CNN's Gupta Hails Opening of ObamaCare Exchanges as 'Pretty Historic Times'

The doctor who was once a candidate to be President Obama's surgeon general called the opening of the ObamaCare exchanges "a pretty historic thing" on CNN Thursday.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed one of ObamaCare's helpers working with customers on Maryland's state exchange. His questions basically amounted to a puff piece on the law.

"It's worth pointing out, if you look across the country, the estimates are if you account for subsidies, account for Medicaid dollars in those states, it could be about 6 in 10 people, 60 percent of people paying about $100 or less for their monthly premiums. It's pretty historic times. This hasn't happened in nearly 50 years, this type of health care changes in the country," he touted the law.  

Gupta asked no questions about concerns of rising costs or security breaches.

"So with pre-existing conditions, this is sort of the crux of the whole thing. My understanding is on the application, they're not even asked about this, right?" he asked a Maryland call center representative. "And it doesn't affect how much it costs you," he added.

"If it goes well, you sign up and it goes well, it doesn't take that long, right?" he asked.  

Gupta could have talked about the dearth of customers who have purchased health insurance on the federal exchanges. Or he could have told the story of one young customer whose insurance cost was higher than he was expecting.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on October 3 at 12:43 p.m. EDT:

[12:43]

MICHAEL HOLMES: It is day three of open enrollment for President Obama's Affordable Care Act. And our Dr. Sanjay Gupta popped by an enrollment call center in Baltimore. He tells us the workers are reporting fewer glitches.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, chief medical correspondent:  We've been in three states now in three days. Very different states, South Carolina, Kentucky, and now Maryland. South Carolina, about one in five people uninsured down there. The federal government running their exchange. Kentucky, more of a state divided. Very Democratic governor, two senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell very much against this plan. The Democratic governor got it through. And then here in Maryland we've got a look inside sort of the nerve center, if you will, of this program here, people taking calls about the Affordable Care Act's implementation.

This has been a busy place as you might imagine, try and get things done. Maryland has had its share of glitches as well, although we're hearing now since just 1:00 in the morning last night they have been able to get a software patch to fix some of these problems. The problem really seemed to revolve around the ability to log in. And we hear even since 1:00 in the morning, they've had 1,000 more accounts created. So, nearly 2,000 in total now here. And those numbers expected to increase. But lots of questions, as you might imagine. This is a pretty historic thing, so we want to bring in Maria, who's one of the call center representatives, to talk about this. What are some of the most common questions you're getting?

MARIA: I have a preexisting condition. Can I enroll? How do I get started? And how much plans cost.

GUPTA: So with pre-existing conditions, this is sort of the crux of the whole thing. My understanding is on the application, they're not even asked about this, right?

MARIA: Right. The process is much more streamlined, much more simple, they don't have –

GUPTA: So if they say I have diabetes, or cancer, or heart disease, you say –  

MARIA: You still can get health insurance.

GUPTA: And it doesn't affect how much it costs you.

MARIA: Right.

GUPTA:  What about the cost? Is there a range of costs? What are you telling people?

MARIA: Without subsidies it can be as low as $150 for the 25-year-old, if you're a little older it could be $300 to $400 a month. If you get (Unintelligible) reduction or tax credits, it could be lower, $50, $75 a month.

GUPTA: I hear from a lot of people talking that they're just frightened of doing this. I think people signing up for anything makes them nervous. You're here to shepherd them through. What advice would you give people?

MARIA: Give us a call, go to our website. We have navigators, we have local health departments, Department of Social Services, we have insurance brokers out there. There's a lot of avenues to get help.

GUPTA: If it goes well, you sign up and it goes well, it doesn't take that long, right?

MARIA: It doesn't take long. We can guide you through the process in about 15 or 20 minutes. It just depends how many questions you have and what you're shopping for.

GUPTA: Okay, Maria. Thank you very much. It's worth pointing out, if you look across the country, the estimates are if you account for subsidies, account for Medicaid dollars in those states, it could be about 6 in 10 people, 60 percent of people paying about $100 or less for their monthly premiums. It's pretty historic times. This hasn't happened in nearly 50 years, this type of health care changes in the country. And you're getting a look at what that looks like here in Maryland. Back to you.

HOLMES: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to help answer a lot more questions about the Affordable Care Act this weekend right here on CNN.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014