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The New Health Care Law: What's In It, Who Benefits and Why the Republicans Want to Repeal It

Aired September 25, 2010 - 09:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back on this Saturday morning. I'm Drew Griffin in for T.J. today. He's got the day off.

And this time every Saturday we spend a half hour digging deeper into the issue that directly affects you. Today, it's the new health care law. We're going to tell you what's in it for you.

As you may know, one of the GOP battle cries is to win the midterm elections to repeal the law. Joining us to talk about that are two lawmakers, a Republican and a Democrat. Republican Phil Gingrey and Democrat Allison Schwartz will join us live to talk about the politics of health care, but we're going to start with the president's remarks about health care this past week.

Here is the president speaking in Falls Church, Virginia, on Wednesday.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And health care was one of those issues that we could no longer ignore. We couldn't ignore it because the cost of health care has been escalating faster than just about anything else.

And I don't need to tell you all that. Even if you have health insurance, you've seen your co-payments, your premiums skyrocket. Even if you get health care from your employer, that employer's costs have skyrocketed and they're starting to pass more and more of those costs on to their employers.

More people don't get health care from their employers and in addition what you are seeing was that at the state level and at the federal level, the costs of health care - because people weren't getting it on the job and were trying to get it through the CHIP program or Medicaid or disability or what have you, all those costs were driving our government bankrupted.


GRIFFIN: Well, President Obama signed the new health care reform act six months ago. Several major portions of the new law went into effect Thursday. Some of the big changes brought about by health care reform package may not apply to your health care plan.

Josh is back with a look at that -- Josh. JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey there, Drew.

I'll talk to you about some of these basics. It's important that you look into what happens in your plan because it is true that as of Thursday some of these changes went into effect. If your plan is new, if you're getting one right now, then it might actually affect you. A lot of people won't be affected until January 1st when your company gives you your new plan for the new year.

But even then, some changes might not affect you. There are a few that should affect everyone like coverage for children with pre- existing conditions. That should end up in all the major plans. Insurers not being able to rescind coverage. That should show If you get sick, they can't suddenly go ahead and take away your health care coverage.

But there are some other things that might disappear if your plan is what's called grandfathered or just not be there in the first place. Things like giving you unrestricted doctor's choice, things like if you go into an emergency room that is out of your network, they're not supposed to charge you more.

There are certain things in this plan that are required by the new health care law. But if your plan is grandfathered, then it is exempted from having to have some of these changes in it. So you have to find out a couple of things. One, when the new plan kicks in. But the second is whether or not your plan is what's called grandfathered and if it is, it gets a little tougher each year for these plans to remain grandfathered. It's kind of difficult, and that could ultimately benefit you.

Some of the changes might still work their way into your plan but this is what you need to find out. When your new plan kicks in and whether or not it's grandfathered. That, Drew, will help you determine how many of these changes will actually hit your health insurance plan.

GRIFFIN: Well, it's a very, very complicated law. That's part of the problem say opponents. The health care bill is law now but if Republicans take over Congress could things change?

LEVS: Oh, me. Look, absolutely. Any of these things could change.

We have a few things going on here. There are some states out there that are obviously trying to challenge this right? And we don't know where that is going to end up going.

We also don't know where some of this battle over the major health care reform package could turn. What we know for now is as of Thursday when this enactment day came into play, some of the things that can start to affect you directly.

And we do know that on January 1st that's when a large enough number of Americans are going to see these changes and you'll actually start to feel that battle that went on so long how it ultimately trickles down to you.

But again, there's limits on how that will go and some of these things won't kick in for years. 2014 is when some big things kick in for you. And it's possible, Drew, that in the meantime there could be a new law enacted that could change the whole health care reform package. So we'll certainly keep an eye on it.

GRIFFIN: Republicans say there will be. And we're going to talk about the politics of health care. That's next.


GRIFFIN: The Drug Enforcement Administration and local police are staffing thousands of drop-off sites today for unwanted and unused pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs. It's called Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The goal to get medications off the street and away from the black market. 3,400 collection sites are open to turn in your drugs, no questions asked. Experts say prescription drug abuse is a growing national problem.


GRIFFIN: The new health care reform law, now six months old and a slew of new provisions have just gone into effect because of it. But those new rules may be short-lived if Republicans seize control of Congress.

CNN's Jim Acosta has a closer look.


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I would fight to repeal the bill.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a GOP battle cry for the midterm elections.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The American people will be heard and we'll repeal and replace.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: I have pledged as my first act of legislation to put in our repeal Obama care law.

ACOSTA: If Republicans win a majority of seats in Congress, one of the first things they promise to do is repeal President Obama's signature achievement, health care reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your response to -

ACOSTA: Under a new GOP-controlled House Texas Congressman Joe Barton would likely become chairman of a key House committee overseeing health care. He said hearings would begin as soon as January to dismantle the law.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: If we're given the opportunity to be in the majority, we are going to try to repeal it - ACOSTA (on camera): Right away.

BARTON: With something that makes sense. The sooner the better.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That threat comes as new portions of the law go into effect this week, provisions that stop insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or dropping policies for people who get sick. Big expansions of coverage don't come until 2014. Still recent polls show the law remains unpopular.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted against the health care bill because I thought it would be too expensive.

ACOSTA: Even some Democrats are running against it. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius argues the public will come around.

(on camera): Why is this law so unpopular?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think it's more confusing than unpopular. I think that -

ACOSTA: You would grant that it's unpopular right now?

SEBELIUS: Well, when you say.

ACOSTA: It's not as popular as you would like?

SEBELIUS: That's accurate. I think it's based on a lot on people believing that the law contains elements that it doesn't have. Death panels.

ACOSTA: You're ready to have this debate all over again?

SEBELIUS: I am indeed.

ACOSTA (voice-over): So is the president, who points to parts of the bill that are popular.

OBAMA: If young people don't have health insurance through their employer, that they can stay on their parents health insurance up to the age of 26.

ACOSTA: Parts Congressman Barton wants to keep.

(on camera): Are there portions of the law that should be kept?

BARTON: I think coverage of pre-existing conditions, the ability to keep your insurance and not have it revoked unless -

ACOSTA: Rescissions -

BARTON: - unless you committed fraud.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Other Republicans say scrap the whole thing. Conservative activist Alex Cortes with the group defundit.org says the solution is to starve the law of money.

ALEX CORTES, DEFUNDIT.ORG: (INAUDIBLE) funding, go after some of the smaller provisions. We will not let Kathleen Sebelius implement and enforce this law.

ACOSTA (on camera): But tinkering with health care reform won't be easy. Any bill changing the law would likely be vetoed by the president and Republicans really have no chance of picking up enough seats in the midterms to override any health care veto. But Republicans say just because they don't have the votes doesn't mean they won't try.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


GRIFFIN: Well, lawmakers on both sides of this issue is going to join us next. You see them now. Republican Phil Gingrey and Democrat Allison Schwartz. Live questions after the break.


GRIFFIN: If you're a believer in political polls there could be a u-turn ahead for anyone who likes the new health care law. As you just heard should Republicans regain a majority in Congress they have vowed to repeal the new changes. Take a look at this.

With a little more than a month to go before midterms results of the new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll suggest Republicans have a clear advantage with voters nationwide. When asked which party they favor for congressional elections, the GOP came out on top by nine percentage points. That's pretty big.

Four years ago, the Democrats were the public favorites. 55 percent to 42 percent. Now, the new poll also indicates more than 20 percent of likely voters have yet to make up their minds. Well, joining us now to talk about the politics of health care, two lawmakers. They're on opposite sides of the issue. Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey with me here in Atlanta. He vows to work to repeal the new health care law.

And joining us from Philadelphia is Democratic congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. Allyson, I'm going to begin with you since this is a Democratic-passed law.

We heard the health secretary in the report earlier say this is more confusing than unpopular. In an infamous quote leading up to this, one of your leaders said "let's pass it and we'll find out what's in it." It's now six months since it's been passed. We're finding out what is in it.

Are you still supporting this law? And is it turning out to be the law you wanted to have passed?

REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, the fact is that you are absolutely right. The Democrats stood up for Americans who were calling on us to, one, make sure the insurance that they paid for years is meaningful, so that the law that we passed - and we do know what's in this bill.

But the law that we passed stood up for American people with consumer protections to make sure that parents who have paid for insurance, who want to buy insurance for their kids and they have a child with a pre-existing condition, well, we no longer allow insurance companies to say, no, we're not paying for the child with asthma or the child with diabetes. You're on your own on that.

That's now the law of the land. That you pay insurance for years and years and get cancer and then your insurance company says, no, sorry, you know, no more cancer treatments for you. You're on your own. That's really just unacceptable. It's not acceptable to Americans. We passed a law to stop it and the Republicans were against it.


SCHWARTZ: When they had a chance to stand up for Americans, they did not do it. So it's the law of the land now and you know, the Americans - I know my constituents - I'm sure it's true for Phil's too, they're calling the office saying how can I keep my 25-year-old on my insurance policy?


GRIFFIN: Congresswoman, let me - I wanted to make this more of a conversation and less about a political campaign speech or politics. But I asked you whether if you support this law. You still support this law and it's playing out the way you thought it would, correct?

SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. It is playing out the way we -

GRIFFIN: Let me bring in your counterpart, Phil Gingrey is here. Maybe I'm hearing differently. But from a lot of segments of the population I've been talking to, they don't like this law the way it's been played out because I think other than the protections that we've heard, which I think we can both say were needed, the rate hikes have already kicked in.

People are seeing their health insurance rise. We heard the president say this is all about lowering the cost of health care. It seems to be just doing the opposite.

REP. PHIL GINGREY (R), GEORGIA: Well, Drew, my good friend from Pennsylvania, Allyson Schwartz, spent a lot of time before she finally admitted that she still likes the bill. She's obviously not among the 61 percent of people across this country that detest the bill. And here we are six months after its passage that person that you talked about in leadership, you were speaking of the Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said we need to hurry up and pass this bill so we can figure out what's in it and then later on said I think President Obama said this when the people know more about the bill they're going to like it. Well, it's been six months and they still hate it. GRIFFIN: Yes. Well, let me ask you. There are specifics of this bill that I think that a lot of Republicans I've heard like. You can't get dropped for various illnesses.


GRIFFIN: If you have a kid with a problem, you can't get dropped. The insurance companies can't drop you. Now, when you guys, the Republicans say you're going to drop this bill, are you going to actually try to repeal the whole bill or rough going to try to modify it?

GINGREY: Drew, there's so much bad in the bill that we have to repeal it. But some of the first things that we would put in our new bill, of course, would be to say that insurance companies can't rescind a policy after the fact because somebody has filled out a policy and made some technical error, there's no fraud involved whatsoever or that insurance companies can't de facto deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions by charging them three or four times standard rates.

We agree with all of that. Allowing young people to stay on their parents' health insurance policy until age 26, particularly if they don't have insurance in their first job. We think that's a good thing. That would be included in our new bill, in our replacement bill. But the things that wouldn't be included, of course, would be a mandate to force every American against their will to purchase health insurance, whether they needed it or not, under the penalty of law with the IRS going over their tax returns to make sure that they indeed had an insurance policy and not just one of their choice, Drew, but one that the government decides that they need, a very expensive first dollar coverage policy.

GRIFFIN: Right. Let me bring in Congresswoman Schwartz again because, you know, in your real life, congresswoman, you had to deal with real life health insurance bills. You handled health insurance for the city of Philadelphia. And I mentioned the cost of health care. And whether or not we can stem this tide, this rising tide of health care costs. Is this bill living up to that mandate which was to put a cap on the actual health insurance bill that's coming out of our wallets in.

SCHWARTZ: Well, let's - let me just be very clear about this. One of the reasons that we did pass health reform was because of the rising cost of health premiums for small businesses, for all employers, reducing our economic competitiveness and in fact we are - it hasn't kicked in yet, which is why we believe insurance companies are taking advantage of this period of time before that part of the bill does begin to raise rates.

And insurance commissioners and insurance secretaries in every state where they have the authority should come down on those insurance companies. I think it's outrageous to see small businesses see rates increase by 20 percent. But for the government it's not sustainable for us to continue to see this rise. So of course one of the reasons that we passed this legislation is because it's unsustainable, the cost of health coverage.

But the way Phil talked about it sounds so mild and fine. The fact is that he voted against these very consumer protections that I talked about and so did his party. And repealing this bill and saying we're going to start all over again, you're talking about - first of all, the president won't allow that to happen because waiting another four, five, six, 10 years and then you get these consumer protections is really not acceptable to families in my district, to small business in my district that are waiting for help.

GRIFFIN: Congressman, we're going to hold you after the break. We'll be right back with more of these two lawmakers on this very important issue. Stay with us.


GRIFFIN: Back with us now, Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey is here with me in Atlanta. He vows to work to repeal the new health care law. And joining us from Philadelphia, Democratic Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. Congressman, you made a good point before our break that even if the Republicans do repeal this law, the president is not going to sign anything the Republicans do if they get control of the House.

Let's not get ahead of that. But Congressman Gingrey, you say that with or without the president's help, if Republicans get in power, if Republicans fight to repeal the law they can stop it.

GINGREY: Well, Drew, let's not get ahead of ourselves on anything. I think that when you look back to President Clinton with welfare reform, we sent a bill, the Republican Congress three times. He vetoed twice and finally signed it. I don't know that that's in President Obama's DNA, but hope springs eternal. I'm not holding my breath. But let's pass a bill repealing it, send it to him and see what he does.

If at that point 75 percent of the American people want it repealed and he's thinking about his reelection in 2014, then who knows. But short of that as you point out absolutely we have the power of the purse. We can defund. Every one of these agencies involved in implementing this new law will need $5 billion to $10 billion of appropriations. We can stop that and we can certainly stop the IRS from hiring those 15,000 additional inspectors to go over people's tax returns to make sure that they have indeed purchased health insurance.

GRIFFIN: Yes. You know, it's interesting. I should just point out for the point of this conversation, you're a doctor. You're an OB-GYN. Congresswoman Schwartz, you were an executive basically kind of running Philadelphia's health care system. So we bring a lot of experience to this table here.

And it's interesting that you guys are so far apart on this. Congresswoman, you said that - because a lot of people feeling the effects right now of this health care bill are seeing their rise in their health insurance rate. You said that health insurance companies are taking advantage of this kind of gap. I'm wondering could you not see this forthcoming when you passed this bill that there would be this spike in rates given the gap that exists, that allows them to do that?

SCHWARTZ: Yes, we - well, we did actually see that and were concerned about health insurance companies taking advantage of the situation and knowing that we are going to make sure that they actually spend - for example, there will be a new rule that says they have to spend at least 80 percent, 85 percent of the money that people pay into premiums on health insurance.

But look, what's happening right now is not different from what's been happening over the last decade. Insurance companies have been raising rates for families and for employers at 10, 20, 30 and in some cases 40 percent. This isn't different. This is what we're changing. This is what Phil Gingrey and the Republicans want to stop. They want to make sure that consumers don't have the power of the purse, that they don't get to choose their doctors, that insurance companies are in complete control.

They want to take away the new rules that we are sending for insurance companies. That's what Phil is saying. He wants to repeal this bill. He hates this bill. It's not about the bill. It's about the protections that are available right now -

GRIFFIN: So let me just get this straight. What you're basically saying is that the Republicans are just out to benefit the insurers and do not care about the consumers or the health care recipients in this country and that if the Republicans take over, we can expect just more of the same where insurance companies run health care?

SCHWARTZ: Look, that's what their pledge for America says, you know, is that they are going to go back to the ways that we had before.

GRIFFIN: Let me - before - let me ask you, congressman, is that what you're saying?

GINGREY: Well, what I will say is my good friend, Allyson, is your typical socialistic big government bureaucrat and she's right. It's not just health care that we're concerned with. We're concerned with the government taking over the student loan program. We're concerned with a powerful government who is telling General Motors now maybe what they can charge for their automobiles. Indeed, if the government owns 61 percent, they can do that.

Now they want to tell health insurance companies they don't know their bottom line, they don't know what their profit margin is and we big government are going to force this on them and cram it down the throats of the American people. This is what we don't want and won't tolerate.

GRIFFIN: You know what, we have to go. Oh, and -- I hope -- I don't know what happened. We just lost the feed there. But we thank you for joining us, Phil Gingrey. GINGREY: Glad to be with you.

GRIFFIN: Democratic Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz was with us from Philadelphia. Had a lot of good things to say. I'm sorry we lost her signal as we continue to look at this health care.

"YOUR BOTTOM LINE" with Poppy Harlow starts right now.

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