Meet the Press   |  November 17, 2013

Views from the Hill: Pelosi, Ayotte on Obamacare

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte visit Meet the Press with opposing views from Capitol Hill on the ongoing problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this sunday, it may be the lowest moment of his presidency.

>> i am not a perfect man and i will not be a perfect president.

>> the obama care crisis, and the white house in retreat.

>> we fumbled the rollout on this health care .

>> democrats are in revolt as the clock is ticking on the government's website healthcare.gov. it does feel like the president is fighting on all fronts. his credibility is lower than ever before. and we don't know if obama care will even work. and how do you get young people to sign up for something they don't necessarily want? in a moment, i'll pose those questions to nancy pelosi , leader of the house democrats . plus, perspective and insights about the politics of obama care this morning.

>>> plus, 50 years after jfk 's assassination. there is still a lot of emotion surrounding that day, and we'll talk about that in just a moment. what if john kennedy had lived? would he have gotten civil rights laws passed, as he campaigned to do? and what about vietnam? what would he have done in vietnam? tom brokaw has produced a ground-breaking documentary called "where were you the day jfk died?" and tom sheis here to talk about that. welcome to "meet the press" on november 17 , 2013 . good sunday morning. this is the headline in the weekend edition of the usa today . " health law shakes the presidency." it seems to sum up the effect of obama care on the white house at the moment, and with the kind of confidence and pressure to change the health care law is growing. the renewal of millions of policies to be canceled under the current law and it also sells similar laws to new customers. the problem isn't fixed and obama threatens to veto it. joining me now the leader of the democrats in the house, nancy pelosi . welcome back to "meet the press."

>> good morning.

>> good to have you in studio. there is a crisis and the country feels it about obama care, but it seems to go deeper. 39 democrats voting with the republicans on a bill that doesn't look like it's going forward. has it reached a point where democrats don't believe the president can pull this off and make obama care work?

>> no, i remind you that 39 voted for this resolution the other day. the number has been in the 30s when it was to agree with them on the mandate for businesses, the mandate for individuals. so this is approximately the same number.

>> but there is some real frustration among your democratic caucus . fair?

>> that's true, but you focused on the number, and the number is approximately the same of two, three months ago as it is today when the republicans put forth a political initiative. people respond to it politically.

>> i think the question is, are democrats losing confidence in the president's ability to make obama care work?

>> no. let me just say this. on all these specifics, we have to completely step back and see the bigger picture. what i love about health care professionals is that they are calm. and we must remain calm when we talk about the health of our country. the affordable care act , as i call it, have always called it, the affordable care act is right up there with social security , medicare, affordable care for all americans as a right, not a privilege. the rollout of the website, that's terrible. but the fact is that will be fixed. and that is the instrument of enrollment, as you know. what the republicans did on friday was not a fix. and if i just may, the law does not demand that all of these cancellations go out. the law says if you had your plan before the enactment of the law, you can keep it, and that's what the president said. so there is a distinction between those who had it before and what this law does is say other people can be enrolled in these bad initiatives which --

>> i don't want to get too far in the weeds on it, but i want to stick to point of democratic frustration. you know from calling to your colleagues about this, they've got to be worried about reelection next year. are you and others going to campaign on obama care in swing districts around the country, and if so, what will the message be?

>> the fact is i'll get back to the affordable care act , and the affordable was named that bruz because it makes it affordable. the experience in states where it is working in kentucky, in california, where we have our own state marketplace, it's working very well. and i have full confidence, as do my members, however they voted on this, this is political, they respond politically. but the fact is when this website is fixed, many of these people in these bad, bad policies that are costing too much, what the president did, and it's really important to mention this, what he did in his statement the other day was to allow people who have been in the plans since the enactment of affordable care for there to be a delay in enforcement for those. the others can always stay in. there is nothing in the law that says they can't stay in. but what he said was that the insurance companies must tell the policyholder what they are deprived of, that they're not getting preexisting condition, any --

>> but there are cancellation notices going out. there is a million of them in california.

>> what they have to do now is send another letter that says, this is what this is going to mean to you in terms of you won't get preexisting condition discrimination, and here are the other options that are available to you in the marketplace.

>> but the president has been apologetic, he's been accountable for saying something that was not the case. you were speaker of the house . you in many ways were seen as an architect and key ally on this. this is what you said back in june 2009 on msnbc. watch.

>> what we are talking about is affordable quality accessible health care for all americans . it's about choice. if you like what you have and you want to keep it, you have the choice to do that.

>> are you accountable for saying something that turned out not to be correct?

>> well, it's not that it's not correct, it's that if you want to keep it and it's important for the insurance company to say to people, this is what your plan does. it doesn't prevent you from being discriminated against on the basis of preexisting conditions, lifetime limits, annual limits.

>> there is a bottom line which people understand and the president won't acknowledge, and that is if the government has decided there has to be minimum requirements in any health care plan, so if you have something and you like it, and it doesn't meet what the government says you have to have, you cannot keep it. and that's not what you said here.

>> if you had your plan before the enactment of the law in 2010 . if you had your plan before. there is nothing in the law that says you have to. but again, we can go back and forth on this.

>> this is an important deal because the grandfathering has changed. the president is acknowledging, and it doesn't seem like you're acknowledging that people say back in 2009 you can keep what you have. this is all about choice.

>> you could if you had your plan before the enactment in 2009 . grandfathering is for those before 2009 . let me say this, and i commend the president. he's gracious and he's taking responsibility. but that doesn't mean that there was anything in the law that said if you like what you had before 2010 you couldn't keep it. i think it's really important to make that point. he took responsibility for the big picture and that's important for him to do because that's what people see. but there is nothing -- you said earlier the law says that you must -- you can't, the law doesn't say that. but again, near here nor there. how do we go forward?

>> the bottom line is people are getting policies that were canceled and that's not the representation that was made. it was also foreseeable, it was part of the debate this would actually happen.

>> i would agree with you for the policy since 2010 but not for the 2000 before. the approximately also said the insurance companies , and many have been responsible, some not so, the insurance company has to say to you you're not getting the preexisting conditions, you will have lifetime limits, you will have annual limits, and, by the way, you have to tell people that they can go to the exchange, the marketplace, where they may qualify for a subsidy or they may just get a better price.

>> the big picture on this is it doesn't seem to be working right now. you argued at the time, look, there's a lot of controversy around it, it's politically hot and people still don't understand the good things that are in it. but then you said this in march of 2010 . watch.

>> we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.

>> and hasn't that idea that you have to pass it before you know what's in it, isn't that really the problem, as you look back on it, that there was such a rush to get this done, no republicans voting for it, and now there are unintended effects of this that were foreseen at the time that you couldn't know the impact of it and now it's coming home to roost.

>> what i was saying there is, we're the house and the senate, we get a bill, we go to congress, we ping-pong it and then you see what the final product is. however, i stand by what i said there. when people see what is in the bill, they will like it, and they will. while there is a lot of hoop-de-do and do about it, not surprising. i said it would take a great deal to pass this bill. if we go up to the gate and it's locked, we'll unlock the gate. if the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in. if we can't do that, we'll helicopter but we'll get it done. we had to pass the test of the courts, and we did. the first rollout in the first part of the implementation went very smoothly. the website has not worked. that's caused problems people contemplating those changes. it has not turned out to be easy. what happens is what happens at the kitchen table of the american people and how they will have more afford abiliability, more accessibility, better quality care, a healthier nation honoring the founders of our nation, honoring the liberties of a changing policy.

>> you consider it a success if 80,000 people are able to get on and sign up. is that acceptable?

>> that's just by the end of this month.

>> is that acceptable?

>> it's not acceptable ongoing, but they're saying with the fixes to the website, they're anticipating that 80% by the december 1 as we go forward. no, it has to be improved upon then. but, again, the measure will be how many more people can sign up? how fewer mistakes and glitches, and again, the shortening of the time for people to get on. but the thing is, this is a big deal . this is a very important pillar of economic and health security for the american people .

>> well, all the more important to get it right. why aren't you concerned at this point that this is in grave danger of not being done right?

>> i'm very unhappy about the website, as you can just imagine the president is. but i know the makings of the legislation and what it does for people. and, again, look, this republican measure on friday, what makes matters so worse allows the marketplace to be deprived of people who should be there getting lower prices with better benefits and perhaps even a tax credit . so that wasn't a fix, it was a make matters worse. but you're in the political arena and you expect that. but you can't be knocked for a loop just because somebody is playing politics. if that was the case, we never would have passed it in the first place.

>> democrats won't lose seats next year over obama care?

>> i don't think you can tell what will happen next year, but i will tell you this. democrats stand tall in support of the affordable care act . we have great candidates who are running who are concerned about our economy and our concern that the government was shut down because of a whim on the part of republicans costing us $25 billion to our economy and 4.6% of our gdp growth . they're concerned about overwhelming the people with immigration reform support, background check support, ending discrimination for people in the workplace. all these kinds of concerns are concerns of the american people . jobs will be the major issue in the campaign as they always are. and this is an issue that has to be dealt with. but it doesn't mean, oh, it's a political issue so we're going to run away from it. no, it's too valuable for the american people . what is important about it is that the american people are well served, not who gets reelected.

>> leader pelosi , thank you very much for your time. thanks for being here.

>> nice to be here.

>> next we have senator kelly ayotte. senator, welcome back.

>> thanks, david .

>> i know there is a delay between us and we'll bear through that. respond to leader pelosi who, in effect, says there is some hysteria politically around all this, these things will get righted and ultimately people lz t -- will see the benefits of the affordable care act . do you not see it that way?

>> no matter how much congresswoman pelosi tries to spin this, this is a mess, david . i'll tell you what i'm hearing from my constituents. they're writing me about cancellation notices of plans they wanted to keep, rising premiums so some of their deductibles are doubling, they're paying more for health care , people losing hours because the definition of the work week is 30 hours. in new hampshire there is only one insurer on the exchange. 10 of our 26 hospitals are excluded. so this really is a mess, so she can try to spin it, but this -- i think it's time -- the president said he fumbled the rollout. it's time for a time-out which i've been calling for so we can go back to the drawing board and really talk about bipartisan solutions for health reform in the country.

>> so the political headline this week was at the latest gop obama care strategy, keep out of the way. is that right? is this being viewed as a new way to try to end obama care and the affordable care act altogether?

>> well, i think what we're interested in is actually there are areas we need to address. rising costs in health care , that's a timeout for this thing. let's go back to the drawing board . let's not forget how this was passed, david . it was passed on purely partisan lines, no input from republicans . that's what you get when you try to push it through, and as the former speaker said on your show and said previously today when you played the clip for her, we have to pass it so you can find out what's in it. now the american people know what's in it. my constituents are very unhappy with the notices they're receiving and higher premiums.

>> this is what the "new york times" wrote this week about what the president is up against. the failures getting this rolled out, but also this. mr. obama is battling a republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to the health care law and has blocked him at virtually every turn. there is no republican proposal that i'm aware of that would seek to address the problems, basically 40 million uninsured americans , that the affordable care act seems to address. isn't that true?

>> well, david , i would say this. let's start with the principal that in medicine the first rule is to do no harm. and politicians addressing health care need to do no harm. we would like to get to some bipartisan solutions. let's allow a greater competition, why can't people buy insurance across state lines. if we can drive down costs, we can give people greater access. why not allow people to be treated the same in terms of tax treatment? let's address preexisting conditions. there were state high -risk pools we can buttress. but there are many things the republicans are will to work on a bipartisan basis on, but they are so stuck on this law and trying to implement it no matter what the cost, no matter what to the american people .

>> what is a viable alternative that really solves the problem?

>> i would say let's get to the table on a bipartisan basis and let's make sure we have a plan that has more choice, not less. let's have one where we're driving down costs and increasing competition. have the insurance companies compete in a way that they aren't right now. let's get together and figure out what are the best models from the state law on the high-risk pools to address preexisting conditions. there are many ideas, i think, that we could do that won't harm people that have policies now that they would like to keep. and i think that's the problem that we're seeing is a law that harms so many people who right now were trying to do the right thing and have health insurance , a and now they're receiving she's cancellation notices and higher premiums. it seems to me we should work together to address this health care reform instead of the way this was done on party lines .

>> we're going to leave it there. senator kelly ayotte, thank you so much for your time. i appreciate it.

>> thank you.

>>> coming up here, we're going to go beyond the politicians' talking points to actually talk about the future of the law. that's coming up next.

>>> a little bit later on, 50 years after the assassination of jfk , how the world might have been different had he lived. tom brokaw and chris matthews are here to reflect on that. we're back here in just a moment.