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Senators Could Block Health Care Debate; Tillerson to Meet Qatari Foreign Minister; CBO Score Put Bill in Jeopardy; Interview with New York Rep. Lee Zeldin. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:57] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The Congressional Budget Office score on the Senate health care bill could mean an early death for the Senate's attempting at this. Four Republican senators say they will vote against even beginning debate on the bill. This is after the CBO said 22 million people would lose coverage within a decade under this plan, on top of those who already would lose it under the existing plan.

Joining us now to debate, Stephen Moore, CNN's senior economics analyst and former economic adviser to the Trump campaign, and Jonathan Gruber, economics professor at MIT and a key adviser on Obamacare.

So, gentlemen, thank you for being here.

And, Stephen Moore, let me begin with you.

So the tactic out of the White House and for the RNC is slam the CBO, slam the CBO, they're never right, they're always wrong. A few points. It was Republicans in Congress in 2015 who appointed the guy who heads it, Keith Hall. Add on to that, that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price praised him not long ago saying that he -- his, you know, his economic prowess was commendable. I'm paraphrasing. But you know the CBO has also gotten it right on Obamacare sometimes. Is that a smart tactic?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, not -- not mostly. Mostly they've gotten it wrong in terms of how much Obamacare would cost, how many people would be covered. They were -- they were in the wrong area code in terms of being close. But, look, I don't think they're -- Republicans --

HARLOW: But, Stephen, no, no, no, hold on --


HARLOW: Because when they came out in 2010, they estimated that 89 percent of people under 65 years old would have coverage in 2016. The reality, 89.7 percent had it. Yes, they were way off on those that would buy into the individual marketplace --

MOORE: Right.

HARLOW: But it's sort of like, half right, half wrong, is it not?

MOORE: Well, except that what happened is that the way that Obamacare has covered people is to massively put tens of millions of people into Medicaid, which is the worst insurance system in the industrialized world. People don't have better health outcomes in Medicaid in many states than if they don't have insurance at all.

The other thing that I think is extremely misleading about that study that says that 20 -- what is it, 22 million people are going to lose their health insurance is, about half of those are people who don't want the insurance, Poppy. So in other words, what CBO is saying is, if you don't force people -- you know, figuratively put a gun to their head and say, we're going to fine you if you don't buy the insurance, they won't buy it.

Now, this is America. If somebody doesn't want to buy something, they're -- you know, they're telling you they don't want it. They can't afford it. For a lot of middle class families, the thousands of dollars more that insurance costs under Obamacare, they can't afford it. So this has really become kind of the unaffordable care act, not the Affordable Care Act.

HARLOW: So the problem becomes, if people don't buy insurance, the system still has to take care of them when there are emergencies --

MOORE: Well, but, no, no, that's -- that's -- there's some of that, but the --

HARLOW: Let me get --

MOORE: But, look, the question I was --

HARLOW: There -- there -- I got -- let me get both sides. Let me get Jonathan --

MOORE: But let me say one thing. For Jonathan, why is it a good deal? And I asked Robert Rice this last night. How is it a good deal for people to buy -- to force them to buy something that they don't want to buy?

HARLOW: Jonathan Gruber?

JONATHAN GRUBER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: So it's hard to know where to begin. Let's start with the last point. First of all, CBO estimates that the individual mandate itself, getting rid of that, will cost 7 million more people to become uninsured. So that's about a one-third of the total, not a half. Moreover, that's not people being forced to buy insurance. Part of that is the fact that people will now drop insurance because it's become more expensive because the healthy have left the market, OK, point one.

[09:35:15] Point two, CBO, there were two key projections CBO had to do for this law in -- years before it was implemented. How people will be covered and what would happen to premiums? CBO got both right within about 2 percent. OK, it's an amazing performance. Yes, they got the mix wrong, but certainly the notion that CBO is systematically wrong is crazy. Moreover, CBO did get the cost of Obamacare wrong. They overstated them. The cost of Obamacare was less. Obamacare was deficit-reducing and cost much less than was projected.

Look, at the end of the day, these are objective experts trying to do their best and the statement they've put out is quite simple, which is, there is no dimension along which this law makes life better. It creates more uninsured --

HARLOW: But, Jonathan, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, OK?

GRUBER: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: Great reporting out of CNN Money, our Tami Luhby and her team there, just noting this week, the list of insurers that are pulling out of Obamacare, as you know, it continues to grow, and this is going to leave tens of thousands of Americans in 47 counties around the nation without a choice of which insurer provider to go to. You would admit there is a problem that needs fixing, no?

GRUBER: I would say two things. First of all, the problem is largely Donald Trump's making, because its uncertainty he's created that's causing the insurers to exit. But, second of all, the problem --

HARLOW: Wait, insurers have cited -- hold on. Insurers have cited that as part of it --

GRUBER: Sure. Go ahead.

HARLOW: But they have for months been talking about skyrocketing premiums that have cost them millions of dollars.

MOORE: Not -- not months, for -- for years. Not months, for years. For years, not months.

GRUBER: Please, please give me -- let me have -- let me have my turn.

Basically, the point is that last year's premiums went up a lot, but if you talk to insurers after last year, they said that was a one-time increase to stabilize the market. There was nowhere in the country before Donald Trump got elected that did not have insurers available. Since Trump has gotten elected, it's gotten worse.

But, you know what, I don't want to argue about that. Let's talk about -- let's look forward. The point is, if you don't like what Obama -- we can disagree on Obamacare. But then if you don't like it, fix it. There is nothing -- literally nothing that this law makes better that's wrong with Obamacare. It creates more uninsured. The CBO says it destabilizes the market.

HARLOW: Stephen Moore, final -- final -- I got 30 seconds, final response to there's nothing that makes it better in the Senate bill.

MOORE: All right, look, it -- OK, it does -- it allows people to buy insurance across state lines. The problem with -- look, Obamacare is in a total meltdown right now.


MOORE: People aren't going to have any insurance if we stay with it. So what you have to do is provide people with a lot more competition and let people buy insurance across state lines instead of one insurer they have 10 or 15 or 20 insurers because we know the choice and competition reduce costs and what CBO and Jonathan Gruber got wrong from the beginning was that it would -- that this would reduce health care costs. And ask any middle class family, they're going through the roof.

HARLOW: I would just note -- we've got to leave it there, Stephen Moore --


HARLOW: Buying across state lines doesn't fix it if you don't have enough healthy young people buying into the marketplace. That is a challenge if you -- if you don't force them to.

MOORE: Yes, but you don't -- you don't stick a gun to their head and force them to buy it. Young people are the big losers.

HARLOW: All right, guys, we can continue debating in the break -- continue -- stop calling young people losers, come on, Stephen.

MOORE: They are. They're the ones who have to pay the most for Obamacare.

HARLOW: I am -- I am -- that was in jest. Gentlemen, thank you. We have to get to break.

MOORE: OK. And I am a young person.

HARLOW: There you go. Indeed. Both of you are. Thank you very much.

MOORE: Thank you.

HARLOW: Still to come for us, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging feuding Mideast states to -- nations to come to the table as the foreign minister of the nation at the center of all of this, Qatar, visiting Washington today. A live report, next.


[09:42:38] HARLOW: As a dispute between Qatar and its Arab neighbors grows in the Middle East, the nation's top diplomat is in Washington today for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Now this meeting comes just days after those countries that are boycotting Qatar for what they claim is the Gulf's state's support of terrorism, sent a list of 13 demands to Qatar and said it has ten days to concur. The demands include reducing ties with Iran, shutting down its government-owned Al Jazeera television network worldwide and severing all ties with extremist organizations.

Let's go to the State Department. Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is there.

This matters a lot because the biggest U.S. air base in the Middle East is in Qatar, and now Tillerson is meeting with the foreign minister of Qatar to try to smooth things over. What's the goal and the game plan here?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. It also matters for stability in the region. I mean when you look at those lists, that list of 13 demands, I mean that was a big deal. It was surprising when it came out. And, of course, the U.S. secretary of state wants to be friends with both sides here, wants to have good relationships, wants to try to smooth things out if he can, and wants to try not to enflame the situation. So what we hear from the State Department is not a lot weighing in on the demands themselves. They're trying to be very, you know, for lack of a better word, diplomatic here. But here's part of the statement that Secretary of State Tillerson put out on this. He said, "a productive next step would be for each of the countries to sit together and continue this conversation. We believe our allies and partners are stronger when they're working together towards one goal, which we all agree is stopping terrorism and countering extremism."

And we're been told that there have been dozens of conversations now between the secretary of state himself and all of these other parties, both by phone and in-person. So today will be an important one, meeting directly with the Qatari foreign minister.

But I think it was interesting, Poppy, to mention, too, that about a week ago in the State Department briefing here, the spokesperson said something that was a little more, I guess, provocative or a little more open in dealing with what these other countries are demanding of Qatar and the things that they've been saying about it. And she said, "the more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At this point we're left with one simple question, were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar's alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?" [09:45:17] So that's about as far as the State Department has gone to weigh in on

this dispute and what it's really about because, of course, Qatar defends itself saying that it's not supporting terrorism. So we'll see if this meeting goes any further in smoothing things out, or at least laying a foundation for a solution, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Michelle Kosinski at the State Department. Keep us posted on that. Thank you for the reporting.

We are moments away from hearing from Republican leaders after a devastating score from the Congressional Budget Office. A score that could sink the Senate health care bill. Can they convince members of their own party to get onboard? You'll hear from them live in just a minute.


[09:50:21] HARLOW: You're looking at live pictures on Capitol Hill where, in just moments, Republican leadership will step up to the podium. This is after the Congressional Budget Office report estimated 22 million fewer Americans would have health insurance in the next decade under the Senate plan. It also noted that the federal deficit would be reduced by $321 billion. But now four Republican senators say they won't vote yes to even bring this bill to the floor to debate. Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin from New York is with me.

Thanks for joining us.


HARLOW: So I should note that you've been supportive and vocally in support of the House and Senate GOP health care bills. This CBO report, 22 million more uninsured in a decade, Medicaid federal spending declining 26 percent in the same amount of time. Do you think that this Senate bill helps enough Americans, congressman?

ZELDIN: Oh, absolutely. In all the counties, a third of the counties across our country, including several states, there's only one option left under their exchange. We now have entire states that won't have any insurance option left. So the individual market, if it's not collapsed, it's collapsing, and that has to get repaired.

The CBO score is just of this one bill. It doesn't take into account anything else that we're working on related to health care or anything else that we're working on that gets our economy going. So -- and, furthermore, when you look at the 22 million, you know, they say 14 million people next year, 14 million less people will be insured, and they say, the CBO says, that that is a result of removing the individual mandate. That's people choosing on their own that they don't want to buy an insurance policy that right now they're being forced to buy that they don't want.

HARLOW: So, congressman, to be accurate, only part of that -- only part of those 22 million are people that its estimated will not buy a plan if they're not mandated to, like they are under Obamacare. But you said absolutely. So you're comfortable with supporting a plan that, according to CBO says 22 million more Americans in a decade will not have insurance. That would mean 49 million Americans, overall, if you add it to those who wouldn't have it under the existing plan. That's a number you're comfortable with, that you think benefits the American people?

ZELDIN: So -- you know, and, first off, with the 14 million the CBO says it's primarily due to the individual mandate. As far as the 22 million, again, the CBO report is just looking at this one bill. So anything else that --

HARLOW: But that's all they can look at. I mean, congressman, that's all they can look at.

ZELDIN: Well, but -- but the 22 million then is not accurate. If we're having a conversation about the CBO score of 22 million and the CBO is only looking at the one bill, they're not factoring in anything the administration can do, they're not factoring in legislation that requires 60 votes to allow policies to be sold across state lines, the pooling of policy, tort reform, additional Medicaid flexibility to state governors, reducing the cost of prescription drugs. They're not looking at any of that. And as we negotiate --

HARLOW: If that -- if those -- if those things can happen, right? They are hopes. But if they can happen is a question.

Let me get your response to this, because I want to play for you what Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said this weekend on CNN and then what you said on the same note just yesterday. Listen.


TOM PRICE, HHS SECRETARY: The system, the plan that we have -- would put in place, would not allow individuals to fall through the cracks, would not -- we would not pull the rug out from under anybody. We would not have individuals lose coverage that they want for themselves and for their families.

ZELDIN: You can't guarantee that in a -- you know, for over 300 million people, you know, that every single person is going to be covered to the standard that they want.


HARLOW: He guarantees the rug won't be pulled out from anyone. You say you can't make that guarantee to everyone. Either you're right or he's right. Both cannot be true.

ZELDIN: No, this --

HARLOW: Which is it?

ZELDIN: No, no, not -- not -- not at all. That's -- that's an unfair comparison because, for one, Secretary Price, and he's right, he's talking about how we can ensure that there's a smooth transition, not to pull the rug out. What I was referring to yesterday is that -- to have in New York state, where you might have a gold standard of essential health benefits, community rating in these other states, they're down to the point where they have one insurer left. In a state like Iowa, they're losing their last. So if you want --

HARLOW: No, they're not. They actually -- they -- in Iowa, they opt -- that insurer opted back in last week.

ZELDIN: OK, so you have -- as of right now, you have a third of the counties all across the country with one option left, including several entire states. That, I guess, we -- we're able to agree upon. But you can't have the same exact highest possible standards of essential health benefits and community rating in every state, large or small, those that are wealthiest and those who have -- that have lower income because the populations are different. If you have the highest possible standard in all 50 states, if you have that -- if you do not have any type of flexibility, you get to the point where you only have one insurer left. So not lifting the rug out from anyone, the secretary is absolutely right, insuring that there's a smooth transition, that's absolutely right. [09:55:19] It's also correct that you cannot have that highest

possible standard of policy with regards to everything that's covered because what happens in these markets is that you get left with one option that's left as we're seeing right now in 2017. And that's what I was referring to yesterday --


ZELDIN: Is that the higher you raise the standard, the more negative impact it is of insurers being able to survive in -- to be able to survive in particular individual markets and for individuals to have option, because if you only have one option, that's not choice, it's monopoly.

HARLOW: Congressman, I'm over time. I wish we had more because I have many more questions for you. We'll have you back.

ZELDIN: You too. Happy to have (ph) more answers for you.

HARLOW: Thank you. Thank you very much.

We're going to hear from your congressional leadership in just a moment. That's why we have to get a break in because we are waiting to hear from House Republican leadership. What do they have to say about this CBO report? That's next.