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Sebelius Testifies Before House Committee on ObamaCare Web Woes; Clint Black Fights Rett Syndrome; Worldwide Wine Shortage; Hero Bus Driver Saves Woman

Aired October 30, 2013 - 15:30   ET


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Last week, I asked for the cost from each of the contractors that were with us last week. So, can you give me a ballpark of what you have spent on this Web site that does not work that individuals cannot get to? What is your cost estimate?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: So far, Congresswoman, we have spent about $118 million on the Web site itself and about $56 million has been expended on other i.t. to support the web.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN SHIMKUS (R), ILLINOIS: Can you provide for the committee the list of insurers in the federal exchange who do not offer as part of their package abortion coverage?

SEBELIUS: I will get that information to you. The Web site has never crashed. It is functional but at a very slow speed and very low reliability.

REPRESENTATIVE LEE TERRY (R), NEBRASKA: Do you have data on how many people in general in the United States have tried to enroll in a plan through this Web site?

SEBELIUS: No, sir, we do not have any reliable data around enrollment, which is why we haven't given it to date.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL DOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I understand you have said approximately 700,000 people have applied for coverage via the and state exchanges.

SEBELIUS: They have completed an application.

DOYLE: Right, which is different from enrollment?

SEBELIUS: That's correct.

DOYLE: My question is, are you expecting -- I know you don't have exact numbers yet -- but are you expecting a large number or a small number of enrollments in the first month? What are your thoughts on that?

SEBELIUS: Our projections prior to launch were always that there would be a very small number.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: Dorothy, at some point in the movie, turns to her little dog to and says, to, we're not in Kansas anymore.

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: This Wizard of Oz comment from my colleague from Texas is particularly apropos given what we hear on the other side of the aisle.

I don't know how you keep your cool, Madam Secretary, with this continuous effort on the part of the GOP to sabotage the ACA, to scare people, to bring up red herrings.

REPRESENTATIVE GREGG HARPER (R), MISSISSIPPI: So the president ultimately is responsible. I think it's great that you're a team player and taking responsibility, it is the president's ultimate responsibility, correct?

SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever. Yes, he is the president. He is responsible for government programs.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: As Secretary Sebelius was facing those tough questions on the Hill today, President Obama was en route to Boston to make the case for his signature health care law, and the Massachusetts health care plan, it was modeled after. So he's scheduled to speak any minute now from Boston.

Meantime, President Obama's agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, was stumping in Atlanta, and last week, the first lady was defending the law at a conference in Washington, D.C.

Damage control or simply part of the rollout plan? Let me go straight to our chief Washington correspondent and host of "THE LEAD," Jake Tapper, on the road in Chicago, because you talked to Rahm Emanuel because he played a huge role getting the law passed. What did he say to you, Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Well, we talked about a number of issues in the interview after the speaks this afternoon.

He talked about the rollout of ObamaCare and the acknowledgment of the problems, whether he thought the White House had been holding back information.

One thing I wanted to ask him about is this charge that President Obama was disengaged.

We heard people say this, because of President Obama not knowing all the details of the NSA surveillance program, and then of course, not knowing all the details of the problems with the ObamaCare Web site.

Here's what the former chief of staff, current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, had to say about that.


TAPPER: There have been criticisms with President Obama not knowing the details of the ObamaCare Web site problems. And then also with the national security agency and the spying surveillance of our allies, there have been criticisms of him as disengaged.

Were you --

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: That is the furthest from the truth about the president. I used to see him every morning. I used to see him every morning, three or four times during the day, and every evening before I went out.

When I see him every morning, he had read all the material that was presented to him by everybody. And he knew going into the meeting what the assumption of the other side of the argument was, why he wanted to -- exactly what question said he wanted about whether it was on economic policy or foreign policy.

So the idea that he would be disengaged is -- unless something happened, I have never seen in the two years of intensity when I was there. I just don't buy it.


TAPPER: So a very forceful defense of President Obama by his first White House chief of staff.

One other thing that was interesting is Mayor Emanuel, when he was chief of staff, Brooke, he was very open about suggesting that there not be this very ambitious widespread attempt to reform healthcare in this country.

He thought it should be a more incremental approach, expanding health care for children and small businesses, but President Obama disagreed with him.

He talked about that at length also in terms of President Obama wanting to hear opposing points of view, Brooke.

BALDWIN: As you point out, the president speaking in a matter of minutes from Boston, then we'll watch for you, Jake Tapper, and watch for this interview with the now current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.

"THE LEAD" starts in just a couple minutes. Thank you, sir, for that.

Before I let you know, coming up, we're talking about a global wine shortage? Indeed, it is true.

Do you need to start stocking up? What's the reason behind this? That's coming up next.

First, heartache and loss are no stranger to country music stars. Songs oftentimes capture the pain, the hurt around him, but Clint Black is taking his star power off the stage to make an impact on a mysterious disease that has hit home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Country singer Clint Black is known for his signature cowboy hat and his classic sound.

But beyond the music, Black is supporting the fight against a disease called Rett syndrome.

CLINT BLACK, COUNTRY SINGER: My niece Courtney, my brother Kevin's daughter, was afflicted with this and lost her battle with it at age 16.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rett syndrome almost always affects girls. It's usually diagnosed by 18 months.

Children can't communicate and require constant care. There is no cure, yet.

BLACK: I think the human, knee-jerk reaction is to look away because it's really hard to see. And it's real suffering.

But the more I see, the more I see the families and how hard they fight, the more I realize we can't look away. We have to look. We have to see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black is the ambassador for the Rhett syndrome foundation and his efforts fund research.

He says it all comes back to family and the music.

BLACK: I'm a songwriter, so I do a lot of self-examination, soul searching. And so I have always felt inclined to do what I can.

And as I fight, you know, for my own successes, I feel like part of the battle has to be for those things I can help along the way.



BALDWIN: Well, here's a little something you may not want to toast to. The well is running dry. The world is in the midst of a global wine shortage.

This is according to research from Morgan Stanley, saying that more of us are raising a glass, but there's not enough wine to go around.

So to New York we go, to Alison Kosik. Say it isn't so. Why?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know why? Because we're drinking more wine, and we're making less of it.

I want to show you something. I want to show you how wine production around the world has been going.

Production actually peaked in 2004, but the thing is it has been falling since then. Now it's actually at its lowest level since the 1960s.

And look at this. At the same time, people are drinking a bit more, so we can blame ourselves for that.

In fact, the U.S. is the second-biggest wine consumer behind only France. It's all about supply and demand, and clearly, not enough wine is being made to meet the demand.

In fact, Morgan Stanley came out and said the industry was about 300 million cases short last year.

Can't believe it.

BALDWIN: Can't believe it. I'm in Napa in like a week. I've got the demand. We just need the wine.

Alison Kosik, thank you very much.

Coming up, a story you just have to see.


DARNELL BARTON, HERO BUS DRIVER: I wanted to convey that whatever it was, I'm going to -- we're going to help you through whatever it is, and it's not as serious as jumping onto the 198.


BALDWIN: This is amazing. This is a story about a hero bus driver, next.


BALDWIN: While driving on his normal route, this bus driver in Buffalo, New York, notices a woman. She's standing on the wrong side of a guardrail on a bridge. So what he does next is nothing short of heroic.


BARTON: Ma'am, are you OK?

It didn't seem real because of what was going on around. You know, traffic was going as normal. Pedestrians going by as normal.

Ma'am, are you OK?

She was distraught, she was distant, really disconnected. I grabbed her, and I grabbed her arm, and I put my arm around her, and I said, do you want to come on this side of the guardrail?

And that was actually the first time she actually spoke to me. She said, yes.

It was meant to me. I was supposed to be there for her at that moment. And I was. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And he was. And when he finally boarded his bus again, his passengers greeted him with a round of applause.

That is it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin, leaving a little early today because we're minutes away.

Here are live pictures Faneuil Hall in Boston where the president of the United States will be speaking.

Keep in mind, birthplace of RomneyCare. We saw his HHS secretary facing some pretty tough questions from members of Congress today.

What will the president say? We'll take it, live.

Jake Tapper takes things from me after this quick break, live from Chicago. Back after this.


TAPPER: President Obama is about to speak any minute as congressional janitors are trying to remove the scent of grilled health secretary from the Capitol.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is "THE LEAD."

The national lead, hey, Massachusetts, you know that healthcare program you like so much, the one ObamaCare used as a blueprint? Well, it didn't have the best first month either.

That's what President Obama is expected to say when he speaks there in just moments, and we will carry that speech live.

Also in national news, he begged the president not to pursue such a large and ambitious healthcare bill, so what does the president's first White House chief of staff have to say now that the ObamaCare rollout has been bungled?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will join us for an exclusive interview.

And the politics lead, hold me accountable, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, taking the blame for ObamaCare's Web sites woes. Did she say anything today that appeased the Republican Party?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to "THE LEAD.

We'll begin with the national lead, a live look at Faneuil Hall right now where just moments from now President Obama will speak at the same spot where his former rival, Governor Mitt Romney, signed the landmark 2006 Massachusetts healthcare law which was used as a model to the Affordable Care Act, much to Romney's dismay at time.

The president is expected to say today, hey, the Bay State's program wasn't perfect at first either. Sure, that's true. Enrollment was slow at first in Massachusetts.

But few are arguing that what happened there was equal to the debacle of this ObamaCare rollout.

The president wants patience. There was little to be found on Capitol Hill today as his secretary of health and human services went before Congress, testifying and saying that was down, but it never, she said, never, crashed.


SEBELIUS: The Web site has never crashed. It is functional, but at a very slow speed.


TAPPER: I guess it all depends on how you define crash then.

OK, so Madam Secretary, the system is functional?


TERRY: Do you have data on how many people in general in the United States have tried to enroll?

SEBELIUS: The system isn't functioning, so we are not getting that rely on able data.


TAPPER: OK, so the system is not functioning.

Republicans armed with letters from constituents complaining that their insurance is being canceled, well, they unloaded on Sebelius today, even as she tried to take the blame for ObamaCare's failings.


SEBELIUS: We are responsible for the rollout.

HARPER: But who do you answer to?

SEBELIUS: I answer to the president.

HARPER: It is the president's ultimate responsibility, correct?

SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever. Yes, he is the president. He is responsible for government programs.


TAPPER: Whatever. Whatever? Obviously taking a three-and-a-half hour pummeling would exasperate anybody, but Sebelius was asked about the president's culpability and she says, whatever?

Let's bring in CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Gloria, President Obama is set to take the stage any second, and I will rudely interrupt you if he does that, but let's talk about what we heard today.

We actually heard the health and human services secretary apologize.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Which we haven't heard a lot of.

So she did take full responsibility. She said the buck kind of stopped with her. She said that, also, and I found this kind of stunning, is that no senior official ever advised her to delay the plan.

Given all the malfunctions they knew were going on, given all the concerns about security, given all the tests that failed, nobody ever said to her, you know what, maybe we ought to postpone a little bit.

So I found that surprising.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay Gupta, I want to bring you in. And, again, President Obama, set to speak any second, and I may rudely interrupt if that does happen.

But one of the big issues right now is people talking about President Obama's promise to voters in 2009 and afterwards, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan; if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.

And all of a sudden, all these people are getting notices from their insurance companies, canceling their plans.

What's the disconnect here?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the disconnect is there was a law passed in between and, as part of that law, the Affordable Care Act, it says people cannot be charged higher premiums because they developed an illness, they cannot have lifetime caps on how much the insurance will pay out.

And there were plans that existed before the law was passed, Jake, that had those things. They could increase premiums. They did have caps. So those plans are essentially not available anymore. They're technically illegal plans.

And if people had those plans, those are the plans that are no longer available, and they're being told they have to get a new plan.

It hasn't been explained very well. And, you know, you're talking about 15 million people who buy insurance on their own, about half of those people are probably going to fall under this idea of getting their plans canceled because their plans don't meet the criteria as they stand now.

TAPPER: And Sanjay, just staying with you for a second, obviously some of these plans were what is called "mini-meds," not very comprehensive plans, and they are now being forced to buy plans that are more comprehensive that the ObamaCare law mandates are more comprehensive.

But not all of them fit that criteria, right?

GUPTA: No. There's different levels, different tiers of plans, first of all. But in terms of what people have to or are being asked to buy or have to buy, mandated to buy, yeah, you're right. They don't all necessarily fit that criteria.

But I think in some ways, Jake, that is the nature of insurance, like you don't know for sure what you're going to need up you need it, and a lot of these things are group plans.

So there's a lot been made, for example, of males buying coverage that covers maternity care and stuff like that.

Part of a group, part of a society, part of a community everyone's paying in to cover those things for the larger chunk of people. Otherwise, it would just be pregnant women who suddenly have high premiums when they become pregnant.

So that's the nature of insurance, and again, I don't think this has been explained very well to people. That's part of the disconnect.

TAPPER: And, Gloria, one of the issues I think, I mean, I asked President Obama about this in 2009 as a White House correspondent, about this if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.

And he explained what he meant by that was the government is not going to force you to get a different healthcare plan.

Although, of course, the government could create a whole scenario, a whole situation where your insurance company or your business forces you.

BORGER: Blame it on insurance companies.

TAPPER: I guess, live by the sales pitch, die by the sales pitch.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, that's what they're doing right now.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: But the idea is maybe if the promise hadn't been as stark in 2009 and afterwards, maybe they wouldn't be facing these questions today.

BORGER: Right. And, you know, I think the wording is unfortunate. I think now the blame is going to shift. We'll see some blame-shifting going on to the insurance companies.

And I think, to Sanjay's point, is that they had three years to explain risk pools to people, to tell young people why they need to kind of buy into this plan, and young, single men who are not married, why perhaps they ought to have maternity policy on their policy, so it will take care of some of their needs.

And so I think this whole notion of risk pool is something that people don't really understand, and how they will be getting a better policy in exchange for a little bit more hope. Nobody's going to ask you about a preexisting condition.

So I do think the kind of, you know, for an administration that's been pretty good at salesmanship when it comes to campaigns, I'm surprised this campaign wasn't better.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, obviously, we in the media, we don't cover the 1,000 airplanes that land on time and perfectly safely. We are paying a lot of attention right now to people who are upset about ObamaCare, people having problems with the Web site, people having issues with the fact that they're being kicked off their plans and being told they have to buy new plans that are more expensive or have higher deductibles.

But there are people benefitting from ObamaCare, and we should take a moment to at least acknowledge that fact and talk about that.

GUPTA: I think that's a very fair point, Jake. And, look, you know, I mean, initially when we talked about this healthcare reform, I think a better description would have been insurance reform. You've talked about this. I've talked about it.

But this idea that insurance reform offers protections people who aren't joining the marketplace, so all the rest of us, people who have insurance through their employers right now who are watching, they get some benefit in the sense that they -- for example, preventive care now doesn't cost anything. That is free.

You mentioned people being able to stay on their parents' plan up until age 26. That's for everybody, not just people joining the marketplace.

But, also, this idea that insurance companies can't cap how much they'll pay out. If someone gets sick, you can get to your annual cap pretty quickly. You can get to lifetime cap pretty quickly. That can't happen anymore. And again, those are benefits for everybody.

So, yeah, a lot of people are making a lot of this Web site. I interviewed the secretary about this last week. We had a very candid conversation about it.

But the idea that it's emblematic of a disaster unfolding, I think, is probably overstating it.

TAPPER: And, Gloria, I mean, think one of the issues here is the salesmanship, as we talked about.

Look, one can argue empirically that being able to get health insurance regardless of your pre-existing conditions, no caps for individuals, and putting sick children, allowing them benefits that they weren't able to have with kids with pre-existing conditioning, those are all empirically positive things.