Obamacare architect Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel doubled down on his defense of premium hikes resulting from the law in a testy interview Thursday with Fox Business host Stuart Varney.
Varney began the segment by showing multiple clips of President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) praising Obamacare and saying how "affordable" it would be. Varney then showed a clip of former President Bill Clinton criticizing Obamacare a few days earlier at a rally in Flint, Michigan for his wife Hillary Clinton.
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Following the clips, Varney read an Obamacare story that one of his Facebook followers named Chris sent him.
"Got kicked off my old plan … Premiums up 400 [percent], copayment up 150 [percent], deductible $2500 before it was $250! Basically we’ve been screwed! And I’m not on Obamacare. This is what the law has done to me," Chris wrote.
When asked to respond directly to Chris’ experience, Emanuel said he was sorry about what happened to him, but then justified Chris’ situation by saying that when you create a piece of legislation aimed at helping over 3oo million people, there will be problems. Emanuel then tried to justify Chris’ experience with premium hikes by arguing that today’s healthcare system is better off than when 50 million people were uninsured.
"Sir, is that an apology, Zeke? Is that an apology?" Varney asked.
Emanuel got frustrated and told Varney to let him finish what he was saying and to treat him like a guest instead of a punching opponent.
Varney then started reading a message from Mark, another Facebook follower.
"My monthly premiums in [Arizona] went from $400/mo. for 3 people to $850/mo … My deductible went from $4000 to $10,000 the month Obamacare went into effect!! Ask him why MY families’ premiums went up & Obama said they would go down???" Mark wrote.
Emanuel said that Obamacare actually brought inflation down before blaming insurance companies for increasing rates on families. When asked about Aetna, one of the country’s largest health insurers, leaving Obamacare next year, Emanuel blamed it on political reasons and said the federal government did not want to create a monopoly with the Humana merger.
Varney then reflected on Emanuel’s interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly the prior night and highlighted the three fixes that he proposed for improving Obamacare.
"You want to increase the subsidies that would help, increase the fines for not having insurance, and restore payments to insurance companies from taxpayers. Those were the three fixes you put out last night with Megyn Kelly," Varney said.
Emanuel responded by criticizing Kelly and saying that she, like Varney, kept interrupting him, but then he agreed with Varney’s summary of the fixes.
He then criticized Republicans for taking away "risk corridors" in the passing of Medicare Part D.
"How do you do it? How do you do this every single time?" Varney asked.
"Because I know a lot more about the health care system than you do," Emanuel responded.
"It is always the Republicans’ fault, isn’t it?" Varney asked.
Despite arguing Wednesday that Republicans and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) are responsible for the premium hikes, Emanuel said Thursday that he never faulted Republicans. He then shifted and criticized Republicans for frequently making mistakes on health care policy. Emanuel added that Republicans do not have a better alternative to Obamacare.
Varney said that Obamacare should become an issue this fall during the presidential campaign and that Clinton wants voters to pay higher fines for not opting into Obamacare. He added that bigger subsidies will be going to the insurance companies. Emanuel insisted, however, that the subsidies would not be going to the insurance companies.
Emanuel was then asked why voters cannot vote on their health care and dodged the question, insisting there are many "reasonable" conservative and liberal health policy experts who could develop a solution.
Later in the interview, Varney repeatedly asked Emanuel whether premiums have gone up while speaking over Emanuel and telling him that exchanges have done just that.
"They’ve gone up much lower than they would have otherwise. As a matter of fact, compared to projections, we have saved actually hundreds of billions of dollars for the American public, because they brought health care inflation down compared to what it was under George Bush," Emanuel said.
"We are almost out of time, but I will ask you again. Do you wish to look into the camera and apologize to what you have done to so many consumers, many of whom watch this program?" Varney asked.
Emanuel apologized for those negatively affected by Obamacare, but he doubled down on his defense of the law and said that more Americans are better off than before the legislation passed. He added that 20 million more people have insurance than before.
Varney jokingly taunted Emanuel at the end of the interview over his "apology" for Obamacare and quipped about his smile.
"You’ve apologized, I think. We’ve got it," Varney said.
"I said I’m sorry, but the system is much better than it was before. That’s something you can’t wrap your head around," Emanuel said.
"And yet again you stop smiling. Come on, doctor," Varney said
"I’m very happy, but I wish you would treat me like a guest instead of a boxing opponent. You could have some manners," Emanuel responded.
"Okay. You stopped smiling. Come on, deliver an insult with a smile. That’s a smirk. No smile. Come on, here is your chance," Varney said.
"I’m perfectly fine here," Emanuel said.