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Public Statements

NBC "Meet the Press" - Affordable Care Act Implementation

Interview

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Date:
Location: Unknown

DAVID GREGORY:

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 Obamacare on the state of the White House at the moment, and with a kind of crisis in confidence, the pressure to make changes to the health care law is growing.

On Friday, the House passed a GOP plan to allow the removal of millions of policies required to be canceled under the current law, and also sell similar policies to new customers. The bill goes farther than the president's announced fix, and he has threatened to veto it. Thirty-nine Democrats defected and voted with the Republican majority. Joining me now, the leader of the Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi. Welcome back to the Meet the Press.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Morning.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you here in studio.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

It is.

DAVID GREGORY:

There is a crisis of confidence, and the country feels it, about Obamacare. But it seems to go deeper. Thirty-nine Democrats voting with the Republicans on this bill that doesn't look like it's gonna go forward. Has it reached a point where Democrats don't believe the president can pull this off and can make Obamacare work?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No, I remind you that, now, 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.

DAVID GREGORY:

But there is some real frustration among your Democratic--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

This is true.

DAVID GREGORY:

--caucus there.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

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.

DAVID GREGORY:

But I think the question is really are they losing confidence in the president's--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No.

DAVID GREGORY:

--ability to make Obamacare work?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No. Let me just say this, because 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're calm, and we must remain calm when we talk about the health of our country. The Affordable Care Act, as I call it, as I always called it, 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 is 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 of the law, you can keep it, and that's what the president said. So there's 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 the rules--

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay, I don't want to get too far into the weeds on that, but I want to come back to it. But I want to stick with a point about Democratic frustration.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

I know.

DAVID GREGORY:

But the bottom line is, and you know from talking to your colleagues about this, they've got to be worried about reelection next year.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, right--

DAVID GREGORY:

Are you and others going to go campaign on Obamacare in swing districts around this country? And if so, what's the message going to be?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, the fact is I'll get back to the Affordable Care Act, and the "affordable" is named that because it makes it affordable. And the experience in states where it is working, in Kentucky and California and the rest where we have our own state marketplace, it's working very well.

And I have full confidence, as to my members, however they voted on this-- this is political. They respond politically. But the fact is that, when this website is fixed, many of these people in these bad policies that are costing too much-- now, 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 the Affordable Care for there to be a delay in enforcement for those.

The others can always stay in. There's 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 pre-existing conditions--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, but there are cancellation notices going out. There's a million of them in California.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Yes. And 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 pre-existing conditions, this condition, and here are the other options that are available--"

DAVID GREGORY:

Now, wait a minute--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

--"to you in the marketplace."

DAVID GREGORY:

But the president has been apologetic, he's been accountable for saying something that was not the case. You are speaker of the House. You in many ways were seen as an architect and a key ally on this. And this is what you said back in June of 2009 on MSNBC. Watch.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

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.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

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

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But it's not that it's not correct, it's that if you want to keep it, 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 in the--"

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

There's a bottom line to this, which I think people understand, and the president has acknowledged, which is the government is deciding there have to be minimum standards, minimum requirements in any health care plan.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

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.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

If you have--

DAVID GREGORY:

And that's not what you said here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

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, you know, again, we can go back and forth in this--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is important deal (?) because the grandfathering has changed. And the bottom line is the president acknowledged (it doesn't seem like you're acknowledging) that saying to people back in 2009, "Hey, this is going to be easy. If you like what you have, you can keep it--"

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

And you could.

DAVID GREGORY:

--"this is all about choice."

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

You could if you had your plan until the enactment of the law in 2008. Grandfathering is for those before 2008. But 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.

DAVID GREGORY:

You ma--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But 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.

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But you said earlier, "If the law says that you must--" it can't. The law doesn't say that. But, again, neither here nor there. How do we go forward?

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes, the bottom line is people are getting policies that are cancelled and that was not the representation that was made.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

And the--

DAVID GREGORY:

And it was also foreseeable; it was part of the debate that this would actually happen.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, now, I would agree with you for the policies since 2010, but not for before. But the president has also said that the insurance companies, and many of them have been very responsible and some not so, the insurance company has to say to you, "You're not getting the pre-existing 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--

DAVID GREGORY:

The big--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

--price.

DAVID GREGORY:

--picture on this is that it doesn't seem to be working right now. And you argued at the time, you said, "Look, there is a lot of controversy around this. It's politically hot." And that people don't understand--
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DAVID GREGORY:

Right. And that people don't understand the good things that are in it. But then you said this in March of 2010. Watch.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

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

DAVID GREGORY:

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 the-- 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 this is coming home to roost.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No. What I was saying there is we are House and the Senate. We get a bill. We go to conference or 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.

And so, while there's a lot of hoop-di-doo and ado about what's happening now-- very appropriate. I'm not criticizing. I'm saying it took a great deal for us to pass this bill. I said if we go up to the gate and the gate is locked, we'll unlock the gate. If we can't do that, we'll climb the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in. If we can't do that, we'll helicopter in, 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 first year of the implementation went very smoothly. The website did not work; that has caused problems complicating people transitioning from those policies to the other.

But, again, this is never thought to be easy. And the fact is, it doesn't matter what we're saying here: What matters? What happens at the kitchen table of the American people. And how they will have more affordability, more accessibility, better quality care, prevention, wellness, a healthier nation honoring the vows of our founders of life, a healthier life. Liberty to pursue their happiness, not be chained by a policy.

DAVID GREGORY:

I understand what the arguments are. The administration is saying--

DAVID GREGORY:

--this will considered a success if 80% of the people are able to get on the exchanges and get signed up. Is that an acceptable--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No, that's just by--

DAVID GREGORY:

--threshold?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

--the end of this month. This just by--

DAVID GREGORY:

That's acceptable?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No. Well, it's not acceptable ongoing. But they're saying with the fixes to the website, they're anticipating that 80%, by 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? Have fewer mistakes and glitches. And, again, the shortening of the time for people to get on. But the thing is, is this is a big deal. This is a very important pillar of economic and health security for the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, all the more important to get it right.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

That's right.

DAVID GREGORY:

Why aren't you concerned at this point that this is in grave danger of not being done right?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, 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 they're running a political arena and you expect that. But you can't be knocked for a loop just because somebody's playing politics. If that was the case, we would have never passed it in the first place.

DAVID GREGORY:

Final point: Democrats won't lose seats next year over Obamacare?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

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 are concerned that government was shut down because of a whim on the part of the Republicans, costing us $25 billion to our economy and 0.6% of our GDP growth.

They're concerned that overwhelmingly the American people support immigration reform, support background checks, support ending discrimination against people in the workplace; all of these kinds of things are the 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.
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DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Leader Pelosi, thank you very much for your time. Nice to have you here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

My pleasure to be here.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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