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Fix a Troubled Mayor; Obama Tries to "Fix" Obamacare's Broken Promise

Aired November 15, 2013 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Now, although it features things that are similar to the White House fix, Democrats say that it actually takes steps toward dismantling the healthcare law. The president says if it passes he's actually going to veto it.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Well, while the politicians wrangle on Capitol Hill over fixes, patients, of course, still caught in the middle, the people who actually need coverage.

Elizabeth Cohen is here for us and is going to break it down for us. The president's decision yesterday to let people keep their current plans, who does that affect? How many people does that affect?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look at it as a portion of the American public, it's a relatively small percentage. So only about f percent of people are directly affected by what the president did yesterday, because only 5 percent of Americans buy insurance on their own through what's caused the individual market.

Now when you do the math, that's about 11 million people. So it's not a small number of people, but it's a relatively small percentage of the American people.

MALVEAUX: So this fix, how does this actually impact them? It must be very confusing if you say first you've been canceled, now maybe you can get your insurance back, but maybe not depending on which states or insurance companies cooperate.

COHEN: It is incredibly confusing. If I were one of these people right now, my head would be spinning. It's really difficult. And insurance companies are getting hundreds and hundreds of calls just within a couple minutes of the announcement yesterday. One executive said that he got like hundreds of calls about this.

So here's the way it works. If your policy was canceled and you want to have it un-canceled because you liked it, you have to call your insurance company and say, are you unwilling to un-cancel the policy they just canceled?

The thing is, they're very -- pretty likely to say no, because the insurance companies are actually making more money off the new policies than off the old policies, for one reason.

Another reason is you can imagine the administrative nightmare insurance companies have on their hands. They were told three years ago, we want you to do this, and they did it. And now in the ninth inning, they're being told you can undo what you just did.

MALVEAUX: Never mind.

COHEN: Never mind. Sorry. Didn't really mean it.

So you can -- just the administrative tasks required to do that are huge, not to mention that you based all your pricing on "plan A" and now you're being told to go to "plan B."

HOLMES: For just another year.

And I suppose the point that shouldn't be missed is what those proponents of Obamacare will say, these aren't good plans anyway compared to what the new law demands. These are plans that had flaws in them.

COHEN: Here's the big secret that apparently nobody knew. People love bad plans.

HOLMES: Or did they just love the plan they've had because they've had had it for a while.

COHEN: They loved that plan because -

MALVEAUX: Or it's cheaper.

COHEN: -- it's cheap.

Exactly, because it's cheap. So if I'm someone who's got a Swiss cheese policy, tons of holes it, 'I won't cover you for this. I won't cover you for that. I won't pay for your drugs. I won't pay for this,' but I'm healthy, I think this is great plan.

HOLMES: Until you get sick.

COHEN: Until you get sick. Right, right.

But if I'm not sick, I think this is fabulous. And I'm only paying, say, I don't know, $50 or $100 a month or whatever for it, I'm thrilled.


COHEN: I'm thrilled with this plan.

HOLMES: Until you get sick.

COHEN: Most people don't get sick, right, so most people are OK. So they are saying, 'Wait a minute, I love that plan. How dare you take that plan away from me? I don't care that it has holes in it. Don't take it away.'

MALVEAUX: Yeah, but the problem is now is that if not everybody kind of buys into Obamacare, it's not going to work. You need all those healthy young people, right? I mean, to make this happen, to spread out the cost.

COHEN: You certainly do. So over the summer, the administration said, look, we are expecting 7 million people to sign up right now, and out of those, 2.7 million we expect to be young adults, to be young people.

If they don't get that 2.7 million young adults, that is going to be a big problem. They need the young people in there to offset the cost of the older people.

HOLMES: All right, Elizabeth, thanks so much. Always a pleasure, Elizabeth Cohen there.

MALVEAUX: You're talking about the fix.

The apology, the blame, the president trying to dig out of the Obamacare hole, is this really what he's going to be remembered for?

How does this impact his legacy?


MALVEAUX: Now, back to the fumble being felt around the country and the attempted fix under way at both the White House and Capitol Hill, we're talking, of course, about the Obamacare rollout debacle, especially the president's false promise that, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.

HOLMES: Which he's now trying to fix.

House lawmakers set to hold a vote on a GOP plan to fix Obamacare, that vote due any minute now actually.

Now, critics say the bill could gut a major part of the health care law. That's something President Obama says he won't let happen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not going to gut this law.

We will fix what needs to be fixed, but we're going to make the Affordable Care Act work.

And those who say they're opposed to it and can't offer a solution, we'll push back.


HOLMES: That was President Obama in Ohio yesterday after he apologized at that White House news conference for the rollout issues.

Our CNN political commentators, Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist, and Ben Ferguson, who has a conservative talk show, join us now. Maria, I'm curious about this going back and saying you can have it for another year or not, when it's actually technically I guess against the law. We were discussing this a little bit earlier in the program. What would stop a Republican president in say three years administratively fixing Obamacare?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if he can do it legally through regulations, then I guess nothing other than, hopefully, a Republican president won't be elected.

But look, this is what the president talked about yesterday. He heard the American people, loud and clear. He was contrite. He was apologetic. He was explanatory. He was introspective. And I think that is exactly what the American people want to hear right now.

He also acknowledged that he had lost some of the trust that had been, frankly, one of his strong suits in the last five years. That, I think, is the indication of a good leader, which is someone who knows when they've made a mistake and they hear loud and clear exactly what the American want.

And now he's going to move forward. And his legacy is going to be -- when they get this fixed, his legacy is going to be that he was able to fix a huge, huge problem that has been facing the country for more than 50 years, and now the American people have health care in a way they never had it before.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's funny because everything you just said, I could agree with. There's one little problem, the asterisk. It's only for 12 months, and then it goes back to being a debacle, and then it goes back to not allowing people to keep their plan.

This was -- all this is delaying the fiasco of Obamacare for 12 months. And the president yesterday, if he truly heard the American people, then would have heard the American people who got cancellation letters. Not one of them said, 'Mr. President, will you allow me for just 12 more months to keep the plan I have now?' They said, 'Mr. President, you promised I could keep my plan if I liked it.'

And giving it to them for 12 more months, that's not keeping a promise. That's just saying look, I know it's a disaster, I'm hearing you say it's a disaster, so let's delay the disaster for 12 months. That's not fixing any problem for any American that got canceled at all in this country.

MALVEAUX: I want to talk about the effectiveness of the president here, the interesting debate on the front of "The New York Times," touching on in this debate, whether or not right now, President Obama, this is his Katrina moment, the parallel to President Bush's moment when he lost credibility covering Katrina.

I was in Crawford, Texas, covering the president at that time when Katrina hit, and it was astounding how much the president was out of touch. You couldn't get his attention. You couldn't get an adequate response. But there was a difference there, right? I mean, there was not some partisan effort, Democratic effort for President Bush to fail to deliver services. He just failed.

You've got President Obama fighting Republicans who are fundamentally working for Obamacare to fail because they think it's a bad law.

Do you see it that way, Ben, Maria?

FERGUSON: No, because I think when he had the ability to roll this out under his terms, he won on this issue. He got re-elected on this issue. He had the timetable and he picked the date to roll this out.

He failed, his administration failed and the Democrats failed to offer a product to the American people that they promised was the best thing ever. It's the signature of his entire presidency.

You cannot blame the Republicans for the failure of the rollout of And even more than that, look at the polls now of all of those that have been polled that are uninsured Americans, that this was supposed to be the fix for them.

After they've seen the pricing on Obamacare, 83 percent of them responded by saying they are not interested in Obamacare, mainly because of the sticker shock.

So even what he offered is too high of a price for people that are looking at it right now, which is another reason why no one's signing up for this.

HOLMES: Maria, let's give you a word here. Do you think -- it is still three years away, the election. Do you think by then it's all going to be running smoothly, everybody's going to be saying, wow, what a good health policy I have?

What do you think is going to happen three years from now?

CARDONA: I think that's exactly what is going to happen, and clearly, that is the hope of this administration, because it is his legacy. There's no question that this is what he will be remembered for, which is why he's going to be working so hard to make sure that this, what we're going through right now, is a faint memory.

HOLMES: What about next year? What about the elections next year, Maria?

CARDONA: I think it is a huge, huge hyperbole to call this President Obama's Katrina moment.

No one has died. On the contrary, Obamacare has actually saved thousands and thousands of lives.

And what is the Republican alternative?

FERGUSON: How? How did he save lives?

CARDONA: To take away --

FERGUSON: How did he save lives? CARDONA: To take away the health security that they already have.

I'll tell you how. Already people can get --

FERGUSON: Five million people got cancellation notices.

CARDONA: Ben, let me finish. Already, there have been children whose lives have been saved because they were able to get coverage for pre- existing conditions, so there's no question that the Affordable Care Act has already saved lives.

Moving forward, it will continue to save lives because you are going to be able to have 40 million people get onto this exchange once it starts working and get health care coverage that they couldn't get before.

And the Republican alternative is to take all of that away.

FERGUSON: With all due respect, when you claim that he's already saved lives, do you not realize that this doesn't go into effect until next year?

So you can't claim it saved lives when it's not even in effect until January of 2014.

CARDONA: No, Ben. Go back and look at your facts, because preventive care, the pre-existing conditions went into effect this year, Ben. Go back and look it up.

FERGUSON: Being canceled, when you have 5 million people --

CARDONA: It went into the effect.

FERGUSON: When have you 5 million people that got cancellation notices, what you're claiming right now, when they got a cancellation notice, does not affect them in a positive way or save their life if you got canceled.

CARDONA: And that's exactly why he announced what he announced yesterday, in order to fix that.

MALVEAUX: All right, we're going to keep this debate going, obviously, through the days and weeks to come.

And I want to thank you both, Maria Cardona, Ben Ferguson.

Maria is right, though. There are certain aspects of the plan already in effect that does impact people's lives, so that is a point that is true.

HOLMES: We could go on. And we will.

MALVEAUX: We will.

HOLMES: All right, let's move onto something like this, crack, booze, and suspected escorts, Toronto's mayor still dealing with a real mess himself, and still refusing to step down.

But could today be the day that he folds? The council wants him to go, that's for sure.


MALVEAUX: Well, the mayor of Toronto still has his job today, but his powers, he's been limited in some ways. But the city council, they can't actually remove Mayor Rob Ford from office; but they can strip him of some of his duties, which is what they actually did today.

HOLMES: Yes. Now this follows, of course, the very turbulent past few days in Toronto politics that saw the mayor admitting that he smoked crack cocaine, that he drinks too much, and he does things he calls sheer stupidity. Mayor Rob Ford today said he deserves to be punished.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: If I would have had a mayor acting the way I've conducted myself, I would have done the exact same thing. I am -- I'm not mad at anybody. I take full responsibility.


HOLMES: All right. Mike Paul is the perfect person to talk about this. He's an image consultant, a reputation fixer.

So I guess this guy would be a dream client for you in terms of keeping you in business or a nightmare to deal with. I want to play a clip for you and get your reaction.



MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I do not use crack cocaine.

Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine.

Again, again, and again I've apologized.

It is very, very humiliating.

For the past six months, I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress.

I love my job. I love my job.

These mistakes will never ever, ever happen again.

So I was very, very inebriated.

Who said that? Who said that?


HOLMES: Oh, boy.

MALVEAUX: It's almost hard to watch, actually. It's such a train wreck here.

HOLMES: And uncomfortable to watch. It is.

All right, Mike, fix it.

PAUL: Well, the first thing, if Rob Ford were my client that I'd be saying is, 'Look, you're already on the wrong path because everyone surrounding you is dealing with your job. So your career is not a first bet. The first thing we need to be thinking about is turning your life around and your career is a subset of your life.'

The second thing is, he has to admit that he's an addict. You can't say that you've made mistakes and not admit that you're an addict. He has an addiction to alcohol. He has an addiction to drugs. He has to put that primary and in the first place.

The third thing is, he needs to understand that leaving office is a must. He can't do this part-time. He's going to have to step down. And you see that he said he loves his job. Well, he's a narcissist. He really wants to stay in office. But that's not what's best for him and my job is to look not just short term but long-term as to what's best for him as a human being first and then an elected official perhaps later.

MALVEAUX: And, Mike, one of the things I've noticed too is that he keeps talking about how bad this is for him. You know, the worst day -- second worst day of his life since the passing of his father. I mean, it is all about his feelings and his emotions. Now we hear that he and his brother are making this reality show, a TV show. You know, do you think that's -- is that a good way of actually mending his image here, or does he become a punch line?

PAUL: Both are horrible. First of all, we have past examples that we all know around the world of the BP CEO, of Paula Deen saying, 'Woe is me, woe is me, I'm going through a tough time.' People don't want to hear that. That might be, but you're a public servant. They come first.

Secondly, going to reality TV to try and rehab a career that is as serious as politics and representing people, especially in these troubled times, is a bad, bad idea.

HOLMES: You know, it's interesting too because one of the things that -- to keep it in context -- the guy has electoral support. A lot of people in Toronto say he's saved millions of dollars for the city, you know, counts every dime and all of that sort of thing too. Politically speaking, do you think he's done or can you make a comeback from this sort of stuff?

PAUL: And thank you for bringing that up because that's a very valid point. People still love him, but they also want him to clean up his act. Take the time away from office. You could be the comeback kid. People do still love you, but they also want you to do the right thing to get there and come back and best represent them.

HOLMES: All right, interesting stuff.

MALVEAUX: All right.

HOLMES: Mike, thanks so much. Mike Paul there. Appreciate that.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.

PAUL: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: You know, Marion Barry, I lived in Washington, D.C., he, you know, went out, crack cocaine, came back later, on the city council.


MALVEAUX: There is -- there are possibilities of resurrecting yourself.

HOLMES: We were saying that the other day. He's (INAUDIBLE). Exactly.

All right. OK, when we come back, we've got a lot more on "AROUND THE WORLD", including this, the pope. We'll tell you what he's been up to or what's been happening to him after the break.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back.

We're awaiting two live events, both focusing on Obamacare. The White House briefing expecting to start in a few moments and we will dip into that, see what they've got to say on Obamacare and the new fix that the president rolled out yesterday.

Meanwhile, the House, it's about to vote on a bill. Now this is a bill that is sponsored by Republican Fred Upton of Michigan, this would allow Americans to keep their current health insurance plans. Although the features are similar to the White House fix, Democrats say that it takes steps towards essentially dismantling the law altogether. Now, the president says if that bill passes, he's actually going to veto it.

HOLMES: Got some other stories for you too.

Chaos on the streets of northern Sri Lanka as the British prime minister, David Cameron, visited today. He's actually in the country for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, an event that takes place every year. Now, angry mobs - and what's interesting is they're both pro and anti-government mobs, all came together, swarmed his car trying to show them pictures of their loved ones who died during the civil war there.

Tamil demonstrators say their relatives disappeared. They've believed to have been killed by the government during the 26-year civil war in the north of the country. Sri Lanka's government, of course, has long denied accusations of horrific human rights abuses in its fight with the Tamil rebels.

That rebel movement was eventually crushed back in 2009. A very bloody affair it was. Mr. Cameron actually tweeted he was the first president or prime minister to visit northern Sri Lanka since that country became independent from Britain in 1948. So he's dealing with protesters pro and anti-government. A bit of a mess.

MALVEAUX: Oh, yes.

What to take a look at what's actually trending around the world right now.

The Vatican says it's not worried about a mafia threat against the pope. This after two mafia experts said Pope Francis is putting himself at risk by trying to clean up the Vatican bank. In May, in an effort to be more transparent, the Vatican bank issued its first ever report. Now, the 64-page report details the Vatican's efforts to crack down on money laundering in particular, made no mention of mafia connections, but the report found six cases of what it calls suspicious activity within the past year.

HOLMES: Yes, a lot of calls to look into that bank for years.

Now, we just want to show you one more photograph before we go. It caught our eye today. It's a rare sight. It comes from Vietnam. Now, we were talking about this. We've never heard of this. Remote cameras in a forest reserve snapping a photograph of what's called a saola, for the first time in 15 years.

MALVEAUX: All right. So what is this? OK, it is dubbed the "Asian unicorn" because its horns, you can see them there, are really kind of close together. And there are believed to be only a few hundred that actually exist.

HOLMES: Cute. Cute. There you go.

MALVEAUX: That's kind of - yes, nice.

HOLMES: That's your photo of the day.

Thanks for watching "AROUND THE WORLD". Guess who's in next?

MALVEAUX: Don Lemon.

HOLMES: Don Lemon.

MALVEAUX: Have a great weekend, everybody. "CNN NEWSROOM" starts right now.