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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Admits Fumble, Promises Fix; Secret Service Misconduct Probe; Toronto Mayor Apologizes for Vulgar Remarks
Aired November 14, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, the president opens up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: An apology and a proposed fix. Can it save Obamacare? I'll talk to an insurance industry insider who says the president's plan could destabilize the market and make matters even worse.
Plus, debating the Obamacare debacle, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann getting ready to square off against own political commentator, Paul Begala. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's a snowballing debacle that has the White House under fire and under pressure from all sides right now. And today, President Obama took center stage accepting blame for the crisis plaguing Obamacare and offering a fix for one of the most controversial provisions that's resulted already in millions of people having their insurance plans canceled. But it's far from certain whether the president's fix will work. Some say it could make matters even worse.
Our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, begins our coverage this hour. Brianna, so, tell our viewers what the president said.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first off, President Obama was extraordinarily candid as he addressed his broken health insurance promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it.
KEILAR (voice-over): A remarkable admission from President Obama.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We fumbled the rollout on this health care law.
KEILAR: As he unveiled his plan to help Americans who have been kicked off their health insurance policies stay on them for another year.
OBAMA: This fix won't solve every problem for every person, but it's going to help a lot of people.
KEILAR: After mounting political pressure, he took the blame head-on.
OBAMA: That's on me.
KEILAR: Trying to deflect criticism from vulnerable Democrats in Congress, saying he feels deeply responsible.
OBAMA: There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they're running or not, because they stood up and supported this effort through thick and thin.
KEILAR: The president admitted he overpromised and was uninformed.
OBAMA: I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opens if I thought that it wasn't going to work.
KEILAR: He did not dismiss a suggestion that the insular nature of his White House contributed to the failure.
OBAMA: There's going to be a lot of evaluation of how we got to this point and I assure you that I've been asking a lot of questions about that.
KEILAR: And he addressed his personal credibility as polls show it's at an all-time low.
OBAMA: I'm not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president. My pledge to the American people is that we're going to solve the problems that are there. We're going to get it right. And the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.
KEILAR (on-camera): But the political battle over the president's most important domestic policy achievement is far from over. And tonight, Wolf, insurance companies, the insurance industry, is raising questions about how practically this fix can be implemented, saying that it will create instability in the market and could also result in higher premiums, more expensive premiums, for Americans purchasing insurance on the exchanges, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar at the White House, you're absolutely right. Thanks very much.
Washington State, by the way, is already rejecting the president's plan. The insurance commissioner in Washington State says it's too late right now. He says his state will stay the course. Almost 300,000 Washington State residents will have to get new policies. And a top insurance industry trade association says the president's fix could actually destabilize the insurance market.
And Karen Ignagni is joining us right now. She's chief executive officer of the America' Health Insurance Industry, chief representative here in Washington. Karen, thanks very much for coming in.
KAREN IGNAGNI, PRESIDENT AND CEO, AMERICA'S HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you agree with what the president said today?
IGNAGNI: Well, we have some concerns about today and essentially what it boils down to is this is changing the rules in the ninth inning of the baseball game. And the reason is that what the plans have already submitted their premiums with the expectation that there's a mix of older and younger people, healthy and sick, to balance the pools so that we can have affordable rates for consumers. And what it boils down to today, we're concerned about the issue of affordability for consumers.
BLITZER: So, are your members going to go along with this so-called fix the president put forward today?
IGNAGNI: Well, the decisions are up to state insurance commissioners. As you know, they regulate health insurance marketplaces across the country in 50 states. They'll make decisions. Some of them have already indicated they're moving in certain directions. But they'll be the decision makers here in terms of what are the rules of the game in a particular state.
BLITZER: Is it doable if you say this is the ninth inning of a baseball game and they want to rewrite the rules? Is it practical? Is it doable?
IGNAGNI: Well, here's -- you're getting to the issue that our members are very concerned about. We have -- and let me go back by comparison. I think you've covered very well over the years that states try to construct risk pools, try to reform their insurance markets, and what we saw in states where there were only older and sicker people entering the risk pools, the markets blew up. No one wants that. We don't want that. Our top priority is to get affordable coverage to all Americans.
BLITZER: Well, did you express these concerns to the White House before the president went public with his plan today?
IGNAGNI: Well, I think you know us very well. We're not shy about expressing concerns about a range of things, both with the administration and on Capitol Hill. We're continuing to do that. And we're now looking at the proposal and we want to talk about what the impact is, because we had the same goals the consumers have. We want to give them affordable coverage. Everyone wants that.
BLITZER: But a lot of experts are fearful this could cause what they call this death spiral of the entire Affordable Care Act. Could this entire program be derailed? IGNAGNI: Well, the issue is what's going to happen to the risk pools. Who will join, what kind of mix of older and younger, sicker and healthier will occur? And that's what we are expressing concerns about today.
BLITZER: What's your analysis?
IGNAGNI: Our analysis is that we're concerned. We think that there are strategies that can be adopted to help mitigate this and we think they need to be looked at very carefully, because we're concerned about -- we don't want to make the past prologue. We don't want to have a situation that occurred in the states as you just a moment talked about occur here. no one wants that.
And Americans don't want that. They want affordable coverage. They want to get into the system. They want to know that they can stay there and purchase affordable coverage.
BLITZER: How many people have lost their health insurance plans, plans they may have liked, as a result of the Affordable Care Act?
IGNAGNI: Well, the thing about the individual market that you should keep in mind is that there's a lot of what is called churning in this market, meaning, that people will buy coverage in the individual market, buying it on their own or a family will buy it, and then, they'll go and get a job with an employer, they'll be recruited by an employer, they'll have employer coverage, they'll leave the market.
A young individual will buy coverage after they're 26 and will be 27, 28, 29, they'll get a job. They'll leave the individual market. They're going to into the employer market. That explains why we see such dramatic change in this market every year. About two-thirds of this market changes every year.
BLITZER: What's the number of people that have lost their insurance policies because of the Affordable Care Act?
IGNAGNI: Well, there's no way to know because you have to know on a state by state market by market basis. So, there's no one number that I have to give you today --
BLITZER: California supposedly a million people lost their policies in California. Their number is five million nationwide. You've seen all those numbers.
IGNAGNI: I have, of course. The only reason that plans are sending notes to consumers about losing coverage is because of the requirements of the new legislation. The requirements of the new legislation require us to offer products that are more comprehensive than what people buy today. So, that's the plans of following the rules.
And, I think that one of the things that we're very concerned about is now that they followed the rules, they've submitted their premiums, the rules are going to be changed and we don't know the impact on the market of those changes. Who will come in, will it be that balance of younger and healthier? And we've been talking about this for a number of weeks now about concerns in this area.
BLITZER: So, do you feel the president misled you and your organization?
IGNAGNI: I'm not into blame game, Wolf. I'm into trying to solve a problem. First diagnosing a problem, solving a problem. So, we're concerned, we can see based on what happened in the state arena. We can see insurance commissioners expressing concern. So, there's reason to express concern. Now, the question is what to do about it and that's what we're focusing on.
BLITZER: You heard the president and a lot of his top aides and supporters call these plans, these individual health insurance plans that have been canceled, now he wants them to come back in order to keep that commitment, but he basically says these are junk plans that aren't worth the paper they're written on, by and large, for the most part.
When you hear the president of the United States say that about your health insurance plans, these individual health insurance plans, what's your response?
IGNAGNI: Well, my response is that people are buying in the market what they have chosen to purchase. That's number one. On 1-1-14 (ph), what people are able to purchase changes dramatically. It's different from what they have purchased today. So, those are the rules. The plans have followed those rules and I think it's very important now for us to look at the implications of what changes have been made.
BLITZER: This is by no means a done deal. You got a lot of work to do. Karen, thanks very much.
IGNAGNI: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, more on the president's remarkable news conference today. Did he say enough? Is it too late to recover? Our political experts are standing by.
And she's one of Obamacare's sharpest critics, Republican congresswoman, Michele Bachmann. She's getting ready to debate right here in the SITUATION ROOM, our political commentator, Paul Begala. Bachmann and Begala together.
Plus, new alleged secret service misconduct allegations involving a woman's hotel room and a bullet.
BLITZER: A blunt and very candid news conference by President Obama today admitting his own frustration, fumbled the Obamacare launch. He also proposed a controversial fix that would allow some people to keep their existing insurance plans for one more year, but insurers are not required to do it and there's concern it could destabilize the entire program. Let's get some analysis. Joining us, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, the "New Republic" senior editor, Jonathan Cohn, is joining us from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and our CNN political commentator, Ross Douthat. Guys, thanks very much.
Gloria, you have an excellent column you posted on CNN.com. You write this among other things, "No one was really in charge. So, no one knew for sure how bad the overall picture was, what's more and perhaps most telling, no one wanted even to hint to the president that this techno-savvy administration possibly had a website stuck in say 1995."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not sure if it's 1990 or 1995.
BLITZER: They had three years to get this website ready.
BORGER: They did. And, what I was writing about is sort of trying to answer the question, how come nobody told the president? I believe he didn't know the whole story. And what I discovered in reporting this is that nobody likes to give this president bad news, period. Nobody likes to give any president bad news, but this is a no drama White House. People are very silo'ed in their jobs.
They stay in their lane, as they say it, in this administration. So, you don't want to cross over into anybody else's lane even if you hear something's going wrong, because then it looks like you're being a tattle-tale. And they don't want that. They don't encourage it. And as a result, everybody had bits and pieces of this. Nobody in charge, nobody saw the full picture.
BLITZER: And the president acknowledged it today. I'm going to play the clip again, Ross. Listen to the president. This is one of these sound bites that's going to hover over this president for a long time. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There are going to be ups and downs during the course of my presidency. And, I think I said early on when I was running I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that enough?
ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no. But there's nothing that's enough, right? I mean, the reason that this press conference was a bit of a sort of rolling fiasco is that there really isn't anything to be said at this point except that we're going to fix the website.
And a lot of what we've seen happen over the last week or so with these, you know, various ideas floated in Congress that would allow people to, you know, theoretically keep plans that have already been canceled, they're just dancing around the central issue, which is that the entire system depends on people, people who don't have insurance now, people who already have insurance being able to actually access the product, and the insurance representative you had on was exactly right.
It is all about the risk pool, who is in the pool, how many people and so on. And, there's no way, I mean, the system is designed to take people --
BLITZER: Let me bring Jonathan into this conversation. You've been doing some excellent reporting in the "New Republic." Jonathan, is it fixable? This fix the president came up with today, trying to recreate what he said so many times, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan, is this really realistic? Washington state, the insurance commissioner there, has already said they're not going forward with it.
JONATHAN COHN, SENIOR EDITOR, NEW REPUBLIC: Well, it's hard to fix. I mean, Ross is right when he describes the way health care reform is supposed to work. It's basically trying to create a level playing field where everybody gets a decent set of benefits and everybody can buy insurance even if they have pre-existing conditions.
Now, a lot of people have bought insurance that doesn't live up to those standards and move them into a new market. You know, some of them are going to end up paying more than they do. Now, it's not as many as sometimes is commonly assumed. You hear, you know, ten million people are in this market. You know, eight million are getting letters.
Well, it's only a fraction of them who are actually going to end up paying more and you know, some of them may want to pay more because of the better benefits they're going to get. But there are people who are going to end up paying more. They may get less than they have now. They're not happy about it. There is tinkering you can do.
I think what the president was trying to do today was sort of two things. He was number one to take an administrative step, to do what he can do on his own to help some people. I don't think it's going to reach a lot of these people, but it might make some difference. You know, the part of it --
BLITZER: Hold on for one second, because I want to get Gloria's take. Republicans, I got to tell you, they are so energized right now. They think they have the president and the Democrats right on the ropes right now, and they want to pounce.
BORGER: So, think back to where we were during the shutdown, OK? During the shutdown --
DOUTHAT: Let's not.
(CROSSTALK) BORGER: Democrats, you know, were energized. The Republicans were publicly humiliated during the shutdown. Now, here you are, the Democrats are feeling like their credibility is on the line. It's not just the president's credibility or the president's competency. It's their credibility. It's their competency. This is on the line.
And they've told the president privately and you heard the president today publicly, I never heard him so contrite. I mean, most people do their therapy in private. I think he did it kind of publicly here. And they are upset about it because they look like they didn't know what they were doing.
BLITZER: He hasn't fired anybody, has he?
DOUTHAT: And this is where Gloria's reporting, I mean, is very telling, right, that whatever else this is, set aside the sort of liberal versus conservative policy debate. This is a massive administrative failure that's threatening his entire presidency and the Democratic Party's central agenda item, and I understand that he doesn't want to fire and the Democratic Party's central agenda item.
And I understand that he doesn't want to fire someone in the middle of this -- what is undoubtedly an absolutely insane effort to get this website up and running, and perhaps, that's the right call. But in terms of the public --
BORGER: And eventually he will.
BLITZER: Jonathan, you know, tomorrow in the House of Representatives, Fred Upton, the Republican congressman from Michigan, he's got legislation. I assume all the Republicans, virtually all of them, bunch of Democrats maybe even will vote in favor of it. You say this is a wrecking ball that won't reform the system, the Affordable Care Act. It will destroy it. Why?
COHN: That's right. So, basically what the Upton bill, what House Republicans are going to vote tomorrow is they're going to say, you know what, not only do we want to help people who have plans keep the plans they have, but we basically want to let insurers keep selling policies the way they used to do it so they don't have to sell to people with pre-existing conditions.
And they can keep selling these policies that have these huge gaps that leave people, you know, exposed to massive bills when they go to the hospital, and basically, undermine what the law is trying to do. So, you know, he doesn't admit that. This is not what he advertises the bill.
But this is not just a bill to let people keep their insurance policies. It's also a bill to keep all the parts of the health care system that nobody likes. He wants to restore the status quo.
BORGER: And Democrats will vote for it, ironically.
COHN: We'll see how many. We'll see how many vote for it. We'll see how many vote for it. I'm not so sure they're going to vote for it.
BORGER: They're worried.
COHN: They're worried. I'd be worried, too.
BLITZER: But you know what, even if it passes the house, it's not going to necessarily pass the Senate. But even if it were to pass the Senate, I don't think it would, the president would veto it so -- but it's a political --
DOUTHAT: Well, and this is part of what the president -- what they're doing is trying to make sure that you don't get in the scenario where the White House does nothing and something veto-proof passes both Houses which is unlikely, but it's something they're trying to forestall.
BORGER: And that's why they want to do it administratively as opposed to legislation although they would support some form of legislation --
BLITZER: We'll see how this works out in the next few days. Let's see if they can get that website working optimally by the end of this month. That's a big issue, right? Now, guys, thanks very, very much.
When we come back, she's one of the president's fiercest critics of Obamacare. There she is, Republican congresswoman, Michele Bachmann. She is going to be here in the SITUATION ROOM and she will debate one- on-one, Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist and CNN commentator. Begala and Bachmann together here.
And a bullet reportedly left behind by one of the president's senior secret service agents in a woman's room inside a hotel a block away from the White House. We have details on a new secret service investigation that is now underway.
BLITZER: There's a new report about a bullet allegedly left behind in a woman's hotel room by a senior secret service agent on the president's detail. This comes just over a year since the agency was hit by a massive prostitution scandal. Our own Brian Todd has been working the story for us. He's got the dramatic details. What do we know?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is now the subject of an internal secret service investigation. The agency was trying to clean up its act following a prostitution scandal last year, but now, new allegations of misconduct, this time involving elite secret service agents and women.
TODD: They're the agents closest to the president, ready to take a bullet to save his life. Now, two of them are under investigation for alleged misconduct. According to the "Washington Post," a senior supervisor in the elite presidential protective detail of the secret service was discovered trying to re-enter a woman's hotel room after accidentally leaving a bullet from his service weapon in that room.
I asked Larry Johnson, a former agent in that same protective detail, about the agent taking a bullet out of his gun.
LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: That's very unusual. Not something that is taught or trained.
TODD: The incident happened in May at the upscale Hay Adams Hotel across the street from the White House. The "Post" reports the investigation led to a search of the agent's Blackberry. One law enforcement source tells CNN that supervising agent and another one were discovered to have left sexually suggestive e-mails to a female government employee.
But another source tells us, there was nothing explicitly suggestive in those e-mails. The investigation follows the secret service scandal in the spring of last year when agents hired prostitutes before a presidential trip to Cartagena, Colombia.
The head of the secret service later stepped down and the agency appointed its first ever female director. There's an inspector general's report due soon on whether that's all part of the culture at the secret service.
Is it a macho culture and is that to blame for Cartagena and now this?
JOHNSON: I don't think so. the physical fitness piece, the staying mentally sharp piece, it all can be described as looking as macho, but it's really about staying focused and sometimes is confused for being macho. I think it's a posture that most agents need to have to do their job.
TODD: Now a senator involved in overseeing the secret service says one of the agents involved in this latest incident had investigated the Cartagena case.
SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R) HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: One of those men, we have come to find out actually was involved in the Cartagena incident and interviewed secret service personnel.
TODD (on-camera): Senator Ron Johnson says that's like the fox guarding the hen house. The secret service didn't respond to that but did send us a statement saying the agency takes allegations of improper behavior seriously and is going to work to investigate them. We have the names of the agents, but we are not identifying them.
They have not responded to our calls and e-mail. The agent who left the bullet has been removed from his position. The other remains on the president's detail, Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story that is. Brian, thanks very much for that.
Turning now to an innovator, a visionary, a trail blazer, we're talking about Ted Turner. He didn't just put CNN on the map. he Changed television news as we know it. And in our new CNN documentary "Ted Turner: The Maverick Man," I spent some quality time with my former boss, the man who gave me my start here at CNN 23 years ago.
BLITZER: Who thought the world needed 24/7 news?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did.
BLITZER (voice-over): He changed TV news forever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of my colleagues thought Ted was nuts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sailing, media, environment, the United Nations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A billion's a good round number, you know?
BLITZER: You know you changed the world.
TURNER: Yes, I know.
BLITZER (voice-over): They called him captain outrageous. And the mouth of the south.
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: There is no cut-off between the brain and the mouth with Ted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted was a little unorthodox and a little unpredictable.
BLITZER: He built a media empire. He won the America's Cup.
TURNER: Got to go as fast as we can here.
BLITZER: The World Series.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put the Atlanta Braves organization on the map.
BLITZER: And the heart of Jane Fonda.
FONDA: I will never love anyone like I -- like I love him.
BLITZER: Before his world came crashing down.
TURNER: It's been a very painful experience, obviously.
BLITZER: A journey like no other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that he was taken off that focus allowed him to go to the next important phase of his life, the third act.
BLITZER: You can see the full documentary, the one-hour documentary, "Ted Turner: The Maverick Man," hosted by me this Sunday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Replayed 1:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
A truly, truly amazing man.
Coming up, she's one of Obamacare's sharpest critics. Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She is here in the SITUATION ROOM to debate our own political commentator, Paul Begala.
Plus, vulgar new comments coming from the Toronto mayor who admitted to smoking crack cocaine. What he now says and the fresh batch of allegations against him.
BLITZER: Another shocking turn in the media fire storm surrounding the mayor of Toronto. Rob Ford apologizing today again for using extremely vulgar language after being hit with a new round of allegations.
CNN's Paula Newton is joining us from Toronto. She's got the latest information.
So what is the latest, Paula?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The latest is that he says new and fresh allegations against him for smoking crack cocaine, allegedly being with prostitutes, drunk thriving, all untrue, he says.
But, Wolf, that just got all the fireworks going today at city hall. A shocking set of events. Take a listen.
MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: Watch my wife, man.
NEWTON (voice-over): There is good reason some are now calling it crazy time. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford shoving his way out of his office, defiant and angry, trying to get his wife through a chaotic crush of journalists.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why would you subject your family to this?
NEWTON: The back story to all this? Ford came out swinging first thing Thursday morning announcing that the fresh allegations of him using cocaine, driving drunk and being with prostitutes are all lies, and he is suing his former staff members.
FORD: That is outright lies. That is not true. You know what, it hurts my wife when they're calling a friend of mine a prostitute. Alana is not a prostitute. She's a friend and it makes me sick how people are saying this.
NEWTON: The mayor says he was seeing red at this point and went on in the most vulgar of ways about allegations he wanted to have oral sex with a former staffer. FORD: Olivia Gondek -- said that I wanted (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I've never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I'm happily married.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to apologize for my graphic remarks this morning.
NEWTON: And so just hours later, flanked by his wife and his lawyer, he apologized.
FORD: I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress. The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible. The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts and prostitution has pushed me over the line. And I used unforgivable language and again, I apologize.
NEWTON: Over the line or over the edge?
FORD: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is going on?
NEWTON: Several times today, Mayor Ford seemed unable to cope with all his personal and political troubles. But is he stepping down? Not a chance. The mayor is doubling down, announcing he and his brother Doug will be hosting a TV show beginning next week.
NEWTON: You know what was a real eye-opener today was seeing his wife Renata at his side. This is someone who doesn't enjoy the media. She's rarely at any public events and that includes any events he's done here as mayor in non-controversial times. She'd be much more concerned about putting their children on a school bus than being here trying to defend her husband with vulgar comments.
She didn't make any comments but she did want to be by her husband's side. And unfortunately, got up an incredible media circus here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I can only imagine. All right, Paula. Thanks very much.
This just coming in to CNN. A bizarre incident in the skies above Florida. The pilot of a small single engine plane made a distress call to air traffic controllers reporting that a man had actually fallen from the aircraft. Here's part of that call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday. I have a door ajar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you said you got a passenger that fell out of your plane?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct, sir. He opened the back door and he just fall down the plane. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. It's not known how the passenger fell out of the plane, which did land safely, by the way. A search team is on the scene. Police are questioning the pilot. When we get more, we will let you know.
Just ahead, as troubles mount for Obamacare, Republicans are offering alternatives. I'll talk about that and more with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She is getting ready to debate Paul Begala.
BLITZER: President Obama's proposing a fix to the Obamacare provision that's caused millions of people to have their current plans canceled, but his proposal does come with some serious risk.
CNN's Tom Foreman is here to explain.
Tom, tell our viewers what we need to know.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Obamacare has always been a house of cards. I don't mean that in terms of weakness, but in the sense that each part of it relies on the next part to remain standing.
To get voters on board, most with insurance, the White House promised lower cost and higher quality care, right here, to get that required insurance companies to cooperate and to get that, the insurance companies told everyone -- we were told that everyone who is uninsured would be forced to buy insurance, creating a lot of new customers. As long as all of these cards are standing firm, Obamacare in theory works.
So what did the president do today? He fiddled with the cards. He jiggled them a little bit to try to deal with what's happening right now and that could affect this whole equation. Let's look at the positive first. It could strengthen support among voters over here. Polls show that their confidence in the president is not very good right now based on this idea that he didn't keep his word about people keeping their insurance. 52 percent saying he's not trustworthy.
This could be affected by this and it could be made better by his move. But what if we move over here and talk about the insurance company. It is not clear so much how much the stability is settling in here. We don't know how many companies are going to go along as some of your guests have told you, Wolf, whether they can resurrect the policy they've been canceling, whether the state insurance commissioners will go along with this, will accept all of that change, and all of that could affect this card.
Remember that the insurance companies only said they would lower the cost and provide better care because they were going to get all these customers over here. If they are not sure, if they think through all of this in any way they fear the move today will delay that process or let the healthy ones slip away into something else instead of reinsuring under Obamacare, then that could get shaky, too. So in the shifting of these cards, that does not mean that this whole program right now is somehow in trouble. In the best-case scenario, everything will settle down here, everything will move forward, and the move today will help solve things. But in the worst case, the worst case, more stumbles follow and then you reach the point where eventually, the whole thing comes tumbling right down.
Wolf, we are not at this point yet, but this is the reason that Washington was so excited today and so exercised today over what the president did. Is it a fix or is it another step down a very, very shaky road?
BLITZER: We'll know eventually. All right, Tom, good explanation. Thank you.
Let's continue the conversation right now.
Joining us, our CNN political commentator, Paul Begala and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINNESOTA: Thank you.
BLITZER: The president, obviously, is trying to fix the broken promise he made to the American people.
Did he go far enough?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN: Well, I think so. I think tom's report was just great, because you do have to really be careful and keep all these moving parts together.
But now he's got this administrative fix -- it doesn't even take a law -- that allows people, if they have these policies, to keep them.
The truth is, 85 percent, in other words. That first card that tom showed us, we have insurance. We don't have to go on a Web site. We're not getting cancellation letters.
But guess what?
We no longer can be canceled for pre-existing condition. We now actually are getting rebates. I've already gotten one. My -- I can carry my college-aged son now, who's over 21. My mama gets mammograms with Medicare. My dad has got the donut hole closing.
So the big winners here are the people who actually don't have to do anything...
BLITZER: I have a...
BEGALA: -- who already have insurance.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Congresswoman. BACHMANN: Well, remember, the big problem that the president had is he had made a promise, if you like your plan, you can keep it. Five million people have gotten cancellation notices. They expect that number could go up to about 15 million people who get the letters.
What did the president do today?
He dir -- essentially ordered insurance companies to send another letter. And the letter would say, look, our plans aren't very great, go to the government, maybe you'll like their plan better.
So, in other words, none of these companies, not one, has to, again, reoffer that insurance plan. So where I think the Democrats are going to be in trouble is you're still probably going to have somewhere between five and 15 million with cancelled plans and very few places to go.
BLITZER: And it's up to the insurance commissioners in each state to...
BACHMANN: That's right.
BLITZER: -- to approve this...
BACHMANN: That's right.
BLITZER: -- fix that the president put forward...
BACHMANN: And there's no guarantee.
BLITZER: Washington State already, 300,000 people are being told that they're not going to approve it in Washington State.
BEGALA: The more important fix is to fix the technology and the Web sites, so those folks can go on the Web site and see, wait a minute, I can get a lot more for my money through these exchanges.
A lot of these policies, Congresswoman, you know this, are not worth the paper they're written on. They're policies -- health insurance policies, quote, unquote, that don't cover hospitalization.
BACHMANN: You're talking about current plans...
BEGALA: That's -- yes.
BACHMANN: -- that people have today. But...
BEGALA: Yes. That are...
BACHMANN: -- but the thing is...
BEGALA: -- are a rip-off. They're junk (INAUDIBLE)...
BACHMANN: Think about... BEGALA: Not all of them.
BACHMANN: Think of how...
BEGALA: Not all.
BACHMANN: -- insulting that is...
BEGALA: Some are -- some are good.
BACHMANN: -- to the people who purchased these plans and have used them. Apparently they like them. And so maybe the government doesn't think these are great plans...
BACHMANN: -- but the individual consumer is out in the real world where people live. They think they're good plans. And the president promised them, if you like this plan, maybe you don't think it's good. Maybe the bureaucracy doesn't, but people do.
The president said if you like it, you can keep it. Maybe not.
BEGALA: But first off, a lot of insurance companies churn every year in the individual market anyway. It's got nothing to do with ObamaCare. A lot of these cancellations...
BACHMANN: And isn't that the point?
BEGALA: -- it has nothing to do with it.
BACHMANN: It's not static. It's a dynamic market.
BEGALA: Right. So...
BACHMANN: Let that market work for what people want.
BEGALA: But surely you don't think it -- someone should be able to sell a policy that's called health insurance that doesn't even cover hospitalization?
It doesn't cover doctor's visits?
I mean what -- there's all kind of laws that...
BLITZER: Paul, shouldn't that be up to the insurance regulators in each state to decide...
BLITZER: -- what is a fair policy...
BACHMANN: And the individual American.
BLITZER: -- what isn't a fair policy?
BEGALA: We don't let the individual states decide what's a car.
BLITZER: The president today said it's...
BLITZER: -- up to the insurance regulators to decide.
BEGALA: I didn't hear that.
BLITZER: He himself said let the insurance regulators of each state decide if this fix is worthwhile.
BEGALA: If this fix works. That's fine. He's a -- he's for a lot of flexibility here. It's interesting, each time he puts flexibility in, Republicans attack him. They say -- in -- and yet when he doesn't...
BACHMANN: Partially because we...
BEGALA: -- they say...
BACHMANN: What we want is...
BLITZER: You won't let me...
BACHMANN: -- is complete flexibility.
BLITZER: -- do you have an...
BACHMANN: And that's what we're calling for.
BLITZER: -- do you have an alternative?
There are millions of Americans...
BACHMANN: Absolutely, we do.
BLITZER: -- who have no health insurance, 40 million or so. They -- if they get sick, their kids get sick, they go to the emergency room. That's very expensive. It's an awful way to deal in this industrialized country, with so many people who don't have health insurance.
BACHMANN: It is.
BLITZER: Here's a question.
What is the Republican proposal to fix it?
BACHMANN: How many minutes do we have?
Let me tell you first of all...
BLITZER: Let me hear one proposal.
BACHMANN: One proposal is let every American have the freedom to buy any policy they want, anywhere in the United States. Today, we have a monopoly. It's like a wall is built in my state of Minnesota and your state and you can't buy a policy outside of your state. That's madness.
Let people buy a policy anywhere they want, have the freedom to do it, and with no minimum (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: And so 40 million people would get health insurance if you could have national purchases?
BACHMANN: You asked me for one part of that...
BEGALA: I mean let me ask what (INAUDIBLE)...
BACHMANN: -- and that's one. And also, how about...
BEGALA: Well, here's the -- the heart of it.
BACHMANN: -- associated health plans?
How about letting people set aside as much money as they want out of their own money, tax-free, and buy the policy of your choice that works if you're a single man, if you're a -- a single mom or if you're a senior citizen...
BLITZER: Why are you laughing?
BACHMANN: -- with health policies...
BEGALA: Unless you have a...
BACHMANN: -- health problems.
BEGALA: -- single pre-existing condition, what do you do about the millions of Americans who got cancellation letters for the last five years, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, because they committed the sin of having a child with asthma...
BACHMANN: Oh, that's -- that's a...
BEGALA: -- or having high cholesterol?
BACHMANN: -- that's a good question.
BEGALA: Or having high blood pressure?
BLITZER: -- question, but right after a break. BEGALA: OK.
BLITZER: I want to take a quick break.
Think about it. You'll have plenty of time to respond.
BACHMANN: I've got a great answer.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see what your response is.
BACHMANN: Come back. You won't want to miss it.
BLITZER: Michele Bachmann, Paul Begala.
BLITZER: When we come back. She's got an answer to that question.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with Paul Begala and Michele Bachmann.
He asked you before the break how are you going to deal with people who have pre-existing conditions, because now, under the Affordable Care Act, they can get insurance?
BACHMANN: That's right. And we have compassion on people's pre- existing conditions. Republicans and Democrats can agree on this. Here's your answer.
If we have a $5 billion a year high risk pool, we can solve that problem. And what we do is the money goes out to the various states and they have high risk pools.
Something like 36 states already had it, but the funding level is about $5 billion a year.
I'm a very strong fiscal conservative. I would personally sign the check out of the U.S. Treasury every year. That would solve the problem.
Essentially what it does is it helps people with pre-existing conditions subsidize their policies so that they're affordable.
That's really what the crux of the problem is. That's solvable.
We didn't have to destroy the health care system for 330 million Americans. All we had to is write a check for $5 billion a year.
BLITZER: All right. (INAUDIBLE).
BEGALA: But would you -- well, two questions.
Would you have an individual mandate then, so they would re--- be required to buy that insurance, as responsible citizens?
BLITZER: So there are no freeloaders, so people...
BACHMANN: Absolutely not.
BLITZER: -- so young -- young, healthy people who don't...
BACHMANN: Absolutely not.
BLITZER: -- spend any money...
BLITZER: -- for insurance...
BLITZER: -- but if they get sick, you and I, all of the taxpayers, we have to take care of them.
BACHMANN: You're talking about two separate things now, because pre- existing conditions is where people have significant health issues. They have a tough time buying an insurance policy. Republicans and Democrats want to solve that problem.
That's a $5 billion a year fix. In a -- in DC...
BLITZER: What about the freeloaders?
BACHMANN: -- that's a rounding error.
BLITZER: What about the freeloaders?
BACHMANN: The -- the freeloaders?
That's up -- that's up to individual people. Quite honestly, that's a little bit of a red herring and it's definitely solvable.
BEGALA: If insurance companies are required to take you with a pre- existing condition but you're not required to buy it, here's what's going to happen. OK, I'm -- I'm -- here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to...
BACHMANN: No, that's your...
BEGALA: I'm going to...
BACHMANN: -- individual mandate.
BEGALA: Without the mandate...
BACHMANN: They aren't required.
BACHMANN: They aren't required. BEGALA: Under your plan, here's what will happen. People will call the health insurance company from the ambulance. And they'll say, Mr. Begala, it looks like a heart attack.
BACHMANN: No, that's what...
BEGALA: Excuse me...
BACHMANN: -- they do today under...
BEGALA: -- I've got to call my health insurance...
BACHMANN: -- President Obama's plan.
BEGALA: No, no.
BACHMANN: That's what they do today.
BEGALA: Now they have to be responsible. Now there's no more freeloaders. Now, those of us...
BACHMANN: Oh, no, no...
BEGALA: -- who have been fay -- playing by the rules don't have to pay a $1,200...
BACHMANN: That's because Obama...
BLITZER: Have you...
BACHMANN: -- forces under ObamaCare.
BLITZER: -- up on the exchange yet for health insurance?
BACHMANN: Are you kidding?
I'm not going to waste an hour on that thing.
BLITZER: I thought that you didn't have insurance. Were you (INAUDIBLE)...
BACHMANN: Well, that's my problem. See, I lost my health insurance under ObamaCare.
BLITZER: All right...
BACHMANN: And so now I'm forced to go into...
BLITZER: So what are you going to do?
BACHMANN: -- the DC health exchange. I'm waiting until they fix this thing. I'm not going to sit there and frustrate myself...
BLITZER: But you're going to be without insurance? BACHMANN: -- hours and hours.
At some point, we're going to have to figure it out.
I have a husband with very significant health issues. We have to have health insurance. So we will get it figured out.
BEGALA: And now you can't be denied. Thanks, Barack Obama.
BEGALA: Thank God for Barack Obama.
BACHMANN: No. No.
BEGALA: Now you guys can't be discriminated against.
BACHMANN: We -- actually, we were just fine before, and with the $5 billion risk pool that Republicans and Democrats can agree on, we don't need to, again, destroy the health care system for 330 million. We could deal with the people who have a problem.
BLITZER: But I don't understand. I mean, explain this to me. Right now, starting January 1st, unless you purchase health insurance, you and your husband are not going to have health insurance?
BACHMANN: And we'll have to do it by January 1st.
BLITZER: So what -- how will you do that if you don't go on the exchange?
What are you going to do, just go buy a plan some place?
BACHMANN: That -- we -- we are forced to go on the Web sites and purchase the health insurance plan from the DC health exchange. We'll do it, but remember, there's a few problems with this Web sites. The president has acknowledged that.
I'm not going to waste my time and frustration until they get the thing fixed.
BLITZER: But you have to pay for it by December 15th to make sure you're insured by January 1st. So that's a -- a lot of pressure.
BACHMANN: It's not December 15th.
BLITZER: So you're going to wait until the end, basically?
BACHMANN: I'm waiting until the thing gets fixed. It's a mess right now and I'm waiting for it to get fixed.
BLITZER: Michele Bachmann...
BACHMANN: The president promised.
BLITZER: -- thanks so much for coming in. BACHMANN: There's a lot.
BLITZER: Paul Begala...
BLITZER: A good -- a good discussion.
BACHMANN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.