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Health Insurance "Success Story" Takes 180 Turn; Two Former Governors Debate Next Step In Affordable Care Act Battle; Silicon Valley Loves The Ladies?; Congressman Arrested For Coke; More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets; "It's A Wonderful Life" Sequel Underway; "Best Man: Holiday" Sequel In the Works

Aired November 19, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST; Welcome back to THE LEAD. The politics lead now. She's a 48-year-old single mother of a teenaged son diagnosed with ADHD. She's gone 15 years without health insurance. Jessica Sanford thought the Affordable Care Act was the answer to her problems. The president thought so, too, when he read her letter aloud in the White House Rose Garden last month.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was crying the other day when I signed up so much stress lifted. Now, that is not untypical for a lot of folks like Jessica, who have been struggling without health insurance. That's what the Affordable Care Act is all about.


TAPPER: Just days after that speech, everything changed for that single mom from Washington State. Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us now with the latest. Brianna, this good-news story ended up being something else. What happened?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, it's really gut-wrenching when you listen to Jessica Sanford tell this, Jake. She used the Washington State exchange, so not the federal exchange, just to be clear on that. And she was initially approved for a subsidy, so a tax credit to help her purchase insurance that ultimately would have put her in a gold plan. So a pretty good plan for about $200 a month.

Well, ultimately she was told she didn't qualify for a subsidy, but that she could access lower-level plans that cost between $325 a month and $400 a month, but that they would have higher deductibles. So obviously, the cost, much higher than she was initially told and the product, not as good.

TAPPER: And Jessica Sanford spoke to CNN's "NEW DAY" about it. Take a listen.


JESSICA SANFORD, UNINSURED: It was a huge disappointment, especially since I had, you know, my story had been shared by the president. I felt like, you know, I just felt really embarrassed that he had quoted my story.


TAPPER: What happens to Jessica Sanford now?

KEILAR: At this point she says she's not going to be able to afford the insurance, so she will be uninsured and she will pay the penalty. And a White House spokeswoman, we are told, by Sanford, actually called her today and offered to help we're told quote, "in any way."

So it just goes to show you, this is really a problem for the White House. It really creates an optics issue for them because people like Jessica Sanford were the very people that this law was aiming to give access to health insurance coverage at a price they could afford, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

Let's broaden this conversation with our panel. Joining me now, two former governors, former governor and senator for the state of Nebraska, Bob Kerry, a Democrat. And the former governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty.

Senator Kerrey, good to see you, as always. So this goes way beyond just this one woman's tale of woe. This has been a real rocky rollout for the president's signature law. What, if anything, can he do to turn it around?

BOB KERREY (D), FOMER SENATOR AND GOVERNOR, NEBRASKA: Well, I don't think he should even try to turn it around. Just try to implement the legislation and stay open to the possibility that some provisions of that law need to change. It's a very complicated bill. I actually ended up having to read it because I ran for Senate unsuccessfully in 2012, and it's complicated. And you need to stay open to the possibility there's provisions of that law that need to change.

And on this particular case, what you've got is a woman who was uninsured for 15 years. She was able to get insurance, but it cost too much. That's not uncommon in the individual marketplace. And among the provisions that apparently the president was unaware of is the law required minimum standards in order for insurers to provide in this individual marketplace. She didn't meet it, she had to cancel the policy.

That's a much bigger problem, failing to notice that particular issue because they should have actually changed that provision prior to these insurance companies canceling it --

TAPPER: You don't think they should have the minimum standards? KERREY: Well, you can't have a minimum standard if you want to make certain that nobody has a policy change because the minimum standard forces the policy change. So, if you don't want people to have to change their policy, you can't have a minimum standard, because it's self-defeating.

So, all I'm saying is, particularly in this environment, where the Republicans almost unanimously want to repeal -- that's their whole mantra, get rid of the whole darned thing -- you have to look for opportunities where you say look, I think this is a reasonable change, let's make this change, and just try to make it better. Because it's a very, very, extremely complicated law.

TAPPER: Governor Pawlenty, we've talked in the past about the Republican obligation to come up with all ter alternatives to show leadership, to not just be against everything. Let's posit right now that that's your position.

Where is the Republican leadership on these issues? I see a lot of attempts to undermine the law. The Upton bill, I think, went -- I think everybody can agree -- went farther than people were talking about the need for it to be tweaked. Do you think the Republican Party, the Republican leadership, is doing what it needs to do to put the country back on the right track?

TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Well, I think if you're going to be a responsible governing leading party, you have to not only just criticize the other side but offer your own ideas and solutions. So, I think you'll see Republicans increasingly doing that. But right now, of course, as the Obamacare infrastructure is struggling and some would say imploding -- they don't want to jump into the middle of that because they think that gives them some advantage.

But if you look at things, Jake -- like look, we need medical malpractice reform. In a world where I can get on the Internet tonight and buy anything anywhere across the world through the Internet, why can't I buy my health insurance across state lines? Are we really that parochial? Open up the market, make it more competitive.

We should look at requiring providers to have easier, better, more consumer-friendly disclosures around what stuff costs. If you go to the doctor now, depending on what health insurance you have and what reimbursement system you're under, there could be 10, 15 different prices for the same procedures. Very difficult to find out, very difficult to have a market under those circumstances. So, those are just some examples. But the answer to your question is yes.

TAPPER: I want to broaden this conversation to the economy as well. Earlier today, President Obama met with business leaders at the "Wall Street Journal"'s CEO Council, and he said this:


OBAMA: I want you to know that I'm rooting for your success. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are business leaders rooting for the president's success, Governor Pawlenty?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think all Americans want to see their president succeed. But clearly, when the leader has a challenge of this magnitude, of this nature, on a signature issue, I think stepping back and saying okay, maybe this is a time where we should reach across the aisle and do the kinds of fixes that senator Kerrey just mentioned in his comment.

But there's a lot of business leaders who would say this is a president who has done a nice job reaching out to them in many instances but hasn't done as good a job meeting in the middle as opposed to ramming through something that was more partisan.

TAPPER: Senator, you live in New York, and I'm sure you're well acquainted with the fancy CEO types we're talking about. Are they rooting for President Obama to succeed?

KERREY: Well, I don't really know whether they're rooting for him to succeed. They've got issues they want to get addressed. I would say there are many issues where they're very frustrated because Congress isn't addressing them.

Right now, in New York especially, there's a considerable amount of frustration over immigration. The House won't take it up. They absolutely won't take the bill up. It passed the Senate, and they won't take it up. It's long overdue.

There's frustration on tax reform. There's a lot of enthusiasm to try to simplify the tax code, but there doesn't seem to be much movement. There seems to be an awful lot of, you know, role playing going on in Washington right now, but not a lot of things getting done.

I think there's more frustration on the lack of progress on fiscal issues (INAUDIBLE) that the leadership in the Republican Party, is willing to put the company in default, willing to shut the government down for 16 days. They don't like that. I don't think actually the Republican leadership at this point likes that, either. So, there was a lot of hope coming out of that that possibly, the Republicans and Democrats in Washington would find themselves in disagreement on some things but able to agree and reach compromise.

TAPPER: And you don't think it's going to happen?

KERREY: Well, I actually think one of the problems with the implosion of the Affordable Health Care Act, particularly the exchange, the federal exchange, but also now this issue with people being thrown off of their policies, I think it's actually given some new hope to Republican leadership that maybe they can get back on the attack.

You have to look for these opportunities when they come, you know, to act genuinely rather than just say we're going to cross party lines. And Tim's got some very good ideas, and if it was part of a Republican presentation to say we're not going to try to repeal this thing. Here are three things, we want, Mr. President, you to put in there, let's change this thing and try to make it work for the American people --

TAPPER: Dare I suggest the Kerrey-Pawlenty commission? A blue ribbon panel?


KERREY: I don't have any blue ribbons left.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Kerrey, Governor Pawlenty, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up in the Money Lead, for decades, men have dominated Silicon Valley. But an influx of women could finally be giving the tech world a long-needed upgrade.

And in pop culture, how do you follow up on the work of Jimmy Stewart? You don't, cry the purists. But that's not stopping one production company from launching a sequel to one of the greatest holiday films of all time.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Money Lead. It's been an industry dominated by men for decades, but now it seems at long last, women are finally getting a chance to make their mark in the I.T. world. New statistics show that as of the 60,000 new tech hires made last year, 60 percent of those jobs went to women.

Compare that to past years where 70 percent to 80 percent of new hires were all men. So is this shift a sign of things to come and if so, what's behind it? Joining me now is Phyllis Kolmus. She is president of Women in Technology. Phyllis, thank you for being here. What do you credit this sudden uptick in hiring women at I.T. firms?

PHYLLIS KOLMUS, PRESIDENT, WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY: A lot of women are graduating from college now, 60 percent is the number of women graduates from universities these days so it's not surprising to see an upswing in professional jobs being filled by women. And I think beyond that, there are some very high visibility women now who are in high tech roles, Marissa Levin, Sheryl Sandberg. So those provide kind of very high end models for young women to aspire to.

TAPPER: I wondered about that. If Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, how much you think they are actually, their presence there is sending a signal to women this is a woman-friendly world, come in, that wasn't there just four or five years ago.

KOLMUS: There's no question about that, but I think it goes beyond that. It's very interesting that this year is the 20th anniversary of a couple of major women's I.T. organizations, so it makes you stop and say what was going on 20 years ago that these organizations would be celebrating their 20th anniversaries and I think it looks to what's been going on before that. Because not only are these very high level role models for young women to see and women throughout the industry to see and aspire to, there's a whole chain of women. So women not only are there as role models, they are there as mentors, as advisors. We can talk about how women come and go in a career, deal with all of the situations like raising --

TAPPER: We shouldn't paint too rosy a picture. It's still only a third of the jobs in the I.T. sector are held by women. What needs to change? It's great news that 60 percent went to women of the most recent 60,000 but what do the tech firms need to do? Is it diversity training or is this something that's just going to progress organically on its own?

KOLMUS: I think it will progress organically but not on its own. I think that we need to be persistent in keeping this as a focus and industry does need to change. The changes have been coming slowly. When a small person entered my life, there were no day care centers, no arrangements. Now of course there's much more and part of it is the women getting into the higher levels in companies, bring that sensitivity to recognizing --

TAPPER: Making them for family friendly.

KOLMUS: Making them family friendly, providing flexibility. I think men have also changed.

TAPPER: Although didn't Marissa Mayer didn't she famously actually reversed that policy. She is the one that said less hours, fewer hours working at home?

KOLMUS: Well, flexibility doesn't necessarily mean working at home. It can be working shifted hours. I work in an area where we have core hours. Everyone needs to be there from a certain hour in the morning to a certain hour in the afternoon, but you may be doing some additional hours beyond that and may be shifting your schedule.

TAPPER: All right, Phyllis Kolmus, the president of Women in Technology, thank you so much. I hope the good news continues.

It could be the single greatest life saving invention ever, seat belts, no. Vaccines, no. Penicillin? Nope. Talk about something you probably take for granted and Matt Damon wants that to change. He'll explain why next.


TAPPER: This just in. Welcome back. In politics news, he's not just a Republican congressman from Florida. He's a husband, a father, a former journalist, the founder of a non-profit and self-described hip- hop conservative. Where does he get the energy? Well, court documents show that Congressman Trey Radal was arrested for cocaine possession in Washington on or about October 29th. The freshman congressman is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow.

Now it's time for the Pop Culture Lead. If you're feeling a little flushed today, blame it on the calendar. It's World Toilet Day. I just have to forgive those of you who forgot to send a card. While it may not exactly be a date you had circled, for Oscar-winner Matt Damon it's one of the most important days of the year because for the past few years, he's been a man on a mission to help solve the water crisis that this day has meant to raise awareness about.


TAPPER (voice-over): Today's a big day for Matt Damon and water expert, Gary White. They're the co-founders of, a non- profit aimed at helping developing countries gain access to clean water and sanitation. Today, it's World Toilet Day, a day when they try to draw attention to a planetary water and toilet crisis. Believe it or not, on this planet, more people have a cell phone than have sanitary bathroom facilities. Damon recalls when he first learned of this problem.

MATT DAMON, CO-FOUNDER. WATER.ORG: I was so just shocked by this. A toilet, yes, there's the guest room toilet, there's the, you know, the toilet in your bedroom, there are toilets everywhere. How can this be? And yet 2.5 billion people lack access. It's a huge health issue.

GARY WHITE, CO-FOUNDER, WATER.ORG: You have three, over three million people dying every year because of water related disease, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. When you look at how it robs communities of their future.

TAPPER: So for Damon and White, it's not just a matter of improving communities, but a dedicated mission to save lives.

(on camera): You have three daughters and a stepdaughter and a wife.


TAPPER: And you keep talking about how much this means to women in these countries, in these developing countries.

DAMON: Yes. You know, it's a very -- the very first girl that I met about eight years ago, I was in Zambia and I went on a water collection with her. She was talking about how she was going to go to the big city, I'm going to go to the big city and be a nurse, and she was 14 years old, and I remembered, you know, being 14 years old and Ben Affleck and I were going to go to the big city of New York and we were going to be actors, and I remember that feeling.

I really connected to this kid and I realized later that had someone not put this, sunk a bore well a mile from this hut she lived in, that her whole life would be about scavenging for water. She wouldn't be in school. She wouldn't be dreaming of being a nurse.

TAPPER: It's not just the girls going to get the water. It's the risk they take at night going out to go to the bathroom.

DAMON: The girls, you know, wait until night time because they don't want to do it in broad daylight, and obviously, there are huge security risks that come along with that. So as a father of four girls, I connect very deeply and personally to this issue for a whole host of reasons. So it's not just a life or death issue. It's a quality of life issue.

TAPPER (voice-over): Like most of you, I wanted to know how to help but I had a little trouble asking.

(on camera): Gary, what can people do for this cause, for national toilet day?

WHITE: World Toilet Day is coming up.

TAPPER: It's not national. It's World Toilet Day.

WHITE: It's World Toilet Day, man.

TAPPER: I apologize.

WHITE: It's bigger than us.


TAPPER: If you want to help or just want to be able to say you have something in common with Matt Damon, go to to find out how to be an ambassador for this global issue.

Also in Pop Culture, what do you want? You want the moon or do you want a sequel to "It's A Wonderful Life?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building!


TAPPER: That's not a trick. Frank Capra's 1946 holiday classic that taught us all that no man is a failure who has friends is reportedly getting a part two, titled "It's A Wonderful Life, The Rest of the Story." The plot allegedly focuses on George Bailey's grandson. Caroline Grimes who played little Zuzu in the original, will have a role in the film, which is due out for the 2015 holiday season. That gives you plenty of time to work on your Jimmy Stewart impressions.

It didn't take decades, but days for another Box Office success to get the green light. "The Best Man Holiday" did so well in its Box Office debut, there is already talk that a follow-up is in the works. The sequel to the 1999 comedy opened strong with more than $30 million in ticket sales.

It nearly edged out "Thor The Dark World," which was expected to clobber the competition in its second week. "The Best Man's" success shocked a lot of critics who assumed it would be no match for a big budget super hero flick. The comedy is the latest in a string of successful big screen movies featuring predominantly African-American casts. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. Check out our show page at for video, blogs and extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.