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Obamacare Opposition Heats Up; Conversation with Sherri Shepherd; Crisis in Syria

Aired September 14, 2013 - 16:30   ET



Well, I'm just back from a week covering the crisis in Syria, and I got to tell you inside those refugee camps there, nothing makes sense. I want to introduce you to a family today whose lives may not have been that different than your own. More on that in just a bit.

Also, Sherri Shepherd, the very funny co-host of "The View" -- she's going to stop by to talk about something that's serious for her, how to lose weight and how to beat diabetes even if you don't have it.

But, first, in just a few weeks, uninsured Americans are going to have the chance to sign up for coverage through the new health care markets. But opponents of the law are already stepping up efforts to sabotage Obamacare.


RALPH HUDGENS, GEORGIA INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Let me tell you what we're doing -- everything in our power to be an obstructionist.

GUPTA (voice-over): That's Ralph Hudgens. He's a Republican and he's also Georgia's insurance commissioner. He's bragging publicly about his state's efforts to undermine Obamacare. And he's not alone.

TWILA BRAISE, CITIZENS COUNCIL FOR HEALTH FREEDOM: The states are very wise to choose not to cooperate in any way because --

GUPTA: That's Twila Braise, president for the Citizens Council for Health Freedom. She's voicing her strong opposition to Obamacare and health care exchanges with radio ads like this.

BRAISE: We have a legal right to refuse to government exchange coverage.

GUPTA: They have billboards, bus shelter posters and flyers that are passed out on college campuses, all of it part of a campaign to convince Americans especially young adults not to sign up for health care exchanges when they become available October 1st.

BRAISE: If you do not sign up for them, you do not bring money into them, it does not fund the cost of operating them, and therefore they are more likely to fail. GUPTA: Another group, FreedomWorks, is telling people to burn mock Obamacare draft cards. They say younger Americans will pay for coverage they don't need.

WHITNEY NEAL, FREEDOMWORKS: They're typically healthier and they typically don't go to the doctor as much but they're going to be paying for the system that will cover health care for all Americans.

GUPTA: In states with some of the highest uninsured rates in the country, like Texas, Florida, Georgia, public officials have declined to set up state-run exchanges, opting instead to let the federal government run the exchange. Undeterred group Enroll America is going door to door with their Get Covered America campaign, urging those same young people to sign up.

ANNE FILIPIC, ENROLL AMERICA: That's not a conversation that's about politics. It's a conversation about the new opportunities for health insurance that meets their needs and meets their budget, and we're seeing incredible interest in the conversations we're having across the country.


GUPTA: And so, we're going to have a conversation about this right now. So, joining me from Washington is my good friend, chief national correspondent John King.

Thanks for joining us, John.

Look, you know, I want to make clear, and you've been following this argument for a long time. We're not vilifying people who are against Obamacare. You've been looking at these arguments yourself.

When you hear their arguments, do they have a point?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they say they have a point, Sanjay, in the sense that, look, there's a lot of politics involved in this. And some of the criticism is just because the president is a Democrat and a lot of the critics are Republicans.

But some of it is on principle. There are a lot of Republicans, a lot of organizations involved who think this is too much of an overreach by the federal government. They think Washington shouldn't be involved in these kinds of decisions, they think state by state or community by community.

However, they have a point and some of them are standing on what they believe to be a proud principle. The issue is, at what point do you have to acknowledge in politics that you have lost?

GUPTA: And, you know, John, that if you just look at the history of some of this, like the individual mandate, for example, and I worked at the Clinton White House in the late '90s, but before that even, the individual mandate was something that came about from primarily right- winged organizations. They were the ones who wanted it. And now, these are some of the same people who are rallying against it. Isn't that right?

KING: You're exactly right. And that's a reflection of, look, politics change with the times and it was the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups back in the day when they thought there were going to be major changes with health care. We see it when the NRA thinks there are major changes in gun control, it was for background checks at one point, now it isn't.

Conservatives were once for an individual mandate believing it if you did it on an individual basis, at least you empower the individual, the individual was making the decisions as part of the bigger process. But when the politics changed and they thought they could beat, quote- unquote, "a national health care plan or a Washington dictated health care plan," they said, never mind, we're not for that anymore. Welcome to politics.

GUPTA: You know this better than anybody. Let's talk about the practical part of this, as you mentioned. We talk with some members of Congress who said they're not going to help their constituents sign up, they're going to be obstructionists. Is that taking it too far?

KING: It's dangerous. Look, each member of Congress has to make their own decision and each member of Congress is then judged by the 500,000 or so people that live in their congressional district.

Now, if you are a safe Republican, Jason Chaffetz in Utah, a lot of these Republicans, they don't face much opposition or if they did opposition, what they would worry about is a primary challenge from the right. They can talk like that.

But here's the challenge. You represent your entire district. There will be people calling who may even be against the health care law, but it's the reality and it's the law of the land, and they have a question, where do I get the paperwork for this? I'm having a problem with this agency. I don't understand this.

Well, that's a congressman's job. That's a congressman's job.

To say, you know, no, we're not going to answer that question because we don't like that law, that's risky.

GUPTA: You know, we just heard in that piece a lot of the people who are against Obamacare. John, I'm sure the political pundits are also listening to you to what you have to say. If you were guiding them, HHS or the White House, I mean, what would you tell them in order to turn the message around?

KING: Well, I tend to try not to give advice to the politicians, but I will tell you this from your travels and poll numbers, people are confused about this, and I'm sure you get questions about this, how is it going to affect me, when is it going to affect me. There are a lot of people who think you have to do, quote-unquote, "comprehensive" or you can't pass a bill.

If you could do this one piece at a time, it would probably be easier for people to understand. You have seen the president in past political fights focus on the things that are popular. Young people get to stay on their parents' health care a little bit longer.

GUPTA: Right.

KING: You can't deny people coverage for pre-existing conditions. The president has to find, as he goes forward, an implementation communication strategy to -- a North Star that says when we get here, I think this will be better for you. But there may be some bumps along the road and government's going to have to do a good job in helping people deal with those bumps.


KING: Again, not my job to get advice. I'm not endorsing the health care law, but as you make these big changes and people have questions and what they are hearing is this polarized political environment, there needs to be a place for them to go where they can get advice they trust and that's a huge challenge for the president and the entire administration.

GUPTA: John King, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

KING: Thank you.

GUPTA: And I'm excited to announce we're gassing up the CNN Health Care Express and hitting the road to talk about some of the things John and I were discussing. The first week of October, we're going to travel around the country to see what states are really doing about Obamacare.

We're going to answer your questions. We're going to provide knowledge. And we're going to make sure you really understand what's going on with your health care. So, I hope you'll join us for that.

But right now, you're going to want to stay tuned for this. The always good for a laugh Sherri Shepherd, she's going to sit down with me and we're going to get somewhat serious about diabetes.


GUPTA: We talk a lot about big blockbuster drugs to solve blockbuster health issues, but it turns out something as simple as cinnamon could be a key to lowering glucose levels for diabetics and it's important for you to know. And it doesn't mean that you should immediately hop in your car and buy yourself a cinnamon bun. That's not we're talking about here.

But there is research that shows that Type II diabetics who took cinnamon supplements in a pill form saw some pretty impressive heart health benefits. Cinnamon seemed to reduce their total cholesterol, LDL, and their triglyceride levels. And it increased HDL or the good cholesterol levels.

Now, there's someone out there that knows a thing or two about diabetes and she's also very funny. I decided to have her on the show. She's Emmy Award-winning co-host of "The View", Sherri Shepherd. She has a new book out. It's a great book. It's called "Plan D: How to Lose Weight and How to Beat Diabetes Even If You Don't Have It."


GUPTA: You write in the beginning of the book, just writing a book about eating right and having a healthy diet makes me chuckle.


GUPTA: Why? Why does that make you -- what is it about it?

SHERRI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I don't know. Because just the thought of eating right. You know, for me and I say in the book, when your heart is broken, nobody says give me a plate of steamed asparagus. Oh, my gosh, she cheated on me, if I don't get broccoli quick. You just don't.

So, you know, the thought of eating right, plus I was one that never ate right. I was always eating unhealthily. I loved everything fried. I found you could fry a Twinkie, I learned how to do that. You can fry -- I mean, fried things in oil, you know, things if it didn't have Velveeta cheese on it, I didn't want it.

So, now, the thought that I've been drinking water straight for two years that's all I drink is funny to me because I would have laughed you out of the room.

GUPTA: And when you talk about the fried foods and the Velveeta, do you get hungry? I mean, what is -- do you have the cravings? How do you feel now about it?

SHEPHERD: Well, when I think about that, it's almost like being a drug addict, oh, gosh that feeling. Oh, I can't go in that bar. You know, I can't go there.

GUPTA: Right. Yes, and it's -- there's a lot of analogies there. I mean, you want to avoid that food and if you try to love it -- there's no question it tastes good. It's palatable, that's why it sells so much.

You also wrote that diabetes, which is this disease as you know by the year 2020, half the country will either have diabetes or be pre- diabetic.


GUPTA: You say, in fact, it saved your life.

SHEPHERD: It absolutely did.

GUPTA: And what do you mean by that?

SHEPHERD: Because the diabetes forces me to look at labels, to really read how many carbohydrates it has. Does it have a lot of sodium? What is the sugar content? It forces me to go to boot camp three times a week because I want to be here. It forces me to make conscious decisions about what I put in my mouth so when I look at something, I look at that cheesecake and I go, oh, do I want my foot or do I want that cheesecake? And this is all from diabetes.

So, when people bless the church ladies that go to church and they say, we're going to pray that God take diabetes away from you! No, don't pray that because diabetes is saving my life. It is forcing me to be healthy.

GUPTA: I think it's such an important message. And it can be proactive. I mean, people can feel empowered hearing you talk about this.

What did you experience at the time? How did you know you had diabetes?

SHEPHERD: Oh, wow. I had so many symptoms and I ignored them for a long time because I remember going to the doctor and they would say, you're pre-diabetic and I would go, that doesn't mean I have diabetes, right? They'd say, no, well, I don't want to hear no more. I don't have it. Pre-nothing, that means I can still eat.

But I would ignore the signs and the symptoms. I would start having like a numbness in my hands and feet and then it would tingle and my vision was blurry. I was thirsty all the time. No matter how many times I went to the bathroom, I had to go again.

GUPTA: Right.

SHEPHERD: I wish I didn't lose any weight. I have to say I didn't lose any weight. That wasn't one of the signs. But it was -- it got to the point where I couldn't ignore it anymore and I went to the doctor.

And I remember they said, you know, eat and then four hours later they would do the testing. So, I went to the Pancake House and I ate all you can eat pancakes and dripping with butter and syrup and I remember there I was sitting there in my the gown, plastic gown, why do you make the gowns and they're open at the butt and all the air was going back there.

And I was sitting there, and I heard the doctor say, yes, she's got it.

GUPTA: Really?

SHEPHERD: Yes. She gave me that diagnosis of diabetes and it was like a sledgehammer, you know, to my heart because it was, like, you can't run away from it anymore.

GUPTA: And you knew about diabetes because, again, you wrote about this in the book about your mom, a rotten dangerous disease, that was your quote. SHEPHERD: My mom passed away from the complications of diabetes at 41 years old. And, you know, she never explained to us that she had diabetes.

We saw her eat candy all the time. She would drink red punch. I mean, we're always seeing here going to the hospital because she had some type of insulin attack is what we called. But, you know, people in my family called it the sugar.

GUPTA: Right.

SHEPHERD: We never thought it was anything, a big deal, so, you know, even when she passed away from those complications, she went into a coma and her internal organs started shutting down, that didn't even make me change the way I ate. I even went towards food more.

GUPTA: You talk about your mom LaVerne --


GUPTA: -- and you have an 8-year-old son Jeffrey. I have an 8-year- old daughter as you know as well. I'm curious, how do you -- are you modeling or trying to model, he's young still, but how much are you thinking about him when you think about your own diabetes and his eating and all of that?

SHEPHERD: I think about him every single day. That is my impetus, that was my motivation for getting myself together, my life together as far as eating right for my Type II diabetes because like I said, my mother, her, you know, dying from complications didn't change anything. Even when I got the diagnosis, I went back to the Pancake House and ate the food.

But it was the thought of my son sitting there, it was a vision of him laying in the bed crying, trying to figure out where heaven was because everybody said mommy was there. And that Jeffrey, so when I think about, you know, when I have to go exercise because I do not like exercising, but I go to the gym, when I'm at boot camp, I picture my son there at the finish line going, mommy, you can do it.

GUPTA: So delighted to meet you.

SHEPHERD: I'm delighted to meet you, too.

GUPTA: You're getting me choked up a little bit here, and you make me laugh so hard within a few minutes. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.

SHEPHERD: Thank you.

GUPTA: We appreciate it.


GUPTA: And you're going to want to say around for this as well. A young girl wants to play basketball, but her parents tell her she's too fat. It's heartbreaking stuff. But now as a woman, she overcomes years of frustration and anger and just wait to see what she's accomplished.


GUPTA: It's a battle that millions of people are fighting every minute of every day, and far too many are losing this battle. It's against weight gain and if you're looking for some inspiration, I want to introduce you to Annette Miller. She's our biggest loser.


GUPTA (voice-over): Growing up in Tennessee, Annette Miller always dreamed of playing basketball.

ANNETTE MILLER, CNN FIT NATION 2013 TRIATHLETE: I got a permission slip from our coach at school and I came running home that day, I was so excited, I was going to get to play basketball. And instead of getting a signature from my parents, I was told, you're too fat to play.

GUPTA: At 10 years old and more than 200 pounds she says, that mantra instantly changed her life.

MILLER: "You're too fat" followed me into adulthood.

GUPTA: But years later, when her twin sister, Bobette (ph), needed a kidney transplant.

MILLER: I was not even tested or considered to be a donor because of my weight. That was the kick in the pants I needed.

GUPTA: So she changed her diet, she started walking, she hit the gym, she was determined to get the weight off. By November of 2012, she was well on her way.

MILLER: I'm proud to say that at this point I've lost over 100 pounds.

GUPTA: And she wasn't finished.

Miller applied for the CNN Fit Nation challenge and she was accepted in January.

GUPTA (on camera): Congratulations. We've already picked you --

MILLER: Oh, my!


GUPTA (voice-over): And we did help her fulfill her childhood dream and play basketball with the Atlanta Hawks.

GUPTA (voice-over): For eight months she trained, swimming, biking, running, to compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.


GUPTA: Well, Annette did make it to Malibu, along with the rest of the Fit Nation team.

So, first, I want to remind you who they are and then we're going to show you how did in the race.


GUPTA (voice-over): Tabitha McMahon.

TABITHA MCMAHON, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: When I was 19 years old I became ill with ulcerative colitis. I've been working really hard over the past 12 to 18 months on my own to get back on my shape.

GUPTA: Stacey Mantooth.

STACY MANTOOTH, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Long hours, lots of time in lab, my health has definitely taken a hit. I want to swim and I want to bike and run to a better me, to a better lifestyle.

GUPTA: Rae Timme.

RAE TIMME, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: After 25 years working with the Colorado Department of Corrections, I get to retire. But I want my retirement to be ten times as wonderful as my life and career so far have been.

GUPTA: And Douglas Mogle.

DOUGLAS MOGLE, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Thirteen months ago, I went into sudden cardiac arrest as a fourth grade teacher, I teach the students in my classroom that they need to work really, really hard in order to reach excellence and success. You know, ironically I haven't been adhering to my own advice.

GUPTA: It all started with a trip to Atlanta.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your heart rate at?

GUPTA: Eager to learn about a new sport, and nervous about the road ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, good, Annette!

GUPTA: Then they took their knowledge home with them and they trained six days a week.


GUPTA: Hour-long workouts soon became two, three, even four-hour work workouts -- swimming, biking, running, all of it, in preparation for the big race.

Last Sunday, the ultimate test was before them.

FIT NATION TRIATHLETES: One, two, three, Fit Nation!

GUPTA: It all started with the half-mile swim in the open waters of the Pacific. Doug is the first of the pack to make it back to shore.


GUPTA: And next, their endurance is pushed even further with an 18- mile bike ride.

GUPTA: Yes! Whoo! >

GUPTA: And the last leg, a four-mile run. One foot in front of the other.


GUPTA: And all of them crossed the finish line in good time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Rae Timme. Nice job.

GUPTA: And Rae even medals in her age group.


GUPTA: Congratulations. Really, all of you guys, such incredible work, incredible transformations for each and every one of you. I could not be more proud.

And I'm happy to announce right here right now that our Fit Nation triathlon challenge is going to continue. It will be in its fifth year in 2014.

So, stay tuned to SGMD. We'll be announcing those calls for submissions next month. If you didn't do it last year, you're going to have another chance.

I didn't get to participate in the race this year because I was deployed in Syria to cover an important story. But I'm going to be back with my reporter's notebook on Syria right after this.


GUPTA: "Chasing Life" today. I want to spend just a minute talking about Syria. And I decided the best way to do that might be to introduce you to Arkin (ph). She's in her early 20s. Show has three sons. She met her husband she told me after his mother came over to her and insisted that they meet and even one day marry.

Turned out to be pretty good advice for her and a few years later they have three sons, Abdel (ph), Yousef (ph) and Alla (ph). They are amazing little boys. And they were living in the middle of this middle-class neighborhood in the city of Homs, their kids went to school and very much enjoying their lives.

I introduce you to them today because they probably live a life, a similar one, to many of yours. Parents just trying to do the right thing for their kids, improving their lot in life and being part of the large community of friends and family in the big city.

But when the missiles came raining down, they tolerated for it for a while. But then, Yousef, he was burned on his left arm, and like any mom probably would do, she decided they'd had enough. Their lives aren't at all what they imagined and they are now among at least the 2 million refugees that have left Syria.

And I'll tell you this because it's so important not to typecast when you look at these tough images. After all as you now realize, there may be more that ties us all together than tears us apart. And I go to these places because I think you need to hear the real stories from on the ground.

I don't know it's going to make you feel. I don't know how it's going to be different for everyone who hears this. But at a minimum, I think it's going to make you more connected with some of the most important stories happening anywhere in the world.

Thanks for watching.