were selling in terms of him being a flight risk, which was the magistrate said, where is he going to go?
Clearly he is one of the most recognizable people around. I think this case is unraveling as fast as can be. It doesn't mean that there is no crime here. I mean, there can be a crime here, but it certainly is not premeditated murder.
TAPPER: Marcia Clark, the court system in South Africa appears quite different than that here in the U.S. I mean, this bail hearing looks like a trial, and because of that, the prosecution has had to show their evidence very early, almost immediately. You say that's a real disadvantage.
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It's a problem. It's a problem, Jake, because the prosecution has only just gathered the evidence. Let's remember this only happened a few days ago. And it takes a while for everything to shake out.
It takes a while for us to know what the evidence tests out to be. We don't even know if it's really testosterone that was found in his house. We don't know what, if any, blood results from Pistorius himself are and whether he was under the influence of testosterone. We don't know so much.
And yet they're being required to put it all forward very quickly in this hearing. I can see where things are not quite as tight as they should be. I agree with Mark that certain things did fall apart today, and the fact that they were not wearing protective covering on their shoes is a loss. How big a loss remains to be seen because if the floor was not going to provide much evidence anyway, perhaps you haven't lost much.
But it's not good. On the other hand, the fact that they missed on certain things like whether he had a house in Italy and the nature of his flight risk doesn't mean that the entire case is falling apart. We don't throw the baby out with the bath water, and nor is anybody saying -- I don't think the prosecution is even saying that he suddenly woke up in the middle of the night and decided shoot his girlfriend.
What the prosecution seems to be saying is that there was a nasty fight going on for some time that evening and in the midst of which he targeted her. And the scenario that paints itself is that in the midst of the fight, she went and locked herself in the bathroom, and he pursued her with a gun, and then later said, oh, it's, well, because I heard a burglar, et cetera.
The fact that she was found fully clothed in the bathroom tends to indicate that she was not asleep in bed next to him. And the fact that he first ran to the bathroom and fired shots without first turning to his girlfriend and saying, honey, stay here, I'm going to go see what that is, or did you hear that strikes me as a little odd too.
There are things that need to be shaken out here. We need to find out what all of the evidence is, whether there is evidence of domestic violence, and whether there was evidence that is credible of a fight between them that night. There's a great deal we don't know. I think it's a little too soon to say that the case is falling apart.
TAPPER: Marcia, I don't want to be flip about it, but obviously you prosecuted another famous athlete whose beautiful blonde partner was murdered, and I'm wondering if this feels at all similar or if it's just a completely different case to you?
CLARK: It's completely different to me.
There were aspects of the Simpson trial that were so huge and really distinguished it from any other that you can't compare it to this one, and many of the issues that we had in the case that were the most significant issues are not present here. Domestic violence murder is, sadly, Jake, not an unusual thing, and it's something that it's pretty, unfortunately, common in both countries, I think all around the world.
In that sense, I suppose they're the same, but in that sense so many crimes are.
TAPPER: All right, Lawrence Kobilinsky, you're a forensic expert, and you say the ballistics will offer the crucial evidence here, what has been lacking so far.
DR. LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, PROFESSOR OF FORENSIC SCIENCE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I think that an analysis of the ballistics evidence, including trajectories of the bullets fired, will reveal an important piece of information.
It will either support the story that Mr. Pistorius has given or it will support the prosecutor. And the issue has to do with whether or not Mr. Pistorius was wearing the prosthesis. If he was, he was taller, and, therefore, the ballistics, their trajectories, would be different than if he were not wearing the prosthesis.
An analysis of the trajectories, we know how many bullets were fired. We know that it penetrated a door. We know a lot of information, but we haven't heard it all yet, and I think once that is revealed, we will be able to determine whether his story makes sense or it does not.
TAPPER: We only have about a minute-and-a-half. I want to get to a few things here.
Doctor, first of all, it was revealed today that the forensic team left behind a shell casing in toilet and that the detective did not wear shoe coverings at the shoe, as Marcia referred to, because the police ran out of them. Is that damning to the prosecution's case?
KOBILINSKY: Well, I think it's terrible.
When you hear such a breach of procedure, it's terrible, but on the other hand, it may not be a fatal issue. It certainly raises a lot of questions about the prosecutor's case, but did it, in fact, change the ballistics? I doubt it very much.
But we know how many shots were fired. The know the victim was hit a certain number of times. Yes, it's terrible, but it doesn't really ruin the case completely for the prosecution.
TAPPER: Very quickly, Marcia, what are we to make of this introduction of testosterone and needles found at the crime scene?
CLARK: It seems to me that they're aiming towards showing roid rage, so to speak, so that he acted out in rage and that rage was amplified by the use of drugs.
Now, whether that's true or not, we don't know. We don't know whether the substance in his house was tested out to be testosterone. They did find syringes along with it, which seems to indicate that it was, but don't know. We don't know whether they took his blood immediately after his arrest and, if so, whether it's been tested or not. That would be very important.
The mere fact that he has testosterone in the house is of no significance unless we can show that he was under the influence of it at the time of the shooting. Many things have to be known before you can make much of the existence of testosterone in the house.
TAPPER: All right, Marcia Clark, Larry Kobilinsky and Mark Geragos, thanks so much.
Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @JakeTapper.
And much more on this story ahead. You will hear from Reeva Steenkamp's brother, Adam, about how conflicted he and the family are about whether Oscar Pistorius is a cold-blooded killer.
Later, would you buy an elk's head from this man? He had a couple in his old office paid for with campaign donations, and that's not all that former Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. bought, including possible prison time. His spending spree and guilty plea -- ahead on 360.
TAPPER: We saw day two of testimony in the Blade Runner bail hearing that largely casts doubt on day one, and you just heard our team of legal and forensic experts lay out any number of ways the case my turn.
So, if you are finding it hard to get a sense for whether Oscar Pistorius murdered his girlfriend in cold blood or killed her tragically, accidentally, you're far from alone. It turns out the victim's family is in the same situation.
Reeva Steenkamp's brother, Adam, acknowledged as much when we spoke earlier today about that and especially about the sister he loved.
TAPPER: Adam, first of all, our deepest condolences to you and your family. I cannot even imagine how hard this must be. How are all of you holding up?
ADAM STEENKAMP, BROTHER OF REEVA STEENKAMP: We are all holding up very well considering the circumstances. We have now had just about a week to let things sink in, and we have had a very buys few days as well.
So, you know, we have had -- I feel like we have done the most difficult thing for us as a family so far in viewing my sister's body and then attending her memorial yesterday. We're doing OK.
TAPPER: Yesterday, after your sister's memorial, you said -- quote -- "There is now a space missing inside the people that used to know her, and she will be missed by everyone."
Tell us for a minute, if you would, tell us who she was. What kind of a woman was your sister?
STEENKAMP: My sister was a beautiful woman outwardly and even more so inwardly.
She brought people together. For the family, she was -- I suppose you could consider her the glue that sort of held us together at certain points. Her empathy, she had empathy for people. She was -- she cared for what other people thought. She would put other people first. She was just a very caring, lovely person.
TAPPER: Several family members have said that none of you are focused really on the court proceedings. You're focused on the here and now. Explain what you mean by that.
STEENKAMP: Well, that is correct.
The here and now is just really as a family seeing ourselves focusing on the fact that Reeva is not here and coming to terms with that. That is, I'm pretty sure people can appreciate, you know, such a big thing, that how could there possibly be space for anything else? It just so happens that this tragic circumstance for us is slap bang in the middle of an even bigger story.
We just don't have the space at the moment to think about the details of what's happening with Oscar at the moment. I'm sure that will come.
TAPPER: I have read that your sister did not really like to talk much about her private life even with close friends. How much did any of you in her family know about her relationship with Oscar? We have heard mixed accounts, some reports describing a loving relationship, others say that there were problems.
What was your impression of her relationship with Oscar Pistorius?
STEENKAMP: I had no bad indications whatsoever.
I did not actually talk to my sister in any detail about Oscar at all. I mean, in fact, I didn't talk to my sister about Oscar at all. I wouldn't like to put words into my other family members' mouths, but everyone is saying the same thing. She didn't talk about it a lot, but there was no indicator that anything was bad.
I mean, we know Reeva. We knew Reeva. She was happy, and if Reeva was happy, everything was OK. You know, to us, everything was OK and everything was good and everything was normal.
TAPPER: Had you ever met Oscar? Had you had any dealings with him at all?
STEENKAMP: No, none at all, apart from watching him on the Olympics last year. Never met the man.
TAPPER: So this is a very difficult question, and I apologize ahead of time, but I just -- I have to know, do you in your gut have any feeling as to whether this was a horrible accident or if it was something more sinister?
STEENKAMP: I don't have that feeling in my gut. I think I'm letting my logic dictate where my thoughts go, and the logic kind of leads me towards it could be either way.
We just don't know until the truth comes out. I really, really truthfully do not know. I don't know.
TAPPER: In the next day or so we will learn whether or not the magistrate will grant Oscar Pistorius bail. Do you have any feelings one way or the other? Do you hope that he gets bail? Do you hope that bail is denied?
STEENKAMP: I don't have any absolutely terrible vengeful feelings.
I'm not wishing bad things on anyone else. But if I were to detach myself from the situation, which I suppose I can't do, under the circumstances, I would think it would be rather strange if someone who quite clearly did something like this were to get bail. It wouldn't make sense to me, but I don't know whether that would be right or wrong.
It's for the justice system to decide, not for us. It's a very difficult question to answer. I think that's really the best that I can do in answering that.
TAPPER: Are you and your family following the media coverage, or are you purposely staying away from it? STEENKAMP: We are not purposely staying away from it, but we're not avidly following it. We might get the odd glance at the TV, but it's really not something that we're concentrating on at the moment.
As a little bit of time goes by, because I'm sure this will go on for a little while, we might start to take a bit more notice. But our thoughts have just been completely taken over by dealing with, you know, our grief and the loss of my sister. That's been our focus. It has to be. It's normal for it to be that way.
TAPPER: Your family, as you work through your grief and you try to suspend any judgments, are you able to just hover in an area and not reach any conclusion, or do you go back and forth between different views of what happened that horrible, horrible night?
STEENKAMP: I think each individual within the family has swung either way.
People's thoughts are all over the place at the moment. I mean, at a time like this, when people are grieving, it's -- I think it's hard to keep a clear mind on anything, and with the added pressure and the media coverage and the interest, you know, from the world looking into this story, it's -- it's a rather unnatural situation, so I suppose I would agree with everyone who is slipping from one side to the other. We just don't know.
All that we want is we want to know what the truth is. And I think that's what everyone else would like as well, to be able to make something of it, to be able to deal with this and have something positive come out of this.
TAPPER: And, Adam, what do you want the world, what do you want the people watching and listening to this interview right now, what do you want them to remember about your sister?
STEENKAMP: I want to remember the good that she was trying to do in this country, in her own small way apart from having an enormous amount of fun with where her career was going. She studied law.
She wanted to make a difference. And she started by making small steps in that direction following through and starting to support the movement against violence against women, which is -- you know, it's a very hot subject in this country. She would have taken that even further. It was something that she strongly believed in, you know, the good and the right in people, and that's where I saw her energies were moving towards. She wanted to change things for the better, and, unfortunately, that was nipped in the bud.
TAPPER: Adam Steenkamp, our deepest, deepest condolences on your loss. Thank you very much for talking with us.
STEENKAMP: Thank you.
TAPPER: One other note because so many people are following this story so closely. We will be devoting a full hour to it on Friday night.
"Blade Runner: Murder or Mistake?" an "A.C. 360" special report. You can watch it starting at 10:30 p.m. Eastern this Friday here on CNN.
Coming up: Former Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions on everything from a vacation in Martha's Vineyard to Michael Jackson memorabilia. I will speak with someone who was in the court today.
Also ahead, New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Pope Benedict. Today, he was questioned behind closed doors in the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.
TAPPER: The rising political star of former Democratic congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has fallen to the ground in a streak of misused campaign funds. Money he and his wife spent on things you would never even dream of buying. Even on someone else's dime.
Elk heads? Fur capes? Two hats formerly worn by Michael Jackson, and memorabilia involving the late martial arts star Bruce Lee. The tab coming to $750,000.
In Washington, Jackson pleaded guilty to federal charges today saying he has no interest in wasting taxpayers' time or money with a trial. Leaving the courthouse, Jackson apologized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE JACKSON JR., FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I'm sorry I let everybody down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say you're sorry you let everybody down?
JACKSON: I'm sorry I let everybody down.
I really, really am sorry about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Jackson's father, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, was in court today for his son's plea, and Lynn Sweet was also there. She had a personal encounter with the former congressman. She's the Washington bureau chief of "The Chicago Sun-Times" and an old and dear friend of mine. And she joins me now live.
Lynn, thanks for being here. I just cannot get over the scope of this whole thing. You've been covering this. Did anyone have any idea of the extent that -- of this fraud, that it was this bad? I mean, $750,000? Elk heads? LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Jake, actually, there was an elk head in the congressman's -- or deer head in the congressman's office that I often thought was pretty curious.
But Jake, what we have here is a scheme and a scam that went on for seven years, much longer than I think any of us anticipated. And for what? Also, trips to Costco, undergarments, toilet paper, yes, and lavish expenses for health club, trips. It just is a tragic downfall.
But they were -- it got them caught up in a lifestyle that they could not afford. They used their -- the main Jackson campaign fund, Jake, as a personal piggy bank. In court today, everything came crashing down as they both pleaded guilty.
TAPPER: Lynn, you were in court today. Did Jackson seem contrite, or did he seem upset that he had been caught?
SWEET: Well, it's -- I'm not sure yet. He looked awfully sorry. He looked gaunt. This is the first time anyone has really seen him at any extensive length since he disappeared in June, surfacing at Mayo Clinic to be treated for his bipolar disorder.
But yes, it looked sad. He looked pained. He was teary-eyed. So was Sandy, his wife, now a former Chicago alderman when she pled guilty. Now, she had her game face on a little bit beforehand, but, my God, when you stand there, and the judge says, after going through all the rigmarole of this and that, do you plead guilty? And she said yes, you know, she just reached for the tissue.
He did -- he was a lot more emotional. A lot more -- a lot more showing that the enormity of how his life changed has happened today, Jake.
I think -- his wife, Sandy, I think until recently maybe thought she could get away without being charged. So she got caught up in this a little later.
They both had in court a big display of support from their families. And they'll need it. You know, they'll be sentenced in a few months, and he's going to serve prison time, almost no way out of it.
TAPPER: So Lynn, the former Democratic congressman grabbed your hand outside the courtroom. What exactly did he say to you?
SWEET: Well, this was a touching moment. You know, I've covered him since he came to Congress. I've covered his father for decades in -- both in Chicago and Washington. So as he passed by me in the hallway at the courthouse, he grabbed my hand, and he said, "Tell the people back home -- tell everyone back home I'm sorry, and just tell them that." I'm paraphrasing, and it was heart-felt. He grabbed my hand. I was a little bit surprised.
Basically, he had been muted, been told not to talk. His wife Sandy was muted. Frankly, the usual very talkative Reverend Jackson was not saying anything either. Very touching moment. Had to be on a day that I know was tough.
Look, Jake, I'm a human being. It's no fun covering these stories. It makes you think what it could have been for Jackson and his wife.
But, yes, when he grabbed my hand and said, "Tell everyone I'm sorry," the question I have is what you just raised? Are you sorry you got caught, or really sorry for seven years of using their campaign fund as a personal piggy bank?
TAPPER: All right, Lynn Sweet, thank you so much.
SWEET: Hey, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: Up next, one man's journey into hospital billing hell. He got sick, and ended up owing nearly half a million dollars, and that's with insurance. Wait until you see what investigative correspondent Drew Griffin found inside those bills and what you should be looking out for.
TAPPER: A popular Kansas City restaurant leveled by a natural gas explosion. We have new numbers tonight on the injured and the dead. That's next.
TAPPER: "Keeping Them Honest." Over the next two nights, in partnership with "TIME" magazine, we're going to try to shine some light into a black hole that many Americans are sucked into every day.
Our investigation, of course, has nothing to do with astrophysics. It's about a hidden universe the health-care industry does not want you to see.
The "TIME" magazine special report, "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us," is the result of a seven-month investigation by journalist Steven Brill into why medical bills are so high in the United States and how understanding those costs could hold the key to fixing health care. It's a fascinating read.
CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has been working the story on this end, and we're pretty sure what he's uncovered may make you sick.
So welcome to the nauseating world of hospital billing where virtually nothing is free. Not even the paper cup in which you get your pills.
Here's part one of Drew's special report.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Weinkauf is finally healthy enough to make the short walk from his front door to his mailbox, but it's a walk he dreads, because he knows what's waiting. Medical bills.
You might think you've heard this story before, but not this one, because the health-care industry has managed to keep this largely a secret. This story is about what's actually in Bob Weinkauf's bills and how he, and maybe you, are getting completely ripped off.
BOB WEINKAUF, FIGHTING HUGE MEDICAL BILLS: This full drawer here and this drawer here are just nothing but medical bills.
GRIFFIN: Last March a sudden hacking cough put him in a hospital intensive care unit. He was having trouble breathing.
BOB WEINKAUF: I did at some point, you know, make some kind of reference to them that I wanted to breathe, and so they put me on a ventilator, and that's where it all started. But I don't remember it.
GRIFFIN: It was the bill that could eventually bankrupt Bob and Becky Weinkauf.
BOB WEINKAUF: It's nice out.
BECK WEINKAUF, WIFE: Yes. Beautiful.
GRIFFIN: At 60 years old, struggling to keep a small business going, Bob had just switched to a discount insurance company. After just four days of treatment, the hospital was telling Becky her husband's insurance would not even come close to covering the costs.
BECKY WEINKAUF: She said, "The bill is up to $80,000 already," and she said, "Mrs. Weinkauf, I hope you realize that you're responsible for this bill."
And I got in the car. My mother-in-law was with me. And I think she was scared to ride with me. I was just hysterical. I thought, what am I going to do? I've worked my whole life. Is this how my life is going to end?
GRIFFIN: Eighty thousand dollars, it turns out, was only the very beginning.
WEINKAUF: Altogether I did total them up, about $400,000.
GRIFFIN: Well over. In fact, $474,016.60. This is the summary of those charges. Broad categories with few details. Becky and Bob Weinkauf decided to ask a few questions and began to see just why health care in America is so expensive.
Everything Bob touched, used, or was given came with a whopping charge. Nurses pricked his finger to check his glucose levels 190 times, $39 apiece. The total bill: $7,410 just for that.
Asking for that ventilator because he was having trouble breathing? Thirty-two separate billings. Total cost, $65,600.
If he had been five years older and qualified for Medicare, all of these items would have been a tiny fraction of what he was billed. As it turns out, even asking for a urine bottle cost him extra.
(on camera): Aren't you surprised they even charged you for that? Isn't there a charge for the room itself?
BOB WEINKAUF: Oh, yes.
BETSY WEINKAUF: Yes.
BOB WEINKAUF: There's a flat rate charge. And I don't know what's included. I guess it's just a room and a bed, and everything else is -- because everything they brought in, whether it be Kleenexes, urinal bottle, or, you know, some kind of tubing I needed for the -- the IV or whatever, all of that was an extra charge. Every time they did it, they changed it.
GRIFFIN: Think that's outrageous? Take a look at this little white cup. You probably last used one of these getting ketchup for French fries. If you've been hospitalized, you probably recognize it, too. It's that little white cup the nurse carries on a tray to bring your aspirin.
Well, I want you to remember this little white cup, because in a minute I'm going to tell you a little hospital billing secret about these little cups that you will never forget.
Does anything surprise you anymore as to what particularly a hospital will bill?
PAT PALMER, MEDICAL BILLING ADVOCATES: No. Absolutely not.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Pat Palmer has made a career battling hospitals over outrageous invoices. She's now battling for the Weinkaufs. She and her two daughters run Medical Billing Advocates from her basement outside Roanoke, Virginia, and each time the phone rings, it's most likely a newly-discharged hospital patient suffering sticker shock.
PALMER: They're just flabbergasted of the cost that's involved in the treatment that they had. They never dreamed it would be that high.
GRIFFIN: So where in the world do the hospitals come up with these prices? That, too, is shrouded in mystery. Hospitals determine their own pricing off a master list called the charge master.
Journalist Steven Brill, reporting for "TIME" magazine, says the charge master is basically a way any hospital can charge any amount for anything.
STEVEN BILL, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: It's a price list, and nobody can really explain how this price list happened, and more importantly, nobody wants to try to explain what the costs are behind it, because it's totally irrational. It varies from hospital to hospital.
GRIFFIN: A box of tissues becomes a "mucous recovery system." A teddy bear to cuddle? That's billed as a "cough suppression device."
PALMER: Certainly as a patient you think that's a nice gesture, a great gift, not knowing that you can be charged $128 to $200 for that teddy bear.
GRIFFIN: Remember the little white cup? It's billed as "oral administration fees."
PALMER: I've had a patient that had $5,000 worth of charges just for the little white cup to hand you your medication three or four times a day.
GRIFFIN: How do they get away with it? Mostly they don't. In very stark terms, only the uneducated, unrepresented or under- or uninsured get charged full price. Big insurance companies negotiate discount rates. Medicare goes even further, determining preset prices, maximums a hospital can charge. But for people like Bob and Becky Weinkauf, hospitals can charge whatever they want.
(on camera): Can they ruin you?
BETSY WEINKAUF: Well, of course they could.
BOB WEINKAUF: Absolutely. There's no way in the world. Well, if we sold our house and everything we own, it would be maybe a quarter of the bill. There's just no way. I mean, it would kill us, literally.
GRIFFIN: Bob and Becky, they are still fighting that bill, and they've asked us for now not to name the hospital, fearing it could damage any hope they'd have of a settlement, but they agreed to tell this story really as a warning, because this one illness of an otherwise healthy guy will literally be costing them for the rest of their lives.
TAPPER: Drew, what about Obama care? Wasn't that supposed to keep hospital costs down?
GRIFFIN: It was. But in reality, Jake, there is nothing in Obama care aimed at reducing the actual costs of health care. And some are arguing that Obama care, the forcing of everybody to be in this insurance plan or pay a penalty, is actually going to increase the costs we are paying, because in very simple economic terms, you're increasing the amount of people who will be paying for all the health care, increasing demand, and there's really no incentive to -- for the suppliers, like these hospitals, to charge any less.
Steven Brill, the author of the "TIME" magazine report, said with Obama care we've changed the rules related to who pays for what, but we haven't done much to change the prices of we're paying.
TAPPER: So where does all this profit end up?
GRIFFIN: Yes, it is flowing right into the hands of hospitals and the insurers. And tomorrow night, Jake, we're going to show you exactly whose hands are literally raking in millions of dollars in all this.
TAPPER: All right. Excellent report.
One more quick note: "TIME" special correspondent Steven Brill will be on CNN's "STARTING POINT" tomorrow morning to talk about this seven-month investigation into the hidden world of hospital billing.
Just ahead tonight, a massive winter storm threatens 18 states. It has already delayed a PGA golf tournament in Arizona, of all places, with more crazy weather on the way for a huge chunk of the country. We will get the latest from Chad Myers next.
TAPPER: A massive winter storm is bearing down on 18 states and is bringing a lot of snow to places that normally don't get much. Tucson, Arizona, for one.
This storm is gigantic. We're talking 800,000 square miles, 18 states under watches and warnings. The biggest heavy snow threats are in the Midwest. Parts of Kansas are expecting as much as a foot and a half of snow. Meteorologist Chad Myers joins me now live with the latest.
Chad, you say the snow, the ice, the tornadoes, they're all coming from one storm system?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: From one storm. Now, not in the same place. The snow will be in one place. Ice will be in another. And tornadoes will be down in Louisiana. So that kind of all spreads itself out.
But the size, the strength of this storm, is going to go all the way from the Dakotas all the down to Houston. One side warm, one side cold.
Right here, the pink area behind me, Jake, this is hard to imagine: 470,000 square miles under winter storm warnings right now. The triple threat we're calling it: the heavy snow to the north, the ice over parts of Arkansas, the severe weather across Louisiana. And as that severe weather kind of dies out but stalls, flooding east of there into the southeast. A big storm.
This would be the quintessential western movie tonight: "Get out of Dodge," because Dodge City, you are in the middle of a bull's-eye. It could be 16 or 18 inches right over you. Anywhere west of Wichita right through Salina and north even into parts of Nebraska.
As we move you ahead, there's going to be a monster ice storm over Springfield; Branson, Missouri. Think of an inch of ice coating everything. I mean, power lines are going to be coming down. Trees will be coming down.
And finally, by Friday morning, Chicago gets some snow. Not a lot. Four to six inches, but this is a widespread thing.
Look, the pictures you're seeing here. This is California yesterday. Arizona, New Mexico today. And this is just the pre- party. It gets a lot worse from here in the plains. But they need the rain. They need the snow. They need all the moisture because of the major drought right where all this is headed.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks, Chad.
Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following tonight. Isha Sesay joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Jake, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, who's been talked about as a possible candidate for pope, was deposed behind closed doors today in the church's sex abuse scandal.
The questioning came from lawyers representing hundreds of people who say they were molested by priests in Milwaukee, where Cardinal Dolan led the archdiocese for seven years.
Former cyclist Lance Armstrong will not cooperate with the anti- doping agency that sank his career. They'd given him until today to decide. In a statement, his attorney said this: "Lance will not participate in USADA's efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonize selected individuals while failing to address the 95 percent of the sport over which USADA has no jurisdiction."
Opposition activists say at least 163 people were killed in Syria today, including 48 who died in an air strike near Damascus. Syrian rebels are now warning Hezbollah militants in Lebanon to stop their attacks or face severe consequences.
A "360 Follow," we now have surveillance video showing the explosion that leveled a Kansas City, Missouri, restaurant. A body was recovered today from the rubble. At least 15 people were injured. The fire chief says a sub-contractor laid fiber optic cable near a natural gas line about an hour before the blast.
And in Massachusetts one cool, icy-cool man cave. This 12-foot- tall igloo is decked out with a lamp that doubles as a hand warmer. It also has a television and a couch -- Jake.
TAPPER: Issa, thanks. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.