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WALLACE: The White House announced this week a surge of signups for ObamaCare, but that doesn't stop five Democratic senators and one independent, some of them facing tough re-election battles this fall, from offering several big changes to ObamaCare.
Joining us now from Maine, Angus King, an independent, one of the senators proposing those fixes.
And here in studio, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a GOP leader and a doctor.
Well, the White House announced this week more than 6 million people now total have signed up for private health insurance on the exchanges including 1.8 million so far just in March. But they still have no numbers for how many people have paid for coverage, how many so-called young invincibles have sign up or how many people have signed up who were previously uninsured. Senator Barrasso, given that, how much is this 6 million number actually mean?
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R-WYO.: I don't think it means anything, Chris. The -- I think they're cooking the books on this. People want to know the answers to that. They also want to know once all of this is said and done, what kind of insurance will those people actually have? Will they be able to keep the doctors that they want? How much more is it going to cost them? And we know that some of the best cancer hospitals in the country want very little to do with people that actually buy this insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges.
WALLACE: Let's stick -- wait, wait, wait, wait. Let me ask a question for the senator and then I'm going to bring you in on exactly that issue. Because while the White House is not offering numbers in some of those internal issues, their insurance companies and some private studies have offered some numbers. Let's put those up on the screen. The administration said they needed 38 percent of the risk pool to be young, healthy people. So far it looks like there are only a quarter of the enrollees. Studies have found only 27 percent of those who signed up were previously uninsured and up to 23 percent of the 6 million figure haven't paid yet. Senator King, aren't those big holes in the 6 million number that the administration is touting?
SEN. ANGUS KING, I-ME.: Well, in the first place, I checked the numbers this morning. It is now 6,563,000. 6.5 million just in the last few days. There were 500,000 people on the call centers on Friday and a million and a half on the website. And those numbers don't come from the White House. There's a wonderful website acasignup.net, private Website by a guy named Charles Gaba who is collecting data from all across the country. So there really is a huge surge. Number two, the president of WellPoint, which is one of the big national insurance companies said a couple of weeks ago that the signups are getting younger by the day. In other words, younger people not surprisingly are the last people to sign up. I suspect that's who is signing up today and tomorrow. And so I think the data is making a lot of difference. As far as ...
WALLACE: Wait. Let me just say -- If I may just ask you ...
KING: The numbers are going up on that.
WALLACE: If I can just ask you, though, what about the number that are uninsured, which seems to be about a quarter and what about the number of -- that haven't paid, which is also about a quarter?
KING: Well, that's -- the McKenzie (ph) and company did that 25 percent uninsured. The only real numbers we have are from New York and Kentucky and Kentucky at 75 percent of the people signing up were previously uninsured. In New York, 59 percent. So, those numbers are going to sort themselves out over time. But, you know, there is no denying it. They're probably going to make that 7 million target, which was set, you know, a couple of years ago. Nobody two months ago if you'd asked me I would have just said there's no chance because the rollout was so bungled.
WALLACE: All right. Tomorrow was supposed to be when we booked you, we thought this is because tomorrow was the drop dead date for open enrollment and it's certainly what administration officials said over and over. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: The enrollment deadline, which was set out to end Mar 31 will end March 31st.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: March 31st is the deadline for enrollment. You've heard us make that clear.
JULIE BATAILLE, CMS COMM OFFICE DIR.: Open enrollment ends on March 31st. And in fact, we don't actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But this week the administration made what "the Wall Street Journal" says was the 38th unilateral change in ObamaCare creating a special enrollment extension for people who claim that they've had a problem signing up. Senator King, how can they do that when you just heard this top CMS official admit they don't have the statutory authority to do it?
KING: I don't think there is any inconsistency here. They're not opening it up to new people. Here in Maine at 8:00 P.M. on election night, if you're in line to vote, even if it takes you a half hour to get there, you get to vote. They don't close you out. This is exactly the same thing. People are in line. They've started the process of signing up. Sometimes it takes a day or two to go through all the paperwork or the computer work. This is not overextending the enrollment for new people who say, oh, I forgot. These are people that are already in the line. And that is just common sense. So, we do that all the time. I think the best example is people in line to vote.
WALLACE: And Senator Barrasso, it may be messy, but if the point is to get more people coverage, health insurance, why not let them have more time to sign up?
BARRASSO: Because it doesn't deal with the issue of actually getting people care. People wanted health care reform so they can get the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower cost. And what we see is even though signing up are finding out many of them are seeing higher premiums, can't keep their doctor, can't keep their hospital in the state right next to Senator King's in New Hampshire, ten of the 28 hospitals are excluded from all of the exchanges in New Hampshire. In Senator King's own state, the most popular individual market plan prior to this is now not able to be sold anymore because it didn't meet the ObamaCare standards. So those are concerns that I hear about every weekend, so what we're seeing now are that the politicians trying to save their political careers instead of focusing on patient care.
WALLACE: Well, that certainly brings me back to you, Senator King. You've joined as we mentioned at the beginning with five Democratic senators to propose major changes to ObamaCare. Let's put them up. They include offering a new lower cost, higher deductible -- we have the gold, silver. This would be the copper plan. And you would also exempt companies with up to 99 workers instead of 50 from the employer mandate. But, and here's the rub, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said he's not going to allow a vote on these changes. So to take Senator Barrasso's point, isn't this really -- I know you're not up for re-election in November, but some of your colleagues here are -- so that they can go back to the voters in home and say, hey, we tried to fix it?
KING: No, look, I've been in all of those meetings and talking about it. And I've never seen the piece of legislation yet that was perfect. In fact, the United States Constitution probably the most perfect piece of legislation ever devised by the (INAUDIBLE) of men, has been amended 27 times. I think it's time to try to fix it. And in fact, that's what the public wants. There's a recent poll on Kaiser Family Foundation, KFF.org, probably the gold standard of polls. What it says is by two to one, 59 percent to 29 percent the people of America want us to fix this law, not repeal it.
KING: We can -- I'm going to be talking to Harry tomorrow, you know.
WALLACE: Well, let me just say -- how do you ...
WALLACE: Two points if I may, sir. One, then why is Harry Reid saying he's not going to allow a vote on the fixes? And, two, speak directly and briefly, because we're about to run out of time, to Senator Barrasso's comment about the fact that a lot of doctors, a lot of hospitals are being excluded by what ObamaCare is offering.
KING: Now that's something -- you know, there is no such thing as ObamaCare. You can't sign up for ObamaCare. You're signing up for an Anthem (ph) policy or an Aetna policy, or a WellPoint policy. It is private insurance. And private insurance companies have been doing closed networks for years. I do think there is a problem if John Barrasso wants to join me in co-sponsoring a bill to have more transparency, so people can know exactly who is covered and who is not covered by the various policy options, I'm all for it. But, you know, I think this thing of you can't keep your doctor, that's -- and there is a problem in New Hampshire because there is only one carrier on the exchange. I think that is the only state in the country like that. I looked up -- I played a game and looked up John's situation. If you're in Laramie, Wyoming and you make $50,000, you have two kids, mom, dad, two kids, there are 16 different policy options you have ranging in premium from $67 a month to $800 a month. There are a lot of choices out there.
WALLACE: All right. Let me bring in -- We're running out of time, Senator. Let me bring you and Senator Barrasso, final word.
BARRASSO: Well, a couple of things. Let's not be fooled here. What Angus is offering in his legislation only nibbles around the edges. It doesn't get to the fundamental flaws of the president's health care law. The Democrats are unnerved. They have pushed the panic button. The president says this is working. It is broken. And people say can you fix it? I've looked at this ten different ways, Chris. This health care law is not fixable.
WALLACE: We're going to leave it there. Obviously to be continued. Senator Barrasso, Senator, King, thank you both. Thanks for joining us. And we'll stay on top of this, gentlemen.
KING: Thanks for having me.
BARRASSO: Thank you.
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