Panel on Selling Health Care

Panel on Selling Health Care

By Special Report With Bret Baier - March 24, 2010


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a patients' bill of rights on steroids. Starting this year thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions will be able to purchase health insurance, some for the very first time.


Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe the law is clear, the regulations will clear up any ambiguity from those experts.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, that's one effort. The administration scrambling to try to make sure that children with preexisting conditions are, in fact, covered by health insurance companies because that is not the way it is read in the law according to experts who are looking at this. They say that children with preexisting conditions really wouldn't be covered until 2014. So the Health and Human Services secretary is working on regulations that would patch that up.

In the meantime, the Senate is looking to fix the health care law. As you look live at the Senate floor, the vote-o-rama continues on Republican amendments. So far the ones that have been voted on have gone down on the party line vote, and it doesn't look like they are going to get any wins, the Republicans, that is.

Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton, columnist for Time and Fortune magazines and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, let's start, Steve, with this, well, gap, I guess, in coverage for children that they are scrambling to fix.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's hard to imagine in a 2,700 page bill there would be gaps, things that people didn't think about. Really, it's shocking in Washington.

This is economics 101. This is why Fredrick Hayek wrote "The Road to Serfdom." These are the unintended consequences that come following any government intervention. It's natural. And the problem is intervention begets intervention.

You have intervention like this on a massive scale talking about 15 plus percent of the U.S. economy, potentially running 15 percent of the economy, and, of course, there are going to be these kinds of mistakes. The problem is figuring out where the unintended consequences are and how you are going to fix them.

The problem on top of the problem is that you fix them with additional intervention. So I think this is exactly why conservatives were warning about the scope and the magnitude of this legislation from the outset. It's a vindication one day later.

BAIER: Nina, there are other things that are coming to light here. Senator Max Baucus, Democrat, went to the floor of the Senate and said "One other point I think that is very important to make is that it's true in certain cases taxes will go up for some Americans who may be making less than $200,000."

So, there are other things that are being talked about now about this law.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: They are being talked about on the floor of the Senate as we speak. This exercise that's going on right now, it's somewhat, I think it's playing overtime in a football game that's over. They are playing overtime solo, so none of this stuff is going to pass.

But they are able to frame the issue with these amendments that are being offered, that are going to be voted down. But you can bring them up again in November. The point that you are talking about is exactly right, there is going to be an amendment offered -

BAIER: But this is a Democrat, this is Max Baucus saying - and the Republican amendments, obviously -

EASTON: One of the Republican amendments is to say to report back to Congress with a commitment that people who make less than $250,000 a year won't be taxed. There is another amendment by Judd Gregg that says you are not allowed to raid Medicare to pay for this entitlement, which, of course, the bill does.

So you can one by one by one get Democrats on the record voting against these amendments and use it in November.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think one of the problems with the bill is not just the drafting errors, as we saw in this particular case with the children's preexisting condition, or even the unintended consequences.

I think the real problem is there is so much in the bill that is delegated to the bureaucrats, to the department of Health and Human Services, for example.

For example, we don't know what will be the required basket of coverage that any plan is going to have to have in order to be "acceptable" to the federal government and thus to people who receive a subsidy if you buy it. That's going to be determined in the future by the secretary of HHS, and that could be arbitrary.

I mean, if you are a 70-year-old widow, are you going to need drug abuse-rehab coverage? If you are a single male, are you going to need obstetrics? Of course not. But all of this will be decreed by a bureaucrat, unelected. It's not in the law now, it will be decided. And there is a lot of this which is going to be decided.

And the other example of this, and the one that people are really worried about, is these committees that will decide which is acceptable or the best treatment. Once you have a committee like that, as of now it's advisory, but in the future it could easily become compulsory as costs rise, as happened in Britain, which has the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the NICE committee, it's called, which decides who gets drugs and cancer - if it's expensive, you don't get it.

And that's what's in the bill but not written in detail today. It will all be decided in the future by unelected committees and bureaucrats.

BAIER: Quickly down the line, there have been charges by Democratic lawmakers and specific incidents that are being investigated about threats. Congressman Bart Stupak from Michigan released specific phone calls and faxes. There have been a couple of other incidents from other lawmakers who have reported this.

And officials are investigating all of these. What about this issue down the line and how it plays out, and what about it?

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm sure a lot of this is trumped up the way of the unruliness of some of the crowd on the day of the voting in the House was trumped up. You are always going to have a kook and a nut here and there.

It's being used by supporters of Obama-care to tar opponents with threats, violence, being un-American in general. I think it ought to be denounced, as the Republicans have. It should be. But it's not reflective of those who oppose the bill.

BAIER: Nina?

EASTON: Yes, but I disagree, Charles. I mean, these sound like real threats. People - and it risks the credibility of the opposition to let these threats go without answering them. I was pleased to see that Boehner and others answered them today.

I think they are going to need to continue to answer them because the passions do run high, and there is a sense among some people that, you know, that they want to go after, you know, they want retribution on some level. You hear that on the airways at times. And I think it behooves everybody to calm things down and say go vote in November.

BAIER: Is this different than other big issues that on both sides where people, you know, extremes issued threats?

EASTON: That's fine. Then you should be doing it on the other side when it happens on the other side.

BAIER: I understand.

EASTON: But it's really important for leaders of the opposition of the bill to come out very clearly and separate themselves and state clearly that -


EASTON: And they did and they need to continue to do it.

HAYES: They shouldn't continue. They did it. They did it once and they should be the end. He said we don't approve of it. That's it. If you continue to beat him up, it continues to be a story and it's counterproductive.

The people who are making threats shouldn't make threats. The leaders of the Republican Party should do exactly what they did. But this happens all the time. But I could refer to you my own voicemail sometimes after appearances on other programs and other networks where the vitriol level was every bit as harsh as what I heard in Bart Stupak's voicemail.


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