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Obama Vows To Fix Health Care Website; Rushed Website Doomed Obamacare Launch; CNN Poll: Less Optimism About Economy; Florida Convicts Buying Forged Papers; Math Teacher Killed In School Shooting; States Report Health Care Exchange Success; Utah Boulder Vandal Had Sued For Disability; Interview With Renee Ellmers

Aired October 22, 2013 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, two convicted killers who forged their way out of prison is back behind bars in Florida, but the case has exposed a larger and potentially more dangerous problem.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously they recognize holes in our system.


COSTELLO: And later, did she have any idea what she signed up for? Her smiling face now a household symbol of the dysfunction of the Obamacare web site. So who is this mystery woman? The second hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. Obamacare condition critical, after the disastrous roll-out of its web site, Americans are quickly losing confidence. According to a new poll from the "Washington Post"/ABC News, 56 percent now believe the widespread problems with the web site indicate broader problems with the health system overhaul. Only 40 percent believe the web site problems are merely isolated. President Obama is becoming the defender in chief of his signature priority.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the web site isn't working as well as it should, which means, it's going to get fixed. Experts from some of America's top private tech companies, who, by the way, have seen things like this happen before they want it to work. They're reaching out and offering to send help. We've had some of the best I.T. talent in the entire country join the team and we're well into a tech surge to fix the problem.


COSTELLO: Adding to the PR debacle, a growing consensus that the web site was doomed from the start because it was rushed to meet an October 1st launch. CNN's Casey Wian has more for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PRESIDENT OBAMA: Way more glitches than I think are acceptable.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Glitches?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: The website launch was rockier than we would have liked.

WIAN: Rockier?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We're working out the kinks in the system.

WIAN: By now it's clear that stronger words are needed to describe the web launch of Obamacare.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's been a fiasco.

WIAN: The White House struggled to answer questions about what many have said was inadequate testing prior to the launch of the web site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know whether the web site was beta tested?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In terms of the types of testing and I just don't want to pretend to be an expert. What I can say is that the system has not worked as effectively and efficiently, obviously, as we wanted it to, the president, the secretary, anybody wanted to.

WIAN: The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius says the online insurance market place needed five years of construction. In reality she said, quote, "We had two years and almost no testing." Catherine Sreckovich is an executive of Navigant Consulting, a contractor hired to help set up the health care exchanges.

CATHERINE SRECKOVICH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, NAVIGANT: I think it's not so much a surprise initially. I think the fact that there seems to be so much ongoing problems noted as more of the surprise.

WIAN: The largest Obamacare contractor is CGI Group, a Canadian firm that developed much of the web site's architecture. In a statement, CGI said it and other contractors, quote, "are working round the clock toward the improvement of, a system that is complex ambitious and unprecedented. We remain confident in our ability to deliver continuous improvement in system performance and a more positive user experience." But that's not enough for some critics.

MCCAIN: Send Air Force Out to Silicon Valley, load it up with some smart people, bring it back to Washington and fix this problem.

WIAN: Matt Mullenweg is one of those smart people from Silicon Valley who founded "Word Press," which hosts one in five websites.

MATT MULLENWEG, FOUNDER, WORDPRESS: It sounds like they went for the fast and cheaper. The launch date was probably picked politically and the software and everything else was backed into that. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: We may find out if that's truly what happened beginning Thursday. A congressional committee is holding hearings and several of the contractors involved in the web site are scheduled to appear. And Secretary Sebelius is expected to testify before that committee next week -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Casey Wian, reporting live for us this morning. Thanks so much. And stay with us, in just about 10 minutes, we'll talk to Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. Next week, her committee will investigate the web site's failures and we'll grill the woman in change Kathleen Sebelius.

Just out this morning, a new snapshot of the economy and disappointment over how the jobs' picture is developing. The September jobs report released last hour shows unemployment dropping to 7.2 percent. That's the lowest level in nearly five years. It also shows 145,000 jobs added last month. Not as many as had been expected. Seems people's expectations about the economy are dipping lower. Alison Kosik is with us with that side of the story.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It looks like pessimism is running rampant among Americans. There's a new poll that came out this morning, and it shows that only 29 percent of Americans think the economy is in good shape. That's the lowest level we've seen all year. That was taken right after the government re-opened last week, but we were right in the middle of the debt ceiling craziness. You know, lawmakers, yeah, they came to a deal, but they're only kicking the can down the road to 2014.

So economists are saying that the pessimistic feeling that American have about is going to keep rippling through. That's making Americans nervous too. Look at this, 59 percent of Americans who were surveyed say the economy is going to be in poor shape a year from now. This is a problem because if people are nervous, they're going to pull back on spending. That hits the economy. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

COSTELLO: Yet oddly the S&P opened higher today at record levels.

KOSIK: Yes. You're not seeing investors excited about this report. They're kind of looking at it as it was just OK, it wasn't great. You're seeing them buy into the S&P 500 because the thinking is the fed is going to continue pouring stimulus money into the financial system because you are seeing the job picture kind of just thread water here. It's the Dow that gets all the love.

But you look at the S&P 500 and it's at record levels now for the fourth day in a row and you're seeing this go up once again because of the fed. We like to look at the S&P 500. The S&P 500 is more representative of the stock market and it's also what you're retirement funds track. Did you know it's up 23 percent so far this year? The normal gain for the S&P 500 is 8 percent. So I guess if you want to look at the glass half full picture here, your retirement fund is probably doing pretty well so far -- Carol. COSTELLO: All right, well, thanks for that little bit of bright sunshine there. Alison Kosik, thank you.

In prison for murder. Well, a few thousand dollars can give you a chance of freedom, seriously. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Florida's police commissioner said it is nothing new for inmates to buy bogus court papers to walk right off their sentences and walk right out of prison like two Florida convicts who were just captured over the weekend. CNN's Nick Valencia is in Tallahassee. Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT. Good morning, Carol. Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins are not cooperating with authorities, but even still in the days since their arrests, Florida law enforcement officials have discovered that this kind of fraud is not isolated to the two escape murderers.


VALENCIA (voice-over): They're not cooperating with authorities but even still, they have discovered that this kind of fraud is not isolated for the two escaped murders. Days after two convicted murders were mistakenly released from prison, new revelations about how they obtained the documents to set them free.

JERRY BAILEY, COMMISSIONER, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT: We have a confident source that advised us that there was a cottage field if you will where an individual was able to construct these documents for $8,000.

VALENCIA: In an exclusive interview with CNN, Florida's police commissioner said a total of seven inmates have tried schemes like this since 2009. Five of them were from the same prison where Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins escaped.

(on camera): Are you looking at this perhaps being an inside job?

BAILEY: That was a consideration. They had help inside the prison or inside the clerk's office.

VALENCIA: State officials had been investigating the issue for about a year and had warned prosecutors about the schemes over this summer. The inmates presented with a fake signatures of a judge and assistant state attorney hoping to secure their release. Now new procedures are in place to prevent this from happening again. Prison officials will now be retired to check with the judge to insure that the release order is legitimate.

BAILEY: They recognized holes in our system. But holes have been recognized and they're doing I think a very good job of patching those holes before an action like this is taken.

VALENCIA: A manhunt led cops to the capture of the two men at this motel. Investigators are now looking for those who helped the killers even testing DNA on the forged documents.

BAILEY: We do not have the arrest warrant for them, but the suspects have been pinpointed.


VALENCIA: We are standing by for a noon press conference at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement where officials are expected to say that this case is moving quickly -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Nick Valencia reporting live from Tallahassee, Florida this morning. Checking our top stories at 10 minutes past, classes canceled at a Nevada middle school that was the scene of another deadly school shooting. A Marine veteran math teacher lost his life at the hands of a 13-year-old student who then committed suicide. Witnesses say Michael Landsberry was rushing to help too injured students when the young gunman shut him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He walked up to the teacher and he says back up. Teacher started backing up and he pulled the trigger.

GENO MARTINI, MAYOR OF SPARKS, NEVADA (via telephone): It was a very well liked teacher by the students and other teachers. It's very unfortunate that someone like that that protected our country over there and came back alive, his life had to be taken.

REGGIE LANDSBERRY, BROTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM (via telephone): He loved teaching at Sparks Middle School. He loved the kids. He was just a good all around individual.


COSTELLO: Some describe the shooter as a nice kid who was bullied. It is not clear if that's what prompted the shooting.

CeeLo Green accused of slipping ecstasy to a woman while they were having dinner together this past July. The singer and judge on NBC's "The Voice" pleaded not guilty to a drug charge. The woman also claim Green raped her. But prosecutors say there isn't enough evidence (ph). NBC hasn't said how or if the drug charge will affect Green's future with the singing competition.

Two of the women rescued from Ariel Castro's Cleveland the house of horrors are ready to write a book about it. An attorney for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus says they are getting help from were rescued in May after ten years in captivity.

Sleepwalking, it's something you normally think happens at home, but look at this video. A woman says she was asleep and walked off a subway platform near Boston. Several people coo other than an injury to her arm, the woman is said to be OK.

Still to come, Kathleen Sebelius is under scrutiny. I'll talk to a congresswoman about that subject next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Frustration and fatigue for millions of uninsured Americans because of the fiasco with the Obamacare site. But for some states, the roll-out has been smooth, 17 of those states, including the District of Columbia, have set up their own ex-changes with fewer website issues. And in an interview this morning on CNN, the governor of one of those states of Kentucky, had this to say with the new law's implementation.


GOVERNOR STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: We hit the ground running on October 1. I think everybody in the country now feels like that the Kentucky health care exchange is sort of the gold standard because it's working. We are signing up people at roughly a thousand a day. It's a great rate and great success so far. It was an easy decision for me.

Both from a morale standpoint, because we've got 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians and I want to make sure that every single person has access to health care. It was also the best economic decision. I had outside experts telling me that it's going to create about 17,000 new jobs over the next eight years and infuse about $15 billion into our economy. It's a win-win for us.


COSTELLO: And when it comes to the scrutiny over the web site's technical failures, Beshear had this to say.


BESHEAR: Let me give a piece of unsolicited advice to the critics and honestly to the news media. Take a deep breath. In system is going to work. The only thing that really isn't working right now on the federal level is the web site. I guarantee you that whether it's a week from now two months from now, they'll get it up and they'll get it working. People will be signing up.

The last time we did a major transformational change in health care in America was back in 1965, I think it was, when they passed Medicare. Well, history shows us that it took two or three years to work through all of the bumps in the road and all of the kinks to get it up and running and making sure that everybody joined up. So this is going to work and everybody just needs to chill out a little bit.

COSTELLO: Joining me now is Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina. Good morning, Congresswoman.


COSTELLO: You just heard the Kentucky governor, a man in the middle of implementing this law saying it can work. Your response?

ELLMERS: What we see right now is a stark and fatal flaw. This is a failure at the greatest level and should be a great embarrassment to the president and his administration. And someone needs to take responsibility for it. That's why we're going to work so hard on the energy and commerce committee to get answers.

COSTELLO: Do you believe it can work, if the glitches, but if everything is fixed at the 23er8 level, do you think that Obamacare can work as far as the health care exchanges go?

ELLMERS: Let's look at it from a grand view. We're talking about Americans going on a website that isn't working right now and we're on a time line. This has -- this has that come up and working over a period of time between now and about December 15th. It's just flawed. It's completely failed.

And now we're asking Americans to buy health care coverage that the premiums are outrageous. I have constituents back home whose health care coverage is going up 400 percent. They're receiving letters from their insurance companies that are saying that as a result of the affordable care act the plan that they're on is no longer available.

COSTELLO: Why isn't this happening in Kentucky?

ELLMERS: Well, I know you had the clip of the governor and God bless him. He's talking about a situation that he supports. But the American people cannot wait for this. There are hard working taxpayers --

COSTELLO: Was the governor joshing us? Is he not telling the truth?

ELLMERS: I'm not exactly sure it is working in Kentucky. You know, I have some of my colleagues that serve on the energy and commerce committee and they're not as thrilled with Obama care in Kentucky as the governor is.

COSTELLO: So the governor when he says he's signing up 1,000 people a day and wants to get the 640,000 people in Kentucky insurance, he's just saying that for political purposes?

ELLMERS: Well, you know, let's look at again the grand scheme of things. It is a failure at monumental levels. And if Kentucky is working, that's a bright spot in all of this. But let's be honest, this is a failure. And we know the Obama administration needs thousands more to sign up for this. And it's simply not going to happen. And let's put a system in place that really will work.

I support the health care reform act that I worked on to put forward a plan of affordable health care coverage for Americans. Not let's go with a system that's broken right from the start. I know the governor mentioned Medicare, you know what? I'm going to be 50 next February. I was born in 1964. If we're talking 50 years later about a system that was put in place, is that really where we want to go for America?

COSTELLO: I know you're in favor of getting rid of Obamacare, but the governor also slammed the ongoing fight by some in your party to get rid of the law. Here is what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BESHEAR: They've weaved this web of miss information that's been out there for months now. Now that the exchanges are open the people in Kentucky are getting on there and finding out for themselves. I told them, you don't have to like the president or me. This is not about the president or about me. It's about you. It's about your families and children.

Go on there and check it out and you're going to like what you find and that's what's happening. They are finding that they can get affordable health coverage for the first time in their lives and I'll guarantee you about a year from now, they're going to look back at these critics, including a lot of the senators and representatives, and they're going to say, you misled us.


COSTELLO: So he laid out the scenario. Let's say that -- that the effort to fire Kathleen Sebelius is successful and she is fired. But Obamacare is still there and it will be there. So will kept cans at some point say, wow, this is working in Kentucky, maybe we should examine what's happening here and fix what's wrong with the other health care exchanges across the country.

ELLMERS: Let's look at another state that Obamacare was modeled after like Tennessee, a monumental failure. I think it lasted about 12 years before they were able to erase the whole entire thing and it put Tennessee in an economic disastrous situation. But fact of the matter is, I'm looking at results. The results are right now that the Obamacare exchange roll-out is a complete failure.

COSTELLO: But you're discounting everything that the Kentucky governor is saying. Instead of sitting down with him and saying, Governor, let's talk and figure this out together. Let's figure out what's political in what you're saying. You're discounting what he has to say outright.

ELLMERS: I'm looking out for North Carolinians first and foremost, and Americans across the country. Again, I appreciate the governor's remarks. I respect it.

COSTELLO: But you don't.

ELLMERS: But the fact of the matter is, we have to look at results. We can't just look at criticisms.

COSTELLO: We are just looking at criticism. You're just looking at criticism. You're discounting what he has to say.

ELLMERS: You're getting awfully angry about this position. I hate that you're in this position. But the fact of the matter is, we have had subcommittee hearing after subcommittee hearing, and each one of those agencies has including Kathleen Sebelius told us we were right on track. That they were going to go forward October 1st. And every American was going to have the chance to go on the web site and see what would be available to them. There are mothers and fathers across this country right now that are still trying to get on that website and by the way, if you do get on it --

COSTELLO: I'm not disagreeing with any of that. I'm just saying why don't we find a way to fix it?

ELLMERS: If there's firing in the future, that's up to debate. The problem is, let's put affordable health care forward for all Americans. Let's put something together that really will work. Not something that's dead on arrival already.

COSTELLO: All right, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, thanks so much for joining me.

ELLMERS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM --

The men who recorded themselves knocking over an ancient boulder in a Utah State Park have gotten the boot from the Boy Scouts and one could face serious legal trouble now.


COSTELLO: The men who recorded themselves knocking over that ancient boulder in a Utah State Park had in big trouble. Not only did they get the boot from the Boy Scouts, but because Glen Taylor, the man seeing doing the pushing, filed a lawsuit last month to say, quote, "debilitating injuries from a car crash." Does he look injured to you? CNN's Kyung Lah has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wiggle it just a little bit.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The wiggle and the topple, echoing across the world wide web. The man doing the pushing is Glen Taylor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just highly offended to see that somebody would act that way.

LAH: Not just he toppled what's known as a goblin, the unusual looking nearly 200 million-year-old rock formation in a Utah State Park, but because Taylor is suing for a car accident four years ago. According to the personal injury lawsuit, he claims that after the accident he has serious permanent and debilitating injuries and has endured great pain and suffering, loss of joys of life and impairment. He filed this lawsuit last month. This is Taylor last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody with a bad back who is disabled and can't enjoy life to me doesn't step up and push a rock that big right off its base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Muscles over here pushed it off.

LAH: Taylor's lawyer did not return CNN's calls for comment. But Taylor did say this to a CNN affiliate about the lawsuit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't look very debilitated in that video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't see how hardy pushed.

LAH: Why would a plaintiff in a personal initial lawsuit post his own video pushing a rock formation? People do the darndest things with cell phones.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a strange thing that people will file these claims. They don't think anyone will ever see it or repercussions will ever come of it.

LAH: Or hear their excuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die, and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way.