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Heated Debate: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel vs. James Capretta On Obamacare

This week, FNC's Chris Wallace hosts a highly spirited debate between James Capretta (Ethics & Public Policy Center) and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (Former Adviser to President Obama on Obamacare).

WALLACE: All right. So, let's start with that pledge from the president when he was trying to sell ObamaCare. Here it is.


OBAMA: We will keep this promise to the American people: if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away.


WALLACE: But it turns out millions of Americans are not able to keep their plans, they're losing them. Florida Blue has canceled 300,000 people. In California, 280,000 policies have been canceled. In Oregon, 150,000.

Mr. Capretta, the White House now says -- its explanation is, well, that pledge only counted until the health care law was signed? In March of 2010, only for policies that were in effect before then, and anyway, these policies are lousy.

CAPRETTA: Yes, there's two things to it. There was no extenuating circumstances when he said you can keep your plan. He didn't add a clause, with period. In fact, he said, clearly, you can keep your plan. He said it once. He said it a thousand times. This wasn't a minor pledge. It was central to passing the law.

It's sort of like President Bush saying no new taxes. The first President Bush saying no new taxes back in 1990 and 1988. He broke that pledge. And at least he had the honesty to tell everybody he was breaking the pledge.

The president actually pledged this and has never really admitted he was going to break. There's millions of people that are going to lose it, at least 15 million, including people in the small business community. They're talking about the individual market now. Many small business people are going to lose their plans, too.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to get to that. But let's stay with the idea of the pledge.

Because, Dr. Emanuel, "The Wall Street Journal" reported this weekend that you, in fact, were part of a debate inside the White House at the time about whether or not this claim -- you can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor -- was misleading.

This week --

EMANUEL: No, I was --

WALLACE: Let me ask the question, it will be a question mark, and you can answer -- whether it was misleading.

On Megyn Kelly's show this week, you blamed the insurance companies. Here it is.


EMANUEL: If an insurance company decides its changing how it's going to structure its plan, that's not the law doing it. That's the insurance company deciding for business reasons.


WALLACE: But, Doctor, the ObamaCare law demands that the insurance companies change their plans.

EMANUEL: Let's get to what happens in the individual market. First of all, I want to say the president takes very seriously and this he said over and over when I was working for him. What I -- let's go back to what I said and make sure we're consistent with this. When we passed the law, we said any plan that existed before the date the law passed would be grandfathered in unless lots of changes were made.

Now, you know, we have to imagine ObamaCare not against the black slate, but against what insurance companies regularly do --

WALLACE: I would -- I --

EMANUEL: -- against what the insurance companies --

WALLACE: I have to ask you, does ObamaCare mandate that insurance companies change their plans to meet certain standards?

EMANUEL: Yes, it brings it up. But those -- look, we grandfathered in all of the pre-existing plans. If you want to change plans or you want to buy a new car, you have to meet safety standards. That was the rule and --

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Wait a minute. Your grandfathering is so narrow. For instance --

EMANUEL: It's not so narrow.

WALLACE: Let me give you an example. For instance, if an insurance company changes the co-pay by more than $5, over the course of three years since 2010, it's no longer grandfathered in.

EMANUEL: That's a 25 -- usually, a 25 percent change. That's a big change. You have to --

WALLACE: A $5 change in the co-pay, now, it's not grandfathered.

EMANUEL: You have to ask the question: how many planks do you change in a boat before it's a different boat? And that's the same thing here. We had a plan, we argued about it. We tried to come up --

WALLACE: You didn't tell the American people.

EMANUEL: We tried to come up with -- no we, did. We grandfathered in the plans and we tried to come up --

WALLACE: You're saying -- you said, now, if this plan is in effect of March 2010, you can keep it.

EMANUEL: That's what it says. It says, grandfathered --

WALLACE: Mr. Capretta?

EMANUEL: Grandfathered plans were allowed and if they change --

WALLACE: I didn't hear the president mentioned the "grandfather" in those pledges.

EMANUEL: That's how we fulfilled his pledge.


WALLACE: Mr. Capretta?

CAPRETTA: People who knew the law as it was being written knew the president wasn't telling the truth. The grandfather provision written in the law itself was too narrow and frankly they wrote a regulation intentionally trying to get people out of the individual market.

EMANUEL: Look --

CAPRETTA: They want the people to go into the exchanges because there's a lot of people in the individual market. The whole point of the exchanges is to close down the individual insurance market overtime.

EMANUEL: The insurance company, wait a second --

CAPRETTA: They wanted to move millions of people into the exchanges --

EMANUEL: The insurance companies don't like -- the insurance companies don't like the individual market as it's constructed. They see the future. That individual market is going away. They don't want to invest in it.


EMANUEL: No, the insurance companies are making that choice, not the president.

WALLACE: Gentlemen.

EMANUEL: The law does not require that.

WALLACE: Maybe I'll tell stop calling you gentlemen because I'm not sure -- this raises a bigger question, which is, who gets to decide? You said, well, we improved the policies, right? With the ObamaCare coverage mandate.

Who gets to decide what's a good policy or not? Our college John Roberts did a story --

EMANUEL: Well --

WALLACE: Please?

Did a story about a woman named Betsy Tadder who is losing her policy. Let's take a quick look at that.


BETSY TADDER, LOSING HEALTH INSURANCE: I was very happy with my plan and then I got a letter saying it was no longer available and I would need to choose a new one.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To replace the coverage she has, her premiums would go up from $454 a month to $871. Her options on the ObamaCare Web site weren't any better.

TADDER: The deductible with that plan is $12,700. I can't afford a deductible of $12,700.


WALLACE: Dr. Emanuel, simple question -- why does Betsy Tadder need you or President Obama telling her what insurance she needs?

EMANUEL: For two reasons: first of all, if she goes in and that insurance doesn't cover enough, and -- which is typically what happens with these very low cost plans, and she gets sick and it exceeds, typically, we who are insured pay the difference. That's call cost shifting.

WALLACE: But she likes her plan.

EMANUEL: But we're cost shifting.

The second thing is, just as we have safety standards for cars, you can't buy a car without a seat belt. You can't buy a care without an air bag. You can drive them, we're not going to take you off the road. But if you're going to buy a new car, you have to have safety --

WALLACE: Wait, wait --

EMANUEL: Same thing with ObamaCare.

WALLACE: But let me ask you this.

EMANUEL: Can I finish?

WALLACE: I agree with you about the airbags and I'll agree with you about the safety belts.

She is a woman who has a 24-year-old son. She is not going to have any more children. ObamaCare includes maternity services, pediatric services, substance abuse services. That's not the air bag.

EMANUEL: It is the air bag. We all --

WALLACE: No, for her, it isn't. She's not going to need maternity services.

EMANUEL: We all share in the costs so that everyone can get it. She will need another high cost service, like cancer care or like a stroke care, God forbid, or her kid might be hit by a car or her kid might father a baby. We have to make sure that people are covered for those things.

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