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CNN "Newsroom" - Transcript: HealthCare.gov

Interview

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BLITZER: Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, not mincing any words, apologizing for the disastrous rollout of this Obamacare website.

Let's discuss what happened today during the course of these three and a half hours of this testimony. Joining us, two members of the committee that just finished the questioning of Kathleen Sebelius, Republican Lee Terry of Nebraska, Democrat Peter Welch of Vermont.

Congressman Terry, first of all to you. Are you satisfied with what you heard?

REP. LEE TERRY (R), NEBRASKA: Well, not really because we didn't get a lot of answers. What we do know is that there's been almost $600 billion spent - million spent on a website that doesn't work.

BLITZER: Well, hold on a second. Let me - le me interrupt. She said it was under $200 million, the specific number she gave today, how much they've spent so far.

TERRY: Yes, but she only gave one of the contractors' numbers and she wasn't - and she didn't finish the rest of the answer, nor was the other questions asked. The contractors were in front of our committee a week ago said that it totaled up to about $600 million. But the idea (ph) is that it's flawed from the beginning.

BLITZER: Let me ask Congressman Welch - Congressman Welsh, do you accept that bigger number?

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: I don't know what the number is, but I thought it was fair questions about the accountability. I mean we blew it when it came to the rollout of the healthcare.gov and that jeopardizes the effect of the health care bill.

But there was really something quite significantly different in tone. The Republicans who asked legitimate questions about the rollout had as a premise that this law has to be implemented and will be implemented. Up until this hearing, it's all been about repeal. And that tug of war is over. And it is fair and square and mutual concern to make sure that it works.

BLITZER: Do you accept that, Congressman Terry?

TERRY: Well, what I accept is that we have this website that was rolled out knowing that there was a lot of flaws. And, frankly, most of the flaws weren't discovered until afterwards. And then now we have a president in "The Washington Post" that has been given four Pinocchio's for saying if you like your insurance, you could keep it. So there's a trust issue here. The people that this -- HHS, who's in charge of developing that website, rolled it out with all of the flaws in it. How -- these are the same people that are going to really manage health care going forward and how can we trust them?

BLITZER: How do you answer that, Congressman Welch?

WELCH: Well, there's a difference between a defective website. I mean we had that when George Bush passed Medicare Part D. There was a lot of problems there and the Republicans were defending it then. So there's a mutual interest in making this thing work. And, you know, some people may have to be held accountable that it didn't work.

The bottom line here, there's a lot of elements of health care that are really changing, including that there's minimum standards so that when people are buy insurance, they're actually getting coverage. There's been an enormous amount of rip-off of the American people by insurance companies that sell them policies that are good until you get sick. They then have, quote, a pre-existing condition, they get thrown off, they don't have coverage for the surgery room, they just have coverage for the hospital visit. So this minimum standard, it is creating some consternation. It's something that's long overdue.

TERRY: And, Wolf, I would answer in respect to that is that we could have dealt with those folks that really needed that access, that had pre-existing without reshuffling all of the chairs on the deck. And what they're causing now, there -- some will be insured, but now there's a lot of my constituents back home that sent me their cancellation letters saying that your policy is now canceled because of the president's health care law. They now have to go out into the exchanges or find something else. And what they're finding is it's a lot more expensive with less coverage, higher deductibles and more copays.

WELCH: And that's going to be the test of the coverage because a lot of those folks had policies that didn't provide much coverage and they'd get ripped off once they got sick. And the question is going to be, when they get a new policy with the premium support, is that going to be better coverage, better protection and affordable?

The other point is that the secretary acknowledged something that I think is really important. We've got to bring down the cost of health care. And, again, that's got to be a mutual effort no matter how you pay for it. And whether it's private pay, tax payer pay, if the cost of health care is going up two and three times the rate of inflation, wages and profits, we're not going to be able to sustain it. So system reform is essential.

TERRY: And I would agree with you, Peter. And that's one of the big missed opportunities with the president's health care is really dealing with the cost of the health care as opposed to focusing on who's going to provide it, government or private sector.

BLITZER: Congressman Welch, given all the problems of the website, including the fact that it remains down right now, these are critical days, obviously, in trying to encourage people to sign up, is it time to consider delaying some of the penalties for people who don't have the Affordable Care Act provisions by the required dates?

WELCH: I think common sense fairness is that you have to align the penalties with the access to the website. I mean you can't impose a penalty on somebody who didn't get the coverage because the website was broken. So I think we've got to be paying real close attention so that people have a fair amount of time in order to get on the website. And so I think a common sense approach is, let's see when this is working and make certain we're not shortchanging people and penalizing them for government failure.

BLITZER: Congressman Terry, you hear a lot of Democrats, they got this line fix it, don't nix it. What do -- do you want to fix this Affordable Care Act, or do you want to nix it?

TERRY: Well, I still have real opposition and thoughts about it. The president's health care bill, just like what I mentioned with my constituents that are getting their cancellation letters, now you're all of a sudden creating this new group of uninsured. Well, yes, sure, they're going to go out and get new insurance, but it's going to be a lot more expensive for less. So the -- we have to deal with those type of issues now.

BLITZER: Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska, thanks very much for joining us. Peter Welch of Vermont, thanks to you, as well. This three and a half hour hearing was historic, very important. We're going to continue our analysis of what happened. Thanks very much.


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