November 3, 2013

So we finally get rid of Bloody Bill Kristol and his regular appearances on Fox, and now we get to put up with him being wrong about everything on all the rest of our major media outlets instead. This Sunday, he was back on Meet the Press, crowing gleefully about the demise of the "Obamacare," lying about the cost of the web site, and still pretending that Republicans are going to repeal the law.

He got a bit of push back from former Obama adviser David Axelrod, and surprisingly, the BBC's Katty Kay as well, on whether we ought to be writing the Affordable Care Act's obituary just yet.

Sadly all we got from Gregory, Kristol and Woodward were more exaggerations over the people who may in the end find themselves negatively impacted by the law and paying more for their insurance, but as Axelrod discussed during the segment, it only takes one unexpected health crisis to put a family into bankruptcy if you don't have adequate coverage.

DAVID GREGORY: How much damage, Bill Kristol, is being done to the Obama presidency at this point?

BILL KRISTOL: A lot. A lot. I mean, it's his signature legislative achievement. Two and a half years to implement it, they've spent hundreds of millions of dollars, I think $600 million dollars on the website alone. Tens of millions of dollars on advertisements to try to persuade people this is a wonderful program.

And reality is that Obamacare is met by reality; Obamacare is failing and will fail. And I'm very much looking forward to being on this show with Axe in January of 2017 when finally all of Obamacare is repealed. And I think parts of it can be delayed, and even parts of it can be repealed incidentally, much more than seemed possible a month ago.

Think a month ago: How crazy is it for Ted Cruz to say that we should delay the individual mandate? How crazy is it for Republicans to say that premiums might go up? And now all of a sudden Democratic senators and congressmen are saying, "Gee, you know, we have a big problem."

DAVID AXELROD: Spoken like a man who has good health insurance.

KATTY KAY: It's somewhat erroneous to say at this point that Obamacare is totally sunk. I mean, we can't make that call yet because we don't know. We don't know how many people are going to sign up. We need, what, 7 million healthy young Americans to sign up to this program, and we will probably know fairly late in the six-month process because young people are not the people that sign up at the very beginning. They are young, after all.

They think they're invincible. They will take their time. They'll shop around. This is a disastrous rollout of this program. This website is a disaster. But to say that Obamacare, the policy, has failed, we can't say that. Now, it might do. If enough young people don't sign up to make this financially viable then you have a serious problem--

BILL KRISTOL: Okay, let's just start--

KATTY KAY: But we can't make that call right now.

BILL KRISTOL: Can't we say that, in fact, it is not true that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor? If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan? That premiums won't go up? And these are things--


BILL KRISTOL: --that are already evidently not the case.

DAVID AXELROD: No, no. We can say that, in the small cohort of people who got bad health care policies, substandard health care policies after the law went into effect, that they will have to transition to other policies.

Let me tell you something. I know something about this. When I was 26 years old, I got a health care policy. I thought it was adequate. I was healthy, and as long as I was healthy, it was good. And then I had a child who was born with a chronic illness. It cost us $1,000 a month for prescription coverage, which we didn't have prescriptions for her to keep her alive. You know, the treatments she needed outside of what was in the policy was paid for. I was making $35,000 a year as a newspaper reporter. I almost went broke. And there are a lot of Americans out there who may think that they can get by with substandard--

DAVID AXELROD: --and I wish somebody had set standards then, David.

DAVID GREGORY: Okay, but hold on. But, David, this is about political practice and leadership. If you believe all those things, and therefore you want to get the very best health care; you were in the White House. You were advising the president on the kinds of things he should say. Why did not you or somebody else say to him, "Mr. President, don't say, 'No matter what you're going to keep your health care plan'"? Is that bad--

DAVID AXELROD: Hindsight is 20/20 because we--

DAVID GREGORY: But that's why you're there, is to--

DAVID AXELROD: There is a small group of people, David-- the vast majority of Americans, that statement will hold true for. For this small group of Americans, it hasn't. But the calamitous thing here is that the website wasn't up because many of those people who have to transition are going to get better experience for less money, but they just can't tell that now--

DAVID AXELROD: --because they can't get on the website.

BOB WOODWARD: David, this could be rectified. I remember early in the Obama presidency, when you were there, and there was some dispute about a cabinet nomination and the president came out and said, "I screwed up." Why not just be straightforward? Bill's right.


BOB WOODWARD: He said, period--

DAVID AXELROD: Yes, I agree.

BOB WOODWARD: --"This is absolute. Everyone's going to keep their insurance."

DAVID AXELROD: I don't think there's any shame in--

DAVID AXELROD: --saying, "We didn't anticipate this one glitch. We grandfathered a lot of policies. We didn't anticipate this one glitch." But many of those people are going to get better health care for less money when this website is up and running and they can select it.

KATTY KAY: Beyond the actual language that was used, why wasn't there a better education effort to get out in front of this and go to Americans whose policies were going to change and explain why? I mean, there's a fairly good case to be made about minimum standards, the kind of things that can hit you if you have a substandard policy. But never was that adult process carried through from the White House. And I think that was a failing.

DAVID GREGORY: I think what's so dispiriting to the Obama allies or fans that I have talked to is twofold. 1) If you believe, as a lot of Democrats do, that government is really the only one with the scale and the ability to solve these big problems, that you've undermined it for years if not more already with this troubled rollout. And that, of all people, the Obama people who championed computer analytics to win reelection, (you know, look at the cover of New Yorker) look so retro when it comes to technology.

DAVID AXELROD: Yes, I'd say two things. One is we're weren't operating under the same constraints in terms of who we could recruit and how we deploy them. But, David, I tell you again, I think Bob said the key thing: We're in the early innings of the game. To declare this, the define this whole program by the website debacle at the beginning and the rollout I think would be a huge mistake.

They will fix the website, I'm confident of that. If they don't, as Deval Patrick said, that's another story. But when they do, people are going to find that there are good deals to be had that they never had before.

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