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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Day Three of Blade Runner's Bail Battle; Pistorius Friend Speaks Out; Sixty Million in Path of Massive Winter Storm
Aired February 21, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight only on 360. The high cost of health care. It's already enough to make you sick. It's also making some people rich.
Hospital CEOs making $2 million, $5 million, even nearly $10 million a year, running nonprofits, and who is paying for it? Well, you are. We'll show you how and how hospitals try to camouflage the cost with medical bills that are loaded with bull.
And later why on earth is this man smiling? He came within inches of death by avalanche and lived to tell his incredible story. You'll hear from him in the studio tonight.
But we'll begin with two major developments in the blade runner bail hearing. One, a striking change in the defendant's demeanor. And, two, the kind of twist you'd be laughed at for trying to put in a movie. No one would believe it. A key member of the prosecution, the lead detective on the case, revealed to be an alleged would-be killer.
Now granted, a celebrity defendant coupled with a glamorous and sympathetic victim mean this was never going to be a run of the mill court proceeding. But the way things are going, this one isn't even close and bottom line one of the fastest runners alive is now on a slow, strange and sad walk through his country's criminal justice system.
More on day three of the bail hearing from Robyn Curnow in South Africa.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hot and claustrophobic, the courtroom exploded with flashbulbs as Oscar Pistorius came in. Previous days, he was visibly emotional, frequently crying, today, though, frozen and immobile.
Seemingly unmoved by the latest twists in an already dramatic case. The lead investigator in the past days has struggled to offer clear evidence Pistorius killed Steenkamp was removed from the case because he himself is facing charges of attempted murder in an unrelated case.
RIAH PHIYEGA, SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE COMMISSIONER: The case that is being spoken about, it is a case that took place during the course of his duty. He was at work, and they were -- they were patrolling, they saw this car, the car refused to stop, and they called for support, and they shot the tires of the taxi. So we cannot prejudge him. It's got to be investigated. Charges have to be made and justice has to prevail. Both criminally as well as internally to the department.
CURNOW: So the police have now put one of the most senior detectives on the case.
Back inside the courtroom, Pistorius' lawyers argued that if Pistorius really wanted to kill his girlfriend, he could have done it in the bedroom. But her empty bladder proves she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. That Steenkamp probably locked the door frantically as he heard Pistorius shouting about a burglar. And his lawyers insist that Pistorius carried her downstairs to take her to hospital desperate to save her life.
It all sounded plausible until the state delivered a strong, final argument.
(On camera): I was inside the courtroom the whole of today and obviously took a copious amount of notes. But the key issues came from the state's prosecutor towards the end of the day. They basically ripped apart Oscar Pistorius' affidavit. In particular, they pointed out some forensic inconsistencies. They said, for example, why were the cartridges inside the bathroom when Oscar Pistorius alleges that he shot from outside the bathroom.
Also crucially and quite damningly, the state's prosecutor said Pistorius lacks an insight and realization of what he's done.
(Voice-over): Because he's already conceded he fired the gun, the state said he shot to kill, but whether his target was at Reeva or a burglar, the stark fact is that act is still considered to be murder.
And while Pistorius waits to hear if he gets bail, photos and videos are all their friends and family have of Reeva Steenkamp. Memories and dreams shattered.
GINA MYERS, REEVA STEENKAMP'S FRIEND: She used to say she wants kids. So excited to have kids. Just not now.
CURNOW: Gina Myers was her best friend.
MYERS: She actually she -- the irony of it is she actually sent me a message in the beginning of the month and she said, gee, this month is going to be amazing. It's going to change our lives forever.
CURNOW: Those who love her said they just hope that they'll learn the truth about how she died one day.
TAPPER: Robyn Curnow was in the courtroom today.
Robyn, take us inside the courtroom. What did you see? What did you hear?
CURNOW: I think the key thing is, is that Oscar Pistorius was immobile, frozen, he didn't move. You know, we have had conversations over the past few days. And initially when he walked into that court, I mean, he barely could control himself, he was shaking, he was crying.
Today, I sat in that courtroom the whole day, and I watched and listened, and he literally was like this. His head bowed slightly. Once or twice he had a little cry, but really this is a man who seems to be, you know, under the weight of the realization of what is in front of him. He really seemed bowed, but I was really struck by the fact that at times, I mean, it felt like he was asleep even or he had checked out completely.
So I mean I think from what I -- from what I observed, you know, Oscar Pistorius is really slowly digesting the fact that, you know, it's inevitable perhaps that he gets a jail term according to legal experts I have spoken to, unless he has an extremely efficient legal team and they get off on some sort of technicality.
But the fact is that he's already admitted to shooting and killing somebody he thought it was a burglar, and that in itself carries a charge of murder which, you know, the sentence is about three to seven years. So things aren't looking good for him and you can see it in his physical demeanor.
TAPPER: And arguments in the bail hearing will continue in the morning. Do we expect a decision to be made tomorrow?
CURNOW: I do believe a decision will be made. You know, I've got a sense from sources within inside the prosecution that they were aware that this case was perhaps taking a bit too long. The court itself is backlogged. Their backlogged already, it's messing up with the court's schedule.
And then also, I think, they realized that a decision has to be made because of the high-profile nature of this. How the magistrate is going to rule? You know, I found it difficult to judge the way he was asking his questions. And there was a sort of flip-flopping between each side, it's ebbing and flowing of the argument and sort of one legal team took precedence over the other and then -- you know, the argument flips.
So I find it very hard to sort of look ahead and project on what the magistrate is going to rule. But if he doesn't get bail, just remember, his legal team can appeal and go to the high court so it won't be over then.
TAPPER: All right. Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg, thank you.
Digging deeper now into why this is playing out the way it is and what could happen next. At this point it seems like anything could.
We're joined by criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos. He's co- author of "Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works and Sometimes Doesn't." Also senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, I'm going to start with you. The fact that the lead investigator was removed from the case today because he's facing charges of attempted murder in another case, is this a big setback for the prosecution?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not. For a very important reason. There are no jury trials in South Africa. This will be a judge trial when it ultimately goes to verdict. A judge is not going to be shocked by the fact that the detective has something bad in his past. That is not the kind of thing that a judge who has been around the criminal justice system for a while would be affected by the way a jury might be. So obviously it's not a good thing, but in the long run I don't think it's going to matter much at all.
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I would agree with you that if this were -- if they had a jury here, this would be the death, though, for the case.
TOOBIN: What -- no.
GERAGOS: Are you kidding me? Can you imagine? Have you ever had a case or seen a case where you've got your lead investigator on the case who has contaminated the crime scene and then, oh by the way, I've got seven counts of attempted murder?
TOOBIN: Mark Fuhrman.
GERAGOS: Backwards --
TAPPER: Those were just racial epithets.
TOOBIN: And he got acquitted. And the defendant got acquitted there.
GERAGOS: Right. And the defendant got acquitted.
TOOBIN: But, you know, there --
GERAGOS: But that's because they had a jury.
TOOBIN: But there, you didn't have a guy who shot someone four times at point-blank range. That is the key fact in this case and, you know, the attempt to make it into something more complicated is obviously what the defense is going to do here, but this is a woman who was killed in cold blood and that's going to be the key fact in this case.
(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: And we know who did it.
GERAGOS: I really don't -- I really don't -- I don't think we're -- I think even the fact that you've got a judge here and that's generally -- you know, we have the baseball bat rule in my office. If you waive jury in a case like this, you'd get a baseball bat between the eyes. Because you never want a judge deciding a case like this.
TAPPER: And have another trial.
GERAGOS: Right. Exactly. But clearly, I think he's got more than a plausible defense. I -- I will go out on a limb, you've got me on tape. I will speculate and say that I think this magistrate gives him bail. I think some of the questions he was asking are indicative that he will give him bail, and I think that the prosecution has got a tough row to hoe on this case.
TAPPER: Go ahead, Jeff.
TOOBIN: Well, I just like to make an observation about South Africa. It's a different country than the United States. They have different rules. They have -- you know, and so any sort of categorical predictions about how the South African legal system is going to act, I think, is really misguided at this point. But --
GERAGOS: Well, except -- except, remember something, too. Part of what you see when you turn on CNN or other stations are people in America projecting their cultural kind of assumptions onto South Africa. I -- I saw somebody the other night, may have been on this show, saying, well, wait, he didn't call 911, which factually was not correct. They have something there. But that isn't the person that he would have called is perfectly normal according to people I know in South Africa for who you would call.
So I agree with you, it's not the American system, but you -- I think this guy has a pretty good defense based on what I talked to people in South Africa, his kind of paranoia, his fear of crime. I don't think that that's something that's so outlandish.
TAPPER: Well, Mark, let me ask you. The prosecutor has been really trying to portray Pistorius as a flight risk, saying that his unwillingness to recognize his crime heightens the flight risk, the idea that he's prone to violence. Do you think that is a solid argument against bail? You seem to be --
GERAGOS: No, I don't think the opposite. I think what the magistrate replied which is, why wouldn't he have every incentive in the world to clear his name? And I think that -- and he's got a very able defense team. I think that that's very compelling. I think he will get bail. So --
(CROSSTALK) I'll be crazy and make the prediction.
TOOBIN: But as I understand South African law, it has to be extraordinary circumstances for bail to be granted in a case like this, and I don't see extraordinary circumstances.
GERAGOS: If it's a Schedule 6. If the judge downgrades it to what's called a Schedule 5, it does not have to be extraordinary circumstances. That's why Mr. -- is it Roux? Who is the defense lawyer --
GERAGOS: -- was arguing for a Schedule 5, which -- I don't want to get inside baseball, but that basically takes it out of there -- takes it out of that extraordinary circumstances.
TAPPER: Jeff, let me ask you. I talked to a South African legal expert earlier today and she told the prosecutor backed himself into a corner, because he is so aggressively is pursuing the case the way he is, that forced him to have to present the evidence as early as he did.
TOOBIN: I just don't -- I don't see that at all. The person who backed himself into a corner is the defendant here. He did something that defendants should never do. He put forth this affidavit which locked him into a story before anyone knows what the forensic evidence is. Suppose it does show that she was not shot through the door, that some of the shots were before that. How does he explain that?
How does he explain that it is so dark that he can't see the woman in bed with him, yet he can go to the balcony, he can go back, he can go to the bathroom, he gets all around there without any problem. I mean, I just think his story is preposterous.
GERAGOS: Well, I agree with you, it's extraordinary to put somebody in -- or their story in a declaration that early on. That's extraordinary. But --
TAPPER: You would not have advised him to do that?
GERAGOS: Well, it depends. If this is a high risk-high reward, that people talk about the South African jails and these South African prisons where he would be detained pre-trial, maybe this was a gambit that they decided. So far I will tell you, the defense to me looks like they are wiping the floor with the prosecution based on everything I've seen.
TAPPER: Is that because of the case that they are waging or is it just because of the circumstances?
GERAGOS: I think that they've taken -- they've staked out a position that I think is inherently ridiculous in some ways. Jeff is absolutely correct --
TOOBIN: That's always what a defense attorney wants to do. GERAGOS: Well --
TOOBIN: Inherently ridiculous. That's the goal.
GERAGOS: Well, they -- they have -- they've taken the position, number one, that he's a flight risk. And that I think even the judge or the magistrate wasn't buying any of that. So if that's the case, then that tends to kind of paint them in a different -- different light on all of the other allegations that they have.
So when you start talking about testosterone and you start talking about whether he was wearing the legs or not and that I think is all going to be the ballistics, what you said, and that could or could not end up destroying his affidavit.
But my guess is that they've been out there. Remember, the defense found a casing in the toilet. So the defense has been to that scene. The defense knows whether or not that door was shot through. It doesn't require all kinds of analysis to figure out did he shoot from outside the door or did he shoot inside the bathroom, and they knew whether or not that cricket bat had blood on it or at least had some kind of flesh or hair. So they understand I think a lot more than we give them credit for.
TAPPER: All right. To be conditioned. We'll have much more in the days ahead. Jeff Toobin, Mark Geragos, thank you so much.
Let us know what you think, follow me on Twitter @Jake Tapper.
Next, a friend who says he's certain that Oscar -- the Oscar Pistorius he knows did not murder his girlfriend. I'll ask him how he can be so sure.
And later dangerous weather to tell you about. What you need to know about all that snow. Who got hit and who's next.
Also, how's this for a budget plan? Congress takes a vacation, you get laid off and they make a promise to cut their own pay that they know they can't keep. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
TAPPER: Day three of the blade runner bail hearing and a visibly different Oscar Pistorius. Downcast, almost frozen in place. Seemingly resigned, according to CNN's Robyn Curnow, to a grim future. His family calling this a difficult time for them all. They have been there for him. So has his friend, Kenny Kunene, who has been watching the proceedings in court. We spoke earlier today.
TAPPER: Kenny, you're a friend of Oscar Pistorius. You've been in court every day. You strongly contend that he is innocent. Why are you so confident?
KENNY KUNENE, FRIEND OF OSCAR PISTORIUS: I have always believed in Oscar's innocence, and once he gave his version of what happened on that morning, of the 14th, I became more convinced that he's innocent. I don't believe that Oscar is capable of being a murderer.
TAPPER: Have you been able to speak with Oscar Pistorius since Reeva's death, either in person or on the telephone?
KUNENE: I haven't been able to speak to him, but he knows -- he knows of my presence in court, inasmuch as he knows of the presence of others who are giving him the moral support and who believe in his innocence.
TAPPER: Have you ever met Reeva?
KUNENE: No, no, no. I haven't met Reeva. Their relationship I think is fairly new, and as, you know, you would have had that -- they met I guess last year.
TAPPER: You've been in court with Oscar. What is it like being there? What can you tell of how he's holding up?
KUNENE: It's not easy for anyone. You know, I think especially in Oscar's case where an accident has happened. And yet you are being accused of a very serious offense. It cannot be easy. As -- as we -- we would have seen in court that it would break down every now and then. It just shows you a bleeding heart and a good man that's -- that is -- that is in pain, with what has happened. And, yes, this is not easy for him. It's not easy for his family, it's not easy for his friends.
TAPPER: Lastly, Kenny, as a friend of Oscar Pistorius, what is your message to people out there who are following this trial? What do you want them to know about Oscar? And what's your message for those who are watching who think, well, this looks pretty bad?
KUNENE: This is a trial. Let Oscar's trial be treated like any other trial. Just because he's an international athlete, let us not make it an exception and make stupid, irresponsible comments and that would seem to influence the proceedings of the court.
Oscar is a great man, he is a legend, he is an icon. Oscar is an inspiration to many young people in this country, both abled and people with disabilities.
I just want to say to Oscar that tough times never last, but tough people do. And I know he believes in prayer and I know that his family prays for him and we pray for him, and I know that he -- they also pray for the family of Reeva. But all that I can say is let us all give all Oscar an opportunity to clear his name within the ambits of the law. The principle of innocent until proven guilty is an integral part of our constitution. And therefore let us respect it.
TAPPER: All right. Kenny Kunene, friend of Oscar Pistorius, thank you so much for talking to us tonight.
KUNENE: It's a pleasure. Thank you very much.
TAPPER: One quick programming note, we'll be devoting a full hour to this story tomorrow night. Anderson Cooper 360, "BLADE RUNNER: MURDER OR MISTAKE?" You can watch it starting at 8:00 -- I'm sorry, starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow here on CNN.
Ahead on 360 what's hiding inside your hospital bill? And who's getting rich off of it? We're talking about CEOs of nonprofit hospitals -- let me repeat that, nonprofit hospitals, raking in multimillion dollar salaries while patients are getting charged for every tissue, every warm blanket, every bed pan. Numbers you need to know.
And later, a young husband and dad buried alive in an avalanche. He came so close to losing everything and he'll be here to describe that terror ahead.
TAPPER: A massive could affect -- get this -- 20 percent of the United States population. About 60 million are under some degree of winter weather warning. We'll tell you who's getting the worst of it when 360 continues.
TAPPER: A massive winter storm has claimed a life in Texas. Hammered the middle of the country and is heading east. About 60 million Americans are under some type of winter weather warnings tonight. The storm dumped a foot and a half of snow on parts of Kansas, forced the closing of Kansas City's airport. Elsewhere, inches of ice, rivers of rain, and as we said it ain't over yet. And it's a monster.
Meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking the system. He joins us now from the Weather Center.
Mr. Sater, why is this night different from all other nights?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, that's a very good question. I think it's the aerial coverage. At one point, Jake, we had 20 states either under a watch or a warning, and roughly that would be roughly the size of the country of Mexico. But as you look at these pictures, I mean, what's staggering here is in the Midwest, where the snow is now moving to Chicago, it's in Indianapolis, it's a mix in Chicago, some of the totals -- yes, sure, they were nine, 10, 12, even 15 inches.
But to give you an idea, Wichita, Kansas, the weather records go back to the 1880s. The greatest snow fall you've ever had was January, 1962, 15 inches, you had 14.2. It just missed the all-time record.
Now that we're watching some ice accumulation in parts of Northern Arkansas into Missouri, up to four inches of sleet and ice, it is now knocking out power, so a lot of generators and oil lamps tonight. But it's a triple threat. The other part of our threat here is severe weather. And look where this tornado watch is in effect. That's south of Jackson. This includes Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and we're into the evening period.
Remember, it was going to be two weeks this coming Sunday that an EF-4. So I think what we're going to see is the dynamics start to lose a little of its strength for the severe weather overnight which is great news. But as the snow continues to make its way into the Great Lakes, here are a few totals for you.
Call ahead if you have a flight in Chicago, 6.3. Minneapolis, possibly 3.5. Green Bay, 3. So we're not going to see the large totals, Jake. But the storm is just beginning. As it moves in toward areas of the Ohio Valley, then the northeast, I think Saturday for New York City, you're looking at rain mainly, Boston, you're looking at a little bit of a mix over terrain, but the flood problems will continue in the Deep South, we could see four to six inches by Tuesday -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Tom, thanks.
Now let's get the latest on some other stories we're following. Susan Hendricks joins us with a "360 Bulletin."
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, three people were killed and at least three others were injured in a fiery six-vehicle crash on the Las Vegas Strip. Police say just before the accident a gunman in an SUV shot into a car at a stop light. Well, that car ran into a taxi, setting off a chain of crashes.
In Syria now, a car bomb kills 53 and injured more than 200 in central Damascus. That's according to opposition activists and state- run media. The blast targeted the headquarters of Syria's ruling party. It's also damaged the Russian embassy.
And Wal-Mart said its stores are struggling to keep their shelves stocked with guns and ammunition. A surge in gun sales since November boosted Wal-Mart's sporting goods division in its fourth quarter.
And this Sunday's Oscar ceremonies will pay tribute to 50 years of Bond, James Bond. The longest running movie franchise. But the Bond villains are also getting their due at Washington's International Spy Museum. Jaws with his unforgettable steel teeth, he's just one of the bad guys given center stage at that exhibit. Looking forward to it -- Jake.
TAPPER: I haven't seen those choppers since "Moonraker." That -- brings back good memories.
HENDRICKS: You've got to head out and see them.
TAPPER: All right. Susan, thanks.
"Keeping Them Honest," if Congress doesn't cut a deal in the next seven days, $85 billion of forced spending cuts will be triggered on March 1st. Over time, a total of $1.2 trillion in cuts will kick in. And did we mention that Congress is on break this week? That's right. There are no formal negotiations going on right now. Zip, nada. Just a lot of finger-pointing. If March 1st arrives with no deal, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the pain will cut wide and deep.
But "Keeping Them Honest" here's the thing. Members of Congress won't actually be feeling any of that pain in their own paychecks. Here's Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pain from forced spending cuts is a week away and lawmakers are preparing their aides for fallout that could hit them like other government workers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've actually budgeted with a 10 percent cut in mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MAEL: We reorganized our office last December. We had to let people go then because we were anticipating at least a 16 percent cut.
BASH: But get this, members of Congress, the very people who voted to put these cuts in place, won't see any change to their own $174,000 a year paychecks. They are exempt. They didn't include their salaries in these spending cuts.
So before lawmakers left town for a week long recess without doing anything to head off the coming cuts --
(on camera): Hi, Congressman. How are you? Dana Bash, CNN.
(voice-over): We took an informal survey.
(on camera): Do you think you should take a pay cut as well as a member of Congress?
REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, certainly. I mean, we're all in this together and we're all suffering together.
BASH (voice-over): Most lawmakers in both parties said yes.
(on camera): Would you take a pay cut?
REPRESENTATIVE BEN LUJAN (D), NEW MEXICO: Absolutely. Let's make sure that we're doing our part as well.
BASH (voice-over): But cutting lawmakers' pay now is not so easy. The 27th amendment to the constitution prohibits members of Congress from changing their pay until after the next election though they can get creative.
Write checks to the charity or the treasury. Ironically, some Tea Party backed lawmakers who campaigned on slashing federal spending are reluctant to give up their own pay. (on camera): Do you think that members of Congress should take a pay cut?
REPRESENTATIVE BILLY LONG (R), MISSOURI: I don't think so. I don't think we should raise our pay.
BASH (voice-over): Republican Billy Long was elected in 2010 to cut Washington spending.
LONG: It's such a miniscule part, it wouldn't have an effect.
BASH (on camera): Would you personally as a member of Congress take a pay cut as well?
(voice-over): Michele Bachmann answered that question, asked several times talking only about her staff, not her.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: We'd like to keep everybody on the payroll if they can, they will have to work at fewer hours. So we're looking at reductions in staff. That's what we need to do.
BASH: Ironically, one of the biggest opponents of Congress cutting its pay is one of the wealthiest. Nancy Pelosi says she knows others are not so fortunate.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Most of my colleagues are the bread winners in their families. A pay cut to me doesn't mean as much.
TAPPER: And Dana those comments from Nancy Pelosi, I mean, your average American is likely to be hurt by forced cuts, if and when they come, but somehow members of Congress who approved these cuts should not feel any pain?
BASH: You know, I spoke with Pelosi and Jake, who reminded me that it's one of her mantras that Congress shouldn't be made up of millionaires and most of her members, House Democrats aren't wealthy. But remember, she didn't want these cuts to begin with. In fact, she called them a Satan sandwich with a side of Satan fries.
TAPPER: Interesting. How about negotiations? Is anything happening at all or is it more likely that these cuts are in fact going to kick in come March 1st?
BASH: It certainly is looking that way. The short answer is, no. There are no negotiations going on to avoid this that I can detect. We can report that the president did place calls to congressional leaders, most notably Republicans, the house leader and senate republican leader, but, remember, these are just phone calls.
Not actual negotiations. If you want to know how little is going on. Listen to this. I was told by a Boehner aide this is the first conversation the two of them had since December 28th, almost two months ago, and McConnell aide said it was the first conversation they had in 2013. That tells you all you need to know.
TAPPER: My friend, Dana Bash, thank you.
BASH: Thank you.
TAPPER: More secrets. The people who are cashing in on health care don't want you to know, bulked up medical care. While some CEOs of non-profit hospitals, let me repeat that, non-profit hospitals, are making small fortunes.
Later, a tragic end to a young Canadian tourist. One of the most puzzling parts of the mystery, where her body was found in Los Angeles.
TAPPER: A skier buried the alive in an avalanche in Colorado. He knows how lucky he is to tell the story and what a story it is. Tony Robinson will be here in studio to talk to me about what it's like to be caught in an avalanche and how he survived when 360 continues.
TAPPER: Keeping them honest. Tonight, we've got more secrets to share with you about the high cost of health care. What we're going to show you could save you money, possibly lots of money the next time you get a bill from a hospital. We've partnered with "Time" magazine.
"Time's" special report is called "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killings Us." Journalist Steven Brill spent seven months investigating why medical bills in the United States are so high and what he found is jaw dropping.
Investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has been digging on our end, exploring how a lot of people are profiting from your high hospital bills, even the people who run hospitals, they call themselves non-profit.
So how are hospitals pulling in so much money? Let us count the ways. Here's part two of Drew's report.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pat Palmer has built a business around helping patients fight hospital bills. She says in no other business are all of the costs of doing business itemized and billed separately.
You don't have a separate electricity bill added on to your grocery bill or a refrigeration bill charged separately when you buy ice cream. She argues if hotels ran their business like hospitals, would you be charged for lying down on the bed?
PAT PALMER, MEDICAL BILLING ADVOCATES: Absolutely. If we went to a hotel and they charge us for sheets and towels, there would be a ruckus made over those kinds of charges. And a major issue, but yet we are letting medical industry do this on a daily basis.
GRIFFIN: Palmer says she found hospitals billing for everything from tissues to little white cups that hold aspirin. Everything has a charge. The bill sometimes, hundreds of pages long, have hidden codes or names.
Steven Brill writing a special report for "Time" magazine says he makes just one conclusion. Hospitals want to prevent patients from knowing what they are paying for, all in an attempt to charge as much as they can get away with.
STEVEN BRILL, CONTRIBUTOR, "TIME": I defy you to take any hospital bill, anywhere around the country and everybody watching this program knows this, and try to read that bill and try to understand what it says and what the prices actually are, let alone what the prices are based on. It is the opposite of transparency.
GRIFFIN: But not everyone, of course, is feeling that pinch. In the world of non-profit hospitals, some people are making a small fortune. Public records show CEOs of top billing hospitals across the U.S. can garner salaries, deferred compensation and other revenues that rival CEOs of major for-profit businesses.
Just take a look at this list put together by a health care business journal's review of 2010 and 2011 tax filings, which showed CEOs of top grossing non-profit hospitals making multimillion dollar figures. Watch as the numbers get bigger.
The top salary paid in 2010? Dean Harrison, Chief Administrator of the Prestigious North Western Memorial Hospital in Chicago. His salary and one-time bonus earned him a whopping 9$9.7 million.
When we asked about the high salaries and high hospital bills, the American Hospital Association sent to us Taylor, Michigan and to Malcon Henoch, Chief Medical Officer for Oakwood Health Care System.
But even he didn't want to talk about hospital executive salaries. He was willing though to discuss hospital billing. Here the hospital says it tries to work with patients, to understand their bills.
DR. MALCOLM HENOCH, OAKWOOD HEALTHCARE SYSTEM: The information we provide is not perfect. It doesn't disclose everything and it's not for everyone always easily understood, but it's a start. I think this notion of transparency in health care is important.
GRIFFIN: Henoch admits billing at hospitals can be confusing, but he defends the process by noting the cost of, say, a simple blood draw, have lots of costs that patients don't see.
HENOCH: The cost of that is not just the cost of that vial, but the cost of a technician who processes that sample, the cost -- a fraction of that cost individual who has drawn that blood from you, a fraction of the cost of that equipment that analyzes that blood sample. A fraction of that cost that electronic laboratory information system that we need to collect and store and disseminate that information to the physician, to the nurse, to perhaps a number of physicians not even practicing at the hospital.
GRIFFIN: Which is why some people may be billed up to $200, just for a warm blanket, it is, in fact, all up for negotiation. If you are insured, your insurance company does the negotiating. If you're on Medicare, the government does the negotiating.
If you are paying out of pocket, then the hospitals, paying those million dollar salaries, determine just how much you will pay, your wealth or your health.
GRIFFIN: And here is a staggering figure about how much money we are talking about here, Jake. "Time" magazine reports Americans will spend $2.8 trillion on health care this year. Per person, that's 27 percent more than other developed nations spend on health care, and hospitals get a lot of that money.
TAPPER: And, drew, as you reported last night, there are some measures to control health care costs, in Obamacare, there's nothing that seems to effectively address these specific runaway costs in hospital billing fees. Is there any support in Washington to try and drive these costs down?
GRIFFIN: You know, let me put this in perspective for you, and, Jake, you know how that town Washington works. This is also in "Time" magazine's special edition. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1998, the health care and drug industry including doctors and hospitals have spent $5.36 billion lobbying in Washington.
That is nearly double what was spent by the defense industry and the oil and gas industry combined. So people who make money in health care certainly have the government's ear and I might add they have our pockets.
TAPPER: Indeed. Drew Griffin, thanks.
Coming up, a grisly discovery on a hotel rooftop in Los Angeles. A decomposing body found in a water tank where it might have been for as long as 2-1/2 weeks while hotel guests used that water. The latest on the investigation and we'll take you inside that hotel next.
TAPPER: The Los Angeles County coroner is doing an autopsy today on a young woman whose body was found in one of the most unsettling places we've ever heard of. The 21-year-old Canadian tourist's body was found inside a water tank behind a locked door on a hotel's rooftop.
We don't know how she died or got into the water tank. But we do know her decomposing body was in that tank as long as 19 days and the whole time, hotel guests were drinking that water. CNN's Kyung Lah has more.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Water from the tap, something the Cecil Hotel doesn't want you to see. Hotel resident, Alvin Taylor, helped us videotape it with a cell phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smells like chlorine.
LAH: Chlorine, what the city is using to flush the hotel's entire water system, after the gruesome discovery of a woman's body inside one of the rooftop tanks that may have been there for as long as 2-1/2 weeks. Four tanks connect to the hotel's drinking supply, and during those weeks, hundreds of residents and hotel guests have been using it.
ALVIN TAYLOR, CECIL HOTEL RESIDENT: It makes me sick to my stomach. That's why a lot of people have left and went to another hotel, just the thought of it, for so long.
LAH: The woman inside the tank, 21-year-old Alicia Lamb. The tourist from Vancouver, Canada, arrived in Los Angeles on January 26th. Surveillance video shows her acting oddly inside the hotel elevator, as if she's hiding from someone. But Katie Orphan says Lamb didn't seem odd at all when they met.
KATIE ORPHAN, THE LAST BOOKSTORE: She was very outgoing, very lively, very friendly.
LAH: Orphan is the manager of a bookstore around the corner from the hotel called "The Last Bookstore," one of the last places Lamb was seen by anyone, as she bought presents for her parents and sister.
ORPHAN: Talking about what books she was getting and whether or not what she was getting would be too heavy to carry around as she traveled or took home with her.
LAH: That was January 31st. The young woman planned to see more of California, say police. Her parents flew down to Los Angeles to plead for the city to help find their daughter. Outside the family's restaurant near Vancouver, a memorial for a young life lost too soon in an unforgettable manner.
ORPHAN: It kind of feels like the beginning of a noir novel. Like this is the beginning of a Raymond Chandler story and Phillip Marlow is going to figure out what happened. And unfortunately, this is real life.
TAPPER: CNN's Kyung Lah, thank you very much.
Coming up, imagine you are having a great day, skiing, and suddenly you are swept of in an avalanche. Tossed around like a rag doll and nearly buried alive. You will meet the tale of a young man who lived to tell that amazing story. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: You are about to meet a very lucky man, Tony Robinson was skiing at the Arapahoe Ski Basin in Colorado when an avalanche hit. He says for what seemed like 20 minutes, but was probably more like 2 minutes he was tossed and turned like a rag doll, upside down, snow in his mouth, thinking of his wife and son.
Miraculously, a small hole opened so he could breathe. Tony found himself buried alive. Tony Robinson joins me now. Tony, first of all, I'm so glad you're OK. Walk us through what happened.
TONY ROBINSON, SURVIVAL AVALANCHE IN COLORADO: I was there alone actually, and found a buddy of mine, at the mountain with his son, and he said come on down and meet me down at the base. We did a little hike up, 20 minutes or so, got our breath, obviously, especially on the way up there, getting ready to go.
Take it easy if you go down here, you twist an ankle, lose something, it's really hard to get you out. And I thought -- I went back to my military days and safety, safety officer, and I said, well, what if there is an avalanche?
Just threw that question out and he looked up and said ski left or ski right, matter of fact and make sure you cover your mouth. I hear it's hard to breathe and with that, we were off. And we jumped in, and I bet it wasn't, you know, a minute later, and I'm talking 100 feet, I heard a sound like --
TAPPER: What was it, a rumble?
ROBINSON: No, more like the earth moaning a little bit. Giving you a warning, if it will, and then it just -- the snow started to move underneath you. I mean, all -- wherever you could look at your feet, the snow was moving downhill.
TAPPER: I can't even imagine it. What does it feel like to be tossed around in the middle of something like that?
ROBINSON: You are basically gasping for air, and fighting to just figure out which way is up and down, and there are moments where you are so tight and enclosed and can't breathe, and at one point I swear I was upside down. I don't know if that's possible, but I swear I was upside down rolling down the hill and I thought that is not going to end well.
TAPPER: Does it feel anything like when you get caught in a wave in the ocean and have you no idea what's up and down.
ROBINSON: Exactly. That's it. Somebody said it is a washing machine. It's no Maytag washing machine. More like a wave. A tidal wave is hitting you, and you don't know which way up is.
TAPPER: How long did it take before they dug you out?
ROBINSON: So once the snow stopped it really like weights you down, and at that point is when you are supposed to get your hands to your mouth. I wasn't able to.
TAPPER: You couldn't left your arms?
ROBINSON: No, it came quick. Pretty much comes to a screeching halt and it stopped and like you mentioned, a small hole opens up and I can breathe and see the -- the sun and the blue sky, and I probably was there 5, 10 minutes before someone found me.
TAPPER: Why did that hole form? Was it just luck? You were lucky?
ROBINSON: I'm a God fearing man. I believe that, you know, luck, fate, and, you know, a lot of things came at once to open that little space. And, again, it was -- the pictures, wasn't much of a hole when they came to dig me out.
TAPPER: The smile on your face in that picture says it all. You must have been -- I mean, you thought you were going to die.
ROBINSON: Yes. It was pretty sure. I mean, I was hoping live. Let's put it that way. I'm an optimistic guy. I was hoping and praying to live, not saying, what should I have done in life? There is no time for that.
TAPPER: Were you thinking about your wife, thinking about your son?
ROBINSON: That was the only three thoughts, my wife, who is expecting our second and my 18-month-old little son, and God. Hoping that, you know, he would help me through it.
TAPPER: And the thing is, you had actually talked about avalanches before you set out, but was there any sort of sign, any sign of warning? Any sort of do not do this indicated to you?
ROBINSON: My last Facebook post is crossing a fence. It says danger, arrived lamp risk. And number two, sign number two they were trying to cause the mountain to naturally have an avalanche. Two signs, maybe a wiser man would say, heck no, I'm not going to go that direction.
TAPPER: So, Tony, ever going to go skiing again?
ROBINSON: I'm going to keep living, keep skiing, yes.
TAPPER: We're very glad that you made it back OK and we're very glad that your wife and your soon to be two children have their daddy and their husband. Thank you for joining us tonight.
ROBINSON: Thanks, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: And that does it for this edition of 360. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern. Thank you for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.