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Trump to Stop Paying Obamacare Subsidies; What Trump's Health Care Actions Mean for Americans. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired October 13, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just keep hearing repeal and replace, repeal and replace. Well, we're starting that process.
[05:59:39] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a repeal or a replacement. This is an undermining of Obamacare.
MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE LIAISON: It's common sense. It will help to provide lower costs and more competition for people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It frankly makes a situation that needs to be fixed much worse.
TRUMP: It was one of the most incompetently drawn deals I've ever seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If U.S. walk away from this deal, then who will trust America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president chooses to not certify, it will start a process of isolating us from our allies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, October 13, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we have a lot of great news overnight.
President Trump says he will immediately stop paying billions of dollars in subsidies that help millions of lower-income Americans afford health care. The late-night announcement is part of the president's push to dismantle Obamacare after several failed attempts in Congress. This move comes hours after the president signed an executive order allowing alternative health plans that skirt some of the law's requirements.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's also another consequential decision coming from the White House. In just hours, President Trump is going to announce that he will not certify Iran as complying with the nuclear deal. But the president will fall short of pulling out of the agreement altogether. We're going to tell you what is the apparent Trump strategy for Iran and what he's asking Congress to do.
And North Korea once again threatening the U.S. territory of Guam, this time vowing its hand is closer to the trigger. This comes as the U.S. and South Korea announced more joint exercises in the region.
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
The president up bright and early this morning tweeting. And I'll just read it to you. It says, "The Democrats' Obamacare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix."
But make no mistake, over the last 24 hours, the moves the president has made have gone a long way toward putting his imprint on government-sponsored health insurance. And he did it without an act of Congress.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump upending the health care market, scrapping critical subsidy payments to insurers that help nearly 6 million lower-income Americans pay for health care. The payments, which will cost the federal government about $7 billion this year, set to end immediately. Without the subsidies, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that exchange premiums will rise 20 percent next year and increase the national deficit by $194 billion over 10 years. The move could force many insurers to flee the marketplace entirely.
TRUMP: We pay hundreds of millions of dollars a month in subsidies that the courts don't even want us to pay. And when those payments stop, it stops immediately.
JOHNS: President Trump has threatened to end the subsidies for months, but lawmakers in both parties have urged the administration to continue the payments in the short term to stabilize the markets.
The White House declaring Thursday that the government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments. Democratic leadership blasting the decision as "a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class" before insisting that President Trump will pay a price for this decision.
House Speaker Paul Ryan applauding the move, while Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted, "Cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district. POTUS promised more access, affordable coverage. This does opposite."
It comes hours after the president signed an executive order, allowing people to provide cheaper, more basic plans, something experts say will drive up the cost of premiums for sicker patients.
TRUMP: This will cost the United States government virtually nothing, and people will have great, great health care.
JOHNS: President Trump legislating through executive order despite repeatedly attacking his predecessor for doing the same.
TRUMP (via phone): You have a president that signs executive orders because he can't get anything done.
(on camera): Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders because he can't get along with the Democrats.
JOHNS: These significant decisions coming ahead of another consequential announcement this afternoon.
TRUMP: That deal is an embarrassment to the United States.
JOHNS: President Trump set to announce he will decertify Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement, a move that kicks the issue to Congress but stops short of withdrawing from the agreement entirely.
Lawmakers would then have 60 days to decide whether to reinstate economic sanctions lifted under the agreement.
JOHNS: The Trump administration is not expected to push essentially for sanctions to be reimposed because that would, in all likelihood, cause Iran to walk away from the deal.
Instead, the president is expected to ask Congress for parameters that could trigger in the event that Iran moved in a direction the United States does not want. The president is also expected to seek a new plan on his ballistic missile approach to Iran. All of that likely to be laid out today here at the White House.
Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
[06:05:14] CUOMO: All right. Joe, thank you very much.
What's happening with the Iran deal very important. We're going to get to that. We're going to start with health care. The executive order by the president is certainly an act of political hypocrisy. That's nothing new in Washington, D.C.
Our initial focus will be what it will cost. CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, here to break down for us. The suggestion by the president that everyone will get great health care because of this. Nothing gets lost. That's just not true.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, ending key subsidies will speed up Obamacare's implosion, will cost millions of Americans health coverage.
Who are we talking about here? Nearly 6 million low-income Americans. It's individuals who earn less than $30,000 a year. Families earning less than $61,000. Insurers rely on these cost-sharing payments to lower the deductibles for these people.
Doesn't affect premiums, but it makes a huge difference for these enrollees. For example, take a traditional silver plan. For those just above the poverty line, that subsidy lowers the average deductible to $255 a year.
Without those subsidies, it's $3,600. That's why these Americans could see huge increases next year. Now, the president has threatened to stop payments for months. And that's caused many insurers to already hike rates next year, most by more than 20 percent.
Some major players have even dropped out entirely. But insurers that didn't price in the loss of these subsidies, they can sue or they can raise rates. And that's a new problem for Obamacare, you guys? Less than three weeks, three weeks before open enrollment -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you very much for explaining all that.
CUOMO: He also wants to shorten the enrollment period, which is an interesting play. Why would you do that? Why would you give people less time to sign up?
CAMEROTA: OK. So let's discuss all of this with our political panel. We have associate editor of RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard; CNN political analyst David Drucker; and CNN Politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza. Great to see all of you.
A.B., why is the president starting with the low-income folks, these cost-sharing subsidies that end up helping six million of the lowest income people?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, he's not going to paint it that way. Basically, the argument that they're making. And it is -- it has stood up in court, is that these payments are illegal and the court ruled so. The Congress -- the congressional Republicans when President Obama created these payments, they were not appropriated by Congress which has the power of the purse. They were created by the executive branch. And so a court case brought by congressional Republicans put these things in peril.
The administration has paid them month after month, threatening to stop them saying that they are unconstitutional and illegal. This is going to be an argument framed, as you can see in the president's tweet, about bailing out insurance companies. But it is not -- it's very clear that this -- doing this will absolutely hasten the demise of these marketplaces.
The insurance places, as Christine Romans points out, are already leaving. And if they cannot continue to cover pools that are older now and sicker, because young people can now do association health plans offered by the executive order that the president signed yesterday. You're just going to have skyrocketing prices that -- that the insurance companies don't want to cover and the -- and patients can no longer pay. So it is definitely going to hasten whatever slow-motion implosion is
happening to the law. And I think it's going to be politically very consequential for the Republicans.
CUOMO: All right. So let's uncrack that a little bit, David Drucker.
The president sends the tweet to the Democrats, says, "Obamacare is imploding." But the biggest reason that it is imploding is because of what he is trying to do and what has been done already. Right?
You get rid of the cost-sharing revenue, those subsidies are going to have to change the cost structure for the insurance companies. He's trying to shorten the enrollment period. You know, there's only one reason to do that. Right? You're going to try and choke off the ability for people to sign off. He's cut and allowed his agencies to cut all kinds of money from advertising the plan and boosting the plan.
So he's trying to implode it. So what is the political bargain? What is the political risk here that he can get a deal done without paying the price for imploding this law that provides health care to so many millions of people?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, Chris, that what the president is risking is the idea that Democrats are still going to get blamed for the problems with the health care system now that Republicans, nine months in, are in full control of government. And I don't think it's going to work that way.
I think, looking at his early morning tweet, this appears to be a play to try and exact leverage over Democrats to force them to the table to work with him on health care. Because if you squeeze voters, and they're unhappy, lawmakers often move.
[06:10:02] I think what's interesting about these cost-sharing reductions, these subsidies to the insurance companies is that they go to help reduce the cost for plans that so many -- so many voters that live in Republican districts use.
These hit battleground Republican House districts and members of Congress, Republicans who represent these districts. One example which I have reported on earlier this year, and it's why Republicans have talked to me about how concerned they are about the political fallout of this.
You look at Carlos Curbelo's in Southern Florida. Hillary Clinton won it by 17 points. And you have 70,000 people accessing plans that rely on these cost-sharing reductions. There are other battleground Republicans in 2018 that are vulnerable that could get caught up in this.
And so if the president doesn't figure out a way to work with his party to get to a point where they repeal and replace Obamacare with something that people like, this squeezing of the insurance market and reducing of options and costs, and the fact that things get less affordable unless they come around with a replacement is going to cause them a world of political hurt.
CAMEROTA: But this is what's so interesting, Chris Cillizza, is that it may hurt some of the voters in the end. But he did run on this. And this is what he promised. And this is what voters, so many of them, responded to. And so it's this, you know, paradox.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Absolutely. He -- look, I think the guide star for most of what Donald Trump did -- does is what did Barack Obama do, and can we undo what Barack Obama did?
This is the signature thing that Barack Obama did. It literally has Barack Obama's name in it. And I think that's what's motivating him. He believes this was a promise made by the Republican Party and by him. But by the Republican Party over the last eight years.
He believes he said this, he's tweeted this, that Republicans in Congress have failed to do it. And this is his way of speeding the process along, giving it a little bump. And under the belief that, if you do these things, Obamacare will fail; and Congress will be forced to act.
So, you know, he's trying to force their hand while also making good on what he believes to be the fundamental campaign pledge that got him elected.
CUOMO: A.B., where are the Republicans in Congress on this? Because, you know, just to educate people to a fact, the private market moves a lot faster than the public market.
So when you cut the subsidies, even though they're in for 2018, the insurance companies, they've already signed up deals. They're going to change their cost structure. They're going to change it for people like us, you know, who get it through their employer which a lot of people in the country do. Because they're going to make their money. And they're going to adjust quickly.
The public side does not adjust that quickly. So where were Republicans' heads in terms of the months, maybe over a year that they will be hearing from people. I got my care dropped. My premium just spiked. I'm not getting the money anymore. I can't afford this health care. Are they thinking about this right now, or is their head just like the president's, in short-term political gain.
STODDARD: Well, Speaker Ryan apparently made a statement the last evening, saying that he -- that the Congress agrees with the White House's decision and that he made no indication that Congress is moving to appropriate any money for the cost-sharing reductions.
That's why David's piece on this was so interesting. Because he goes through a bunch of members who really matter to the Republican majority, districts where Hillary won, where these people are going to be hurting because they're dependent on the CSRs. There is a bipartisan effort afoot, as you know, Problem-solvers caucus in the House has -- made up half of Republicans. They came up with a five- point plan. It is the premise for the basis of the Senate discussions underway between Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray. They have toiled through this, through Graham-Cassidy, which came up and then failed.
And now through the announcements by the administration to try to make sure that the Congress will appropriate those cost-sharing reductions and do other things that will help small businesses stabilize these marketplaces. But obviously, the administration's actions are making this much harder. I don't think that they're going to give up.
But they're really facing headwinds in terms of whether or not their leadership wants to bring anything if they can get enough critical mass to the floor for a vote and to the president's desk. It seems like President Trump's plan, as Chris and everyone has been saying, is to sort of shame the Democrats to the table. And it's a real gamble about whether or not that's going to work.
DRUCKER: I think we have to note that this is not what the president ran on. He ran on fixing health care.
CUOMO: Making it better, he said. Making it better and more affordable. And he is doing the opposite right now.
DRUCKER: And I think we can understand his frustration and his desire to try and squeeze Congress and get them to act. But when you look at what he did even with his executive order, we still don't know what the rules are actually going to look like, which means they could be challenged in court and thrown out.
[06:15:05] And we don't know how many people they're actually going to impact if they're not challenged in court because of the executive nature of what he did and the fact that it could run afoul of congressional authority.
And so I think what the president has to sort of figure out here, if he wants to get this done, is how to get his party together around a plan that can actually fix the problems of Obamacare that are existing because of the changes he is making from the White House to the law as it is is.
STODDARD: And just very, very quickly, in terms of executive orders, you know, he hated them, as you'll remember when President Obama used them. He has now doubled President Obama's executive orders in the space, in the same time that they were in office.
CUOMO: Do you think that hypocrisy matters anymore?
CUOMO: The way he conducts himself, the way he does business.
CILLIZZA: No. I mean, I wish it did, only that I think hypocrisy in politics is a gigantic problem. You say one thing. You do something else. That is not limited to Donald Trump, by the way.
CUOMO: Right. CILLIZZA: But no, I don't, Chris. Because I think you can -- people
get their news from sources that tend to agree with them. You can say he's making good on a campaign promise. He's only doing it because the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress can't do anything. You know, you can always find ways to justify it. And unfortunately, people are looking for ways to justify it to fit their politics.
CAMEROTA: There you go. Panel, thank you very much.
So, in just hours, President Trump is going to do another major move. He's expected to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. Could that decision backfire and trigger some sort of nuclear crisis? We discuss all the implications and his new strategy next.
[06:20:33] CAMEROTA: OK. So in just hours, President Trump will decertify Iran's compliance with the Obama-era nuclear agreement, but he will not pull out of the historic multination deal. So what is the president's new strategy on Iran?
Let's bring back Chris Cillizza. We want to bring in CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller.
Aaron, it's so great to have you and your brain with us this morning.
CUOMO: You too, Cillizza. You see Cillizza made a face? Good to have you, too. That's the point.
CAMEROTA: Good to have you and your glasses.
CILLIZZA: Yes, yes, thanks.
CAMEROTA: OK, Aaron, what is the strategy? What is President Trump trying to achieve here?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, I think this was a way to split the difference between a president who was driven by his own personal version of having to certify his own politics, the whole notion that this is the worst deal ever negotiated in human history, and to satisfy his base on one hand with, I guess you could argue, the adults, McMaster, Tillerson and Mattis, who were desperately looking for a way to ensure that the president, at least now, would not walk away from the accord.
So they came with this very clever strategy on not certifying, which essentially will kick the matter to Congress. Presumably, Congress will not impose sanctions, at least immediately, that will be related to the deal and will ensure the Iranians will pull out. And if you read that white paper, which frankly reads -- and again, I work for Republicans and Democrats. I voted for Democrats. This is not a partisan comment.
The paper reads kind of like a term paper with a quote up top that says, "We must confront Iran's efforts to sow death and destruction in the region." But if you read that paper, what strikes me is that the last paragraph
of a four-page document is the only language that addresses the nuclear agreement. The rest talks about the evil supreme leader, Iran's aggressive behavior in the region, and seems to suggest the administration in the four-page document is going to concentrate on countering, if not rolling back Iran's influence in the region. So it's a -- it's a kind of a strange -- you know, strange deal.
But my bottom line on this is Mick Jagger. Obama got what he needed from this agreement, Iranians got what they wanted. And Trump is determined to reverse that, the worst negotiated deal in history.
CUOMO: Chris Cillizza, the politics at play here.
The plus side is one hollow line, which is this is a terrible deal. That's what you hear. I mean, that is a terrible deal. Iran is a bad place. It's a terrible deal. It's the worst deal I've ever seen.
Now, it's the only deal of its kind that this president would have ever seen. He's never been involved with any kind of negotiation of anything like this ever in his life. So that's the plus argument.
Are people in Congress on the Republican side worried about going against their allies and letting loose Iran to do whatever it wants if this deal falls apart? That's the negative side of this move. Are they aware of it?
CILLIZZA: Well, I think they don't -- they got two things handed to them in the last 24 hours. One is do something about health care. Make it work. And the other is, OK, figure out something to do about Iran. You know, there's some level of buck passing there by Donald Trump.
He's trying to, as Aaron points out, he's trying to thread a very fine needle here. I think that they believe that this -- this is about Donald Trump's personal politics. Aaron noted it. And I think there's, you know -- Donald Trump doesn't have any Iran policy. He didn't run on an Iran policy. He ran on "Barack Obama did a bad deal. We're going to do a better deal."
You know, it's like the Paris climate accord argument. We're pulling out. We're going to hold the option open that we're -- we, the U.S., will renegotiate the whole deal in a way that is better for us. Is it possible? Sure. It's also possible the Nats could ever win a playoff series.
MILLER: Oh, my.
CILLIZZA: You know, the point being...
CAMEROTA: Now you've gone too far.
CILLIZZA: It hurts me.
CUOMO: Got an "Oh, my" from "ADM." That's not good.
This is how I'm trying to deal with the pain inside me. But this is, in some ways, just like health care.
What drives Donald Trump's reason to do this? Part of it is base politics. But really, it's about what did Obama do? How can we undo that? Right? Because he doesn't -- it's not as though Donald Trump has a detailed ways in which to deal with Iran in mind. He doesn't.
[06:25:10] He just doesn't like this deal, because it's the worst deal ever, and therefore, we have to do something to renegotiate it. Now whether that's possible or not, through Congress or any other means, I'm quite skeptical about.
CAMEROTA: So, David now that -- Aaron David, now that it's kicking over to Congress, what's Congress going to do?
MILLER: Well, we have 60 days to try to figure out how to continue to thread the needle. I'm not sure there are -- it's enough support, basically, in Congress right now, it's quite paradoxical, given the fact that this agreement was such a contentious issue in 2015. But I think you have enough "D's" and "R's" who basically understand that they don't want responsibility for sure for overturning a nuclear agreement, however flawed and imperfect. And let's be clear: it's flawed and imperfect. But it's functional.
And the question is when faced with what I think Chris's analysis is right. If, in fact, what's driving Donald Trump is his personal aversion and anything but Obama and his domestic politics and not sound policy, then I'm not sure Congress wants the responsibility for undermining an agreement that is however flawed is functional.
One additional point. You know, again, this is not my area. But the administration seems to be adept at coming up with solutions for problems that, in some respects, they really don't have. This was the truth, this was the case whether withdrawing from TPP, was the case with withdrawing from Paris climate. It's the case with the travel ban. It's the case with some of the immigration issues.
The fact is this agreement, however flawed, is keeping the Iranians and buying time away from developing enough fissile material to make a bomb. And with the North Korean nuclear problem wide open, why? Why would you want to open up another one?
CUOMO: So let's go one step deeper on that, Aaron. What are your concerns here? You know, with your history and experience, what is your concern about what will happen if we continue down this road?
MILLER: I mean, we don't have an answer long term. Five, 10, 15, 20 years. Which are 15, 20, 25 years when this agreement is supposed to go into the sunset. We do not have an answer for what happens when the restraints and constraints are removed and Iran is left with enough of a nuclear infrastructure to weaponize, should they want -- should they want to weaponize. We do not have a way to fix it.
This agreement was an effort to buy time to preempt an Israeli strike and make an American strike unnecessary. I would argue to you that those same objectives are still sound. My concern is that, once you start toying with the agreement. And Congress -- congress could end up doing things, working with the administration, that will produce a counter reaction on the part of the Iranians. Then you get another reaction from Washington.
And sooner rather than later, the cycle of dysfunction begins. And I think that's one concern. And, second, that we really understand that you want to go to war with Iran or its proxies in the region. And you better be prepared to invest the kinds of resources, military, economic, and political resources because that's a battle, frankly, to see Afghanistan and Iraq, that we are not going to be able to win.
But right now, I think by and large, they found a way to square a circle that cannot be squared. And basically to preserve the deal, which will allow us not to isolate themselves and inflict another unnecessary and pointless wound.
CAMEROTA: OK. Well, there you go. On that note, Aaron David Miller, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. So to the wildfires in California burning as robustly as ever, the death toll climbing. More than 30 people have lost their lives. There are hundreds missing.
Now, be clear, that's not an assumption that those people have been killed, as well, we just don't know where they are because of the nature of this fast-moving fire. We are on the front lines next.