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Checking Candidate's Health Care Claims; A Growing Problem; On Top of the World

Aired February 11, 2012 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning and thanks for being with us. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Well, on tap today: it's hard to be a little girl when you're not. Or so says one PSA that means to shock parents and their kids into better health. Does it work? Is it even appropriate? Well, one of the girls is going to join me in just a moment.

Also, a true inspiration on top of the world, Kyle Maynard, who just scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro despite having no arms and no legs. We'll explain.

But I want to begin this morning with politics.


GUPTA: As you know, the presidential race tightened up this week with Rick Santorum winning contests in Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado. But this morning, and as we go forward, we decided we're going to check up on some of the claims being made on the campaign regarding health care, to see what adds up and what leaves something to be desired.

First, something I'm sure you've read about, the contraceptive controversy. Mitt Romney and the other Republican candidates, they essentially chewed out the president for a new rule that requires insurance plans to cover contraception -- even plans run by organizations with religious affiliation, like Catholic hospitals and universities.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just in the last several days, the administration just said that under Obamacare, that religious organizations like schools Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals and so forth, have to provide for free contraceptives and free morning-after pills, abortive pills, for all of their employees, in violation of the religious conscience of those organizations.


GUPTA: Now, I'll tell you, after that, the White House essentially came out and said, look, you know, Governor Romney was flip-flopping. And then Romney responded to that. Here's how that all went down.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Former governor of Massachusetts is an odd messenger on this given that the services that this rule would provide for women around the country are the same that are provided in Massachusetts and were provided under when he was governor.

ROMNEY: Mr. Carney needs to check his history. And that is that that provision was put in Massachusetts before I was governor. And then when I was governor, I tried to have it removed from the health care plan. So, in the working on our health care, I worked very hard to get the legislature to remove all of the mandated coverages, including contraception.

So, quite clearly, he needs to understand, that was a provision that got there before I did, and it was one that I fought to remove.


GUPTA: All right. So here's the real deal as best we can tell. First of all, Mr. Romney is accurate. The law did exist before he became governor.

Now, if you ask people in Massachusetts, like we did, they differ a bit on how hard he tried to remove that law. Some say he was happy to leave it alone. But any case, it's not something he put in place as governor to this point.

Now, more than two dozen states have similar laws to require that insurance cover contraceptives. Who is exempt though varies. One thing to keep in mind as you think about this, this federal rule does not affect the actual services provided by Catholic hospitals and it doesn't put requirements on individual doctors or health providers. This is about insurance whether these organizations, Catholics or Protestant hospitals or universities, need to cover contraception in the insurance plans they offer to their employees.

Now next, the man with the momentum, Rick Santorum. This week, he gave a big speech on health care, essentially blasting Mitt Romney for the plan he got passed in Massachusetts. He said it's virtually identical to the federal law. Some people call it Obamacare. The truth is, it is similar.

But Santorum also said this:


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nothing that Romneycare did anything like Obama care to reduce costs, which is the principal problem. The uninsured went from 92 percent up to 94 percent, 2 percent increase in the number of insured while the cost for the state of Massachusetts skyrocketed. They now have costs higher than any state in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: Now, that's true, but the number of insured did go up just 2 percent, but it down in the rest of the country. So, it is successful in that regard, an important point. On cost specifically, which Senator Santorum brought up, Massachusetts does spend more money per person on health care than any other state.

But that was also true before Romneycare. So, you can't say it's just because of the law.

Finally, of course, Newt Gingrich. Campaigning this week in Ohio, he had this to say about Medicare and also Medicaid fraud.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The government is such a competent administrator of your money, that we literally believe somewhere between $16 billion and $110 billion a year are siphon off by crooks in Medicare and Medicaid, not counting food stamps, not counting student loans. In south Florida today, professional criminals tell each other it is safer and more profitable to steal from Medicare and Medicaid than it is to sell cocaine.


GUPTA: Obviously, it's tough to make that apples to apples comparison. And statistics on fraud -- I mean, they're hard to pin down. We've tried to do this. But these numbers are -- at least they're seemingly in the ballpark. I mean, the government estimates on the high end that $1 in $10, $1 in $10 Medicare and Medicaid spending is lost to fraud.

Worth noting, though, in the past two years, the federal government has put more resources into finding fraud and in trying to recover more and more of that money.

Coming up, an ad campaign with real kids, talking about real issues and how it hurts to be obese. Some people say it is shaming the kids, shaming the children and it's the wrong approach.

One of the girls is here to talk about it. We're going to ask her. That's next.



MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: We are going to start with a stair race. Are you ready to do this?

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: I was born ready.


GUPTA: That was First Lady Michelle Obama on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" this week discussing her "Let's Move" campaign to tackle childhood obesity. You know, others are taking a different approach as well.

In fact, here's how one hospital is Atlanta is trying to combat the problem.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She likes junk food. But what kid doesn't.

When a doctor said she had type 2 diabetes, I never thought what we ate made her sick. I just always thought she was sick like her mama.


GUPTA: The controversial ads. They appear on TV and they appear on billboards over Georgia. They include messages like being fat takes the fun out of being a kid. And it's hard to be a little girl if you're not.

Now, there are critics that say the ads are too negative and that they feed hurtful stereotypes. The hospital says obesity is killing our kids quite frankly and that flowery messages don't grab people's attention. It is a controversial topic.

So, I want to introduce you to a 14-year-old Maya who appears in this controversial campaign, also her high school principal, Grant Rivera, who is going to discuss the challenges that schools face when trying to tackle these problems.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Maya, you now, I was -- it was quite a shocking ad when I saw it as well. I mean, I think -- how did this all come about for you? What was it like being in it?

MAYA, FEATURED IN ANTI-OBESITY AD CAMPAIGN: Well, we came about the ad online on one of the casting sites. And it came to my mom's phone. And she saw it. And so, she asked if I would like to be a part of it.

I was a little hesitant at first. But I just took a chance and I went. And I auditioned and I got the part that same night that I auditioned. And I went in to do the taping the next day.

GUPTA: Was it nerve -- were you nervous? I mean, how did you feel about it just emotionally?

MAYA: I was really -- I was really nervous because I wasn't sure how people at my school would take it. But I knew it would be a good opportunity for other kids like me to see that they are not alone.

GUPTA: So, you were doing it to sort of inspire other people.

I mean, you work with kids, Grant. I mean, you've heard critics I'm sure who say, look, I mean, this is going too far, I mean, these are -- they are kids. They are young people.

What do you think, first of all? GRANT RIVERA, H.S. PRINCIPAL, FULTON COUNTY SCHOOLS: Well, first of all, we want our kids to be healthy. And I think whatever message we can send to start the conversation with families and start the conversation amongst studies, you know, it's important that we do that, not just for the kids today, but for their future.

So, I certainly am very proud of Maya and not only the way that she has tried to change her own life, but the way in which she sets to be an example for students across the country.

GUPTA: You know, we've talked about the impact of carrying too much weight, of being overweight, being obese, the childhood obesity epidemic is something that people generally know. How hard is it as a leader in a school district to combat this? I mean, where do you begin?

RIVERA: Well, the challenge for us as a public school is that there are no state or federal moneys to address nutrition and health and wellness. And so, for us, as a school, you know, we don't have the same resources that we might have for English, math, science and social studies

And, you know, much like, you know, as a result of the recession, much live across many aspects of our economy, as budgets continue to get cut, we're having -- our resources are becoming tighter and tighter.

GUPTA: You know, it's funny because that's an important message. We talk about this all the time. We say, OK, schools serve healthier food, serve salad instead of fried food.

What's the -- can you do that? What's the reality --


RIVERA: And certainly, not only in our school, but I know in schools across the country, we have healthy options for students. The problem is that sometimes when given those choices, our students, our kids don't understand the consequences of those decisions. So, they choose to go towards the fried food as opposed to the salad.

And, you know, that's the concern. The kids aren't educated about the impact of their decisions.

GUPTA: How educated were you, Maya? When you hear the superintendent talk about this, did you know some of these things?

MAYA: I don't think I did. I don't think I was educated. But along the way, the whole process, I think that I became more educated about making better choices and food choices and fitness choices as well.

GUPTA: Has it made an impact for you?

MAYA: It definitely has like I can feel it when I do certain things. How I used to feel Like two months ago, it feels better now.

GUPTA: The reality and everything that comes up superintendent is vending machines and buying, you know, junk foods or sugary drinks in schools. Those vending machines help pay the bills, don't they?

RIVERA: Yes. You know, the challenge is that we get county, state moneys, and federal moneys to teach the children. But all those extra things that we need in the school, those come from extra revenue that we can bring in. And we are dependent upon, you know, the large vending contracts, to do everything from football helmets to graduation ceremonies and student recognition. So, you know, it's a challenge because we are somewhat dependent upon those moneys and we have to decide exactly how important is that money and what are we willing to sacrifice in order to do that.

GUPTA: You know, people called me after some of these ads ran. Some pediatricians in this community, some people who focus on this. And again, you know, you are the one that was in the ad and some people found it tough to watch. And is this too much for a young person like you?

What do you say to them?

MAYA: I think you have never been in this situation that you can't really judge. But then, at the same time, I see where they are coming from. But, they are helping me along the way and they are getting me to learn how to change my habits and they are teaching me different ways to get in exercise. If it's raining outside, I can't go outside. But they taught ways to do exercise inside.

So, they are helping me along the way also.

GUPTA: It certainly sounds like it's a change, or maybe some of your friends as well, just watching you. You are cheerleading tonight, is that right?

MAYA: Yes.

GUPTA: Are we going to get you there in time?

MAYA: Yes.

GUPTA: You're really inspiring -- I mean, again, it's tough. I have three daughters of my own. I think about issues like this all the time.

So, thank you so much for being courageous and being with us.

And, Superintendent Rivera -- thank you both so much for joining us. Very inspiring.

Another true inspiration I want to talk to you about as well, I'll introduce you to a man named Kyle Maynard. In fact, you've already met him last year right here on SGMD. But he's literally done the impossible.

And this morning, he's going to tell us about it.

Stay with SGMD.


GUPTA: I guarantee you, he's one of the most inspiring individuals you're ever going to meet. You are going to meet him here this morning.

Kyle Maynard, he's a congenital quadruple amputee who first caught our eye when he was playing football, with no arms, no legs. And it was back in 6th grade, we have been following his journey, almost ever since it seems.

A few months ago, I told you here in this program that he had began training for his biggest challenge yet, to become the first quadruple amputee to do nothing less than summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I'm happy to report he did just that. He made it, essentially bear crawling all 19,336 feet to the top of the mountain. It's just absolutely amazing.

Kyle Maynard is here with us now. First of all, is that right, 19,336 feet? You must have the number memorized, seared into your brain.

KYLE MAYNARD, ATHLETE: definitely, the experience is seared in, that's for sure. It was -- at top 19,000 feet, you're looking at half of the atmosphere. So, that's half the amount of air that we have here at sea level.

GUPTA: The images are here behind you here, Kyle, of what it looked like a little bit.

First of all, I'm just so inspired and excited to have you here and thank you for coming. Tell us a little bit about how you did it. We saw you training for this, climbing Stone Mountain. At that point, you had some gear that looked like this.


GUPTA: Talk us through it. What is the gear? How do you do it?

MAYNARD: This gear actually, what we -- you saw us climbing Stone Mountain, was kind of further along in the progression. It's something I started when I first climbed. It was years ago, I had towels, hotel towels, around my arm and a rope that I cut off the back of my wheelchair. And that was it.

So, this is sort of things we came up with from you know, just shopping at Wal-Mart. The bike tires, gorilla tape. I mean, it was just --

GUPTA: Bike tires, the tape.

MAYNARD: Yes. And towels inside there. So, there, from that, there was an amazing group out in Phoenix called the Orthotic Specialist and the Artificial Limb Specialists that help put together this carbon fiber system. It was incredible. I mean, it was -- the amount of time to put it together was unreal.

GUPTA: First of all, you can see the wear and tear on this. This is proof --

MAYNARD: That we were there.

GUPTA: You were there. But this is -- essentially, this is a shoe.

MAYNARD: That's right.

GUPTA: And it looks like the right foot.

And these are the carbon fiber that you're talking about, with again, the grip on the bottom.

MAYNARD: And it was a little more advanced than the towels and tape that I used before and that's really what helped make it possible to get to that point.

GUPTA: Were there surprises? I mean, nothing goes exactly as planned on these sort of trips. So, what was the biggest challenge or surprise for you?

MAYNARD: One of my biggest concerns was really getting blisters and just the pounding that I was going to face on the ends of my limbs. And the -- you know, it was a pleasant surprise that my skin held up and didn't tear. Previously, climbing Stone Mountain, the very first time I did that, I had tore off the skin off the end of my arms and it was pretty painful.

GUPTA: Where did this idea come from? And just the mental fortitude and just the idea that, I mean, this is what you want to do, you want to do something that is seemingly impossible. How did it all come about?

MAYNARD: You know, our purpose behind this from the beginning was really just to have this vision to help other people go and say, look, if you are unsatisfied with whatever conditions or circumstances are in your life, and then you have the choice to be able to go and create a life that you want and to be able to go and make the decision that you're going to do it. And things aren't going to be perfect when you start, but just to go and say, hey, like I'm capable of living more.

GUPTA: It's incredible. And hopefully, you're reaching a lot of people right now. People are watching. As I said, I was so excited to see you.

Someone told me that you think you might even try to do a triathlon, as well. Is that right?

MAYNARD: That's right. I know you guys are organizing a little something like that. So, I think I might have to -- September, right?

GUPTA: It is in September. You're right. I've got an offer for you, man, you can't refuse.

No, seriously. It's incredible. If you want to do the triathlon, we'd love to have you. But short of that, it's been an incredible journey for you. And I just appreciate it. Thank you so much. I love meeting people like you and I love having our viewers meeting like you because it's just so inspiring.

MAYNARD: Absolutely. Without you, I wouldn't be able to go and share this message. So, I mean, it's that team effort. I appreciate you giving me the chance to do that.

GUPTA: Come on back anytime.

MAYNARD: Absolutely.

GUPTA: Incredible journey, Kyle Maynard.

And speaking of incredible journeys, do you know Jeff Dauler?


GUPTA: He's got his own journey that he's going on. From fat to fit, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you sponsored on your spandex outfit?

JEFF DAULER, CO-HOST, "THE BERT SHOW"/FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: It will be sponsored by CNN, or as it looks on mine, CNN.



GUPTA: Radio host Jeff Dauler, actually a funny guy. I got to tell you.

But don't worry, Jeff, we've got you covered.

You're going to meet Jeff and also the "Lucky 7".

That's next. Stay with us.


GUPTA: We're back with SGMD.

As you know, last week, we kicked off training for the Fit Nation triathlon challenge. We also introduced you to three of our teammates.

Well, this week, we've got the rest of the gang. We call them the sexy seven, I think the "Lucky 7".

They each sent in a video, a CNN iReport, to our page last December, and then we picked them and we've hooked up with them since then. We've also got some personal trainers in their hometown to help them get ready to compete. They've got a bike. They're getting a wet suit. All of this in preparation for the Nautica Malibu triathlon, which is in September. Also, a trip to Hawaii, which sounds pretty good, huh?


GUPTA: Thanks for being here, everybody. This has been great.

How's your day been so far, Adrienne (ph)?

ADRIENNE LAGIER, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: It's been great. Three workouts, you know? I'm looking forward to Nutella and burnt marshmallow and shake (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA: A little bit of a treat.

You are a journalism teacher living in Maryland. You sent in this video. And one of the most amazing things for me, and this is because I got married a few years ago, but you're going to get married two weeks before this triathlon.

You're putting a lot of things on the plate there.

LAGIER: I hope that everybody can come.

GUPTA: There's the invitation.

That will be our taper week, right? Tapering down.

But what was -- what was the real inspiration for you to do this at this point in your life? You have between twin 7-year-old children.

LAGIER: Right, you know, and I think I need to be a role model for them in their own health. I don't want them to see me as unfit. You know, when my daughter was playing soccer and she said, mom, you can't be the coach because you don't look like one --


LAGIER: -- you know, that really, you know?


LAGIER: I don't want her to think of me that way.

GUPTA: We are not going to let you down. We're going to be right there with you.

And Jeff Dauler is going to be right here with you, as well. Atlanta radio deejay. Everyone around this town knows you, Jeff. And it was a very, again, an emotional experience when I came and spoke to you on your show about the fact that you're going to be a part of this team.

What inspired you, Jeff, at this point in your life to do it?

DAULER: It's a challenge that I never took on before. You know, being physically fit. So I thought maybe I could try to run a 5K, but that seemed too simple. So --

GUPTA: So the triathlon was the --

DAULER: Yes, throw in some swimming and biking. I mean, it's easy, right? No problem.

GUPTA: Glenn, you're from a small town outside of Dallas. You're a truck driver. You have a ministry, as well.

First of all, what's the name of that town outside of Dallas?


GUPTA: And if they're watching in Burleson, Texas, they love you there. In fact, they're going to have a 5K race in your honor, is that what I'm hearing?

KELLER: Yes, they are.

GUPTA: How did that come about? What did they tell you?

KELLER: The city manager got in touch with me. And we were talking. And the next thing I know I got an email saying, hey, in March, we want to a 5K named "Let's get started with Glenn". So the whole city is going to come together. And --

GUPTA: That's fantastic. You're an inspiring guy. I think you've already inspired many members of this team.

What inspired you to do this?

KELLER: God, I've spent so much of my life trying to motivate people, encourage people, and let them know what they can do and what they can have. But then when they looked at myself, what I was saying wasn't lining up with what I was doing, and it just was an awesome wake-up call.

GUPTA: Denise, you're an office manager from New Jersey. I've had the luck to be able to sit down and talk to you a couple times today. You lost your leg as part of the softball accident. You had an infection in your leg.

Tell me about the last couple of years for you. You're an athlete and now you're getting back into it. What's it been like four?

DENISE CASTELLI, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: It's been a roller coaster ride, to see the least. There were still a lot of lows. But, you know, now, a lot of highs. I still remember the moment that I woke up from my surgery, was laying in the hospital bed and, you know, I looked down and was thinking, how am I going to live? What am I supposed to do?

So, you know, for me, just to be out here and training for a triathlon -- I mean, really, it's almost too emotional for me to speak about. But, you know, I had my identity taken away from me and, you know, this identity was forced on to me, like all of a sudden, I was labeled an amputee and I am an amputee. I'm OK with that. But, I'm an athlete above everything.

GUPTA: You're definitely an athlete. But you also said that you were worried that people wouldn't love you.

Let me tell you something -- you don't have to worry about that anymore. There's a lot of love here for you.

Thank you very much. You're all very brave.

It's just amazing. That does it, unfortunately, for SGMD. We're going to be posting, by the way, workout information throughout. You can train along with us at home. Get lots of information. I want you to be on-air partners.

You can go to and get information about all of our triathletes. Become one of us as well. Get that information at for the entire Fit Nation team.

Unfortunately, that does it for SGMD. Time now to get you a check of your top stories in "THE CNN NEWSROOM."