Time Magazine's senior political analyst sparked a social media and conservative pundit firestorm this week after seemingly acknowledging so-called Obamacare death panels during an interview on Monday.
Mark Halperin was speaking on Newsmax TV's "Steve Malzberg Show" when asked if he believed there would be "death panels" under the Affordable Care Act.
"It's built into the plan. It's not like a guess or like a judgment. That's going to be part of how costs are controlled," Halperin told Newsmax, but the veteran political analyst and co-author of the best-selling book "Double Down: Game Change 2012," walked back those controversial comments Tuesday night on CNBC.
(Read more: Obamacare: CNBC Explains)
"I didn't use the word 'death panels' and I wouldn't—I think it's a loaded phrase," Halperin told "The Kudlow Report."
"I'm not sure exactly what people mean by it, but the question I was asked was about rationing. That's what I'm keying off."
Halperin told CNBC that the law is going to require huge cost-cutting measures and that decisions are going to have to be made as to where such cuts take place.
"The independent payment advisory board, which is a big part of the Affordable Care Act that is central to cost control, is something that hasn't been debated in a real way," Halperin told Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who was filling in for Larry Kudlow.
"Those decisions that are made by that board are going to lead to what I think could be described perfectly reasonably as rationing. Again, as I said, that's built into the system. There's going to be an effort to control costs," he said.
Halperin acknowledged a general lack of understanding about what's in the law.
"A lot of provisions in the Affordable Care Act were not debated at the time of passage, not debated in the context of the campaign, and because the program has gotten off to a bad start there's going to be a lot of controversies as these things are discussed," Halperin said.
"A lot of Americans will be fine with a government board making the [cost-cutting] decision, but a lot of people I think will not be, and we need that debate in this country—not just about whether we need rationing, because we're going to have it, but what should the mechanism be."
—By CNBC's Ben Thompson