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L.A. Times Columnist Michael Hiltzik Tried To Defend HIs Hit Column On Deborah Cavallaro

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GB: If there are Obamacare water-carrying reporters who want to make it their mission to debunk all of the horror stories about Obamacare, they are more than welcome to try, because we’re talking about millions of people. So there are either millions of liars out there, or millions of ignoramuses who have no idea what’s going on, or they’re going to be in for a very long, arduous, depressing process trying to “debunk” the stories that are ubiquitous.

HH: Welcome back, America. That was Guy P. Benson, and one of those reporters is Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, whose column today is titled “Another Obamacare Horror Story Debunked”. Michael, welcome back. What do you think of Guy Benson’s challenge to you to go out and find all 900,000 Californians who got cancellation letters and tell them they’re better off.

MH: Well, first of all, I think most of them probably are better off. And that’s a fact. I mean, you know, he hasn’t talked to 900,000 either. So I don’t really know what he’s talking about.

HH: One of the people you were debunking…

MH: Just because, Hugh, just because you have an old policy that’s been cancelled, and you know have an opportunity to get a new policy that most likely is going to have better benefits, you’re going to be, if you’re eligible for premium subsidies, you’re going to be paying less. You may be paying less anyway. That’s what, you know, 900,000 people, you’re going to have a whole range of customers.

HH: Now your column today was pointed to me by Jonathan Alter. And you interviewed Deborah Cavallaro. How long did you talk to her for?

MH: Oh, I’d say probably about a half an hour.

HH: Okay, now she told me you talked to her for three minutes.

MH: That’s not true.

HH: All right.

MH: How could I possibly have gotten all that information from her in three minutes?

HH: I just, she told me that. I just wanted to pass it on. She also told me…

MH: Well, that’s just not true.

HH: All right. She also told me that her biggest concern is she’s not going to be able to access her current doctors, and she doesn’t trust the website. Do you think you were fair in putting, in exploring her genuine concerns and putting them into your column?

MH: Well, I did put her genuine concerns into my column, and what I said about them was she may have a point. But the fact of the matter is she doesn’t know at this point whether she can or can’t access the doctors she goes to. What she told me is that she actually does, in her current plan, there is a network. So she can go out of the network, but she’s going to pay more. It’s the same situation that almost anybody who’s got health insurance has. Now she doesn’t trust the website? She didn’t go on the website. The first time she spent any time on the website was when she was on the phone with me, and I was on the website for her.

HH: No, but what she told me…

MH: She didn’t know, all that she had said, all that she’d been telling Fox News and CNBC and Channel 4 here in L.A., and all the other interviews she’d given, she was talking about how she was sure that this was not affordable for her. She had not been on the website. She didn’t actually know what policies she could get.

HH: But Michael, what she told me is that she is concerned, as are millions of Americans, as was confirmed yesterday in the hearings, that her data isn’t safe on that website. And that’s why she doesn’t go on to them.

MH: Well that, you know, she’s got no basis to say that.

HH: Wait a minute.

MH: First of all, she’s got…

HH: Wait, time out. Didn’t you listen yesterday? There’s a huge hole in the system.

MH: Hugh, I actually don’t think you actually know what you’re talking about, and I don’t think the Congressmen who were talking about that knew what they were talking about. There’s not a hole in the system that they mentioned. That’s not a hole. That’s a comment. It’s not even part of the system. The fact of the matter…

HH: Look, Chairman Mike Rogers…

MH: Wait, and by the way, Hugh, the website that the Congressmen were talking about isn’t the website that she’s going on. That’s the federal website.

HH: Chairman Mike Rogers…

MH: She’s going on Covered California, which is a different website.

HH: Chairman Michael Rogers…

MH: …and one, by the way, that works.

HH: Michael Rogers is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, former FBI agent, deeply versed in intelligence systems and errors. CNN Money ran the story not of a hacker, but of a systems tester who said that is vulnerable. That does not apply to Covered California, but wouldn’t you assume? Are you…

MH: Well then, what is she concerned about? She’s got to go on Covered California. They weren’t talking about it.

HH: Yeah, but why would you believe, Michael Hiltzik, that Covered California is safe when isn’t?

MH: They’re two different websites.

HH: I know that. But why would you assume…

MH: Well, what makes you think it’s not safe?

HH: Because it’s put together by the government.

MH: So what evidence, what do you have to say that Covered…oh, come on.

HH: No, not oh, come on. Edward Snowden walked out of the government with everything.

MH: We’re talking about Covered California. It’s not a federal website. It’s its own website.

HH: Michael, are you…

MH: If you want to really be panicky, then let’s see some evidence. I mean, nobody has said up to now that there’s any sort of privacy flaw in Covered California.

HH: Will you guarantee, would you guarantee…

MH: No, I’m not, no, come on, that’s stupid.

HH: Now see, you don’t. Well, stick with us. We’re going to a break. Michael Hiltzik will be right back. He was very quick to run over Deborah Cavallaro and turn her out to be a dumb blonde who can’t add, but we’ll see if he’ll answer questions when we come back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

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HH: I have just tweeted out an article that lists all the flaws in Covered California rather than cover them with my guest, Michael Hiltzik, who is defending the site in his Los Angeles Times column this morning, Another Obamacare Horror Story Debunked. Michael Hiltzik is on the phone with me, as is now Deborah Cavallaro, who he wrote about today. Deborah, welcome, you’re on with Michael Hiltzik. You’ve heard what he said, you read what he wrote. Has he been fair to you?

DC: Well, he’s fair on some things and not fair on others. One thing I would like to mention, however, is you know, you may have given him short shrift on the three minute interview. But Michael…

MH: Yeah.

DC: I’ll give you five minutes. That was about it. Five minutes was about the amount of time that we spent together. In no way, shape or form was it a half an hour. But…

MH: Well, I don’t think it was five minutes, Deborah, but one way or the other, we had a full conversation, and you know I got a lot of information from you, and walked you through Covered California. And we spent enough time to do that.

HH: Five minutes is enough time to understand her doctor loss, her choice of…

MH: Hugh, I just said I didn’t think it was five minutes. I think it was longer. But it was long enough to get all the information that I had that I published in the piece.

HH: Do you know how many…

MH: Now you know, Deborah told me…

HH: Do you know how many years she’s had a doctor for? Do you know…that’s a key thing for me is how many years have you had a doctor. Do you know that, Michael?

MH: No, but what’s the difference? I mean, I acknowledged that she was concerned…

HH: What’s the difference?

MH: Excuse me.

HH: What’s the difference?

MH: I acknowledge that she was concerned, Deborah, I acknowledged that you were concerned that you might not be able to keep your doctors, and that that was a legitimate concern. And that’s in the piece. Is that not so?

HH: Deborah, Michael mocks your concern about the website’s security.

MH: I don’t mock, Hugh, I didn’t mock any concern. I didn’t portray her…

HH: Wait, last segment, you mocked the concern.

MH: …as some blonde, as you said.

HH: Last segment…

MH: I didn’t mock the concern. I said specifically it’s in the story that she’s got a point.

HH: No, no, last segment when we talked about security, you mocked my concern. You said I didn’t know what I was talking about. You mocked the Congressmen who made it.

MH: Hugh, there is, nobody has produced evidence that Covered California has a security flaw.

HH: So Deborah, do you think Michael is being fair to you and your concern about security?

DC: Well, no, no. I don’t think there’s anybody in the country, honestly, that thinks that any information that they put out on the internet is secure. I really don’t.

MH: All right, let me make a point about that. If Deborah really is concerned that there is, that her information wouldn’t be secure on the internet, she can fill out an application on paper, she can do it over the phone, she can do it in any number of ways that she does transactions today. She doesn’t have to use the website if she’s that concerned. So that’s not really, it wasn’t the point of our conversation. That’s not really the point of her concern, and we all know that, because it’s not what she, this is the first time she’s ever mentioned that. And by the way…

HH: Deborah, do you get the sense Michael is being very condescending to you? Do you feel that?

DC: Well, you know, I don’t want to characterize him that way, but I will say this. It’s not just the internet. And somebody can correct me if they know better than I do. But I thought I heard that something like nine government agencies would have access to this information. Now that presumably would occur whether it came via the internet or whether it was on paper. Now I don’t know, if somebody knows, then please do tell me. But my point is, I don’t want nine government agencies with nine potential Snowdens out there having access to all of my personal and private information. But beyond that, let me make this point. Michael, you know, I called you back. I didn’t realize the article was going to run yesterday afternoon. I called you back last evening. I don’t know if you got my message. But what I wanted to say is you had brought up an issue, a point which I thought about, which was regarding how insurance works. And you had made the point to me…

MH: I’m sorry, I missed that.

HH: Deborah, you’re dropping off. Did you get her message, Michael?

MH: I didn’t get the message until about Midnight when I got home.

DC: Okay.

HH: And so did you call her back today?

MH: No.

HH: Now I’m curious. I read this article as being the most condescending roadkill article I have read in a long time.

MH: Well, I don’t know what makes you think that, Hugh. That’s not the tone of the article. And you know, post the article. People can read the article on L.A. and come to their own conclusions. It was not a condescending article.

DC: It’s easy.

MH: It was condescending toward Maria Bartiromo, who didn’t ask Deborah any questions about this.

HH: Deborah, you’re back, but go ahead.

DC: Yeah, can you hear me?

HH: Yes, go ahead.

DC: Okay, great. So what I want to say, Michael, because I did think about what you said. And you were making the point that gee, I said look, I don’t need maternity care, I don’t need mental health coverage, but I’m paying for it. I’m being forced to pay for it. And you made a point, and you said well, that’s kind of the way insurance works. If only people who needed maternity care had to buy those policies, it would be totally unaffordable. And I thought about that, and I realized well, gee, I have auto insurance. I don’t have to buy collision if I don’t want to. I have homeowners insurance. And I live in earthquake country. I don’t have to buy earthquake insurance or flood insurance.

HH: All right, Michael, your response?

MH: Yeah, that’s fine. There’s a big difference between health insurance and auto insurance, and health insurance and homeowners insurance. And this is sort of Korin Book Insurance policy. And if you want me to explain again, and Hugh, if you’d like to hear this, why it’s important that all policies have pregnancy coverage and well-baby coverage, I mean…

HH: Michael, actually, I don’t. I just want to know where you and the government get off telling Deborah that she doesn’t know what’s best for herself? That’s what I want to know.

MH: That’s not what I said.

DC: But that’s the reality. But Michael…

MH: That’s not…

HH: That is the reality.

DC: That’s the reality.

HH: I’m just dumbfounded. That’s the reality.

DC: That’s the reality.

HH: …is that…

MH: We’re talking about, you can read the…

HH: You are defending a law that has destroyed her autonomy and personal freedom, and you are doing so in the most snide way. And I’ll let people go read it. I’ll tweet it out again, Michael. Maybe you don’t see it. Maybe the President doesn’t see it. But when the President said…

BO: Here’s the guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.

HH: She did not get to keep it and she liked it, Michael. Did he lie?

MH: (Busy tone)

DC: (laughing)

HH: Michael Hiltzik, are you there?

MH: (busy tone)

HH: Deborah, he hung up on me. I’m sorry. L.A. Times reporter hangs up on Hugh Hewitt. Make that the new lead. I’ll be right back.

— – – – –

HH: I’ve got to move quickly here. I want to be fair to Michael Hiltzik. He did not hang up on me. He lost the connection and he called back, for which I am thankful. Michael, when the President said…

BO: Here’s the guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.

HH: Was he lying?

MH: I think he probably should not have put it that way.

HH: That wasn’t the question. Was he lying?

MH: I don’t think that’s really a lie, no.

HH: Here’s what Clarence Page told me on Monday.

HH: He knew he was lying?

CP: Probably. Probably. But that’s one of those political lies.

HH: So I don’t understand how 900,000 Californians don’t have their insurance as of 1/1/14, and 1.75 million Americans and counting don’t have their insurance, and the government has the right to come in and bigfoot them all, and having done so on the basis of a lie, Michael. Defend that to me.

MH: In a couple of leaps of logic there. I mean, 900,000 people who had policies that didn’t conform to the standards that are set under the Affordable Care Act. You know, you don’t know that 900,000 people loved their insurance and were dying to keep it. And in fact, as I wrote today, the fact of the matter is that just a few weeks ago or a few months ago, the theme of all the coverage in all the press, including the conservative press about the health insurance industry in this country was that people hated it.

HH: Michael, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying he sold a bill of goods. He lied to people. That was, this was part of every…

BO: Here’s the guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.

HH: What is it about the left that cannot understand people don’t like to be lied to, and now they’re screwed, many of these people, not all of them, many of them will not have insurance in January, and that subset of them that has a catastrophic accident or an occurrence of an illness will suffer potential bankruptcy. Why don’t you understand he did that?

MH: Well, what you just said is utterly untrue. The fact of the matter is, is that the whole point of the Affordable Care Act to improve access to insurance, and that’s what it does, and that all of those people who are losing, whose old policies are being cancelled, they’re being cancelled, and rightly so, because they’re substandard, because they don’t actually provide the protections that people need. And you know that and I know that.

HH: Oh, God, no, I don’t. I just think, I think you live in a different universe, and that you really have no idea about freedom. You have no appreciation…I’m passionate, Michael, because you’ve closed yourself off, literally. I know what the left thinks. I know about negative externalities. But you have no clue about freedom. None.

MH: Yeah, I know. You guys, you’re the ones, you really have a monopoly on the sense of freedom. I know, people are really free to choose the worst possible insurance, they were free to choose insurance that wasn’t worth the money they spent on it. That’s freedom. That’s great freedom. I know, Hugh, that that’s the freedom that you think…

HH: I know the freedom I have. I have the freedom not to read the L.A. Times, because it’s staffed and run by leftists of old school, hard left, anti-freedom radicals. Michael Hiltzik, thank you for coming on.

End of interview.


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