PBS NewsHour full episode December 12, 2019


JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. On the “NewsHour” tonight: arguing impeachment. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary
Committee debates formal charges against President Trump, as the clock ticks down to the historic
vote. Then: Boris wins at the ballot. As Election Day comes to a close, exit polls
in Britain show the Conservative Party winning its biggest majority in decades. And a prescription for prices. Can Congress settle on a solution for the
rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs? Plus: a canopy of health. Louisville plants the seeds of an experiment
to see whether more trees can improve well-being. CHRIS CHANDLER, The Nature Conservancy: Our
old trees are dying, and they’re not being replaced and managed over time. Nature is not a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Collision and cooperation at
the U.S. Capitol. In public, a committee of the House of Representatives
clashed all day over impeachment charges. But, behind the scenes, negotiators also agreed
on a spending deal. We begin with congressional correspondent
Lisa Desjardins on impeachment. REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): The Judiciary Committee
will please come to order. LISA DESJARDINS: In a large, chilly hearing
room, the nation’s heated divide played out, in a Judiciary Committee meeting of the highest
stakes. REP. JERROLD NADLER: The clerk will report the
resolution. WOMAN: HR-755, impeaching Donald John Trump. LISA DESJARDINS: In a Judiciary Committee
meeting of the highest stakes. WOMAN: The president of the United States
for high crimes and misdemeanors. LISA DESJARDINS: In front of lawmakers, nine
pages aimed at removing the president of the United States, charging abuse of power and
obstruction of Congress. REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): And the facts are very
clear. LISA DESJARDINS: Two articles of impeachment
and two radically different points of view. From Democrats: REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): This is the most abusive
act we can imagine, trying to influence our elections with foreign interference. LISA DESJARDINS: And Republicans. REP. BEN CLINE (R-VA): These are not facts. This is testimony about what somebody thought
or what somebody concluded from acts taken by members of the administration. LISA DESJARDINS: Called a markup, it’s the
final step before articles of impeachment go to the House floor. It’s the chance for each member to propose
changes or amendments. And it’s a process meant to be tedious. MAN: I have an amendment at the desk. REP. JERROLD NADLER: The question is on the amendment. Those in favor say aye. MEMBERS: Aye. REP. JERROLD NADLER: Opposed no. MEMBERS: No. REP. JERROLD NADLER: In the opinion of the chair,
the no’s have it. MAN: Roll call. REP. JERROLD NADLER: Roll call is requested. The clerk will call the roll. LISA DESJARDINS: But it, of course, was also
a dramatic debate, with Democrats arguing President Trump withheld military aid money
and pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate political rival and former Vice President
Joe Biden. REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): So, at the end of
the day, I have only two questions for my colleagues on the other side. LISA DESJARDINS: Today, Democrats especially
implored Republicans to think of broader concerns. REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Forget about President Trump. Is any one of my colleagues willing to say
that it is ever OK for a president of the United States of America to invite foreign
interference in our elections? Not a single one of you has said that so far. LISA DESJARDINS: They repeatedly raised the
president’s own words in his phone call with the Ukrainian president after military support
came up. REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): And here’s the
very next sentence.The very next sentence is not, yes, let’s get with the Department
of Defense, let’s review your request. The very next sentence, “I would like you
to do a favor, though.” LISA DESJARDINS: The president was clearly
watching. Soon after that, he tweeted out his own rebuttal,
writing accurately that: “I said I want you to do us, our country, a favor, not me a favor.” In the committee room, his allies repeatedly
assailed what they see as an unfair process with no proven case. REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): It’s clear that no abuse
of power ever took place, and there certainly isn’t enough evidence to support an article
of impeachment. REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): I know that you, some
of you, really think the president really did something wrong. But the fact is, there is no — none of your
witnesses, none of your fact witnesses were able to establish any evidence of bribery,
treason, high crimes or misdemeanors. LISA DESJARDINS: But Democrats pointed to
witness testimony, text messages and concerns across agencies. Former police chief and Florida Congresswoman
Val Demings said the picture is clear, whatever words the president used. REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): There have been so many
things that have been said, like, the president never used the word demand. Well, I can tell you this. When a robber points a gun at you to take
your money, they usually don’t walk up and say, I’m robbing you right now. LISA DESJARDINS: Once forwarded by the committee,
any articles of impeachment could get a vote on the full House floor as soon as next week. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa is still up on Capitol
Hill, as she has been all this day. And she joins me now. So, first of all, Lisa, what has been the
Republican strategy all this day on how to deal with this? LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. Republicans have had two main strategies,
Judy. First of all, as they have done throughout
this process, they have questioned whether it’s been fair. They have repeatedly raised that they would
like to call their own witnesses, have what they call a minority day, where they get to
have hearings of their own. However, the Democrats have rejected that. They say that the Republican witnesses are
off-topic, or include the whistle-blower, which Democrats say goes against the Whistleblower
Protection Act. That is a very hot debate. Republicans point out they have only had one
witness out of those called by the Judiciary Committee in total. They have also done something else, Judy. They have brought in this idea of other corruption,
other investigations that they would like, including the Burisma investigation, of course,
that being the energy company in Ukraine where Hunter Biden was on the board of directors. This is something that Republicans have brought
up again and again today. Republicans say that’s a distraction. I’m sorry. Democrats say that’s a distraction. And, Judy, Democrats also raise one other
point. They say Republicans could have had one very
big witness, the president himself, or his lawyer. But the president has decided, as we have
continued reporting, that he does not want to participate in this House impeachment process. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, this process, this
markup actually got started last night with speeches from committee members, both sides
of the aisle. And you have told us that you see something
deeper going on here with the two political parties. Explain what you mean. LISA DESJARDINS: This is why I’m so happy
to work with “NewsHour,” frankly, because I think that something was missed in having
that late hearing last night, when much of the media is focusing on today. Judy, last night, it was more of an elevated
hearing. And I think it’s worth listening to, if people
want to go back to, for both sides. And I saw something about what these parties
are about at this moment in what they were doing last night Democrats one by one were presenting personal
stories, sort of their immigrant stories about their parents, about growing up in poverty. And what was the theme there? Democrats were trying to say why they love
America, why they are tied to America, and get past the idea that they are attacking
this president. That’s something that I think they feel concerned
about. They don’t want to be looking on the attack. They want to be showing their patriotism,
why they’re attached to this country. What were Republicans doing last night, Judy? More than I have ever heard before, Republicans
were pointing out that they believe Democrats are coastal elites. There was even a map showing Democrats as
coastal elites. They were saying that Democrats do not understand
the middle of the country. And, in fact, time and again, I heard them,
Republicans, say Democrats don’t like Trump voters. So this is something I know Republicans feel
in their bones, that Democrats look down on them. However, it was something adding to the divide
in this hearing, and something that I thought was very notable. JUDY WOODRUFF: And so, picking up on that,
Lisa, take a step back. We are literally on the verge of the impeachment
of a president. What is the effect of all this, from where
you sit, on the lawmakers and on the American people? LISA DESJARDINS: Well, we are in the last
hours, I think, of these hearings on the House side. It could go on quite late tonight, Judy. This is because, under this markup process,
any member of the committee can speak on any amendment. So this could go hours and hours. We don’t really know. But so far, we have had 60 hours of hearings
in this impeachment room, these impeachment hearings, from both committees. And, Judy, I have to say I have noticed that
the audience has gotten smaller. Also today, I think the lawmakers seem a little
more weary. They also have gotten a little bit more serious
in the end here, as we approach impeachment next week. Also, Judy, we have had something else happen. Editorials, newspapers across this country
are ring in. We have had several, USA Today, The Los Angeles
Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe, come out saying that it is time for impeachment. Others, like The Wall Street Journal, have
said Democrats have gone too far and that they are actually contorting this process
in a way that is harmful. It feels to me like this week has been kind
of a week where maybe the public hasn’t tuned in yet, but I have a feeling that it will
mount next week. We have a little reporting on that, Judy. I can now report that we do expect the full
House to take its impeachment vote next Wednesday. Now, that is subject to change, but, right
now, that is the plan. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Lisa, we know
that, apart from all this, behind closed doors, the two parties were able to agree on a spending
plan to avert a government shutdown. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. Let me read you some quick bullet points about
this very large spending deal. It is $1.4 trillion, Judy, the biggest money
decision Congress will make. And, also, Judy, in this is, of course, some
issues about the president’s wall. It looks like the president will get about
$1.38 billion for his wall. That’s the same amount he got last year. A lot more to say about that. But let me also quickly mention that this
needs to be passed by next Friday to meet the government spending deadline, essentially
kind of a detente over the wall and immigration. We’re waiting for the text on that bill. There’s going to be a lot to talk about, but
this is a very large compromise from both sides of the Capitol and the White House tonight
over spending. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot going on at the same
time these impeachment hearings are under way. LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thank you. LISA DESJARDINS: You’re welcome. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The
House approved a Democratic bill to rein in drug costs under Medicare on a near party-line
vote. The measure would let the government negotiate
prescription drug prices. The bill has little chance in the Senate,
where Republicans have the majority. We will have a detailed look later in the
program. Reports from Britain tonight suggest that
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservatives have scored an overwhelming win in national
elections. Exit polls give them an outright majority
in Parliament. Johnson — Boris Johnson called the election
two years early in a bid to break the political stalemate over Brexit. We will look at the results, and what all
of this could mean, right after the news summary. Israel is now officially headed for a March
2 election, its third in less than a year. Lawmakers set the date today after both Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz failed to form a governing coalition. As they read the news today, many Israelis
complained of the seemingly endless political stalemate. DIANA PERKINS, Tel Aviv: It’s frustrating
to have a third election, to think that we can’t come to some sort of agreement as to
how the country should move forward. And it just feels, in some ways, a little
bit hopeless that there should ever be a peace process. JUDY WOODRUFF: Netanyahu is under indictment
on corruption charges, but he remains in office as caretaker prime minister. Gantz has refused to serve under him. Search crews in Chile have found what’s left
of a military transport plane that disappeared Monday headed for Antarctica. It’s believed that all 38 people on board
died. The C-130 vanished at sea over the Drake Passage,
an area known for severe and rapidly changing weather. In India, violent protests erupted today against
a new law letting non-Muslim migrants become citizens. Tires burned in Tripura state and in nearby
Assam. Windows were smashed and vehicles vandalized,
and police killed two demonstrators. The Hindu nationalist government has rejected
claims that the law is anti-Muslim and would attract more foreigners, diluting local cultures. Back in this country, a deadly attack on a
kosher market in New Jersey is now being investigated as domestic terrorism. Six people, including a police officer and
the two shooters, were killed in Jersey City on Tuesday. The state attorney general and others said
today that the evidence points to anti-Semitism and more. GURBIR GREWAL, New Jersey Attorney General:
We believe that the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as
well as a hatred of law enforcement. We are still working to determine how they
selected their particular targets for these attacks, specifically, both the J.C. Kosher
Supermarket and Detective Joseph Seals. JUDY WOODRUFF: Investigators believe the two
killers, a man and a woman, acted alone, and not as part of some larger group. The federal communications commission moved
today to create a three-digit number, 9-8-8, for reaching a national suicide prevention
hot line. It is designed to replace the current 10-digit
number, making it easier and faster to get help. The changeover could take months to implement. Ten former National Football League players
have been charged with defrauding the NFL’s health care benefit program. The U.S. Justice Department says that they
submitted false claims for medical expenses not covered by insurance. The alleged fraud resulted in more than $3.4
million being paid out. BRIAN BENCZKOWSKI, Assistant Attorney General:
A group of former players brazenly defrauded the plan by seeking reimbursement for expenses
— for expensive medical equipment that they never purchased, things like hyperbaric oxygen
chambers, ultrasound machines used by doctors’ offices to conduct women’s health exams, and
even electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on horses. JUDY WOODRUFF: Four of the former players
were arrested this morning. The others also agreed to surrender. There’s word that the United States and China
are close to an agreement to suspend new tariffs from taking effect Sunday. A number of reports say that, if President
Trump approves the deal, the U.S. would also reduce existing tariffs. China, in turn, would buy more U.S. farm products. Wall Street rallied on the trade news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 220
points to close at 28132. The Nasdaq rose 63 points to a new record
close. And the S&P 500 added 27, also finishing at
a record. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: polls close,
and the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party wins its biggest majority in decades; the
dueling bills in Congress aimed at lowering the price of prescription drugs; two former
debt collectors embark on a mission to wipe out the medical debt of those who can’t pay;
and much more. As we reported earlier, Britain has voted
in its third parliamentary election since 2015. The choice was stark, and could result in
fundamental changes to British policy for generations. Nick Schifrin is here with the results. NICK SCHIFRIN: Analysts believe today was
Britain’s most consequential vote in a generation, and perhaps since the Second World War. The choice was between a Conservative, or
Tory, Party, whose slogan was, “Get Brexit done,” and a Labor Party that promised a second
referendum on Brexit and a dramatic rewriting of the economy to make it more socialist. According to the exit polls, of 650 local
districts, the Tories there on the left won 368, giving them a majority of 86. Labor won 191, which is a loss of 71 seats,
the Scottish National Party at 55, and the Liberal Democrats at 13. This is the biggest Conservative majority
since 1987, and the worst Labor result in 85 years. To discuss the results from London, Robin
Niblett, the director of the British think tank Chatham House, and, from Washington,
Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies. Welcome back to the “NewsHour” to you both. Robin Niblett, let me start with you. This is an exit poll. It’s a projection, but historically reliable. So, assuming it’s true, did Britons vote for
Boris Johnson, for Brexit, against Jeremy Corbyn, a little bit of all three? ROBIN NIBLETT, Director, Chatham House: I
think definitely for Brexit, and definitely against Jeremy Corbyn, if these numbers are
to be seen correctly. The fact of the matter is that those who want
to see Brexit happen had one choice, which is to vote for the Conservative Party. Those who were stuck still on the remain and
wanting to rethink how you could keep the U.K. somehow in the E.U. was split between
the Scottish National Party, between the Labor Party and the Lib Dems. And, ultimately, that divide, along with deep
suspicion of Jeremy Corbyn, by many in the North of England, who traditionally held up
that Labor Party vote, really made this, if it’s to be believed, a big victory for Boris
Johnson. NICK SCHIFRIN: And we saw Boris Johnson campaign
in the north, those traditional Labor strongholds. Heather Conley, let me show some video here. This is a styrofoam wall — or Boris Johnson
getting into a — into a bulldozer. All right, we don’t have the — there it is,
Jeremy — Boris Johnson in a bulldozer, “Get Brexit Done.” The styrofoam wall said “Gridlock.” The message, obviously, blunt force on Brexit. Is that what won? HEATHER CONLEY, Director, Europe Program,
Center for Strategic and International Studies: Yes, absolutely. Robin is right. This was a Brexit election. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labor Party wanted to
make this about everything else but Brexit, about the national health care service, about
poverty, about improving social status. And the — I think the voters were just simply
exhausted after three years. I think, also, many voters believe that the
2006 referendum — 2016 referendum, that it was the democratic will of the British people,
if even if they didn’t agree with it. And I think there was concern that rerunning
that or somehow trying to annul that decision was wrong. So there may not have been enthusiasm, but
I think that the British people say, let’s get on with this. Let’s get Brexit done. And they wanted to move forward. And, again, this really means that there is
no more left and right in the U.K. politically. It was really a leave or remain decision. And what is clear is that there is an overwhelming
majority to leave the E.U., and Mr. Johnson will get that done. NICK SCHIFRIN: Robin Niblett, the deadline
is January 31 for Brexit. Is there any doubt now that Boris Johnson
can meet that deadline? ROBIN NIBLETT: If the results are as they
seem to be, anything — and it looks like the majority is pretty much certain — then
the U.K. will leave you by January the 31st, if not even a little bit before then. That is the ultimate deadline by which they
are entitled to leave. Of course, what then happens is that we enter
a probably 12-month period in which the U.K. is somehow going to do a crash deal to complete
a free trade agreement. Boris Johnson, at least by redrawing the Theresa
May deal and creating a notional border down the Irish Sea, can try to push for a free
trade agreement which is a simpler type of agreement. But, still, the U.K. is going to enter at
least a 12-month period of really intense negotiations. The British will find out pretty quickly that,
actually, Brexit is a bit done, the U.K. has left, but, actually, the new agreement part
of Brexit is just getting started. NICK SCHIFRIN: Heather Conley, it seems that
that challenge is quite large. So, January, Britain will leave the E.U.,
begins a transitional period, as Robin was just saying, the deadline for that, December
31. But could we be back here in one year talking
about Britain once again crashing out? HEATHER CONLEY: We could. So, by July 1, the British government has
to request an extension of that transition period. Again, that’s to allow — in case the future
relationship becomes very difficult, that’s to allow a smoother process. But, during the campaign, Boris Johnson refused
to offer any extension. He is going to — he told us, to get this
done. And Robin again is absolutely right. The complexities of negotiating a free trade
agreement with the E.U., the average time it takes to negotiate with the E.U. for any
country is between seven to nine years. This is going to be incredibly fast. And Boris Johnson has said he does not want
to be closely aligned with the E.U. in the future. He wants to diverge. And this is actually very problematic and
troubling for Northern Ireland, which, although it will remain in the United Kingdom Customs
Union, it will be treated differently. And over the campaign, Prime Minister Johnson
was challenged that there was going to be any paperwork or customs certifications as
goods pass between Northern Ireland and the — and Great Britain and Northern Ireland
and the Republic of Ireland. We’re about to see how complex this relationship
really is. It won’t be as simple as the prime minister
has made it out to be. And I’m very fearful that this could really
unleash some forces in Northern Ireland that could potentially destabilize a very fragile
government that has not had a — has not had a power-sharing government for three years. NICK SCHIFRIN: Robin Niblett, you mentioned
Jeremy Corbyn. Of course, part of what he was arguing for
was a second referendum, but he also talked about nationalization, seizing 10 percent
of large firms’ equity, a four-day workweek. Ultimately, did Britons decided that his platform
was too radical? ROBIN NIBLETT: I think, for many in the U.K.,
it is too radical, not necessarily for his base, not for many of the true believers in
the future of the Labor Party. In a way, Boris Johnson not only was offering
to the right of his party get Brexit done quickly, but he was promising to the other
part of the party a one-nation Toryism, very different from Margaret Thatcher. What we could see is Boris Johnson and the
Conservative Party in a way squatting on the middle ground of British politics for the
next five years, and forcing the Labor Party into a very brutal civil war, looking beyond
Jeremy Corbyn, between those who believe in his vision that you have to push further to
the left and those who wants to take a more centrist line to try to push Boris Johnson
back the other way. And, of course, there could be lessons here
even for the U.S. election. And people have already tried to draw some
parallels there. Just one last point, though, on the big challenge
here. We have not talked about Scotland. The Scottish National Party regained from
35 to 55 seats out of 59. So we may have had a confirmation in England
of the 2016 referendum to leave the E.U., but we have had a repudiation of the 2014
referendum for Scotland to remain in the U.K. You have got a very divided Scotland from
the United Kingdom after this election. NICK SCHIFRIN: Robin Niblett of Chatham House,
Heather Conley of CSIS, we will have to leave it there. Thanks to you both. JUDY WOODRUFF: Americans spend approximately
$1,200 a year per person on prescription drugs. That’s more than anywhere else in the world. One in four say it’s difficult to afford those
costs. Both political parties are now looking to
tackle that problem, but with some different approaches. As William Brangham reports, the Democrats
in the House went first today by passing their own bill. WOMAN: The bill is passed. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s an ambitious plan to
change the government’s role in the cost of prescription drugs, costs that are becoming
prohibitively expensive for many Americans. The bill aims to lower the price tag for prescription
drugs, partly by overturning a 2003 rule that blocked the federal government from negotiating
most Medicare drug prices. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This will make all the
difference in the world, and central to it is the power to negotiate. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The 450-page bill proposes
three major changes. It lets the government negotiate Medicare
prices for dozens of drugs each year, including insulin. It caps out-of-pocket costs for Medicare patients
at $2,000 per year. And it forces drugmakers to give rebates to
the government if their Medicare drug prices rise faster than inflation. Democrats, like Representative Debbie Dingell
of Michigan, say it’s critical that the government gets the power to negotiate these prices. REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): There is a reason that
we pay nearly four times more for prescription drugs than other industrialized nations. They use negotiation to lower drug prices. We don’t. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Republicans say it will
hurt competition and shrink the number of new drugs entering the market. Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas: REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX): People want more cures
and lower drug costs. They don’t want more cheap political shots. We do, as Republicans, oppose HR-3’s government
price-setting regime because it will kill lifesaving cures for Americans. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The House bill is not expected
to pass the Senate. But there is a bipartisan bill in that chamber
that has some support in both parties. It, too, caps drug costs for seniors and penalizes
drugmakers for price increases, but it doesn’t allow the government to negotiate drug prices
for Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the
Pelosi bill and found it would lead to about eight fewer new drugs coming to market over
the next decade, and then 30 fewer over the subsequent decade. It also would lower Medicare drug spending
by $450 billion over the next decade, but a little less than that would be spent on
new vision, dental and hearing benefits. But Mitch McConnell said he won’t even bring
Pelosi’s bill up for a vote. For more on all of this, I’m joined by Emmarie
Huetteman of Kaiser Health News. Welcome to the “NewsHour.” EMMARIE HUETTEMAN, Kaiser Health News: Thanks
so much for having me. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, before we get to the
specifics of the legislation, can you just — again, I touched on this again in the introduction,
but remind of us what the problem is. I just worry that people who don’t have these
big drug costs in their life don’t appreciate what’s going on here. EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Absolutely. And the fact is, if you have good insurance,
in many cases, you don’t run up against this problem. But many people do. And it’s the kind of problem where it’s affecting
people in particular who have life-threatening illnesses. Diabetes, for example, has been one of the
issues that has really drawn attention to this, because a lot of people have had trouble
affording insulin, of all drugs. And insulin has been around for a long time
and really hasn’t improved that much. So people ask, why are the costs going up
so much? The fact is that drug prices are one of the
biggest issues with many Americans, and especially coming into an election year. A lot of Americans in polls say that this
is their biggest issue in health care that they want legislators to deal with. And legislators want to make sure that they’re
showing that they’re listening. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of those legislators
being Nancy Pelosi. We saw a little bit of the detail of her bill. How does that bill try to target this problem? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: It goes out in kind of
a direct way and says, we’re going to empower the government to negotiate when it comes
to the costliest drugs. We’re going to empower the government to negotiate
the prices of these drugs directly. And the Pelosi bill is actually interesting,
because, in addition to negotiating those prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries,
those prices would then be available to all payers, which means that even if you have… WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Not just Medicare people? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Correct. Even if you have employer-based insurance,
you would have the ability to then access these prices, because the law says that insurers
would have — or drugmakers would have to offer you those prices. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And then there’s also it
sets a cap on how much you can pay, also? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: It sets a cap for Medicare
beneficiaries on how much you pay out of pocket for your — for your drugs every year. And that’s the first time ever that this is
being proposed. So this is going to be probably pretty popular
with a lot of Medicare beneficiaries. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, right now, what is the
difference between the Senate bill and the House bill? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Sure. Absolutely. The Senate bill and the House bill have a
big difference. The Senate bill doesn’t include negotiations. It does have the ability to cap drugs at — they
call it an inflationary cap. The idea is that you don’t want drug prices
to rise faster than the pace of inflation. And both the Pelosi bill and the Senate bill
include that cap and say, we’re going to use this to try and keep prices down more. But, otherwise, the negotiations are really
the centerpiece of the Pelosi bill. And the Senate has said, no, that’s a no-go
for us. Republicans say they don’t want the government
involved directly in setting drug prices. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So the idea, if I understand
it correctly, is — in the Pelosi bill and this larger argument over, is that the federal
government buys so many drugs through the Medicare program. We should have the right to say, hey, drug
companies, look, we’re buying so much from you. Let’s talk about the price. EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Right. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Why is that such a problem
for Republicans? That seems like a very natural capitalistic
tendency. EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Yes. And, also, Republicans will make the argument
that, in a capitalist society, you want to have very little government interference in
the free market. That’s the hallmark of a Republican and conservative
perspective. And when they look at drug pricing in particular,
they say you don’t want to restrict drugmakers by setting prices. Among other things, their argument is, if
you restrict the amount that drugmakers can charge for their drugs, you interfere in the
process through which new drugs are brought to market. And their big argument is, if you do this,
it’s less money for innovation. And there are some big weaknesses, actually,
in that argument, it must be mentioned. Among other things, as you mentioned, the
CBO report said that this Pelosi plan would result in about eight fewer drugs over 10
years. To put that in perspective, the FDA approves
about 30 drugs a year. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So it’s not back huge of
a dent in the flow of new drugs to market? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Theoretically. It’s at least hard to make the direct connection. And I should also mention that a lot of experts
will tell you that most drug development doesn’t happen at drugmakers — in drugmakers’ labs
these days. It’s happening at academic institutions. And the drugmakers then purchase the drugs. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We could sit here and debate
the House version vs. the Senate version, but, of course, there’s a third party involved. It’s President Trump. What do we know about what’s a red line for
the president, what he will accept, what he won’t accept? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: I’d say the big thing we
know is that Donald Trump is wanting to bring drug prices down in any way he can. This is one of his big priorities, especially
heading into the election next year. He wants to look like he’s very strong on
health care and listening to people. And this is one of those issues that really
drives him crazy. As far as red lines, he’s actually expressed
support for this negotiations idea before. Of course, he was a candidate at the time. But when Pelosi introduced her deal in the
— or her bill in the first place, Trump actually tweeted out his support, saying, nice to see
your — nice to see your plan. Of course, when the Grassley-Wyden bill, the
Senate bill, came out later, Trump then said, nice to see your plan too. And now the White House says that actually
Trump supports the Grassley way of doing this. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if you were a betting
person, that’s where you think this is going to end up being, that it’s going to be some
version of that, which does not allow the federal government to negotiate? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: Unfortunately, there’s
one big hiccup here, which is that Senate Republicans actually don’t like the Grassley-Wyden
bill. Their big issue is that that inflationary
cap that I referenced, they see that as government price-setting. And they think that that’s as bad as negotiations
when it comes to interfering in the free market. So there are some big problems there for them. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So is it possible that nothing
gets signed, nothing gets done this year? EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: I mean, that’s always possible
in this Congress. I would say that, at this point, there are
some bipartisan pieces to this. The cap on out-of-pocket costs, that’s got
a lot of bipartisan support right now. That’s both in Grassley’s bill and also in
the Pelosi bill. There’s also a lot of consensus on actually
different small pieces of legislation that would address blocking generics from coming
to market. And a lot of members of Congress point out
that, if you ease the path for generics to come to market, you increase competition,
and you lower drug prices that way. So, we could see some movement on that as
well. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Emmarie Huetteman of Kaiser
Health News, thank you very much. EMMARIE HUETTEMAN: My pleasure. JUDY WOODRUFF: And on another health care
story, Congress is still trying to work out a compromise on a different pocketbook issue,
eliminating surprise medical bills. The problem can drive many people into deep
debt. Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman,
has a report on that debt and a unique effort to help people in need. It’s part of our series Making Sense. PAUL SOLMAN: Sixty-one-year-old Gwenlyn Quezada
had a near fatal stroke last year. GWENLYN QUEZADA, Patient: They had told my
son, if I come through, I would be a vegetable. PAUL SOLMAN: The North Carolina resident managed
to defy the experts, but not the economics. GWENLYN QUEZADA: Hearing the bill collectors
calling you about hospital bills that you know you don’t have the money. QUESTION: How much were your bills? GWENLYN QUEZADA: Over $6,000. PAUL SOLMAN: That’s after insurance. REAGEN ADAIR, Patient: You have the doctor. Then you have the labs. PAUL SOLMAN: Texas teacher Reagen Adair owed
10 grand after migraines landed her in the hospital. REAGEN ADAIR: This has got to be the most
embarrassing thing to have to go through. PAUL SOLMAN: And after 13 strokes and two
heart attacks, John Foutch simply says: JOHN FOUTCH, Patient: I don’t have the money. I don’t have a job. I can’t pay it. PAUL SOLMAN: These are a small sampling of
the many millions of Americans who collectively owe nearly a trillion dollars worth of medical
debt. CRAIG ANTICO, RIP Medical Debt: Fifty percent
of all collections in this country are medical. Of the 100,000 collectors that we have in
this country, 50,000 or more are medical debt collectors. PAUL SOLMAN: Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton
used to be debt collectors. Were you embarrassed to tell people you were
a debt collector? JERRY ASHTON, RIP Medical Debt: I introduced
myself as resolution management. (LAUGHTER) CRAIG ANTICO: I would say, I run a collection
agency. PAUL SOLMAN: And what was their reaction in
general? CRAIG ANTICO: Oh, you’re a leg breaker. ACTOR: What do you want? ACTOR: A hundred and 40 bucks. You got it? ACTOR: No. ACTOR: Come on! Let’s tear it up! PAUL SOLMAN: Now, it’s not as if legally licensed
debt collectors bear any resemblance to gangland toughs, but the objective is the same, says
Jerry Ashton. JERRY ASHTON: The bill collector is the enforcer
for the financial industry. Anybody who lends money out there, they expect
to be paid. So, if they can’t do it, then they rely on
third parties. And when the third parties fail, then they
will consider, such as with hospitals, of selling their debt into the open market, the
debt market, for a few cents on the dollar. CRAIG ANTICO: And then the collection companies
try to collect the whole thing. PAUL SOLMAN: Chasing down borrowers in default,
regardless of their ability to pay. Consider 94-year old Elton Nielsen, a Navy
veteran of World War II. Were you under fire ever? ELTON NIELSEN, Patient: Oh, yes. Normandy, all hell broke loose. PAUL SOLMAN: You were in the Philippines,
too? ELTON NIELSEN: Oh, yes. A lot of dead bodies all through there. PAUL SOLMAN: Nielsen lives off Social Security,
in subsidized housing, is covered by VA benefits and Medicare, but even he has co-pays and
deductibles for ambulance trips, E.R. visits, rehab center care after numerous falls. Do you get phone calls from the collection
agency? ELTON NIELSEN: Oh, yes. PAUL SOLMAN: Really? What do you say to them? ELTON NIELSEN: I do the best I can. PAUL SOLMAN: As would most of us. One problem when we don’t, embarrassment. ELTON NIELSEN: I feel bad. PAUL SOLMAN: Retired M.D. Susan Soboroff. SUSAN SOBOROFF, Retired Medical Doctor: Often,
when people owed us money, they didn’t show up for appointments. And, of course, there were consequences of
that. People with chronic illness had more problems. They didn’t get their prescriptions filled. They got sicker. PAUL SOLMAN: And what almost no one knows
— I certainly didn’t — is that most medical bills can be contested. As many as 80 percent have errors. They can be past the statute of limitations. And then there’s the charity care exemption. CRAIG ANTICO: About 30 percent of the accounts
that get placed for collection, they qualified for charity care. If they make less than two times the poverty
level, they get it, no questions asked. But people don’t take it. Oh, no, that’s not for me. PAUL SOLMAN: Because it’s a stigma, you mean? CRAIG ANTICO: Because it’s a stigma. And they’re proud. PAUL SOLMAN: Now, Antico and Ashton knew all
this, as debt collectors. But then the crash of ’08 hit, and the Occupy
Wall Street movement began, right outside their office window. MAN: Behold the face of new America. PAUL SOLMAN: Intrigued by the movement’s focus
on debt, Ashton started attending and blogging about it. Eventually, he persuaded Antico to help him
start a nonprofit, RIP Medical Debt, that would raise money to buy up and forgive seriously
delinquent medical bills. It was a slog-and-a-half. How do you make a living as a debt forgiver? CRAIG ANTICO: You have to get donors that
are willing to pay your salary. In the first three years, we made hardly anything. And my wife was saying, why are we going into
debt to help people get out of debt? JERRY ASHTON: I ran up all my credit cards. I borrowed from my own family. CRAIG ANTICO: My wife gave me the silverware
and her jewelry to put into hock. JERRY ASHTON: I hocked my guitar that I used
to play with as a folk musician. CRAIG ANTICO: I have five boys, and two of
them had to stop going to college. PAUL SOLMAN: And then when did it turn around? CRAIG ANTICO: In May of 2016, we got on a
nationwide show. JOHN OLIVER, Host, “Last Week Tonight With
John Oliver”: So are you ready to do this? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) PAUL SOLMAN: That’s investigative comedian
John Oliver, whose HBO show had actually created a company to buy and forgive uncollected medical
debt. JOHN OLIVER: We were soon offered a portfolio
of nearly $15 million of out-of-statute medical debt from Texas, at a cost of less than half-a-cent
on the dollar, which is less than 60 grand. So we bought it. PAUL SOLMAN: But needing help to forgive the
debt without creating tax liabilities for the debtors, Oliver turned to Ashton and Antico’s
struggling nonprofit. JOHN OLIVER: They will commence the debt forgiving
process. So what do you say? Are you ready to make television history? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) PAUL SOLMAN: That segment put RIP Medical
Debt on the map. JOHN OLIVER: It’s done! It is done! PAUL SOLMAN: And how could they buy so much
debt for so little? Because it’s the least collectible debt out
there in the secondary market. JERRY ASHTON: We go to the debt buyers, who
now have this residue, uncollected. PAUL SOLMAN: Right. JERRY ASHTON: And we say, you sell us that
debt. You’re not going to collect it anyway. PAUL SOLMAN: And something, like half-a-cent
or a penny on the dollar, RIP’s usual cost, is better than nothing. So you’re doing like the opposite of cherry-picking. You’re taking the worst cherries. JERRY ASHTON: You know what we’re doing? We’re charity-picking. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: Charity-picking. CRAIG ANTICO: That is so great, Jerry. JERRY ASHTON: I’m a visionary. PAUL SOLMAN: Part of the vision, harness local
groups to raise money to relieve debt in their communities. At last month’s Veteran Day Parade in Ithaca,
New York, Judy Jones was fund-raising for a second round of debt relief. She’d read about RIP Medical Debt last year. JUDITH JONES, CureVetDebt.Org: I called the
head of the charity and I said, can we do this? And he said, yes, if you raise $12,500. So, we did. PAUL SOLMAN: Mostly from friends, wiping out
$1.5 million of medical debt in Upstate New York. So, this year, she decided to do it again,
targeting veterans’ debt. JUDITH JONES: So we set up a Web site, CureVetDebt. One dollar relieves $100 of the veteran’s
debt. PAUL SOLMAN: She sends money to RIP. JUDITH JONES: That’s wonderful. Thank you. PAUL SOLMAN: They buy up a debt portfolio. But though Jones also ministers to local vets
like Elton Nielsen, she can’t target individuals. Neither can RIP, no matter how desperate the
requests. JERRY ASHTON: “I was diagnosed with non-operable
pancreatic cancer in April 2018. Our bills have already surpassed $2.4 million. Hospital’s already sent me to collections. Please help. Thank you.” PAUL SOLMAN: And how many of these have you
gotten? CRAIG ANTICO: We have had a total of over
10,000 people write to us. PAUL SOLMAN: And you can’t do anything individually
with any of them? CRAIG ANTICO: No, we can’t. We can’t abolish debts of individuals. PAUL SOLMAN: But the individuals in the portfolios
get a letter in a yellow envelope telling them their medical debt has been canceled. That’s how local TV stations, which had raised
money from viewers for debt forgiveness, found the folks with whom this story began. GWENLYN QUEZADA: “You no longer owe the balance
on the debt.” PAUL SOLMAN: A final thought. Our story has been timed to run during the
holiday season, a time for giving. So, you yourself can do as Judy Jones has
done, or, even simpler and more modestly, say the co-authors of the book “End Medical
Debt”: JERRY ASHTON: Every time somebody goes to
Amazon and buys the book, because the authors gave up our royalties, that is the same thing
as donating $500 towards medical debt. PAUL SOLMAN: You mean you wipe out $500 worth
of… JERRY ASHTON: It’ll wipe out $500 worth of
medical debt and educate you as well. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: For the “PBS NewsHour,” Paul
Solman, trying to help educate, from New York. JUDY WOODRUFF: Remarkable. And just this afternoon, RIP Medical Debt
announced that it had eliminated $1 billion in medical debt for over 500,000 people. As we know, trees can add beauty and a sense
of serenity to a neighborhood. But, as John Yang discovered, researchers
have launched an ambitious project in Louisville, Kentucky, to see if greenery can also improve
public health. JOHN YANG: On a crisp morning in South Louisville,
a 20-foot evergreen is deployed into an urban laboratory. At the designated spot, a three-man crew painstakingly
lifts, twists and bends the tree, a green giant arborvitae, to be precise, maneuvering
it under a web of utility lines, until homeowner Mark Goeing is the happy treecipient. You turn around, you see that brand-new tree
in your yard, how does that make you feel? MARK GOEING, Homeowner: I think it looks beautiful. And maybe it is just a long-term impact that
maybe I won’t live to see, but trees are obviously a good thing for our environment. JOHN YANG: Goeing, a retired zookeeper, is
among the hundreds of South Louisville residents getting trees, shrubs and other greenery over
the next year. It’s part of a projected $15 million research
project conducted by the University of Louisville and sponsored by the National Institutes of
Health and The Nature Conservancy. It’s called Green Heart Louisville. Researchers say this project is the first
of its kind, a large-scale scientific study of how trees and green spaces affect residents’
health. It comes at a crucial time for the city of
Louisville. Between 2004 and 2012, the city lost an average
of 54,000 trees a year to development, storms, pests, and old age. During that time, the tree canopy coverage
in Louisville dropped to just 37 percent, well below other cities in the region. And since 1996, the American Lung Association
has given the city a failing grade for air pollutants like ozone. What’s more, Louisville is one of the nation’s
fastest-warming urban heat islands. Parts of the city can be 10 degrees hotter
than surrounding areas. Green Heart researchers think more trees could
be a solution. They can improve air quality, cool neighborhoods,
help combat global warming, and even muffle noise pollution. Chris Chandler is The Nature Conservancy’s
urban conservation director in Kentucky. When you look at a street like this, what
do you see? CHRIS CHANDLER, The Nature Conservancy: I
see an aged neighborhood with a declining urban tree canopy. It’s had a lack of stewardship over the years
and a lack of investments. Our old trees are dying, and they’re not being
replaced and managed over time. Nature is not a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. JOHN YANG: So, streets like this are a focus
of the Green Heart study. Crews are planting and helping maintain around
8,000 trees, shrubs and flowering plants in South Louisville neighborhoods that are home
to about 35,000 people. Researchers have made baseline physical and
psychological health assessments of some 700 residents, checking their blood pressure,
lung capacity, and stress levels. Half the participants will get new foliage
on or around their properties. Half will not. After two years, they will be examined again
to compare changes between the two groups. ARUNI BHATNAGAR, University of Louisville
Medical School: This is a very ambitious project, both in terms of its scope, its time and its
resources. JOHN YANG: Aruni Bhatnagar of the University
of Louisville Medical School is the lead researcher. This is like testing a new drug. ARUNI BHATNAGAR: It is exactly like — same
methodology. We have a control group, in which there will
be no change in greenness. We have a treated group, where is we have
put greenness. So it’s exactly run like a clinical trial
with a placebo, but without — instead of a drug, we have trees. JOHN YANG: Research has already shown that
green space can relieve stress, but the team in Louisville wants to know more about its
effects on overall health. CHRIS CHANDLER: What we hope to unlock is
new foundational science that better allows us to understand the role that nature plays
in improving our health. And if we can do that, we can change blueprints
on how you build a healthy, just community to be green prints and to include nature in
that story. JOHN YANG: In Louisville, as in so many cities,
tree canopy coverage is a matter of rich and poor. The view from above tells the story. Wealthier areas, like this East Side neighborhood,
have up to twice as many trees as poorer areas in the South and West, which have histories
of discriminatory housing practices. And the difference in health outcomes is staggering. Due to a variety of factors, life expectancy
is up to about 13 years shorter on the West Side than the East. DR. SARAH MOYER, Louisville Public Health Director:
Your zip code determines your health probably the most. JOHN YANG: Dr. Sarah Moyer is Louisville’s
public health director. DR. SARAH MOYER: We have neighborhoods where people
are living really long and experiencing great quality of life. And so what is going on in those neighborhoods
that we can bring to other ones? Nature is one of those things that’s different
between those communities. And how do we bring that to everyone in our
city? AMY YATES, Louisville Resident: It’s pretty
much just always been bare in this area as far as trees go. JOHN YANG: Amy Yates’ South Louisville neighborhood
is dotted with reminders of where trees once stood. Yates says she inherited a green thumb from
her grandmother. AMY YATES: My grandmother and I planted this
tree in 2009, the year after my dad passed away, kind of as a memorable thing. JOHN YANG: The single mother of three has
lived in this house 15 years. She volunteered for the Green Heart study
partly, she says, because her 14-year-old son has asthma. AMY YATES: Trees produce oxygen. And they clean the air. You know, they’re beautiful. It sustains our life. It’s the lungs of our planet. JOHN YANG: She says she’s not entirely surprised
about her hometown’s health inequality. AMY YATES: I’m always very curious to see
how where we live affects us. You know, when you have kids, you want them
to live long, happy, healthy lives. And, sometimes, you’re limited with your means. And it is very sad to think that, because
of that, we might live less years on this planet because of it. JOHN YANG: And this experiment will determine
whether trees could spread a canopy of health over more neighborhoods. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang in Louisville,
Kentucky. JUDY WOODRUFF: The holidays are a time to
come together for many, but, for many, also, the season can also heighten a sense of isolation
and depression. In tonight’s Brief But Spectacular, New York
University Business School Professor Scott Galloway, focuses on our state of well-being. SCOTT GALLOWAY, New York University: So, there’s
an art to happiness. Basically, from kind of zero to 25 it’s the
stuff of “Star Wars,” discovery, spilling into adulthood, football games, magic. Then (EXPLETIVE DELETED) gets real from kind
of 25 to 45. Work is hard, economic stress. You realize you’re not going to be senator
or have a fragrance named after you. And most devastating, someone you love gets
sick and dies. However, a wonderful thing happens in your
40s and 50s. You begin to take stock of your blessings,
you realize that life is finite, and start finding appreciation in relationships, in
nature, in your achievements, and you get happier. The lesson here is keep on keeping on, happiness
waits for you. So, we have two types of speakers at NYU,
either people who are incredibly interesting and inspiring or billionaires. We have decided at business school that, if
you’re a billionaire, that means you know a lot about life. And they typically end their talks with one
statement. And that is, follow your passion. And I have found that the majority of people
who tell you to follow your passion are already rich. The problem with thinking you’re supposed
to pursue your passion is that, when work gets hard — and it always does — you might
fall into the trap of thinking, well, this is hard, which means it must not be my passion
and I should find something else. Work is hard. Being great at anything is very difficult. If we were going to be honest about trying
to increase our currency in the marketplace, we would focus the entire second year of graduate
school on four companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Google knows more about you than any priest,
rabbi, scholar, mentor, or boss, your sexual fetishes, whether you’re looking for a job,
whether you’re about to get engaged, whether you’re about to get married. Facebook initially held out the promise of
catalyzing and strengthening relationships. Unfortunately, it’s gone beyond that and tapped
into our tribal instinct, because enragement is engagement. And engagement leads to more Nissan ads and
more shareholder value. So, unfortunately, the largest platforms in
the world with the greatest reach are basically fueled on rage. When we see, if you will, the Instagram version
of people’s lives, it makes us feel worse about ourselves. It’s especially dangerous among teens, who
oftentimes, if they’re not invited to a party, not only have the shame of not being invited,
but have to see the party play out in real time. So there’s a correlation between social media
use in teens and things like self-harm and even teen suicide. I can modulate my lack of affirmation or criticism
on social media. I’m not sure my 12-year-old son can do that
as well. I wish I’d invested more in relationships
when I was a younger person. Put 10 dollars away now, if you’re 20. By the time you’re 50, it’s $1,000. The same is true of relationships. Phone calls, text messages, notes, reaching
out to people when they’re struggling, these small investments when you’re young add up,
and you wake up and you have a wonderful relationship. I was selfish, and I think I paid a big price
for it when I woke up at the age of 42 and, quite frankly, was an island and didn’t have
a lot of meaningful relationships in my life. One of the things that’s helped me in my struggles
with anger and depression is to have some perspective and to take stock of your blessings
on a regular basis. You have to express your love. People are not telepathic. The happiest people are not only the ones
who feel most loved, but know there are other people in their lives that know that they
are loved by you. The one best practice across happiness is
the depth and meaning of your relationships. At work, do you feel respected and admired,
and do you admire and respect other people? And, most importantly, at home, do you feel
an intense level of love and support? And, again, just as importantly, do you know
they know that they are loved intensely and supported by you? My name is Scott Galloway, and this is my
Brief But Spectacular take on the algebra of happiness. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we thank you, Scott Galloway. A correction before we go tonight. Earlier this week, we reported on a story
about juveniles who were sentenced to life in prison in the state of Maryland. We incorrectly stated that sentencing guidelines
hadn’t changed in Maryland. In fact, Maryland did change some of its sentencing
guidelines in 2016, but not those related to the former juveniles sentenced to life
in our story. We regret the error. And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m Judy Woodruff. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank
you, and we’ll see you soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *