Return to Transcripts main page


Votes to Pass Health Care Bill; Democrats Oppose Health Care Bill; House Votes on Health Bill Today; Aired 8:30-9 ET

Aired March 24, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Take care. Have a great day.



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, up next, a Democrat tells us why everything you just heard is untrue. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is going to say what the reality will be for people under Trumpcare, next.


CUOMO: So, yes, the big vote on health care was supposed to happen last night. It didn't. But we're told it is just hours away now. If Republicans don't get enough votes, the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare is dead.

Let's talk to a top House Democrat about the state of play. Former DNC chair, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins us right now.

I want to talk to you about what Tom Price just said, three points in particular. But first, some criticism. The Democrats are sitting and watching right now. Are you missing an opportunity to have gone into the House and say, look, we get that you've realized that saying the ACA stinks was easy and this is hard. Let's try to fix what is wrong with the ACA, because there are real issues, and get involved in this process. You've chosen not to do that.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Oh, I mean that - nothing could be further from the truth. We've said that repeatedly over and over, Chris, that what we need to do is not treat the Affordable Care Act like it's a clock running a little slow and take a sledgehammer to it, which is what this legislation that's on the - that will be on the floor later today does. What we need to do is sit down and work out the kinks, the problems, the challenges that we know have arisen in what was a major overall in the health care system, the Affordable Care Act, and work together to iron those out. That's what we've said for seven years straight.

[08:35:25] CUOMO: Every Republican I've talked to says that you guys have been instructed not to help and that as long as repeal is on the table you won't talk. SCHULTZ: No, I'll tell you what we're not - what we're not doing.

That's right, we are not going to help them repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away health care from 14 million people a year from now and 24 million people ten years from now, eliminate the essential health benefits package which, for breast cancer survivors like me, means that the kind of health care coverage that they would be able to buy won't actually provide coverage and you'll go back to the days when women, sister survivors like mine, would say, you know what, Debbie, I had to choose between the chemo or the radiation because my insurance coverage wouldn't let me afford both.

CUOMO: All right.

SCHULTZ: That's unacceptable.

CUOMO: Let me hear - let me hear you on - on that.

SCHULTZ: That's what we won't work them - work with them to accomplish.

CUOMO: All right, let's take another step down that road. Price just laid out several different things. I want your response. The first is a la carte care. By removing the mandate that the ACA put in that everybody has to have all these things in their policies, that was done to create a price floor, right? That it would be priced down. He's saying, no, it's better to take it out because then Chris Cuomo, who doesn't need prenatal care, who doesn't need the same kind of screening, doesn't pay for it. Good for him. What is the downside to that policy?

SCHULTZ: What happens then, number one, is that you take all the women who are of child bearing age you basically are putting a mom tax on them and saying that, like the old days, if you want maternity coverage, for the most part, you're going to have to buy a completely separate policy just that covers maternity care and that's going to increase costs unfairly and disproportionately for women and families.

CUOMO: Because it makes insurance companies price it only to people who actually need it, and that's going to, obviously -

SCHULTZ: What it makes -

CUOMO: Be a deterrent for them because they're in the business of not paying out - not paying out.

SCHULTZ: What - on - but it's not just maternity care. What taking away that essential health benefits package does is it leaves people with the idea that they actually have insurance coverage, but when they go to use it, the only things that it covers is the barest of bear minimums, essentially leaving them so underinsured that they can't afford to even use their insurance because their deductibles and co-pays are astronomically high and it doesn't cover their health care needs.

CUOMO: OK. Price says governors -

SCHULTZ: That's irresponsible.

CUOMO: Price says governors are coming to us and they're asking for this. In our reporting, I haven't heard a single governor say, what I want is less money towards Medicaid from the federal government.

SCHULTZ: Right. Right.

CUOMO: What are you hearing?

SCHULTZ: You have a majority of Republican governors who have actually gone ahead and expanded Medicaid. And what they're saying is overwhelmingly, don't take away our Medicaid expansion funding, don't cut the - our ability to provide additional coverage for the people who fall in the gap between the Medicaid eligible population that is poor and people who can afford insurance. That's a gap that covers millions of people that this legislation takes coverage away from.

And, you know, I mean I heard a lot of the commentary on your show this morning. You know, to suggest that this legislation doesn't cut Medicaid is ludicrous. You have the - the story that Tom Price told about the couple that, you know, would pay a $6,000 deductible, you know, that couple probably has a subsidy in the Affordable Care Act right now that has basically cut their premiums down to about $84 a month, less than $100. That's the overwhelming majority of people on the Affordable Care Act -

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: Who have gained coverage since before - since before it became law.

CUOMO: But, look, it's -

SCHULTZ: And they would unravel all of that for those - for those folks.

CUOMO: But - true. But let's be straight about it. You know, there are imperfections.

SCHULTZ: Of course.

CUOMO: And that couple that you're talking about may have a crazy deductible, so the cost of the premium winds up being a secondary condition because you can't get any care until you pay in a very high number of often in the manys of thousands for people.

SCHULTZ: Chris -

CUOMO: So there are fixes that need to be done.

SCHULTZ: For sure. For sure.

CUOMO: But Price's point was, that's why the ACA is in a death spiral. We keep hearing that phrase. It will fail. It is in a death spiral. What is your response? SCHULTZ: My response is that it is absolutely essential that we

address the problem where - that we have where there are about a third of communities, counties, that have only one health insurer to choose from. But it doesn't mean they only have one choice. Within that one coverage provider, there are many different policies that are provided and available. It doesn't mean that it's enough choice. And we can sit down together and work through that challenge and a number of the other challenges. But like I said, you don't take a sledgehammer to a clock that is running a little slow. What you do is you take it to a clock maker who sits down and makes precision, fine-tuning, so that you can improve the overall functioning of the clock. That's what we need to do to the Affordable Care Act.

[08:40:13] The Republicans, frankly, are disingenuous. They've never been interested in providing comprehensive health care coverage to everyone. I'm thrilled, they say, that they are interested in that now. But actions speak louder than words. The CBO score they can't get around. The new one for this new bill that's on the floor today makes things worse. It imposes an age tax for people 50 to 64 years old. The premium and health care costs go up 15 to 20 percent in this bill and it provides half the deficit reduction that their original disaster of a bill provided. It's outrageous. They need to sit down together. Democrats are absolutely earnestly willing to sit down and work together to address the problems in the current law, and the Republicans just want to fulfill their so-called perceived mandate to repeal it lock, stock and barrel. It's unacceptable.

CUOMO: Right. No, I mean, look, I hear you on that, but I have to be honest with you, I'm not seeing it on the Democratic side. But I know that this isn't in control of you either. But I've got to leave it there.

SCHULTZ: Because this - the product we haven't -

CUOMO: I've got to leave it there, congressman.

SCHULTZ: What we've got in front of us, Chris, is unacceptable. Let's focus on working together on the Affordable Care Act and make those changes that are necessary.

CUOMO: Well, let's see what happens today on this vote, congressman, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

SCHULTZ: We sure will. Thanks. Thank you. Thanks.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, we are just hours away from that showdown on Capitol Hill. So will the health care bill pass? What happens if it fails? "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:45:28] CUOMO: If you have to know just five things today, these are them. President Trump issuing an ultimatum to Republicans, vote today or

keep Obamacare. The White House is expressing confidence the measure will pass in the House. The Senate, a different story.

CAMEROTA: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer revealing that he will vote against Neil Gorsuch and said Democrats plan to filibuster that nomination.

CUOMO: London police say they have made two significant arrests in connection with this week's terror attacks. Police also confirming a fourth victim of the carnage outside parliament has died.

CAMEROTA: At least six Secret Service employees expected to face discipline in a White House security breach. Two weeks ago, a man hopped multiple fences and was on the White House grounds for more than 16 minutes.

CUOMO: Oh, boy, what's your bracket doing? Gonzaga, Kansas advancing to the elite eight last night in the NCAA tournament. Oregon and 11th seeded Xavier also advancing. Lots of big numbers went down. Big games on tap tonight.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, I knew that.

CUOMO: Of course you did.

CAMEROTA: For more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to for the latest.

CUOMO: All right, so on the vast, remote and sometimes frigid Navajo reservation, supplies, services can be the best hours away. And Navajo elders often struggle alone. So, this week's CNN Hero, Linda Myers, has spent 30 years helping.


LINDA MYERS, CNN HERO: You find elders without food. Many don't have running water or plumbing.

One of our main goals is to keep the elders warm through the winter. It can get down to zero here at night.


MYERS: You're welcome.

MYERS: They need fires going all the time. And if they don't, then there's a greater chance that they could freeze to death.


CAMEROTA: For more on how Linda is helping the Navajo Nation, you can go to And while you're there, you can nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN Hero.

CUOMO: And it's worth taking a look at what happens on reservations all over this country.

So, what's at stake with today's big vote on the GOP health care bill? Will Trumpcare be born? We got "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:51:21] CUOMO: President Donald J. Trump taking on the Freedom Caucus this morning, tweeting, "the irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, also PP to continue if they plan to stop this plan."

CAMEROTA: Allows them to continue.

CUOMO: So will the members of the caucus get behind the president's plan on that basis?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston.

There is politics afoot. There are hedges being put in place. What do you hear?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, so a couple of things. Late last night I spoke to a senior White House official in following what you just read there from the tweet. The official told me regarding the Freedom Caucus and the president is that if the bill goes down, I don't think the president's going to have any desire or appetite to work with the Freedom Caucus going forward, which says something about all the legislative items that the president wants to try to get done and the Freedom Caucus might want to try to get done.

CAMEROTA: You have new reporting that there's frustration behind the scenes at the White House.

PRESTON: Oh - oh, my - I mean not only my reporting that there's frustration on Capitol Hill, who would bear the blame? You know, this White House official says that Paul Ryan's probably going to bear part of the blame, but that's going to be from his own caucus. In addition to that though, he - again, this White House official says to me that he thinks that the Freedom Caucus is going to bear an incredible amount of blame.

CUOMO: Well, you know, look, isn't it pretty plain that Donald Trump is not putting his arms around Trumpcare the way he has other things that he wants to get done? I mean he's had - you got the Breitbart people killing Ryan -


CUOMO: Which is an obvious hedge there on who did this and who's right and who's wrong. And we haven't seen Trump come out talking to the American people, talking about why it's good, selling the policy. He's saying the obvious things, the general things.


CUOMO: But I haven't seen him hammer this the way he has other things.

PRESTON: Well, specifically the border wall, right?

CUOMO: Right.

PRESTON: I mean which is a - which is a prime example -

CUOMO: He knows what that wall would cost per foot, he says.


CUOMO: This bill, I've never heard him mention a particular policy aspect of it.

PRESTON: Right. And, you know, maybe because he's just not as invested into the whole policy ramifications of it all. I thought it was interesting, you know, Alisyn, your interview that you had with the HHS secretary, Tom Price, when you asked him, who, you know, is the president going to have to blame, or something along those words, and he said the president's done all that he can do to try to get this done. Again, shifting blame up to Capitol Hill not to get this done.

CAMEROTA: Well, what we keep hearing, and maybe you've heard the same, from our pundits is that it probably is going to pass even though there's 31 at the moment on -

CUOMO: The House.

CAMEROTA: The House.


CAMEROTA: At the moment there's 31 on the fence. But, you know, we had our two former congressmen on who sort of peeled back the curtain and said that really there's eight sort of that you have to rely on and that if it's just single digits, when you're sitting there on the floor and the votes happening, there's a lot of pressure and you might pass it at the 11th hour there.

PRESTON: Yes, you might pass it and then what happens? It goes over to the United States Senate and everything that we've seen done in the House is probably going to get untied when it gets to the Senate. And then, guess what, they have to come together in a room, the House and the Senate, to try to get it done.

CAMEROTA: Right. Well, I mean, this is what I was talking to Secretary Price about, which is that it's impossible to know what it really will look like -


CAMEROTA: And what it really will mean for Americans because as he says sort of optimistically, well, this is just the first step. But that doesn't help Americans know what that means for their pocketbook or for their health care. PRESTON: Yes, a strategic missteps by the Republicans and by President

Trump not to say we're going to start it here. The legislative process has got to work its way through. That way you wouldn't have alienated the Freedom Caucus. Say, try to get what you can get in it. Oh, over in the Senate side, the Susan Collins of the world, the Lisa Murkowskis of the world, senators from Maine and Alaska respectively, you know, see what you can get in there -

CUOMO: Right.

PRESTON: And then we'll bring it to conference. That, at least, would have moved the ball farther down the road.

CUOMO: But the phase two, phase three part, that's a spin and a future promise.


CUOMO: You know, Price's predicament is that he is selling this bill as things that it demonstrably is not. You have the CBO scores, you have experts all over the place who all say, more people will not be covered by this plan, and that's what they're afraid of in the Senate and at least half of these GOP holdouts.

[08:55:16] PRESTON: Right. And that CBO score yesterday was not good because the number of uninsured remains the same.

CAMEROTA: Mark Preston, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

Thanks for that.

And let's brighten up your day with a few extra headlines.

CUOMO: I love headlines.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Anonymous donor pays off lunch accounts.

Fire department welcomes six babies in seven months.

Boy and dog bond over skin condition.


CUOMO: The tune picked up there at the end, but I would have gone with more of a Blue Oyster Cult, "Don't Fear the Reaper," on this particular day.

CAMEROTA: Or you would have played "Rush," as you have been during the breaks.

CUOMO: She says they're not a legitimate rock band. Can you believe that? The professor?

Anyway, that's it for us. CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman, huge Rush fans, picks up right after this short break.

CAMEROTA: Have a great weekend.

CUOMO: Huge. You ever see his hair in the '80s?


[09:00:05] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


We want you to take a look at live pictures of the Capitol this morning. It is the dome of the great unknown at this hour.