Dec. 30: The Hill: 7 Million ObamaCare enrollments a tall order to fill even with recent surge of enrollments:
The administration hasn’t released a breakdown of who is enrolling, but preliminary data coming out of the state-run exchanges indicates a large number of high-risk consumers. “I don’t see how they could have the balanced risk pool that they need,” said Joe Antos of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “The younger people with lower incomes already have education loans, car loans, and such, and these are people who, even with a generous subsidy, it’s still going to cost them money out of their pockets.” Antos and John Holahan, a fellow at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, both said the final enrollment number for 2014 is likely be closer to 4 million or 5 million. Holahan said 7 million was “attainable” but unlikely.
After a surge of enrollees in December, 1.1 million people have enrolled in the federal exchange, and another 1 million have enrolled through the 14 state-run marketplaces. That falls short, however, of the administration’s stated goal of 3 million enrollees by the end of 2013. Perhaps even more importantly, the makeup of those enrollees remains unclear. The idea behind the health exchanges is that young and healthy enrollees will offset costs from the older and sicker enrollees. If most of the ObamaCare recipients are old and sick, it will be tougher for the exchanges to work.
Dec. 26: Politico: Ads hit vulnerable Dems on ObamaCare
It was bound to happen: Canceled health plans are the new stars of anti-Obamacare ads. Americans for Prosperity, one of the most powerful tea party groups in the country, is launching TV ads Thursday against two first-term House Democrats that blame the health care law for taking away health insurance people already had. The group is spending more than $600,000 on the ads against Rick Nolan of Minnesota’s 8th District and Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire’s 2nd District. And it’s promising to spend a lot more on TV, radio and digital media in the coming months to highlight the disruption it says the law is causing in people’s lives. The group says this will be part of a broader campaign that will target other vulnerable House Democrats as well as Senate Democrats in close races.
- The Minnesota ad focuses on the individual health insurance plans that were canceled because they didn’t meet the health care law’s new coverage standards. It features a Minnesota resident, Randy Westby, who says his health policy was canceled and criticizes Nolan for voting against an Obamacare repeal bill in May 2013.
- The New Hampshire ad is more general, featuring an actress who cites a list of disruptions to argue that “Obamacare doesn’t work.”
Dec. 26: The Weekly Standard: After a Month of Trying, I Still can’t Sign Up for ObamaCare:
After a month of trying, I still can't complete an application to join the D.C. Health Exchange. For a week, the Obamacare marketplace asked me to prove my citizenship, my daughter's existence, and my fixed address in the District of Columbia, but it would not allow me to submit the requested material. That changed, slightly, yesterday when it started allowing me to submit those things, which I did, but it must now validate them via a person. Perhaps this is why Barack Obama’s staff had to physically visit the D.C. exchange in order to sign up the president for Obamacare.
It also apparently keeps losing all of my family's personal information, so I’m having to type my name, address, Social Security number, as well as a) a fixed address or b) whether I’m incarcerated or c) or whether am a member of an American Indian or native Alaskan federally protected tribe.
Dec. 25: The New York Post: New ObamaCare fees coming in 2014
Here comes the ObamaCare tax bill. The cost of President Obama’s massive health-care law will hit Americans in 2014 as new taxes pile up on their insurance premiums and on their income-tax bills. Most insurers aren’t advertising the ObamaCare taxes that are added on to premiums, opting instead to discretely pass them on to customers while quietly lobbying lawmakers for a break. But one insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, laid bare the taxes on its bills with a separate line item for “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.” The new taxes on one customer’s bill added up to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, according to Kaiser Health News. It boosted the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that individual.
The new taxes and fees include a 2 percent levy on every health plan; a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical-research trust fund called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute; and a 3.5 percent user fee paid by insurers who sell medical plans on the HealthCare.gov Web site. But ObamaCare taxes don’t stop with health-plan premiums. Americans also will pay hidden taxes, such as the 2.3 percent medical-device tax that will inflate the cost of items such as pacemakers, stents and prosthetic limbs. Those with high out-of-pocket medical expenses also will get smaller income-tax deductions.
Then there’s the new Medicare tax. Under ObamaCare, individual tax filers earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 will pay an added 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on top of the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax. They’ll also pay an extra 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains.
Dec. 25: The Hill: Top five ObamaCare Controversies
The Obama administration faced an extraordinarily tough year when it came to Affordable Care Act's rollout and the surrounding debate. Between missed deadlines, botched projects and massive PR stumbles, the White House spent months trying to recover momentum for its signature domestic achievement.
Below are the healthcare law's top controversies in 2013:
1) Canceled health plans: One of President Obama's key promises — that under ObamaCare, you could keep your health plan if you like it — was turned on its head this fall when millions of people received cancellation notices from their insurance companies.
2) HealthCare.gov: ObamaCare's federal enrollment website was supposed to be the easy part of the law's rollout. During its construction, the system was repeatedly compared to sites like Travelocity and Match.com, where millions of users can simultaneously navigate a complex, individualized shopping experience. But trouble was apparent on the morning of the launch, as users faced delays and glitchy code.
3) Employer mandate delay: The Obama administration took everyone by surprise in July by announcing that larger employers would not be required to offer health insurance to their workers until 2015. The decision came in reaction to pressure from the business community, which had sought more time to build the technical systems required to comply with the "employer mandate." The move was seen by soome as a double-standard, since consumers will still be required to comply with the individual mandate to carry health insurance starting in 2014.
4) Government shutdown fight: The federal government shut down on Oct. 1 over a fiscal stalemate that was defined by Republicans' opposition to ObamaCare. The House GOP made three government-funding offers as the shutdown loomed in late September, each attacking the healthcare law in a different way. (One would have defunded the law, one would have delayed it for one year, and one would have delayed the individual mandate for one year.) Senate Democrats and the White House firmly rejected each bill, and vulnerable Dems in the upper chamber failed to rally around the GOP position as some conservatives had hoped.
5) Congressional subsidies: The month of January will see lawmakers and most staffers enter ObamaCare's new insurance exchanges, but this shift did not come without controversy. A firestorm came in the summer when the administration ruled that members and aides can continue receiving a generous employer healthcare subsidy.
Dec. 24: The Hill: Yet another deadline changed – Where will it all end?
The Obama administration on Tuesday pledged to accommodate ObamaCare applicants who failed to meet the Christmas Eve deadline for enrollment because of issues with the website. “If you weren’t able to enroll in an insurance plan by Dec. 23 because of problems you had using HealthCare.gov, you still may be able to get coverage that starts Jan. 1,” a message on HealthCare.gov reads. “Even though we have passed the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1, we don’t want you to miss out if you’ve been trying to enroll.”
If you are one of the people who thinks that it’s a good idea to have a strong federal government and that it can do a better job (e.g. telling us what we want and need) than the private-sector free-market can (e.g., where we decide what we want, how much we are willing to pay, etc.) then we recommend you think about ObamaCare and the “Great Job” the government (the current Administration) is doing (e.g., not telling us the truth, changing deadlines, etc.) in making decisions for you and the rest of us. Giving people the freedom to make their own choice(s) scares the heck out of those who think they know better than we do what is best for us. ObameCare is not about healthcare, it’s about whether we will keep our freedoms!
Dec. 24: The Hill: Administration expands ObamaCare exemptions:
The Obama Administration on Tuesday proposed new regulations that add to the list of benefits not subject to reforms under the president’s healthcare law.
A draft rule issued jointly by the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury is the latest in a series of "tweaks" to the Affordable Care Act announced just days before major parts of the law are to take effect.
The regulations, published in Tuesday's Federal Register, amend the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which laid out a category of “excepted benefits.” These include workers compensation or disability coverage, accidental death insurance, auto insurance and other benefits that are related to health but don’t amount to comprehensive health coverage.
Excepted benefits are exempt from the market reforms imposed by ObamaCare, though they don’t satisfy the law’s requirement that individuals obtain coverage, also known as the individual mandate.
Dec. 23: Politico: PR Disaster at 1600 Pa. Avenue!
Just when everything seems settled and people are starting to catch their breath, all of a sudden, it’s back. Each time, they assure people, they’ve put whatever the latest problem was to bed. No more changes. No more surprises. And then another arrives.
This time, on the eve of Christmas Eve, the administration says it’s just “proactively recognizing” the possibility of heavy traffic coming at what was supposed to be Monday night’s sign-up deadline — a date that itself had been shifted back late last month, in response to the website problems. The deadline had been midnight Eastern Time Monday, but the latest announcement from the administration says only “the end of the day tomorrow.”
Dec. 23: The Wall Street Journal: Merry Christmas from the White House: Health Care Deadlines extended again!
In another effort to get a few more people covered the White House has extended the deadline for signing up for ObamaCare until Christmas Eve! The deadline was originally set for midnight on Dec. 23, but contractors managing the site changed configurations to allow users to sign up for the first wave of health-law coverage through Dec. 24, people familiar with the matter said. "Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan 1," Julie Bataille, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service's Office of Communications, said in a statement.
The extension was needed in part because technical problems continue to limit the volume of users that can navigate the site at once, and officials worried people attempting to sign up Monday might not be able to do so. The site has had a record day, with more than one million visits by midmorning, federal officials said on Twitter. But guess what? Because of the volume about 60,000 people were instructed through the Healthcare.gov Website to provide an email address so they could be notified to return at a later time.
The change follows weeks of last-minute policy shifts for the administration. Last week, for instance, with only days before the enrollment deadline, the Obama administration said people whose plans were canceled would be exempted from a requirement that people buy coverage or pay a fee next year. The late changes have rattled insurers and left some customers uncertain what options are available to them. Some health insurers say the changes could undermine their market by obscuring their ability to predict business risks and set prices accurately.
Dec. 23: Fox News: White House staffers make “symbolic” enrollment of President in ObamaCare selecting the cheapest plan
President Obama enrolled over the weekend for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the White House said Monday. The president, who is vacationing in Hawaii with his family, was enrolled in ObamaCare by his staff. White House officials said staffers enrolled the president through the District of Columbia exchange and needed to make the transaction in person -- not through the website -- because his personal information is not readily available in the government databases used to verify identities. Obama was enrolled before the midnight Monday deadline to get coverage starting Jan. 1, ended speculation about when he would enroll.
The White House said the president's enrollment was “symbolic” because he is among the 85 percent of Americans who already get their health insurance through an employer and that he receives health care from the military -- like previous presidents.
Dec. 22: The Daily Caller: Will: Obama would be in better position if Court had found ObamaCare unconstitutional:
George Will said Sunday that President Obama would be in a better position today if the Supreme Court ruled his health care law was unconstitutional in 2012. “By now it seems to me fair to say three things,” Will said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“First: If he told the truth about the law — about keeping your doctor and your health care — he probably wouldn’t have been elected in 2012.
Second: He’d be better off today if in 2012 the chief justice had voted the other way and [the Supreme Court] had struck down the law. It wouldn’t be such a burden on this presidency.”
“But beyond that, we’ve now added to incompetence and dishonesty, naked unfairness,” Will continued. “When he says, ‘if you had health insurance and it was canceled, you’re preferred. If you didn’t have health insurance you could still be punished by the government for not getting it.’ People just think it’s … unfair.”
Dec. 22: Yahoo News: Democrat Senator says ObamaCare could have a “meltdown” and hurt his party:
President Barack Obama's healthcare law could have a "meltdown" and make it difficult for his Democratic Party to keep control of the U.S. Senate next year if ongoing problems with the program are not resolved, a Democratic senator said on Sunday. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has urged delaying a penalty for people who do not enroll for health insurance in 2014 under the law, told CNN that a transitional year was needed for the complex healthcare program, commonly known as Obamacare, to work. "If it's so much more expensive than what we anticipated and if the coverage is not as good as what we had, you've got a complete meltdown at that time," Manchin told CNN's "State of the Union" program. "It falls of its own weight, if basically the cost becomes more than we can absorb, absolutely."
The White House has been scrambling for months to control the damage from the botched October 1 launch of the law, formally called the Affordable Care Act, which aimed at making sure that millions of Americans without health insurance are able to receive medical coverage.
Dec. 21: Fox News: More last-minute fixes to ObamaCare to avoid a net loss of uninsured Americans by January 1st:
The Obama administration’s announcement this week that Americans with cancelled insurance can enroll in bare-bone ObamaCare coverage reflects its urgency to ensure that by January 1 the total number of people with polices doesn’t decrease, hence avoiding another black eye in implementing the law. The announcement Thursday was just one of several by administration officials that are attempting to show they are drawing closer to enrolling enough Americans to offset the estimated 4 million to 5 million who had their insurance cancelled because it failed to meet new standards in the president’s signature health care law.
Obama said Friday that more than 1 million people have enrolled since the Oct. 1 launch, after the administration said a day earlier that 3.9 million lower-income Americans have qualified for ObamaCare through the law's Medicaid expansion. If these numbers are accurate it could mean they are closing the enrollment gap after the disastrous launch of the ObamaCare Website. However, several underlying problems persist, including the accuracy of the numbers and how many of those enrolled have in fact paid for their policies.
So far the administration has asked insurance companies to backdate coverage for those who failed to hit the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline and accept partial (instead of full) payments by the Dec. 31 deadline. All of this makes it clear how difficult the ObamaCare rollout has been for almost everybody. Under the law full payments must be received by Dec. 31 for coverage to start New Year’s Day. Another major concern is the government has sent, and purportedly continues to send, insurers inaccurate enrollee information, which could create the biggest problem of all for the administration if people arrive at a pharmacy counter or doctor's office only to be told they're not in the system.
Crossing the 1 million mark was a milestone, but the administration's own estimates called for 3.3 million to enroll by Dec. 31, 2.3 million less than thos target have actually signed up. In the meantime HealthCare.gov was down again on Friday, as technicians attempted to fix an error that occurred Thursday night when the site was undergoing routine maintenance. The last day to sign up for coverage to take effect with the new year is Monday. And Jan. 1 is the day the people can start using their new policies. Starting then, the law forbids insurers from turning away people with pre-existing medical conditions. The law's mandate that virtually all Americans carry coverage also goes into place, although uninsured people can avoid a tax penalty if they pick a plan by Mar. 31.
Dec. 21: Fox News: Federal Judge deals another blow to ObamaCare contraception mandate:
A federal judge granted an injunction this weekend that prevents the government from enforcing the ObamaCare mandate requiring religious groups across the country to provide insurance that includes access to morning-after pill and other contraceptives. The preliminary injunction, issued in an Oklahoma City federal court, is based on a class-action lawsuit in October by 187ministries. The court order Friday came just days before ObamaCare coverage begins January 1, which could have resulted in ministries facing thousands of dollars a day in tax penalties.
The groups provide employees with health benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources, the health benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. “This is an overwhelming victory for GuideStone and the nearly 200 plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit,” said Adele Keim, a lawyer for GuideStone and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty -- a non-profit, public-interest law firm that helped represent the ministries in the case. “Today’s ruling will allow hundreds of Baptist ministries to continue preaching the Gospel and serving the poor … without laboring under the threat of massive fines,” she said. In the lawsuit, the ministries object to providing four out of 20 Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, which they allege may cause early abortions.
Dec. 20: The Wall Street Journal: Obama Repeals ObamaCare?
Under pressure from Senate Democrats, the President suspends parts of the individual mandate:
It seems Nancy Pelosi was wrong when she said "we have to pass" ObamaCare to "find out what's in it." No one may ever know because the White House keeps treating the Affordable Care Act's text as a mere suggestion subject to day-to-day revision. Its latest political retrofit is the most brazen: President Obama is partly suspending the individual mandate.
The White House argued at the Supreme Court that the insurance-purchase mandate was not only constitutional but essential to the law's success, while refusing Republican demands to delay or repeal it. But late on Thursday, with only four days to go before the December enrollment deadline, the Health and Human Services Department decreed that millions of Americans are suddenly exempt.
Individuals whose health plans were canceled will now automatically qualify for a "hardship exemption" from the mandate. If they can't or don't sign up for a new plan, they don't have to pay the tax. They can also get a special category of ObamaCare insurance designed for people under age 30.
So merry Christmas. If ObamaCare's benefit and income redistribution requirements made your old, cheaper, better health plan illegal, you now have the option of going without coverage without the government taking your money as punishment. You can also claim the tautological consolation of an ObamaCare hardship exemption due to ObamaCare itself.
Dec. 20: The Weekly Standard: ObamaCare if falling Apart Before Our Eyes:
The wrecking ball swung again toward the crumbling Obamacare edifice yesterday. Ironically, it continues to be the Obama administration that is operating the heavy machinery. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced, in the form of a letter to Democratic senators, that Obamacare’s individual mandate tax will be waived in 2014 for persons who had their policies canceled in 2013 due to Obamacare. At this point -- after months of on-the-fly pronouncements, delays, and exemptions (often announced the day before a major national holiday) -- perhaps nothing should surprise us anymore about Obamacare’s disastrous rollout.
Yesterday’s announcement is still startling because of what it says about the state of the president’s signature domestic legislation. The law is falling apart before our eyes. No doubt the administration’s defenders will argue that this is simply a tactical retreat, executed with surgical precision, and intended to protect the law from more serious legislative threats in 2014. Better to give a little by executive action now than to invite an impossible-to-control revolt by Democrats in the Senate later, the thinking goes. And by orchestrating the tactical retreat in conjunction with political allies (the Sebelius letter followed by one day a letter requesting the change from six Senate Democrats), the administration is hoping its party will get credit with voters for “smoothing the transition” to Obamacare.
Dec. 13: The Hill: ObamaCare Spending Debate not over yet
Congress has not escaped the ObamaCare defunding debate. Though the House passed a budget deal on Thursday that would place $1.012 trillion spending limit in place for 2014, appropriators must flesh out the details. House spending panel chief Rep. Hal Rogers (R-AL) said Friday that appropriators are now negotiating defunding provisions as they try to cobble together a giant omnibus spending bill to keep the government open after Jan. 15.
Rogers and most House Republicans have little appetite for a repeat of the 16-day government shutdown in October that was sparked by a fight over funding the healthcare law. But the chairman said in an interview on C-Span’s Newsmakers that the issue is still in play as the House and Senate negotiators work on agency budgets under the Labor, Health subcommittee. “We will be looking at all the funding in that subcommittee’s jurisdiction,” Rogers said.
House Republicans never released their $121 billion Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill this summer, cancelling a markup at the last minute. A draft prepared by subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA) included provisions defunding ObamaCare, restricting an "out of control" National Labor Relations Board and reforming waste in the Education Department. Kingston, who is running for a Georgia Senate seat, may want to try defunding ObamaCare again or at least some aspect of it.
Dec. 12: Roll Call: HHS to Issa: You Can’t be Trusted with ObamaCare Documents:
While Republicans continue to characterize HealthCare.gov as a brazen security hazard that could expose personal information to unnecessary risks, the Health and Human Services Department has its own concerns regarding a place of compromised security: the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. On Thursday, HHS wrote a letter to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) regarding his committee’s request for “unredacted copies of sensitive security testing documents prepared by the MITRE Corporation (MITRE), in connection with HealthCare.gov.”
The HHS assistant secretary for legislation, Jim R. Esquea, signaled that HHS was blocking MITRE from turning over the documents, which have been subpoenaed, over concerns that Issa would leak the documents to the public, potentially giving hackers a road map to the “potential vulnerabilities in the cyber defenses. To be clear, this is not a question of whether [HHS] will share this information with the Committee — we have already done so and will continue to make the documents available for your review,” the letter said. “Rather, it is a question of whether the Committee will work with us to ensure the sensitive information contained in these documents is adequately protected.”
Oversight and Government Reform staff have been able to review the documents in a secure space, but they have not been given copies. While they’ve had “in camera” sessions with the documents at HHS, they haven’t been able to leave the building with their notes. That has left Issa unsatisfied. “It’s an unacceptable violation of law and a dangerous precedent for any administration to tell a private company not to respond to a lawful subpoena,” a spokesman for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Frederick Hill, told CQ Roll Call on Thursday. “I would draw a parallel to the obstacles that this administration throws at our committee to the obstacles it throws at journalists that are trying to tell the American people what’s really happening in their government,” Hill said, referring to the recent controversy regarding the Obama administration’s restricted access for reporters.
Dec. 9: The Daily Caller: South Carolina voting on banning ObamaCare in the state:
A bill set for fast-track passage in the South Carolina Senate in January aims to eliminate Obamacare in the state. The law could become a model for other states fed up with the federal health-care law. House Bill 3101, titled the “South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act,” passed the state House of Representatives last April by a 65-34 vote. The bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate with special-order priority, setting up the likelihood that South Carolina will become the first state to exempt citizens and businesses from all participation in the Affordable Care Act.
State Sen. Tom Davis, the bill’s sponsor, says that the proposed legislation renders the Affordable Care Act void or inoperable through a handful of provisions. “It will essentially have five components to it, all of which in my judgment are legal, effective, and within the state’s power to do,” Davis, a Republican from Beaufort, said in an interview.
The bill’s main component prohibits agencies, officers and employees of the state of South Carolina from implementing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act, leaving implementation of the national health-care law entirely in the hands of a federal government that lacks the resources or personnel to carry out the programs it mandates. This provision comes from the anti-commandeering doctrine established in case law that says feds can’t compel states to enforce federal laws.
“What the Supreme Court said in Printz v. United States is that states are not merely political subdivisions of the federal government to carry out what the federal government does; they are sovereign entities,” Davis said. “Congress can pass laws, but it cannot compel the states to utilize either their treasury or personnel to implement those federal laws.”
Additional provisions of H3101 further neuter the Affordable Care Act by outlawing state exchanges, issuing tax deductions to individuals equal to the tax penalties levied by the federal government, and directing the state attorney general to sue over whimsical enforcement of the law. Taken together, the provisions effectively repeal the federal law for the people of South Carolina.
Dec. 8: The Weekly Standard: ObamaCare Architect: If you like your doctor you can pay more!
If you want to keep your doctor, you might have to pay more for it, Obamacare architect Zeke Emanuel said today on Fox News Sunday. The host, Chris Wallace, said: "President Obama famously promised, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Doesn't that turn out to be just as false, just as misleading, as his promise about if you like your plan, you can keep your plan? Isn't it a fact, sir, that a number, most, in fact, of the Obamacare health plans that are being offered on the exchanges exclude a number of doctors and hospitals to lower costs?"
"The president never said you were going to have unlimited choice of any doctor in the country you want to go to," said Emanuel. “But look, if you want to pay more for an insurance company that covers your doctor, you can do that. This is a matter of choice. We know in all sorts of places you pay more for … a wider range of choices or wider range of benefits. People are going to have a choice as to whether they want to pay a certain amount for a selective network or pay more for a broader network."
[Sounds like politics as usual – don’t promise to tell the truth and the whole truth!]
Dec. 7: The Hill: Administration to Navigators No more paper applications
Federal health officials have been advising ObamaCare counselors this week to stop using paper applications to enroll people — out of fear that the applications wouldn’t be processed in time. Uninsured consumers in the United States must sign up for health insurance by Dec. 23 in order to receive coverage starting Jan. 1. “We received guidance from the feds recommending that folks apply online as opposed to paper," Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Insurance, told the AP.
The communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters on a conference call that the paper application had no problems. “There is still time to do paper applications,” Julie Bataille said. But this seems to run contrary to what the Navigators (counselors) are being told by the administration. On Friday, CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration is now directing consumers to the repaired HealthCare.gov, but didn’t explicitly address the paper application. “With the recent fixes to the website, we are encouraging consumers to use healthcare.gov since it's the quickest way to get coverage, but paper applications remain an option for consumers and navigators if they choose," Albright said, according to the AP.
Dec. 7: The Daily Caller: California ObamaCare exchange giving out customer information
Widespread fears that ObamaCare exchanges would fail to guard customer information are already coming true in California, where the state exchange is giving selected insurance agents customer contact information, resulting in unwanted calls and emails to Californians who have checked out the exchange but declined to buy insurance. The Los Angeles Times reports “Covered California” -- which Obamacare proponents have held up as a rare example of a functioning state health care exchange -- provides names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of customers who did not ask to be contacted.
“[Y]our contact information was provided to me by ‘Covered California’ since your application is not yet finalized, however, you have been determined as eligible by Covered California,” an email sent to one outraged Californian began. Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee told the paper that the unwanted contacts were necessary because the exchange, which claims to have signed up 80,000 people in insurance plans and qualified another 140,000 for Medicaid, is falling behind in its enrollment goals. “I can imagine some people may be upset,” Lee offered.
The Golden State maintains a network of 7,700 technically private insurance agents to promote its health care exchange. The Times contacted agents who expressed outrage or conceded that the calls could be irksome to customers. The president of the California Association of Health Underwriters told the paper he was “shocked and dumbfounded” by the news and had assumed the customers on the call list requested contact. “For a government agency to release this information to an outside person is a major issue,” a Ventura County tech consultant, who received an unwanted outreach, told the paper.
Dec. 7: The Daily Caller: Thanks, Obama! University must destroy health plans to stay compliant or pay a $48 million fine!
The University of Minnesota had to make its healthcare plans worse in order to avoid Obamacare-related penalties. ObamaCare levels an excise tax on high-value health coverage plans, and UM would have to pay $48 million with its existing plans. Instead, the university is lowering the quality of its coverage.
“The Office of Human Resources announced in a July email that it was making changes to the UPlan, the employee healthcare program, including adding a deductible and increasing copays for primary and specialty care,” according to the Minnesota Daily. “The email said the cost increases were necessary to help the University avoid a $48 million excise tax in 2018.” UM employees weren’t pleased with that deal, but after UM offered a three percent salary increase, the union reluctantly agreed. “This isn’t the deal the table committee wanted; it is better than what the University management committee had been proposing and better than what most other employee groups received,” said the union in a statement.
Dec. 7: The Hill: Administration uses “Selective” data to indicate healthcare.gov is doing better:
The Obama administration is selectively releasing data and metrics on ObamaCare to bolster its case that the rollout is going better in the month of December. Tidbits of information from federal health officials — especially figures that show improvements at HealthCare.gov — have become a key tool in the effort to “reboot” the law in the eyes of the public. But the limited nature of the releases has created conflict with the media and put the spotlight on outstanding areas of concern for the rollout, such as the enrollment site's back end.
It’s not unusual for politicians to put out numbers that bolster their case. Democrats, still, strategists cautioned that the administration’s approach could backfire as the public remains skeptical about the healthcare law. “Given the level of suspicion, if they’re not as candid as possible, they’re going to get burned,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
The overall error rate for information being transferred from HealthCare.gov to insurance companies has emerged as a major point in the debate. Under pressure from journalists, officials finally said Friday that as many as one in four so-called 834 forms were flawed in October and November. The current error rate is 10 percent, meaning tens of thousands of new policy holders could still encounter problems when they try to use their coverage in January.
Dec. 6: Politico: New emails show officials delayed announcing the postponement of the enrollment for ObamaCare for Small Businesss”
The key officials working on the Obamacare small business exchange decided in mid-August to delay online enrollment in the program but didn’t announce their decision until more than a month later, just days before signups were supposed to begin. Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and CGI, the contractor that built the federal website, didn’t announce the delay until Sept. 26. At that time, the administration said online SHOP enrollment would be available sometime in November. Shortly after the emails were released, administration officials labeled them just “one piece of many conversations” about the rollout and said that the decision to wait on online enrollment was not made until “mid-September.”
Dec. 6: RGJ.com (a Gannett Company): Senator Reid Says CNN got the story wrong that he was the only top Congressional Leader exempt from ObamaCare:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, denied a CNN report saying that he was the only top congressional leader to exempt “some of his staff from having to buy insurance through the law's new exchanges.” GOP House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have all directed their staffs to join the exchange, CNN has reported, citing their aides.
“What does top congressional leaders mean?” Reid asked, during an interview in his Reno office this afternoon. “Like me and McConnell? "No, that is simply not true," Reid said. "Some of the people on my leadership team have done the same thing, following my lead. CNN is wrong.”
Dec. 6: The Hill: Scammers and the DC Healthcare Exchange:
A few consumers enrolling in the Washington, D.C., insurance exchange have been guided instead to a fraudulent website, according to an official working for the Health Link portal. There have been at least two reports about this problem, according to Richard Sorian, director of communications, education and outreach for the exchange. He noted that the report could be from the same person. “It’s one of those phishing expeditions that unfortunately arise when our website center is being frequented by the public. It’s not something internal to our system. We’re investigating to see if we can find out what’s going on,” Sorian said in a phone interview Friday to The Hill.
Phishing is a common tactic used to trick people into revealing personal information, usually by impersonating a trusted website. Since the insurance site launched in October, officials have been warning its users not to enter personal information, including PIN numbers. “We’re taking it seriously, but it’s not a major problem,” he said. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have warned about cybersecurity issues plaguing the federal portal, HealthCare.gov. Rep. Mike Rogers, (R-MI), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, advised Thursday that it be shut down until its security is strengthened.
Dec. 4: CNN News: Some Reid staffers are exempted from ObamaCare exchanges:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), one of Obamacare's architects and staunchest supporters, is also the only top congressional leader to exempt some of his staff from having to buy insurance through the law's new exchanges. Reid is the exception among the other top congressional leaders. GOP House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have all directed their staffs to join the exchange, their aides said. In September, Reid told reporters, "Let's stop these really juvenile political games (look who’s talking!) -- the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of exchanges, that's what the law says and we'll be part of that."
Dec. 4: The Washington Examiner: Obama wants bar owners to hold happy hour for ObamaCare
During today's White House Youth Summit, President Obama called on young people to do whatever they can to promote his signature health care law — including plying their customers with cheap booze. "If you are a bartender, have a happy hour," Obama said as the crowd laughed. "And also probably get health insurance because a lot of people don't have it."
Obama also encouraged young people who are student body presidents or workers at nonprofit organizations to help people get enrolled. "If you've got a radio show, spread the word on air," Obama added. Obama called on young people's sense of patriotism to join the cause. "[The] bottom line is that I'm going to need you, the country needs you," Obama said, reminding them that their friends and peers might not know the benefits of Obamacare.
Dec. 4: The Daily Caller: Youth abandon Obama as his approval rating plummets:
President Barack Obama has always had a strong approval rating with young voters, but now, a majority of young people under age 25 would recall him if they could, according to a poll released Wednesday. The Harvard University Institute of Political poll of millenials found that 52 percent of young people would recall Obama if that were an option. Among young people age 25 to 29, 40 percent said they would recall the president. Overall, 47 percent of young people ages 18-29 said they would recall him, while 46 percent said they would not.
Dec. 3: The Daily Caller: Debate Gets Hot in House Judiciary Hearing
A Republican congressman lamented during a Capitol Hill hearing on Tuesday that Democrats who would constantly “bitch and whine” about George W. Bush don’t seem to be concerned at all about how President Obama abuse of power. Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador made the comments during a Tuesday House Judiciary Committee titled, “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” “I’m surprised that my friends on the other side don’t think that this is an important hearing,” Labrador said, “because they seemed to bitch and whine for eight years about what the Bush administration did. And all of sudden they don’t seem to have one single concern about what this president is doing with his authority.”
At the beginning of the hearing Virginia Rep. Robert Goodlatte — the Republican chairman of the committee — accused the Obama administration of ignoring the “constitution’s carefully balanced separation of powers.” “From ‘Obamacare’ to immigration, the current administration is picking and choosing which laws to enforce,” Goodlatte said.
[Editor’s Note: Next Monday, the “Three Musketeers” (friends who ran for TX Congressional District 14 in the 2012 Primary) will publish a related column on the “Arrogance of Power” which will be made available on this Website on December 9th.]
Dec. 3: The Hill: Boehner says House Ag Committee has made serious offers to the Senate but they are back in a no negotiating mode, this time on the farm bill:
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday accused Senate Democrats of holding up year-end agreements on the farm bill and the budget.
“It is time for the other chamber to get serious about getting its work done,” Boehner said after a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference. The Speaker said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had each made multiple serious offers to their Democratic counterparts on House-Senate conference committees on the farm bill and budget, respectively. But in both cases, Boehner said, “we can’t get Senate Democrats to say 'yes.' ”
A five-year farm bill and a two-year budget agreement are two of the major issues that congressional leaders want to resolve before lawmakers head home for the year. Boehner on Tuesday also defended the House against the “do nothing” label that Democrats seek to affix to Republican leaders over their inaction on immigration and other priorities that the Senate has acted on. Congress is set to pass the smallest number of laws in recent memory for 2013, The Speaker pointed to the fact that the House had passed several annual appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed none. But the legislation passed by the Senate, such as the immigration overhaul, has, in many cases, been more far-reaching than the more modest Republicans proposals advanced by the House.
Dec. 3: Fox News: ObamaCare faces another challenge in Federal Court
ObamaCare faced another legal challenge Tuesday in federal court, as a group of business owners and individuals pushed back against an IRS regulation they say is both unlawful and potentially crippling. The regulation, which proponents say stems from the act, defines which applicants are eligible for subsidies in connection with obtaining health care coverage. It's a significant distinction, because those subsidies trigger massive employer and individual obligations in the states where they are awarded.
The plaintiffs in Halbig v. Sebelius say the plain text of ObamaCare, limits subsidies to applicants in states that have set up their own exchanges. "Congress figured because it was loading up the state exchanges with a lot of goodies that just about every state would make the choice to participate,” said Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The administration was "unpleasantly surprised" when dozens of states (thirty of them) "said thanks, but no thanks," Kazman said. He believes the IRS is acting in concert with the administration to extend those attractive subsidies to all states – including those that opted out, an interpretation which gives rise to both employer and individual mandates and penalties – critical to helping fund the program.
The government, which lost its bid to have the case dismissed, argues that the plaintiffs are misreading the statute. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman had plenty of tough questions for both sides Tuesday, including just how far – and where – he should go to look for more information about what Congress actually intended. The plaintiffs say it's simple: the text of the law. The government argues it would be nonsensical to read the provision literally and out of context with the overall intention of the law.
Dec. 3: Politico: New Weapon for GOP in fighting ObamaCare: Doctors
Get ready for the next line of attack from the GOP on Obamacare: good luck keeping your doctor. As other controversies surrounding the law begin to fade, House Republicans are increasingly focused on President Barack Obama’s pledge that “if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.” They’re hoping to replicate the uproar over canceled insurance plans, which has caused problems for millions of consumers nationwide and political headaches for Democrats.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Tuesday that the “fundamentally flawed” health care law is “causing people to lose the doctor of their choice.” Chief GOP investigator Darrell Issa has launched a House probe into the doctor claim. And House Republicans have highlighted the physician predicament in their weekly GOP addresses. Here is the gist of the GOP contention: Some insurers have limited the number of doctors or hospitals their customers can go to in their new coverage plans, and some people will have to get new coverage plans under Obamacare. While a limited inventory of doctors is typical of most insurance policies both on and off the Obamacare exchanges, it runs counter to the Obama administration’s promise that people won’t have to change doctors under the health care law.
By emphasizing voters’ relationships with their doctors, Republicans countering efforts by the Obama Administration to “pivot” and focus the debate on other issues
Dec. 3: Fox News: Administration struggles to sign up young “invincible” for ObamaCare:
Preliminary figures suggest the Obama administration is falling far short of its goal of signing up the young, healthy and uninsured for ObamaCare. It's a problem that could undermine the rollout of the law even more than the glitch-ridden website. Experts say the health care program needs 40 percent of all enrollees to be between 18 and 34 years old -- a prized demographic known in the industry as the "young invincibles." They are considered young, healthy and relatively cheap to care for and are necessary to subsidize older and more expensive enrollees.
While the administration isn't releasing numbers, of the six states that are keeping score, only 28 percent fit into the young and healthy demographic. Fox News spoke with some Los Angeles residents in that age group, who said for them, buying health insurance just doesn't make economic sense. "A lot of people can't afford it the way it is these days," one young man said. "I think a lot of young men my age nowadays probably don't really look into it," said another.
Though the government plans to start fining people who don't sign up for coverage by March 31, 2014, experts say the numbers simply don't add up for many young people. Faced with expenses for rent, a car payment, auto insurance, food, and clothing, many would rather spend any leftover cash on travel, entertainment and even beer than drop $100 to $200 a month on something they don't think they'll need.
Nov. 29: The Daily Caller: Allen West: White House “sounds like a very cheap retailer” hawking ObamaCare
Former Florida congressman Allen West mocked the news that the Obamacare website would be down for maintenance the night of its long-awaited Dec. 1 fix, warning that the White House’s repeated excuses make it sound “like a very cheap retailer.” On Fox News Channel’s On The Record Friday night, West told Harris Faulker that the Obama administration’s decision to delay the website fix further was “incredible.” “They should not have put their own set mandate on it,” he said, “because now everyone is watching them. And for them to continually come back and say that we can only take 50 thousand or as you just reported, [the website] is going to be down — this is eroding the confidence and the credibility not just of the Obama administration, but of President Obama himself.”
Nov. 28: The Hill: Gowdy: Obama lied to women to win votes
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) accused President Barack Obama of misleading women in order to win reelection by advertising a contraceptive mandate in ObamaCare that he knew would be struck down by the Supreme Court. “He knows he's not going to win this at the Supreme Court, but he won in 2012, and that was his real objective,” Gowdy said in an appearance on Fox News's “On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren.” As ObamaCare has been implemented, a provision requiring employer-provided health insurance to offer free birth control has met with fierce opposition. While churches are exempted from the rule, religiously based organizations and for-profit corporations are not. Several companies, including Hobby Lobby, have sued, claiming that the forced provision of birth control violates their owners' religious beliefs and is illegal under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First Amendment. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Hobby Lobby's case after the company succeeded in winning an injunction against the mandate in July.
Gowdy predicted that the Supreme Court will decisively strike down the mandate as illegal, and claimed that Obama was equally aware this was the likely outcome. Gowdy pointed towards the Supreme Court's 2012 decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, in which the court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment's protection of free exercise prohibits the government from applying anti-discrimination laws to the selection of religious leaders. “It was nine to nothing in a religious liberty case,” Gowdy said. “The president knows he's not going to win this case.”
Nov. 28: Fox News: Dems try to distance themselves from ObamaCare:
A month after emerging from a government shutdown at the top of their game, many Democrats in Congress newly worried about the party's re-election prospects are for the first time distancing themselves from President Barack Obama after the disastrous rollout of his health care overhaul. At issue, said several Obama allies, is a loss of trust in the president after only 106,000 people — instead of an anticipated half million — were able to buy insurance coverage the first month of the new "Obamacare" web sites. In addition, some 4.2 million Americans received notices from insurers that policies Obama had promised they could keep were being canceled.
"Folks are now, I think in talking to members, more cautious with regard to dealing with the president," said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and one of the first leaders in his state to endorse Obama's presidential candidacy six year ago. Cummings, the White House's biggest defender in a Republican-controlled committee whose agenda is waging war against the administration over Benghazi, the IRS scandal, a gun-tracking operation and now health care, said he still thinks Obama is operating with integrity. But he noted that not all his Democratic colleagues agree. "They want to make sure that everything possible is being done to, number one, be transparent, (two) fix this website situation and, three, to restore trust," Cummings said.
Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., like Cummings, a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus who personally likes Obama, struggled to describe the state of play between congressional Democrats and the president. "I am trying to think if you can call it a relationship at this point," he said. The political body language tells the story of the strain. Thirty-nine House Democrats in Obama's party defied the president's veto threat and voted for a GOP-sponsored bill to permit the sale of individual health coverage that falls short of requirements in the law.
Nov. 28: The Daily Caller: Alleged Obamma letter to Texas school teacher calls critics “Tea-Baggers”
President Barack Obama allegedly used the term “tea-baggers” to describe members of the Tea Party movement in a handwritten response to a fifth-grade school teacher’s letter criticizing Obamacare. The crude and derogatory term, which is brimming with sexual innuendo, appears in a note penned on stationery bearing the words “The White House” at the top. The man who says he received the missive is Thomas Ritt reports the Daily Mail.
Ritter, 49, had written a letter to Obama before Congress passed Obamacare, and well before the law’s embarrassingly disastrous launch. “This bill has caused such a divisive, derisive and toxic environment,” he wrote. “The reality is that any citizen that disagrees with your administration is targeted and ridiculed.” “I watched you make fun of tea baggers and your press secretary make fun of Ms. Palin which was especially beneath the dignity of the White House,” wrote the Texas teacher. “Do the right thing not the political thing. Suggest a bill that Americans can support.”
Ritter was shocked, he claims, when Obama bothered to respond to his letter. He was even more shocked when the president used the word “tea-bagger” himself to describe his political opponents.
Nov. 28: New York Times: ObamaCare may worsen doctor shortage:
Dr. Ted Mazer is one of the few ear, nose and throat specialists in this region who treat low-income people on Medicaid, so many of his patients travel long distances to see him. But now, as California’s Medicaid program is preparing for a major expansion under President Obama’s health care law, Dr. Mazer says he cannot accept additional patients under the government insurance program for a simple reason: It does not pay enough. “It’s a bad situation that is likely to be made worse,” he said.
His view is shared by many doctors around the country. Medicaid for years has struggled with a shortage of doctors willing to accept its low reimbursement rates and red tape, forcing many patients to wait for care, particularly from specialists like Dr. Mazer. Yet in just five weeks, millions of additional Americans will be covered by the program, many of them older people with an array of health problems. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that nine million people will gain coverage through Medicaid next year alone. In many of the 26 states expanding the program, the newly eligible have been flocking to sign up. Community clinics, which typically provide primary but not specialty care, have expanded and hired more medical staff members to meet the anticipated wave of new patients. And managed-care companies are recruiting doctors, nurse practitioners and other professionals into their networks, sometimes offering higher pay if they improve care while keeping costs down. But it is far from clear that the demand can be met, experts say.
Nov. 28: The Hill: Barrasso lashes out at ObamaCare site delay:
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) joined a chorus of Republicans in lambasting the White House for Wednesday's announcement of a yearlong delay for the small-business healthcare exchange website being created under ObamaCare. “President Obama made an important promise to small businesses across the country and now he has broken it,” Barrasso said. “How many delays will it take before President Obama finally admits that the health care law is fundamentally broken and hurting Americans?”
The delay is another setback for the troubled enrollment process of President Obama's signature healthcare law. Companies with fewer than 50 employees were slated to begin buying coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), an online ObamaCare exchange, this month. The exchange’s delay means small businesses will instead have to seek out coverage through an agent or broker. Barrasso accused the administration of strategically timing the announcement to take advantage of the country's distraction by the Thanksgiving holiday. “Instead of trying to sneak another major change past the American people on the eve of Thanksgiving, President Obama should finally admit that his law does not work,” he said.
Nov. 28: The Daily Caller: Krauthammer: Pro-Obamacare Thanksgiving ad has ‘kind of creepy Soviet element’
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer ridiculed an Organizing for America commercial telling parents to give their kids a Thanksgiving scolding until they sign up for Obamacare. “I love the part of the ad where the dad says, ‘We love you no matter what,’” Krauthammer joked Thursday on Fox News Channel’s Special Report. “What’s the dad supposed to say? You don’t get health insurance, you’re out of the house, you’re out of the will? I’m going to euthanize your dog?”
Organizing for America was a key component in President Obama’s election campaign and is intimately tied to the White House communications team. Krauthammer worried about the implications of tying partisan politics to family gatherings like Thanksgiving dinner. “It’s ridiculous. And it’s got a kind of creepy Soviet element here,” he warned. “The essence of the overbearing state is that they leave you no haven from politics. And there is no place that ought to be yours and outside of politics as the family table, especially with a large turkey on it and everybody gathered all over the country. And they want you to talk about their political agenda?”
Nov. 27: Roll Call: Triage for HealthCare: Administration punts on Small Business Exchanges
Sometimes to save the patient, you have to chop off a limb. The Obama administration is doing just that with the underperfoming HealthCare.gov website, announcing Wednesday that it would give up on opening the exchange for small businesses for another year and would rely on direct enrollment through insurance companies and brokers instead. “This allows small employers to sign up for coverage through offline enrollment while [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] works on creating a smoothly functioning online experience in the SHOP Marketplace,” an official at the Department of Health and Human Services said.
The move allows the administration to focus all of its efforts on the individual exchange, which is expected to face a crush of users as the clock clicks closer to a Dec. 23 deadline for enrollment to be insured on Jan. 1. Administration officials Wednesday afternoon were already warning that the website would be able to handle 50,000 people at a time — or about 800,000 per day — but could continue to have problems handling spikes in volume.
Nov. 27: WND.com: Boy with Cancer loses coverage under ObamaCare… can’t help him unless he is pregnant or an illegal
Hunter Alford is the happy kid next door with a big grin who idolizes country music star Blake Shelton. His parents call him a “wild, fun loving, zombie-killing boy who loves the military and police.” He is normal in every way, except this 7-year-old already plays guitar and keyboards and has his heart set on learning to fiddle.
Something else sets Hunter apart. He was born with a rare form of cancer and lost his health insurance just after Obamacare went into effect. Americans were told the health-care law was designed to help children just like Hunter, born with a deadly pre-existing condition and little means to pay for expensive treatments. The Affordable Care Act was not supposed to take away the insurance these most-vulnerable children already had and leave them utterly defenseless against a life-threatening disease. Answers are hard to come by, but it looks like that’s what the president’s signature achievement has done in the small town of Gainesville, Texas.
Nov. 27: The Hill: Latest small-business delay another blow to troubled ObamaCare rollout
The White House is delaying the launch of its online small-business exchange by one year, a Health and Human Services (HHS) official confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday. The delay is another setback for the troubled enrollment process of President Obama's signature healthcare law. Companies with fewer than 50 employees were slated to begin buying coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), an online ObamaCare exchange, this month. The exchange’s delay means small businesses will instead have to seek out coverage through an agent or broker.
HHS said the delay was the result of the administration concentrating its focus and energy on getting the online exchange for individuals up and running by Nov. 30. But Republicans said the announcement as yet another example that the healthcare law is doomed to fail. “Once again, President Obama has unilaterally delayed another major portion of ObamaCare, and once again, he has tried to bury bad news around a holiday hoping nobody will notice,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement. “The president's latest one-year delay is another sign that ObamaCare's issues run much deeper than a failing website,” he added. “The delay is also a reminder of the terrible harm ObamaCare will inflict on small businesses, costing jobs and economic growth. The president has fought bipartisan efforts to give middle class families and individuals a similar one-year delay from the debacle of ObamaCare. It's time all Americans are protected from the harm caused by ObamaCare.”
Nov. 26: Breitbart.com: Supreme Court to take a second look at ObamaCare:
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees. The justices said they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception. The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts. The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company's claims.
The court said the cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June. The cases center on a provision of the health care law that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide a range of preventive health benefits, including contraception. In both instances, the Christian families that own the companies say that insuring some forms of contraception violates their religious beliefs. The key issue is whether profit-making corporations can assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. Nearly four years ago, the justices expanded the concept of corporate "personhood," saying in the Citizens United case that corporations have the right to participate in the political process the same way that individuals do. "The government has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free," said David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian public interest law firm that is representing Conestoga Wood at the Supreme Court.
Nov. 25: The Hill: Admin. Says Healthcare Website will not be perfect on December 1st
Obama administration officials said Monday that some visitors to HealthCare.gov will experience outages, slow response times or try-again-later messages in December. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) delivered the message in the latest attempt to downplay expectations for Nov. 30, the administration’s self-imposed deadline for fixing ObamaCare’s federal enrollment site. CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said errors that persist past this weekend would be “intermittent” and, in line with a promise made by the White House, would not affect the vast majority of the site’s users.
But Bataille acknowledged that some would still experience “periods of suboptimal performance” by the system due to either heavy traffic or technical issues that are still being addressed. “The system will not work perfectly on Dec. 1, but it will work much better than it did in October,” Bataille said. The comments came after HealthCare.gov experienced an unscheduled outage on Monday for one hour. The CMS had recently touted the site for not randomly crashing. Bataille said the problem was remedied quickly by the site’s tech team.
Administration officials are facing a challenge in how to describe the system’s status. It’s clear from user reports that HealthCare.gov has improved substantially in the last month, and the administration is eager to tout their progress amid anecdotes about persistent errors. But the site is still far from perfect and could remain problematic on and off for the foreseeable future.
Nov. 25: Fox News: ObamaCare policies with sky-high premiums on smokers could backfire:
ObamaCare may have backfired in its goal of making smoking so expensive that users quit, public health experts say, as sky-high insurance premiums force smokers to drop coverage altogether and lose smoking cessation programs along with it. "Tobacco surcharges are not proven to help tobacco users quit and there are major concerns that they will prevent people from getting health care coverage," the American Lung Association's Jennifer Singleterry said.
Unlike drug addicts, alcoholics, or the obese -- all of whom represent higher-than-average medical costs -- smokers are the only such group with a pre-existing condition that ObamaCare penalizes. It allows insurance companies to charge smokers up to 50 percent more than non-smokers for an identical policy, depending on the state and any subsidies the person might qualify for. For example, premiums for a 64-year-old non-smoker, according to the Kaiser Health Calculator, cost $9,000 a year for a standard "silver" insurance plan. The same policy for a smoker could cost $13,600. "I can't afford any insurance at that rate," smoker Don Hampson said. "I thought that was what ObamaCare was about, to stop all this."
Nov. 25: The Hill: Obama “Fix” Could mean weaken heath care exchanges and higher costs:
The Obama administration is conceding that its decision to allow people to keep insurance policies that would otherwise be canceled under the Affordable Care Act could weaken federal health exchanges. Hundreds of pages of regulations made public Monday contain an acknowledgment that the decision, announced amid fierce criticism over canceled policies, would mean fewer healthy people would buy healthcare through the exchanges. Healthy participants are a critical component to the success of the exchanges, because they offset the costs associated with consumers considered to carry a higher risk. “If lower health risk individuals remain in a separate risk pool, the transitional policy could increase an issuer’s average expected claims cost for plans that comply with the 2014 market rules,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notice detailing a variety of regulations governing the exchanges.
Because insures would have set premiums with an expectation that more healthy participants would enroll earlier, “an increase in expected claims costs could lead to unexpected losses,” a section of the HHS notice reads. The agency said it is exploring ways to address the decision’s impacts by tweaking other programs, including ObamaCare’s “risk corridor” provision allowing partial reimbursements for insurers who take on high-risk consumers. “As we continue to analyze its potential impacts, we will determine whether such approaches and modifications are warranted,” the agency wrote. It’s kind of like this, when you have such a complicated law and you change this part then it affects another part, which affects still another part and so a kind of chain reaction is set off.
Nov. 25: Fox News: Administration launches program to let users circumvent healthcare.gov
Trouble with the HealthCare.gov site appears to be so widespread that the Obama administration has opened the door for Americans to circumvent the site altogether. Under a plan announced Friday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government would allow people to deal directly with insurance companies instead of through the federally run exchange website. The move comes as the administration's self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline for fixing the site is just days away, and officials acknowledge it may not be fully operational by then.
The pilot program announced by CMS would initially launch for residents in Ohio, Florida and Texas, and is the latest effort to give users an alternative to the troubled site. “This is one more way we are working to offer consumers a variety of ways to enroll in affordable coverage,” agency spokeswomen Julie Bataille said in announcing the pilot project. “By strengthening the multiple channels to enroll in quality, affordable coverage … we are ensuring that every American who wants it can gain access to these new coverage options.”
Bataille said that direct enrollment has “been there from the start.” But the option was limited by the website problems, which have been fixed to the extent that insurance companies can now send applications to the site to assess enrollees' eligibility for coverage and potential discounts on premiums, she said. Though the option could help Americans frustrated by the HealthCare.gov’s crashes, slow response times and other problems, it is another acknowledgement that the site probably will not be working for everybody by the administration’s Nov. 30 deadline.
Nov. 25: The Hill: Poll: Public happier with their own healthcare than ObamaCare
People in the United States view their own healthcare far more favorably than the national system, according to a new poll. In its annual healthcare survey, Gallup found that people tend to rate their own healthcare coverage more highly than they rate the quality of care in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of people rate their personal health insurance as excellent or good, while only 32 percent view the nation's as highly, according to the Nov. 7-10 poll.
The strong level of personal satisfaction with healthcare contrasts with a jump in the number of people who view healthcare as the nation's second most important problem, behind dissatisfaction with the government. The rise in concern likely registers awareness of ObamaCare's troubled rollout since Oct. 1, according to the survey. Pollsters attributed the healthcare law's lack of popularity to people's general contentment with the cost and quality of their own medical care. "Trends in Americans' assessments of their personal healthcare situation have been highly stable in recent years, suggesting little increase in personal worry," Gallup stated in a memo.
Nov. 23: The Daily Caller: Democrats should have taken the ObamaCare Delay Deal when they had the opportunity:
Congressman Raul Labrador isn’t unrepentant for the Republicans’ role in the fight over Obamacare that led to a government shutdown by Senate Democrats and the White House — especially since the White House has unilaterally delayed multiple portions of the law since its implementation. “There wasn’t a single Republican that wanted to shut down the government,” Labrador said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller. ”We all knew that on October first there was a new healthcare law that was going to impact every American and that was the only opportunity we had to do a fight on Obamacare.” Labrador said Democrats fought so savagely against GOP proposals only to clamor for the very same changes that the GOP was requesting as soon as President Obama’s signature piece of legislation went into a tailspin.
Nov. 23 : The Daily Caller: George Will calls Obamacare and Nuclear Option “cynical lawlessness”
On Friday’s “The Kelly File” on the Fox News Channel, Washington Post columnist George Will explained that Obamacare’s collapse, from its disastrous rollout to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s launch of the nuclear option, helps to fulfill the so-called “progressive dream.” Will also said it seems as “…the president continues to waive this and suspend that and exercise what he calls enforcement discretion, the American people are beginning to feel that the law is in constant flux. And if the law is in constant flux like by the way the rules of the Senate, there is no law just as there are no more rules in the Senate anymore.”
Will also said that delaying parts of ObamaCare past the 2014 elections in cleaver but that the law, itself, will eventually collapse. “If people knew a month before the election, they would at least know,” Will said. “Now they’re going to have their imagination fired by Republicans telling them to be afraid, be very afraid of what you’re going to learn after the election because they don’t want you to know before the election.
Obamacare is collapsing under the weight of accumulated cleverness. It was passed by clever parliamentary maneuvers, passed by cleverness in the cornhusker kickback and the Gatorade and the Louisiana Purchase and all the other deals. It is constructed in huge complexity because it’s supposed to be a clever way of disguising the fact that this whole scheme is a large income transfer and redistribution mechanism as much as it is a health care plan. So, the cleverness compounding cleverness compounding cleverness, and it’s beginning to look not a bit clever.”
Nov. 22: Burlington Free Press: State confirms healthcare Website security breach”
Officials overseeing the Vermont Health Connect website confirmed Friday there was a security breach on the system last month in which one user got improper access to another user’s Social Security number and other data. A report from state to federal officials overseeing the health insurance exchanges set up under ObamaCare said a consumer reported the incident with the Vermont Health Connect website on Oct. 17. The consumer, whom officials would not identify, reported that he received in the mail — from an unnamed sender — a copy of his own application for insurance under the state exchange. “On the back of the envelope was hand-written ‘VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!’ This was also (written) on the back of the last page of the printed out application,” said the incident report.
Nov. 22: The Weekly Standard: Senator Franken: We may need to delay ObamaCare!
Minnesota senator Al Franken, a Democrat, opened the door to a delay of the Obamacare individual mandate in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio. Senator Franken says he would be open to a brief delay in the individual mandate if the problems with HealthCare.gov aren't fixed by the end of the month, according to Minnesota Public Radio. “I think then we have to consider extending the deadline for the mandate, but let’s hope that doesn't happen," Franken told MPR. Franken has so far been relatively quiet about potential changes to the health-care law, but he now joins a growing group of Senate Democrats in seats that could be targeted by the GOP in 2014 who are speaking up on the issue.
Nov. 21: CBS News – Pittsburgh: Diocese Wins Delay against ObamaCare
A federal judge in western Pennsylvania says Catholic groups don’t immediately have to comply with mandates in the federal health care overhaul law. The Diocese is challenging its participation in the health care program because it would be required to provide its employees with contraceptives. There were strong words earlier this month from Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese leader Bishop David Zubik as he testified in federal court on the issue. He told the court: “The issue with the services in the mandate is that they either go against preservation of human life or involve the actual taking of human life.”
Churches are exempt from the mandate, but charitable organizations, including Pittsburgh Catholic Charities, were not. Zubik told the court this is a problem because, “the practice of charity has to reflect the teaching of the church.” Both Zubik and Cardinal Timothy Dolan called the services at issue “evil” and say by giving employees access to those services, the Diocese would be “facilitating scandal.”
The judge in the case writes that this is a preliminary injunction. Some experts believe the U.S. Supreme Court will make the final decision.
Nov. 20: The Washington Post:
New health plans sold through exchanges not accepted at some prestigious New York City hospitals
New Yorkers buying a health plan on the state’s new insurance exchange should read the fine print if they’re interested in getting care at some of the city’s top hospitals. Not all are participating in the new plans created by ObamaCare. As of this week, not one of the plans for sale on New York’s health benefit exchange would cover treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s largest and most respected cancer hospitals. That could mean that the 615,000 individuals and 450,000 small business employees expected to eventually get their insurance through the exchange would have to go someplace else for treatment, or pay the bill out of their own pockets.
Other premier city hospitals are in the networks of just a few of the new plans. NYU Langone Medical Center has signed agreements with four of the 19 insurers doing business on the exchange. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, which oversees the city’s biggest hospital system, has signed agreements with six insurers.
President Obama promised when ObamaCare was enacted that people who liked their doctors could keep them, but the reality of the law both in New York and around the country is that the new, lower-cost policies it is creating sometimes have smaller provider networks than Medicare, Medicaid, or the plans people typically get through their employers. Those narrower networks are a result of insurers trying to control costs and hospitals being cautious about agreeing to take new, untested insurance products.
Nov. 20: The Daily Caller: O’Keefe video captures non-profit ObamaCare enrollment conspiring to engage in illegal activity
An official with the nonprofit Obamacare enrollment group Enroll America conspired to give people’s personal information to what he thought was a political action committee, according to James O’Keefe’s latest video, provided to The Daily Caller. Enroll America, which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted to fundraising for, is a “nonpartisan” 501(c)(3) nonprofit that critics accuse of working as an unofficial Obamacare navigator across the country. Enroll America’s Texas state communications lead Christopher Tarango conspired to provide a list of potential Obamacare enrollees, obtained through the “commit cards” that the group hands out door to door to help them pick insurance plans, to an O’Keefe investigator posing as the representative of a political action committee.
Nov. 20: The Hill: Oops! ObamaCare site crashes on Sebelius:
The troubled HealthCare.Gov website crashed in front of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday in Miami.
A local CBS reporter jumped in while Sebelius was doing a test run on the site to say, “the screen says 'I’m sorry but the system is temporarily down.' ”
“Uh oh,” Sebelius responded.
The secretary held events in Orlando and Miami on Tuesday encouraging people to sign up for healthcare despite the problems the administration has had in getting the website up and running.
Nov. 20: Freebeacon.com: North Carolina small businesswoman says ObamaCare is taking a Bite out of her business:
A North Carolina small business owner said she is being driven to drink more alcohol because of the stress brought on by Obamacare’s regulations, drawing laughter at a hearing about the new exchanges Wednesday. The founder of early2surg, Sheila Salter, produced a chart showing she was taking a $4,584 bite out of her business due to Obamacare’s mandate that plans have at least 10 “essential benefits” she didn’t want at a hearing about the new health exchanges Wednesday.
Nov. 20: The Hill: Obama hits new low with Democrats
President Obama’s relationship with congressional Democrats has worsened to an unprecedented low, Democratic aides say. They are letting it be known that House and Senate Democrats are increasingly frustrated, bitter and angry with the White House over ObamaCare’s botched rollout, and that the president’s mea culpa in a news conference last week failed to soothe any ill will.
Sources who attended a meeting of House chiefs of staff on Monday say the room was seething with anger over the immense damage being done to the Democratic Party and talk was of scrapping rollout events for the Affordable Care Act. “Here we are, we’re supposed to be selling this to people, and it’s all screwed up,” one chief of staff ranted. “This either gets fixed or this could be the demise of the Democratic Party. Democrats around Capitol Hill say there are lots of people to blame for the debacle that has engulfed them. But increasingly the anger is directed at one person only: Obama. “Is he even more unpopular than George W. Bush? I think that’s already happened,” said one Democratic chief of staff.
Nov. 19: Real Clear Politics: Krauthammer: This is a level of incompetence that is indescribable:
In saying that he was never told “directly” that there were problems with the Website is “sort of a Clintonian way for him to protect himself in case there is a memo that comes out in which he was informed by another person.” Krauthammer said. “But what's happening here is the unraveling of the cover up. This is not a cover up of corrupt misconduct, it's a cover up of cosmic incompetence of the fact that they began to be told in March and nobody acted. So, we now know the secretary of HHS knew, high officials in the White House knew way back in December and then pretended in a hearing two weeks later to Congress, it's all working well.
We know from the McKinsey study that the president had been briefed. “So he knew, how much he knew, we are not sure. But this is a level of incompetence that is indescribable. And it stands to reason. We've got a president who never ran anything. He was never a governor. He never ran a hot dog stand in his life and he presumed that his team could remake one-sixth of the American economy and this is what happens.”
Nov. 19: The Weekly Standard: Pfeiffer: Obama too busy for Anniversary of Gettysburg Address:
Barack Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer says the president won't be attending the Gettysburg address anniversary today because the "whole website thing." He appears to be talking about the ongoing problems with the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov.
Nov. 18: Fox News: Obama Official lowers the bar on deadline to fix ObamaCare website:
The Obama administration is lowering the bar again on the problem-plagued ObamaCare website, saying that it will be “greatly improved” by month’s end -- not fixed. “The consumer experience … will be greatly improved for the vast majority of users by November 30,” Henry Chao, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ deputy chief information officer, will tell House investigators on Tuesday, according to written testimony obtained by Fox News. Chao’s testimony, 11 days before the fix deadline, appears to be the most recent case of the administration attempting to lower expectations, or at least prepare Americans for more problems when attempting to enter the site to purchase insurance policies that begin coverage January 1.
His prepared remarks before a House subcommittee on Energy and Commerce also follow a Washington Post story in which sources told the newspaper the administration hopes 80 percent of users can buy insurance plans online. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday the other 20 percent includes some Americans who cannot make purchases because of technical errors and those who will never shop on the Internet.
Nov. 18: Roll Call: Will the Supreme Court take on the ObamaCare Contraception Coverage Issue”
On Nov. 26, the court is scheduled to meet privately to decide which of four cases, if any, to take up this term that challenge the Obama administration’s requirements that most health insurance plans cover birth control free of charge. Opponents say the requirements violate their religious freedom. The Supreme Court conference will come nearly a year and a half after the high court voted to uphold the core of the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) — the requirement that most people buy health insurance or pay a penalty — in a 5-4 decision. This time, three of the four cases are more narrowly focused on businesses seeking an exemption to the contraception rule; the fourth, from a religiously affiliated university, also challenges other aspects of the law. If the justices decide to take up one or more of the challenges, a ruling could be expected by the beginning of the summer. And the general consensus seems to be that the court will choose to weigh in on the question.
Nov. 18: Fox News: Students suffer sticker shock as premiums for ObamaCare skyrocket and plans get cut:
While millions of Americans are watching their individual polices get canceled due to ObamaCare regulations, the new health care rules are also having a major impact on college campuses. For decades, universities and colleges have offered students bare-bones policies. But because of the Affordable Care Act, those policies no longer cut it – and universities are forced to decide whether to offer significantly higher-cost plans or cancel coverage altogether. The new rules affect a broad swath of American schools, especially the small ones.
At Bowie State in Maryland, the cost of student health insurance policies went from roughly $100 a year to $1,800 a year. The cancelled plan offered $5,000 worth of medical coverage to students for just $54 per semester. University administrators said an acceptable replacement under the Affordable Care Act would have cost $900 per semester, a 1,500% increase. Students who need individual coverage are likely to find a better deal for themselves on the Maryland Health Connection insurance exchange, University spokeswoman Cassandra Robinson said. In the end, the school decided to drop the policy for all of its 5,500 enrollees. Students were notified of the dropped coverage on the school’s website.
Nov. 17: Politico: Woodward: ObamaCare not Watergate but it’s going to get worse:
President Obama’s mishandling of the Affordable Care Act rollout has been incompetent, Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward said, but it doesn’t rise to past president-dooming scandals. “What this is, it’s a mess, clearly, but what it isn’t, and I think you have to look at the question of motive. And the president’s motive here, even though there were deep problems with the implementation, he wants to do something good for 30 million people and get them health insurance,” Woodward said on “Fox News Sunday.” “So this isn’t Watergate, this isn’t [Bill] Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.” Asked by Fox host Chris Wallace if the Obamacare implementation revealed “rank incompetence,” Woodward agreed.
Nov. 17: Fox News: DC Insurance Head canned after criticizing “Obama Fix”
The District of Columbia’s insurance commissioner says he was fired after questioning President Obama’s plan to fix ObamaCare and saying the city might not follow his suggestions. Commissioner William White told The Washington Post on Saturday that he was called into Mayor Vincent Gray’s office the prior day and told the Democratic mayor “wants to go in a different direction.”
The president said Thursday that the millions of insurance plans scheduled to be canceled next year to comply with ObamaCare regulations could be extended for a year, after he told Americans prior to the law’s passage that they could keep their existing plans. However, White and other insurance commissioners across the country have questioned the president’s proposed solution because it could create a mess in the marketplace. Some of the top reasons for the commissioners’ objections are: policy prices are already locked in to comply with changes in ObamaCare; an extension could conflict with state-level laws to comply with the law and younger Americans needed to join the federal exchange to keep down costs will wait to enroll.
Nov. 17: The Hill: Insurance industry warns against the Obama “fix”
Top insurance industry officials warned Sunday that President Obama's push to delay health plan cancellations would only make things worse. Obama announced his proposed fix last week after insurers cancelled millions of individual market policies. The cancellations have created a massive political headache for Democratic lawmakers and a president who repeatedly asserted that Americans would be able to keep their plans. “We have a policy disagreement,” Karen Ignagni, head of the industry group America's Health Insurance Plans, told "Fox News Sunday." “When you set rules in place, and an industry meets them, and then the rules are changed, that creates... problems.”
Obama summoned industry officials to the White House on Friday to try to assuage their worries. Ignagni said her group still has concerns. She refused to criticize the White House, however, although it has renewed attacks on the industry for crafting plans that can leave Americans exposed to catastrophic expenses. She said the industry is working with the administration to come up with a solution. “We have work to do,” she said. “I'm not in the blame game biz.”
Obama on Friday also called former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, after his group warned that his proposed fix “threatens to undermine the new market and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.”
Nov. 17: The Daily Caller: Gregory confronts Pelosi on “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it”
Back in 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it,” pertaining to Obamacare. And three and a half years later, moderator David Gregory on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC, confronted Pelosi about her 2010 remarks. Pelosi defended those remarks, saying the Affordable Care Act was an unfinished product at the time and would have had to be passed by both chambers of Congress to see what the ultimate result would be.
Nov. 17: Fox News: Can Obama’s Care be saved?
On Friday, 39 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted in support of a bill put forward by GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan that proponents claimed would allow millions of people who had received cancellation notices since ObamaCare went into effect October 1 to stay on their health plans. By way of comparison, only 22 House Democrats voted to delay the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate and 35 voted to delay the employer mandate, when both issues came up for a vote July 17.
The number of Democrats who crossed the aisle in support of the Upton bill hours after Obama offered a one-year extension to millions whose individual policies were canceled underscores the problem the administration faces: after making it through the Supreme Court, a presidential election, numerous congressional repeal votes and a government shutdown, ObamaCare has yet to win broad acceptance, and now risks coming unglued because of the administration's bungles and Obama's own inflated promises. In addition to the cancellation notices received by millions from their insurance companies, the federal health exchange website has been beset by glitches and outages preventing people from selecting an insurance plan. Despite this, the odds still favor ObamaCare's survival but even after Obama gets the enrollment website working, count on new controversies. On the horizon is the law's potential impact on job-based insurance. Its mandate that larger employers offer coverage will take effect in 2015.
Nov. 16: Fox News: Experts Warn: Obama’s “fix” for cancelled insurance plans could raise the costs of premiums
President Obama's proposal to allow insurance companies to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled under the federal health care law could lead to an increase in premiums, according to insurance industry experts and state regulators. America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group, said Obama's offer comes too late and could lead to higher premiums, since companies already have set 2014 rates based on the assumption that many people with individual coverage will shift over to the new markets created under the law. "Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” Karen Ignagni, president of the industry group, said in a statement in reaction to Obama's plan. “If due to these changes fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase in the marketplace, and there will be fewer choices for consumers.”
Nov. 16: Yahoo.com: UnitedHealth drops thousands of doctors from insurance plans:
UnitedHealth Group dropped thousands of doctors from its networks in recent weeks, leaving many elderly patients unsure whether they need to switch plans to continue seeing their doctors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The insurer said in October that underfunding of Medicare Advantage plans for the elderly could not be fully offset by the company's other healthcare business. The company also reported spending more healthcare premiums on medical claims in the third quarter, due mainly to government cuts to payments for Medicare Advantage services.
The Journal report said that doctors in at least 10 states were notified of being laid off the plans, some citing "significant changes and pressures in the healthcare environment." According to the notices, the terminations can be appealed within 30 days. The insurer told the WSJ that its provider networks were always changing and that it expected its Medicare Advantage network to be 85 percent to 90 percent of its current size by the end of 2014.
Nov. 15: The Washington Times: Diagnosis for ObamaCare? Incurable!
What does the president know about exactly? First, he was unaware of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups. Then he did not know about the National Security Agency’s massive spying on Americans. Now we’re supposed to believe Obama didn’t know about the massive problems facing the rollout of his signature policy? Really Mr. President? “So ultimately, I’m the head of this team. We did fumble the ball on it, and what I’m going to do is make sure that we get it fixed,” promised Obama.
Fumble is an understatement. Since the official October 1st rollout of the law, the wreckage list includes: a non-functioning website, only 26,000 people enrolling in the federally run exchanges, millions of canceled policies, higher premiums, and government paid “navigators,” working without background checks, who are encouraging people to use fraudulent information to enroll in healthcare.gov to get subsidies.
More astonishing than Democrats’ massive retreat from the law they championed in 2010 is how Obama remains absent from the stage of accountability for the law he championed. He refuses to say he’s sorry for lying to the American people “if you like your plan you can keep your plan.”
During his Thursday press performance, Obama did everything he could to avoid apologizing or taking full responsibility for the failure of Obamacare’s rollout. “I’m not happy about the fact that the rollout has been wrought with a whole range of problems that I’ve been deeply concerned about. …I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans,” Obama said Thursday. Yet understanding is not apologizing.
Nov. 15: The Washington Times: Saving ObamaCare: How we could see its collapse:
President Obama needs young and healthy people to buy expensive health care policies they do not need on the exchanges in order to subsidize the old and the sick. He needs America to blame insurance companies, and not the government, for all the problems with Obamacare. And he needs — after the inevitable failure of the exchanges — America to trust the government enough to accept being placed on Medicaid or another government-run health insurance program. If all three things do not occur, the progressive dream of single-payer healthcare will die.
If healthy people do not buy insurance through Obamacare, a disproportionate number of the elderly will be left to buy Obamacare insurance policies; their premiums will have to rise dramatically. As premiums rise, even more young and healthy people will drop out or choose not to enter the exchanges. This leaves only the old and sick in the exchanges, with extremely high premiums. This eventually leads to the old and sick leaving the exchanges as well, putting Obamacare out of business. In the insurance industry this is known as a “death spiral.”
Another issue is the fine that individuals who fail to purchase insurance must pay to the IRS. In 2014. The only recourse the law provides for the government to collect this tax is to take it out of an individual’s tax refund. So currently there is no material way for the government to collect this penalty. If they do collect it through tax refunds, it will disproportionately hurt the poor and middle class, which seems to be a distinct pattern emerging with this law. With all of the anger and frustration building towards the administration, it would be a drastic mistake to take this tax out of Americans’ tax refunds.
Nov. 15: RollCall: The 39 House Democrats Defied Obama’s Veto Threat:
President Barack Obama vowed to veto legislation that would let insurers keep selling old policies to new customers, as well as revive them for existing customers for another year, but 39 Democrats defied the White House and party leadership Friday and voted in favor of the Upton bill. All but three of the Democratic members on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline protection program voted with Upton and the GOP. Democratic leaders did manage to hold the vote well below a veto-proof majority — something that didn’t seem assured before Obama’s announced administrative fix.
Progressives and more liberal-leaning Democrats in particular struggled with the political implications for casting what is being called a vote of no confidence against the White House. In the end, many of those lawmakers who said they were wrestling with the options before Friday afternoon ended up voting “no.”
Nov. 14: The Daily Caller: Krauthammer: Obama can’t put the ObamaCare Humpty Dumpty back together again
On Thursday’s “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer deplored President Obama’s announcement of a so-called fix to his health care law as a political gesture that has nothing to do with the law itself. “This is all about show, this all about appearances,” Krauthammer said. “And this is all about the president protecting himself and some Democrats. Politically, Jonah [Goldberg] and Kirsten [Powers] are right. This is not going to have a real effect on those who lost their policies. The state health insurance commissioners have indicated and the insurers have indicated this is almost impossible to undo. You can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. He did it because there was a rebellion among Democrats on this end. Everyone knows about Republican opposition — wall-to-wall and constant. But what he was getting, especially after the statement by Bill Clinton who essentially said a few days ago, you know the president has not honored the promise he made. That’s number one, a pretty big accusation, even though he had the pseudo-apology.”
Nov. 13: Fox News: HHS reports 106K have enrolled for ObamaCare through the exchanges:
The Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday that more than 100,000 people have selected a health care plan through the ObamaCare exchanges -- a number that, likely due to widespread website failures, falls far short of the administration's goal. The administration had originally hoped to sign up a half-million people in the first month of open enrollment. Now more than six weeks into the troubled launch of HealthCare.gov and other state-based exchanges, HHS announced Wednesday that 106,185 people had selected a plan as of Nov. 2. And just 27,000 did so via the federal exchanges. The announcement had been highly anticipated, as lawmakers have been pressing the administration for weeks on official figures.
"The marketplace is working, and people are enrolling," Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed in announcing the figures, adding that the numbers should grow "substantially" in the coming months. But even the statistic revealed on Wednesday might be inflated. The administration said the figure counts all those who have selected a health care plan from state and federal exchanges, even if they haven't yet paid a premium on those plans. One source explained to Fox News that no one is really "enrolled" until the insurance company knows about it. Still, the numbers announced Wednesday stand as the most definitive account to date from the administration of how many people have been able to wade through the problem-plagued website and pick a plan.
The numbers announced Wednesday stand as the most definitive account to date from the administration of how many people have been able to wade through the problem-plagued website and pick a plan.
Nov. 13: The Daily Caller:
No guarantees from White House Chief Technical Office that HealthCare.gov can be fixed by the deadline”
White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park declined to guarantee that HealthCare.gov would be fully functional by the end of November, the date by which the administration has said it plans to have the website to be running more successfully. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Obamacare enrollment website was unlikely to be fully functional by that November 30 deadline, citing an official with knowledge of the project.
Testifying before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Park was asked by Oklahoma Republican Rep. James Lankford whether the site would be ready to go by the end of the month. Park declined to give a yes or no answer. “That’s the goal … we’re working very hard to get there,” Park responded. He did not specify further. He noted that the goal was not to make the site “perfect,” but to get it to function well enough that it is useable. Pressed on the subject again by Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold about whether that deadline was “realistic,” Park replied: “The team’s working really hard to meet that goal. That’s all I can say right now.”
Nov. 13: Fox News: Dems give Obama until Friday to fix health plan cancellations:
House Democrats delivered a fix-it-or-else ultimatum Wednesday to President Obama, giving his administration until Friday to find an affordable solution for the millions of Americans losing their health plans under ObamaCare -- or risk some Democrats backing a Republican solution. The ultimatum from President Obama's own party is another sign of the unrest within the Democratic caucus about the cancellation notices.
The end-of-the-week deadline is significant, because House Republicans are planning to call a vote Friday on a bill that would extend current policies for another year.
It's unclear whether Democrats would go so far as to support that bill if the administration does not offer a Plan B. But one senior Democratic source told Fox News that, at a closed meeting Wednesday, Democrats made clear to the administration that they need a proposed fix before Friday's vote. The White House has vowed to come up with a solution, but so far has not provided much detail on what such a solution would entail. Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president will make an announcement on possible options "sooner rather than later."
Nov. 12: CBS Sacramento:
CA Insurance Commissioner: More than 1 Million Californians lose health insurance due to ObamaCare
Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross of California has agreed to a two-month extension of about 104,000 individual policies after failing to give the required 90-day cancellation notice, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Tuesday. The policies had been set to expire on Dec. 31 but will be extended until Feb. 28 for those who choose to re-enroll. Notices informing customers of the extension will be sent out this week, Anthem said. More than 1 million cancellation notices have been sent to Californians as the Affordable Care Act begins allowing individuals to buy insurance through exchanges, Jones said. The federal law requires policies to offer minimum levels of coverage, forcing companies to terminate many existing plans. But Jones said that under the law, insurers have another year to do so.
Nov. 12: Politico: Democrat Poll: NC Senator Kay Hagan’s lead vanishes:
Incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is near the top of national Republicans’ target list for 2014 — and a new poll shows her lead over her potential GOP challengers has all but evaporated. Against state House Speaker Thom Tillis, Hagan leads by only 2 points, 44 percent to 42 percent, according to the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. She leads the Rev. Mark Harris by 2 points as well, 43 percent to 41 percent, and nurse Heather Grant by 3 points, 43 percent to 40 percent. Hagan trails physician Greg Brannon, the Rand Paul-endorsed candidate in the race, by 1 point: He leads 44 percent to 43 percent.
That’s a huge difference from PPP’s September poll, which gave Hagan leads of anywhere from 12 points to 17 points against all possible GOP challengers. Hagan’s approval ratings are underwater in the poll: 49 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job she’s doing, compared with 44 percent who approve. The poll also suggests she could be suffering from the implementation of Obamacare: 69 percent of those surveyed said the law’s rollout has been unsuccessful so far, compared with 25 percent who say it’s been a success.
Nov. 12: Roll Call: ObamaCare: Origination Problems?
While the GOP has long argued that the law is not permitted per the nation’s founding documents, the Supreme Court almost entirely upheld the law in June 2012. But it’s that Supreme Court decision itself that has 40 House Republicans eager for their day in court. Republicans filed an amicus brief over the weekend with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, hopeful that because the Supreme Court ruled the health care law a tax, and because, they say, the bill originated in the Senate, a court will rule that the 2010 health care law violates the Constitution’s Origination Clause.
“All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives,” Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution reads. Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, who is leading the Origination Clause charge, issued a press release Tuesday decrying the law and explaining the argument. “If the Senate can introduce the largest tax increase in American history by simply peeling off the House number from a six-page unrelated bill, which does not raise taxes, and pasting it on the ‘Senate Health Care Bill,’ and then claim with a straight face that the resulting bill originated in the House … then the American ‘rule of law’ has become no rule at all,” Franks said in the release, quoting the brief.
But it’s precisely what the Senate did that helped avert any so-called “blue slip problems” with the House, because the bill actually did originate in the House. The Senate took the language of a House-passed bill that would have provided tax credits to veterans purchasing homes and replaced it with the 2,074-page Affordable Care Act.
Franks, however, argues that the original veterans bill did not raise revenue and was “wholly-unrelated” to the health care law, therefore violating the Origination Clause. Neither argument, however, seems to have ever had much traction in the past; bills need only to deal with taxation, not raising revenue, to avoid an Origination Clause problem, and Article 1, Section 7 notes that “the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.” That would include amending, as is common practice, an entire bill.
Nov. 12: The Daily Caller: Carney hints at changes to ObamaCare to offset cancellations:
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama is considering regulatory help for people whose insurance has been canceled, following a statement by former President Bill Clinton urging the insurance be restored. “The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options as he said to make sure that nobody is put in a position where there plans have been canceled and they can’t afford a better plan,” Carney said Tuesday.
In an interview released Nov. 12, Clinton said people should be allowed to keep their current insurance programs past January, principally because Obama promised they could keep their insurance. ”I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” said Clinton in an interview. At least three million Americans’ individually-purchased insurance has been canceled by Obamacare, so far.
Nov. 12: Fox News: White House trying to put the genie back in the box?
[As an IT buddy of mine once said “When the Holy Smoke comes out of your computer, you’ll never get it back in!” ]
A blunt critique from Bill Clinton on President Obama's handling of the rocky ObamaCare rollout is prompting the White House to pledge another set of health law fixes -- though in doing so, it could inadvertently build the case for those calling for a delay in the law's implementation. Aside from scrambling to fix the broken HealthCare.gov website, the administration is now trying to deal with the millions of Americans who have received cancellation notices. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president's team is trying to figure out a way to offer relief to some of those policyholders.
The statement comes after former President Clinton, in an interview with the website ozy.com, said Obama should live up to his promise to Americans that if they like their health plans, they can keep them. "So I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got," Clinton said.
Nov. 11: The Wall Street Journal: The ObamaCare Dozen run for cover:
The torrents of ObamaCare monsoon season aren't letting up, so Democrats are scrambling to help the victims: namely, their own careers. The Senators up for re-election in competitive states in 2014 are starting to panic, though they still aren't offering solutions for anything other than their own growing political jeopardy. Fifteen Senate Democrats plus Colorado's Michael Bennet who chairs the Senatorial Campaign Committee sat down at the White House Wednesday, and they want all and sundry to know that they let President Obama have it.
- Alaska's Mark Begich said he chewed out the big cheese;
- Oregon's Jeff Merkley chimed in to report that even after the two-hour encounter session that was not on the public schedule, he was still "very frustrated" and "I remain deeply convinced that this is a 'show-me' moment."
Asked by Politico if Democrats were losing credibility, an anonymous attendee said, "You got to have it, to lose it!" Meanwhile, the Salesman in Chief has been exposed for his fraudulent promises. Now it seems somewhat sinister as he tries to falsify his history of false claims. All of which has the ObamaCare Dozen—the Democrats who each cast the decisive 60th vote and are running for re-election in 2014—fleeing for political cover.
We offer a list of the dozen below, and they're right to worry that voters might punish ObamaCare's implementation as they did its passage. But so far the 12 are trying to pull off nothing more than confidence tricks.
The Dozen Democrats are: Begich (AK), Durbin (IL), Franken (MN), Hagan (NC), Landrieu (LA), Merkley (OR), Pryor (AR), Reed (RI), Shaheen (NH), Udall CO), Udall (NM) and Warner (VA)
Nov. 11: CBS Seattle: Oregon Healthcare Exchange has yet to enroll a single person:
With a reputation as a pacesetter in health care, Oregon laid out bold plans for complying with the federal overhaul. The state wouldn’t just create a health insurance exchange, a complicated undertaking in its own right. Oregon officials set out to build one of the biggest and best in the nation — a model that other states would want to copy. But more than a month after Cover Oregon’s online enrollment was supposed to launch, reality is lagging far behind Gov. John Kitzhaber’s grand ideas. The online system still doesn’t work, and the exchange has yet to enroll a single person in health insurance.
Interviews with state officials and a review of public records by The Associated Press suggest Cover Oregon officials bit off more than they could chew and clung to their ambitious vision even when their risk management consultants raised alarms. While rushing to get the exchange done, programmers and project managers also were busy with separate complex computer projects for the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services. Cover Oregon officials say they’re working hard to finish the project and insist the features they’re creating will be worth the wait — even if it remains unclear when the site will go online.
Nov. 11: Forbes: Opinion: ObamaCare will be repealed well in advance of the 2014 elections [This is an interesting opinion piece. Only part of it is included here.]
Prediction: even if Healthcare.gov is fixed by the end of the month (unlikely), Obamacare is going to be repealed well in advance of next year’s election. And if the website continues to fail, the push for repeal—from endangered Democrats—will occur very rapidly. The website is a sideshow: the real action is the number of people and businesses who are losing their health plans or having to pay a lot more. Fixing the website will only delay the inevitable.
Senate Democrats endangered for re-election will lead the charge for repeal perhaps as soon as January, after they get an earful over the Christmas break. They’ll call it “reform,” and clothe it in calls for delaying the individual mandate and allowing people and businesses to keep their existing health insurance policies. But it is probably too late to go back in many cases. With the political damage guaranteed to continue, the momentum toward repeal will be unstoppable. Democrats will not want to face the voters next November with the albatross of Obamacare. Obama may well give Capitol Hill Democrats a pass on a repeal vote, and veto any bill that emerges. He’ll never face the voters again.
Nov. 9: Fox News: Issa Subpoenas White House Tech Official for ObamaCare hearing
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a subpoena late Friday to Todd Park, President Obama's top adviser on technology, requiring him to appear before his committee next week and testify on the glitch-ridden rollout of ObamaCare. The California Republican rejected the administration's offer to receive a briefing from Park later this month and said his unwillingness to testify "continues an unfortunate pattern of the current administration when it comes to matters of transparency and Congressional oversight."
“Reliable testimony about the status of efforts to address problems with HealthCare.gov is highly relevant to ongoing concerns about security vulnerabilities as well as legislative proposals Congress is currently considering that would allow Americans to keep individual insurance plans cancelled because of ObamaCare regulations,” Issa said in a letter to Park. Issa claimed in an interview Thursday on Fox News that Park had engaged in a “pattern of interference and false statements” related to the testing of HealthCare.gov. and that White House spokesman Jay Carney "is paid to say things that just aren’t so."
Nov. 9: Politico: GOP talks about ObamaCare Insurance Cancellations:
Republicans used their weekly address to talk about Obamacare on Saturday — this time by declaring that if President Barack Obama is truly sorry about all of the canceled health plans and the broken website, he’ll do something about them. In the address, Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) said all of the individual health insurance cancellations that are happening around the country because the plans don’t meet the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Obama apologized about the cancellations in an interview with NBC Thursday. Young shared stories from his constituents whose plans have been cancelled and are struggling to sign up for new plans on the glitch-filled HealthCare.gov, where he says they’re seeing higher costs.
Nov. 8: Roll Call: House Dems to Huddle with White House on ObamaCare Law Fixes:
White House staff will huddle with Democratic aides on Friday to discuss administrative tweaks to the health care law that would allow individuals to keep their insurance policies even if those policies don’t meet some standards established by the law. A House Democratic leadership aide told Roll Call that Obama administration officials are scheduled to meet on Capitol Hill with aides to the chamber’s Democratic leaders and ranking members of committees. This aide did not say when the meeting would take place or whether there would be a read-out of what was discussed.
But the meeting is significant: On Thursday in an interview with NBC, President Obama said he was sorrry that some Americans are frustrated about losing their current policies. “We’ve got to work hard to make sure that we know we hear them,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position,” Obama said, adding that the White House was “looking at a range of options” to address the situation. An Administration source told the Huffington Post later Thursday that the White House was exploring an “administrative fix for the population of people in the individual market who may have an increase in premiums, but don’t get subsidies.” Friday’s Capitol Hill meeting suggests that the White House hopes to quickly resolve the political furor over the canceled plans.
Nov. 8: The Hill: ObamaCare data hub to go dark for repairs:
ObamaCare's federal data hub will undergo routine maintenance from Saturday night to Tuesday morning, temporarily preventing HealthCare.gov from verifying if users are eligible for premium tax credits. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made the announcement Friday, saying the hub will be offline for work on its connection to the Internal Revenue Service.
The disruption will not prevent users from otherwise completing applications for coverage on the federally run exchanges, CMS communications director Julie Bataille said
Nov. 8: Politico: Only 5 enrollments completed in DC ObamaCare exchange:
Only five people have fully completed the enrollment process in the D.C. insurance exchange, according to information compiled by lawmakers from four of the insurance companies participating in the exchange. Two people enrolled in CareFirst BlueShield plans during October and three enrolled in Kaiser Permanente plans during the month. No enrollment data has been collected by UnitedHealthcare or Aetna as of Nov. 4 or Oct. 24, respectively, the companies said. The information was collected by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Nov. 8: The Hill: Keep Your Plan bill puts Obama in a bind:
House Republicans are pouncing on President Obama’s apology for cancelled insurance plans to push him into backing legislation that would change ObamaCare. The president on Thursday said he was “sorry” that Americans were losing their healthcare plans despite his frequent assurances that individuals with insurance could keep them. Obama said he was seeking an administrative fix, but Republicans say they have a ready-made solution in the Keep Your Plan bill that they plan to bring up for a vote next week.
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the president can’t address the problems plaguing the healthcare law through executive action alone. He said Obama should back the House bill, which would grandfather in all health insurance plans that existed as of Jan. 1, 2013. "We are highly skeptical that there is anything the president can do administratively to keep his pledge that would be both legal and effective," said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. "That’s why he should work with Congress and support bipartisan legislation that fulfills his promise and allows insurance companies to continue offering the plans that so many Americans like and can afford.”
Nov. 7: Editorial Comment: Interesting, isn’t it, how the Democrat-controlled Senate would not negotiate on ObamaCare during the government shutdown debate and now, after shutting down the government for 16 days, they are getting nervous. They could have avoided the shutdown if they were willing to compromise by just considering one of the four funding proposals floated by the Republican controlled House.
Nov. 7: Politico: Democrat Senators give White House tight deadline to fix ObamaCare:
At the pleading of senior White House officials, Senate Democrats are holding off on demands to delay major aspects of the health care law until the Obama administration has the opportunity to fix the website problems that are thwarting enrollment in the program. Democratic senators facing reelection have a green light to bash the White House and call for certain legislative fixes. But they’ve been urged by senior administration officials not to insist on delaying the controversial law’s core: The mandate for individuals to purchase insurance coverage or face penalties. Their requests are being heeded — for now. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who attended a tense two-hour meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday over the issue, stressed that senators should give the administration just “a little bit” of breathing room.
The individual mandate takes effect Jan. 1. But consumers have until March 31 to enroll in health insurance coverage or risk being assessed with a fine, which is either $95 or 1 percent of household income — whichever is the higher amount. But as the marketplaces, known as the exchanges, have endured a disastrous rollout and a dysfunctional enrollment website, the White House is under enormous pressure to quell the uproar before facing insurmountable pressure in Congress. Already, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is preparing legislation to extend the enrollment period beyond March 31, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has offered a bill to allow consumers to keep their existing coverage. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) unveiled bipartisan legislation Thursday with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to delay for one year the penalties if consumers do not comply with the individual mandate. Unlike Shaheen and Landrieu, Manchin does not face reelection next year.
Nov. 7: Real Clear Politics: Obama Apologizes “I am sorry” about canceled health care plans:
“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” the President said. “We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this,” he said on NBC News, November 7th.
Nov. 7: The Hill: Issa may subpoena White House Tech Expert
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is threatening to subpoena a key ObamaCare official who declined to attend a hearing on the law's rollout next week. Issa wrote Thursday that he may legally compel Todd Park, the chief technology officer at the White House, to testify if Park does not agree to appear on his own. "Your role in the development and rollout of HealthCare.gov … uniquely positions you to provide testimony that will be valuable for both Congress and the public," Issa wrote in a letter to Park. "If you continue to refuse to testify at the committee's Nov. 13, 2013 hearing, the committee will be forced to consider the use of compulsory process to require your attendance."
Park was a key player in the construction of the botched federal enrollment site before joining the White House staff last year. He is now embroiled in the repair effort as officials rush to shore up the system by Nov. 30. Issa's letter continues a back-and-forth that began Wednesday when the White House refused to make Park available to testify at next week's hearing. An official in the Office of Science and Technology Policy told Issa that Park was too busy repairing HealthCare.gov to appear before December.
Nov. 7: Real Clear Politics: Krauthammer on Obama’s Apology: “The President is Toxic”
“The thing is called Obamacare,” Krauthammer said. “There's no running away from it. It's got his name on it. You see the president, you think about the policy and you know it's a disaster. And the problem for the Democrats is, they are hostage to a bunch of geeks working right now late into the night trying to fix a system which is not just the glitches we talked about. The architecture, the underlying structure of it is wrong,” Krauthammer continued.
“I think the likelihood of it being fixed, working like you would expect from any normal commercial private website normally by December 1 is pretty small. And the pressure on the White House will become irresistible. If it isn't up and running smoothly and perfectly, they're going to start with postponements and then the whole thing starts to unravel,” he concluded.
Nov. 6: Fox News: White House side steps legislative efforts to formalize Obama healthcare promises:
The White House on Tuesday refused to state its position on legislative proposals aimed at formalizing President Obama's promise that people who like their existing coverage should be allowed to keep it under the new health care law. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced bills permitting insurers to reinstate plans that fall short of the coverage requirement under ObamaCare after insurance companies began sending out millions of cancellation letters, often citing the new health care law as the reason.
House Republicans intend to vote as early as next week on Upton's legislation. Senate Democrats spoke dismissively of the proposals, signaling they have no intention of permitting a vote on the issue that marks the latest challenge confronting supporters of the law. Upton's legislation permits insurers to sell existing coverage plans that would otherwise be banned under the law, while Landrieu's proposal goes one step further by requiring it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Democrats had voted unanimously against similar proposals in the past and were having "foxhole conversions."
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney refused repeatedly to state a position on the proposals, saying he hadn't "reviewed or seen an examination internally" on any of them. Obama pledged in mid-2009: "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period" and "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.
Nov. 6: The Daily Caller: Sebelius: It’s possible for convicted felons to become ObamaCare Navigators:
Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius acknowledged Wednesday that it would be possible for a convicted felon to become an Obamacare navigator — one of the workers responsible for helping people deal with the ins and outs of the healthcare law. “Isn’t it true there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background check, even though they will receive personal information from the individuals they help to sign-up up for the Affordable Care Act?” asked Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn at a Senate Finance Committee hearing at which Sebelius was testifying.
- “That is true,” Sebelius replied. “States could have an additional background check and other features, but it is not part of the federal requirement.”
- “So a convicted felon could be a navigator and acquire sensitive personal information?” Cornyn asked.
- “That is possible,” Sebelius acknowledged. “We have contracts with organizations and they have taken the responsibility to screen the individual navigators and make sure they are sufficiently trained for the job.”
Asked by Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson if they would be open to a federal requirement for background checks, Sebelius said it was up to congress, but that they would certainly look at it.
Nov. 6: The Hill: Sebelius: ObamaCare enrollment numbers will be “quite low”
Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius acknowledged on Wednesday that the initial enrollment numbers through the new healthcare exchanges will be “quite low.” In testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, Sebelius said “the struggles people have had getting access to the site” will contribute to a disappointing first month and a half.
“I’m hoping that with the site improvement we’ll see more robust numbers, but until the site is really improved … we’re going to have a struggle getting significant numbers to sign up,” she said.
The administration has faced growing calls to provide enrollment figures, which it has so far refused to disclose, saying the early stages of enrollment make it impossible to provide reliable or accurate data. On Tuesday, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the agency will publish Affordable Care Act enrollment data next week. In her testimony she said she hoped to have 800,000 enrollees by the end of November, but didn’t say whether that number includes new Medicaid and state exchange enrollees, or rather was the amount she hoped to get through the federal exchanges. Sebelius on Wednesday said next week’s data would break down the numbers by how many have enrolled in the state and federal exchanges, and how many have gone into Medicaid or private plans.
Nov. 3: The Daily Caller: Forget the Website crashes: The real $1 Trillion Problem with ObamaCare is yet to emerge:
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, Dr. Robert Nirschl — a practicing orthopedic surgeon, former faculty member of Georgetown and a former member of the legislative committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic surgery — dismissed the recent issues suffered by HealthCare.gov and the media feeding frenzy surrounding it, arguing that the systemic flaws within the law had not yet surfaced, and that when they do, it will be catastrophic. He took apart the concept of “health insurance” arguing that it’s an inaccurate buzzword. What is being legislated is not insurance at all, Nirschl said. By its very nature, “insurance” is a way of protecting against an unforeseen, catastrophic incident. It works by having large groups of people paying premiums into a central fund with the understanding that if they were to suffer an “unlikely” incident, they will be compensated. The likelihood of people claiming out of the central fund is a calculated through a risk assessment, and the riskier the “bet,” the higher the premium.
“As the law unfolds and as people are seeing the derogatory effects of it — I mean, the granddaddy of that situation was Prohibition. That was not sacrosanct and for that matter, all of the Jim Crow laws from way back when were the law of the land, so whenever I hear some of our politicians say: ‘Well, this is the law of the land, and so we can’t do anything about it.’ Well, as an example, Martin Luther King did a lot about it. I think that when the people really see what it’s all about it should go the way of Jim Crow laws. It should go the way of Prohibition.”
Nov. 3: The Daily Caller: White House still claims Americans can keep their current health plans:
The White House Website still informs visitors that if they like their healthcare plan, “they can keep it” — even as millions of Americans are receiving cancellations notices from their insurance provides, thanks to HHS’s Obamacare regulations. Under a banner that trumpets “The Health Insurance Market Place is now open,” and a heading that reads, “Healthcare that works for Americans,” is a paragraph that contains the section that repeats President Barack Obama’s reassurances that Americans can keep their healthcare plans:
“For those Americans who already have health insurance, the only changes you will see under the law are new benefits, better protections from insurance company abuses, and more value for every dollar you spend on healthcare. If you like your plan, you can keep it, and you don’t have to change a thing due to the healthcare law.” [See graphic: “Health Care that Works for Americans”]
This strident claim falls flat on its face — many Americans have received cancellation notices from their insurance companies, forcing them onto the HealthCare.gov website, where equivalent plans would cost hundreds of dollars more. The White House claims that it did not deceive voters by not divulging the multitude of caveats that would force Americans off their existing plans.
The White House has been trying to deflect criticism since NBC News reported that White House officials were aware before the launch of HealthCare.gov that millions of Americans would lose their coverage as health insurance companies struggled to comply with stringent new regulations. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that as far back as 2009, White House officials debated whether they could keep their promise to individually insured Americans.
Nov. 2: The Daily Caller: Photo of the year?
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Memphis Friday to discuss health care and the beleaguered healthcare.gov insurance website. Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey later tweeted: “Just presented Sec Sebelius with ‘Websites for Dummies.’” Sebelius is seen here with the book before handing it off to an aide. [She does not look happy!]
Nov. 1: The Hill: Court strikes down mandate for birth control in ObamaCare:
A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the birth control mandate in ObamaCare, concluding the requirement trammels religious freedom. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — the second most influential bench in the land behind the Supreme Court — ruled 2-1 in favor of business owners who are fighting the requirement that they provide their employees with health insurance that covers birth control.
Requiring companies to cover their employees’ contraception, the court ruled, is unduly burdensome for business owners who oppose birth control on religious grounds, even if they are not purchasing the contraception directly. “The burden on religious exercise does not occur at the point of contraceptive purchase; instead, it occurs when a company’s owners fill the basket of goods and services that constitute a healthcare plan,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote on behalf of the court.
Legal analysts expect the Supreme Court to ultimately pick up an appeal on the birth-control requirement and make a final decision on its constitutionality. Friday’s ruling centered on two Catholic brothers, Francis and Philip Gilardi, who own a 400-person produce company based in Ohio. The brothers oppose contraception as part of their religion and challenged the Affordable Care Act provision requiring them to provide insurance that covers their employees' birth control. Refusing to abide by the letter of the law, they said, would result in a $14 million fine.
“They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong,” Brown wrote.
The Obama administration said that the requirement is necessary to protect women’s right to decide whether and when to have children. The judges were unconvinced, however, that forcing companies to cover contraception protected that right.
Nov. 1: The New York Post: Obama Donor’s firm hired to fix the Web mess it created:
A tech firm linked to a campaign-donor crony of President Obama not only got the job to help build the federal health-insurance Web site — but also is getting paid to fix it. Anthony Welters, a top campaign bundler for Obama and frequent White House guest, is the executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, which owns the software company now at the center of the ObamaCare Web-site fiasco.
UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), which built the data hub for the ObamaCare system, has been named the new general contractor in charge of repairing the glitch-plagued HealthCare.gov. Welters and his wife, Beatrice, have shoveled piles of cash into Obama’s campaign coffers and apparently reaped the rewards.
Nov. 1: CNBC: Kudlow: Liberal entitlement-state dream is crumbling:
“May I ask this question? Why is it that Americans don't have the freedom to choose their own health insurance? I just don't get it. Why must the liberal nanny-state make decisions for us? Why must the government tell me and everyone else what we can and cannot buy?” Kudlow of CNBC asks.
Charles Krauthammer and the Wall Street Journal's Dan Henninger noted in excellent recent columns that this whole Obamacare business represents the greatest-ever expansion of the liberal entitlement-state dream. “But I don't want that dream. And you shouldn't either” Kudlow continues.
In his commentary Kudlow goes on to say, “NBC News pulled the plug this past week on President Barack Obama's promise that ‘if you like your own plan, you can keep it.’ Ditto for keeping your own doctor. The plug was pulled because NBC learned that Team Obama knew—for three years—that stiff new regulations would prevent the grandfathering of existing health-care plans. And not just a few plans. But plans that could affect as many as 15 million individuals.”
“Incidentally, equally punitive regulations will hit more than 90 million employer-sponsored health plans next year. It's the same problem as the individual plan. Grandfathering won't work. Moreover, replacing these plans with much more expensive products will constitute a major tax hike on the entire economy. This point shouldn't be lost as Americans worry about being kicked from their plans. Obamacare is not only anti-freedom but anti-growth” Kudlow concludes
Oct. 31: CBS News: ObamaCare enrollments the first day? Six!
For 31 days now, the Obama administration has been tell us that Americans by the millions are visiting the new health insurance Website, despite all its problems. But no one in the administration has been willing to tell us how many policies have been actually purchased, and this may be the reason: CBS News has learned enrollments got off to an incredibly slow start. Early enrollment figures are contained in notes from twice-a-day "war room" meetings convened within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after the website failed on Oct. 1. They were turned over in response to a document request from the House Oversight Committee.
The website launched on a Tuesday. Publicly, the government said there were 4.7 million unique visits in the first 24 hours. But at a meeting Wednesday morning, the war room notes say "six enrollments have occurred so far." They were with BlueCross BlueShield North Carolina and Kansas City, CareSource and Healthcare Service Corporation. By Wednesday afternoon, enrollments were up to "approximately 100." By the end of Wednesday, the notes reflect "248 enrollments" nationwide.
The health care exchanges need to average 39,000 enrollees a day to meet the goal of seven million by March 1.
Oct. 30: Fox News: Krauthammer comments on impact of an ObamaCare collapse:
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer told Megyn Kelly Wednesday on “The Kelly File” that if ObamaCare self-destructs, it could set back American liberalism for at least a decade. Krauthammer said that if the problems plaguing the health care law eventually lead to its end, Obama's lame-duck status would not be the liberals’ only problem. “I would say that what’s really at stake here, is that if this thing really goes south, if ObamaCare truly self-destructs -- I don’t know that it’s certain but I would say right now it is more than likely -- it would really set back American liberalism for a decade at least,” he said.
Krauthammer explained that he believes ObamaCare is the “completion of the entitlement state” that began with the New Deal and the Great Society. If ObamaCare were to collapse, he said, it would “discredit the entire enterprise of the expansion of government, which is at the heart of ‘Obama-ism.’ That’s why I think the liberals are running scared,” he said. “It’s not just one election, it’s the whole ideology that the government knows best...”
Oct. 30: The Daily Caller: Obama Denies he is responsible for Healthcare.gov failure:
President Barack Obama declined to take responsibility for his crippled Obamacare Website on Wednesday — but he announced that he would take responsibility for fixing it. “The website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck, and I’m not happy about it,” he told supporters in Faneuil Hall, Boston. “I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.”
Is there a pattern here? The President never seems to be responsible for mistakes and missteps. In his first term he blamed George Bush. Is he running out of people to blame?
Meanwhile body language experts say, we are seeing an Obama we have never seen before. Body language expert Dr. Lillian Glass told The Daily Caller “Body language-wise, he looks tentative. He looks down. We see an embarrassed Obama.” Glass recognized signs of great distress in the president’s posture and lower jaw in his recent speech acknowledging Obamacare website failures and in other recent public appearances.
Oct. 30: The Daily Caller: Sebelius open-mic comment:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius showed her frustration under questioning from the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday when she was caught on an open microphone, muttering, “don’t do this to me,” after Missouri Republican Rep. Billy Long peppered her with questions. At the hearing, meant to examine the rocky and problematic rollout of the HealthCare.gov enrollment Website, Long asked Sebelius to commit to going on the healthcare exchanges herself. The challenge came after she explained that she was not on the exchange, as she was provided insurance by her employer. She said she believed that it would be illegal for her to do so.
Oct. 30: The Hill: Bachmann: Put Chief Justice Roberts on ObamaCare, he’s the one who found it constitutional!
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on Wednesday said Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. should be forced to purchase health insurance through ObamaCare exchanges because he wrote the opinion upholding the law that she described as “a complete and utter disaster.” Bachmann made the comments after a closed-door briefing from federal Health Department officials over the Obama administration’s response to initial problems with the implementation of ObamaCare.
The briefing from Mike Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform, was scheduled last week following demands from the House Republican leadership. “What we learned in there is that their answer is, ‘We don’t know,’ ” Bachmann said. “They don’t have an answer for anything.” Bachmann directed her ire at Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, over testimony earlier Wednesday in which Sebelius said under questioning that it would be illegal for her to purchase health insurance through the new federal exchange because she already has coverage through her government position. “She should voluntarily, today, relinquish her insurance,” Bachmann said.
But she didn’t stop there. “Not only should she go into the insurance exchange, the entire Department of Health and Human Services should go into the exchange,” she said. “Every Cabinet member should go into the exchange. The president, the vice president of the United States should go into the exchange. If we have to be subject to this disaster, they should have to be subject to this disaster, as well as every member of the Supreme Court, in particular John Roberts, who wrote the opinion. They should have to go into this exchange,” she said.
Oct. 30: The Daily Caller: Sebelius at fault? Whatever!
Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius brushed off a question from a member of congress Wednesday who pressed her to say that President Barack Obama ultimately bore responsibility for the problematic health-care rollout. “I want to say I appreciate you accepting responsibility for these initial rollout failures that we’ve had,” said Mississippi Republican Rep. Greg Harper during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “But who is ultimately responsible? It is the president, correct? … The president is ultimately responsible for the rollout, ultimately.” “No, sir,” Sebelius said, saying that HHS was responsible for it.
Oct. 30: The Washington Post: Obama blames “bad apple insurers” not his signature bill for canceled insurance policies:
President Obama tried a new tack Wednesday as he fought back against criticism of his Obamacare claims. Obama during a speech in Boston sought to cast the issue Wednesday as trying to weed out "bad apple insurers" who don't provide enough coverage. "One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the under-insured," Obama said. "And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who've got cut-rate plans that don't offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.
Oct. 29: Fox News: Confidential Report cites problems with ObamaCare site weeks before launch:
The key contractor involved in the HealthCare.gov website warned the Obama administration there were problems with the site just weeks before the Oct. 1 launch date, a confidential report reveals. Fox News obtained a copy of the September report Tuesday night, which states the status of some areas of the website were “TBD,” and that the contractor, CGI, was unclear if those "open issues" and "open risks" would be ready for the Oct. 1 rollout. However, other areas in the report were listed as “on track.”
Some of the problems cited include that “hub services are intermittently unavailable” and time frames for testing “are not adequate to complete full functional, system, and integration testing activities.” The report was also released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, after it was given to the committee in response to their request to CGI for more information about the development of Healthcare.gov. Obama administration officials downplayed the report -- which was first reported by CNN -- to Fox News, saying the CNN story cherry-picks a couple of points in the report and makes the situation seem worse than it actually was.
“This report is not a dire warning, but more plausibly a list of things to do if you read it in full – what’s been done, what needs to be done, what needs to be resolved,” a spokesman for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Fox News. The report also seems to contradict testimony given on Sept. 10 by Cheryl Campbell, the CGI official who testified last week before the House, that the website had met all its major milestones in the run-up to Oct. 1. “At this time, CGI Federal is confident that it will deliver the functionality that CMS has directed to enable qualified individuals to begin enrolling in coverage when the initial enrollment periods begin on October 1, 2013,” Campbell said at the time.
The problem-plagued website went down Tuesday night, its second outage in three days.
Oct. 29: Fox News: Health agency chief refuses to disclose ObamaCare enrollment numbers:
Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, testified Tuesday before the House Ways and Means Committee. At the top of the hearing, she apologized for the failures of the main ObamaCare website and vowed to fix them. As the head of the agency responsible for overseeing the troubled HealthCare.gov she repeatedly refused to disclose how many people have enrolled in ObamaCare -- during a hearing where she did not deny that officials have that information. Commentators suggested this is because the number of people actually enrolled is low.
Raising more questions about the administration's transparency on the project, she declined to cite enrollment numbers. She did not claim, as Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently did, that officials simply do not have those numbers -- rather, she said a "decision" was made to release them in mid-November. "We made the decision that we were not releasing the numbers until mid-November," she said.
Earlier in the hearing, Tavenner tried to downplay expectations. Facing ongoing problems with the enrollment website, Tavenner told Congress that "we expect the initial numbers to be small." An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press shows that the administration expected nearly 500,000 people to gain coverage just in October, the program's first month. If the administration is short of that target, it is unclear by how much.
Oct. 29: Fox News: Lawmakers have until Thursday to decide which staffers will be forced to go on the ObamaCare plans:
House lawmakers have until Thursday to decide whether to designate staffers as "official" or "non-official," in order to determine whether they will keep their existing government insurance or be forced into ObamaCare. Fox News has learned that rank-and-file members were briefed Tuesday by House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller during a closed-door meeting and informed of the Thursday deadline.
So what qualifies as an "official" staffer? According to internal rules, House employees whose salaries are paid entirely from a "Members Representational Allowance" will be determined “official office” staff and eligible only for ObamaCare insurance through the District of Columbia-run health care exchange. Those whose salaries are not paid entirely from the representational allowance will be considered non-official and can continue to get insurance through a standard federal plan.
“This is a really good way to start a civil war,” a Republican lawmaker told Fox News. The determination is based on a staffer’s pay as of Oct. 15, and the CAO will make the determination if lawmakers do not submit the paperwork by 5 p.m. Thursday. Right now, all congressional employees are eligible for the employer-contribution for health care -- a perk Republicans tried to eliminate during the recent partial government shutdown for those who would end up on the exchanges.
Oct. 28: NBC News: Obama Administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance and lied to the American public
President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.” That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them. Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms.
Oct. 27: Roll Call: Manchin’s ObamaCare Mandate Delay Bill has Political Perils for Democrats:
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III from West Virginia has quickly become a favorite of Republicans with his quest to delay the individual mandate to buy health insurance under Obamacare. Though that effort doesn’t seem to have much traction, it’s one that could start giving vulnerable Democrats heartburn. Manchin announced Wednesday that he is working with Georgia GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to craft a one-year delay of the insurance requirement of the landmark health care law. That idea has already picked up the endorsement of Michelle Nunn, the Democrat seeking Georgia’s open Senate seat in 2014.
But many incumbent Senate Democrats — even some from conservative-leaning territories — have shown far less favor to the year delay, despite the deeply troubled rollout of the government website intended to help the uninsured buy coverage. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) says the administration should waive the tax penalty for not having coverage during what she says should be a two-month extension of the open enrollment for the new exchanges. Hagan is one of ten Democrat senators who have signed on to a letter calling for the Obama administration to extend open enrollment further into 2014. The letter was a reaction to widespread reports of people being unable to use the HealthCare.gov website successfully.
However. This may all prove to be a moot point, with the Obama administration signaling Friday that it expects the troubled HealthCare.gov to be fully up and running for most users by the end of November, well before insurance coverage is set to begin.
Oct. 26: Fox News: Sebelius: Republicans are responsible for ObamaCare Website Woes!
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took a swipe Friday at those calling for her to resign over the botched ObamaCare website rollout, suggesting that Republican efforts to delay and defund the law contributed to HealthCare.gov's glitch-ridden debut. During a visit to a community health center in Austin, Sebelius conceded that there wasn't enough testing done on the website, but added that her department had little flexibility to postpone the launch against the backdrop of Washington's unforgiving politics. "In an ideal world there would have been a lot more testing, but we did not have the luxury of that. And the law said the go-time was Oct. 1," she said. "And frankly, a political atmosphere where the majority party, at least in the House, was determined to stop this anyway they possibly could ... was not an ideal atmosphere."
In an interview on Fox News, when asked about Sebelius’s comments blaming the GOP for the site’s failure, former Governor Huckabee said "Yes and they are also responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, the explosion of the Hindenburg, and the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby!” The Administration had three years to get this right, they knew the timeframes, and they made a mess of it!
Oct. 26: Fox News: IRS got 330,000 inquiries about subsidies in the first four weeks of ObamaCare:
The IRS on Saturday reported handling more than 330,000 requests from ObamaCare exchanges to calculate whether Americans are eligible for federal tax credits when purchasing insurance through the program. The release provides some indication on how many people are attempting to buy insurance through the exchanges in their first four weeks of operation and how many are seeking federal financial assistance. Reportedly, the agency is receiving about 80,000 data requests daily. The Obama administration has yet to release information on the number of Americans who have bought insurance through the exchange, perhaps the best indicator of public interest and the success of the program, but has vowed to in the coming months. In Washington there are two reasons for keeping information secret. One is for national security reasons, the other is because it will embarrass those in power!
Oct. 25: The Daily Caller: First Lady’s classmate is executive for firm that built the Healthcare.gov Website under a NO BID contract:
Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is a top executive at the company that earned the contract to build the failed Obamacare website. Toni Townes-Whitley, Princeton class of ’85, is senior vice president at CGI Federal, which earned the no-bid contract to build the $678 million Obamacare enrollment site at Healthcare.gov. CGI Federal is the U.S. arm of a Canadian company.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, HHS reviewed only CGI’s bid for the Obamacare account. CGI was one of 16 companies qualified under the Bush administration to provide certain tech services to the federal government. A senior vice president for the company testified this week before The House Committee on Energy and Commerce that four companies submitted bids, but did not name those companies or explain why only CGI’s bid was considered. On the government end, construction of the disastrous Healthcare.gov website was overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of longtime failed Website-builder Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services.
Oct. 25: The Daily Caller: ObamaCare kicks 11,000 poor residents off of Indiana healthcare plans:/
Obamacare will cause 11,000 low-income residents of Indiana to lose their existing health coverage. The Obama administration demanded that an Indiana health insurance program for the poor alter its eligibility requirements and recommended that booted patients seek out Obamacare plans instead. In September, Indiana became one of the only states to win an Obamacare waiver from the federal government to keep running a state health insurance program aimed at covering the poor. The Healthy Indiana Plan can keep operating until December 31, 2014, but only for a portion of its current customers.
Oct. 23: The Daily Caller: Sebelius: Not the first failure at Website Development
Obama administration HHS Secretary Sebelius’ failure at designing websites to provide government services began during her term as governor of Kansas, long before the Obamacare website debacle, Kansas political insiders told The Daily Caller. Sebelius oversaw numerous costly and disastrous government website projects during her six-year governorship (2003-2009), including a failed update of the Department of Labor’s program to provide unemployment pay and other services and similar updates pertaining to the Department of Administration and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) services. The Department of Labor’s overhaul of its computer programs was a notable boondoggle, according to 14-year former Kansas state senator and former state Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee.
Oct. 23: CBS News: Healthcare.gov has drastically underestimate costs for healthcare coverage:
CBS News has uncovered a serious pricing problem with Healthcare.gov. It stems from the Obama administration's efforts to improve its healthcare site. A new online feature can dramatically underestimate the cost of insurance. The administration announced it would provide a new "shop and browse" feature Sunday, but it's not giving consumers the real picture. In some cases, people could end up paying double of what they see on the website, CBS News' Jan Crawford reported Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."
As President Obama promises to fix HealthCare.gov, his administration is touting what it calls "improvements" in design, specifically a feature that allows you to "See Plans Now." White House press secretary Jay Carney has said, "Americans across the country can type in their zip code and shop and browse." But CBS News has learned the new "shop and browse" feature often comes with the wrong price tags.
Industry analysts point to how the website lumps people only into two broad categories: "49 or under" and "50 or older." Jonathan Wu is co-founder of Valuepenguin.com, a consumer finance website focusing on the impact of health care reform. His company has built a tool that provides quotes for plans on the federal exchange. He said it's "incredibly misleading for people that are trying to get a sense of what they're paying." Industry executives CBS News spoke with could not believe the government is providing these estimates, which they said were useless and could easily mislead consumers. They also said that the website repeatedly states the actual prices could be lower, but it makes no mention that they could be higher.
Oct. 23: Roll Call: How responsive is Obama White House to Congressional Oversight?
The deeply troubled Obamacare rollout has renewed the debate over just how responsive — or unresponsive — the administration has been to congressional oversight, with Republicans complaining of a litany of stonewalling prior to the Oct. 1 opening of the health care exchanges. “We cooperate with all legitimate congressional oversight,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday in response to a line of inquiry about the beleaguered HealthCare.gov website from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Issa (R-CA) “The Department of Health and Human Services has engaged with Congress numerous times and will continue to engage with Congress numerous times on these — these and other issues,” Carney explained later in the daily press briefing. “I’m just saying that I think everybody here who wasn’t born yesterday has seen questionable congressional oversight in the past. I’m not saying in regard to this issue, I’m just saying in the past.”
While the White House has long chafed at Issa’s investigations, Republicans in both chambers have complained that their requests have frequently either gone unanswered or have taken too much time to get a response. For instance, the minority staff of the Senate Finance Committee says it’s taken HHS an average of four months to respond to formal inquiries from the panel’s Republicans. And they have yet to receive any answers to questions raised in a June letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spearheaded by ranking member Hateh in which eight colleagues joined the Utah Republican.
The letter asked 15 questions about the health care law’s Navigator program, which provides federal funds to local organizations to help educate people about Obamacare’s benefits and to help get uninsured individuals signed up for coverage on the new exchanges. After waiting months for a response, the group sent a follow-up last week. “These are critical questions which need to be answered,” the senators wrote on Oct. 18. “In fact, the number of additional concerns about the potential for massive fraud and abuse which have arisen since our initial letter only reinforce the need for Congress to have more detailed information.” The House Budget Committee reports similar trouble.
Oct. 23: The Daily Caller: Rumors that Obama will delay mandate implementation by six weeks:
American citizens may get a brief reprieve from the non-participation tax at the center of the massive 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Multiple news sources are reporting that the Obama administration — already reeling from the disastrous rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange — plans to hold off the so-called “individual mandate” by at least six weeks.
NBC Nightly News tweeted Wednesday evening that President Obama may blink in the face of the HealthCare.gov web site’s grim and universally-mocked debut, which has seen poor and dropping traffic; massive technical SNAFUs, and enrollment numbers that are said to be in the low thousands. This would be a substantial reversal for the administration, which has fought all attempts by congressional Republicans to spare Americans from the mandate requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance or face a stiff penalty. Earlier this month, Obama allowed a partial government shutdown to go forward rather than compromise with Republicans on the penalty.
Although Obama has unilaterally made several changes to the enacted law — notably giving a one-year suspension of an insurance mandate on big businesses — the individual mandate has been largely treated as sacrosanct, since forcing Americans to purchase insurance is considered vital to upholding the law’s crazy economic scaffolding.
Oct. 23: The Weekly Standard: Millions of Americans are losing their current healthcare plans
While ObamaCare was making its way through Congress in 2009 and 2010, President Obama famously promised the American people over and over again that if you like your health plan, you can keep it. “Let me be exactly clear about what health care reform means to you,” he at one rally in July 2009. “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”
But the president's promise is turning out to be false for millions of Americans who have had their health insurance policies canceled because they don't meet the ObamaCare requirements. According to health policy expert Bob Laszewski, roughly 16 million Americans will lose their current plans because of Obamacare. These 16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law's benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1. Most of these will be seeing some pretty big rate increases.
Oct. 23: The Daily Caller: White House “hides” enrollment numbers from Democrats in closed-door meeting:
The White House isn’t sharing Obamacare exchange enrollment numbers with anyone — not even Democrats who support the health care law. Obama administration officials in charge of the federal exchange briefed House Democrats on the HealthCare.gov problems at their weekly caucus meeting Wednesday, but refused to give members any information on enrollment other than that the administration is “not where it wants or needs to be,” The White House has indicated it will announce enrollment numbers on a monthly basis, but hasn’t released the first set of figures yet.
Supporters are getting increasingly frustrated with the administration’s botched launch of the federal exchange and the White House appears to be losing support. “It’s screwed up,” New York Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel said Wednesday. “General assurances aren’t going to make anyone feel better,” said Washington Democrat Rep. Rick Larsen. “The administration needs to be specific about what they’re doing to solve specific problems.”
The federal government’s secrecy regarding enrollment numbers hasn’t been confined to Congress. Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of North Dakota announced Monday evening that the Obama administration had asked the company not to reveal enrollment numbers for the state. BCBS released the number anyway: 14 individuals have enrolled with the company since October 1.
Oct. 23: BreitBart.com: Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014 are backing delay of ObamaCare enrollment deadline
On Wednesday, CNN’s Dana Bash tweeted that all Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014 will reportedly support a delay of Obamacare’s enrollment deadline. This, just weeks after they voted to not negotiate with the Republican-controlled House that was seeking to delay the individual mandate.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who is up for re-election in 2014, wrote to Obama asking him to delay the enrollment deadline for the individual mandate. “Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014,” Shaheen wrote to the president. "Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.” Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), who is facing a tough challenge in his 2014 re-election against Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), also came out in support of a delay of the individual mandate’s enrollment deadline.
The Democrats' push comes shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently launched a crusade against Obamacare. Cruz’s efforts and those of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) showed the American people the president and Senate Democrats were unwilling to compromise on Obamacare, and the Democrats’ stubbornness resulted in a temporary partial government shutdown and a short-lived debt crisis scare. Many Republicans have been predicting for months that the Democrats would look for an Obamacare “escape hatch” ahead of 2014.
Oct. 22: The Daily Caller: White House stonewalls questions about fixing ObamaCare Website
White House spokesman Jay Carney stonewalled numerous media questions Tuesday about the rushed and secret efforts to repair the crippled Obamacare website. The secrecy is spurring concerns that the White House hasn’t formally hired the unnamed private-sector and academic experts who are said to be working to repair President Barack Obama’s greatest expansion of government power. Carney also declined to explain the problems that have plagued the website or predict when it would be ready to use. Carney repeatedly told reporters to ask the Department of Health and Humans Services for answers to questions about the White House’s top priority
In a related story in the Daily Caller Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to deflect criticism of the botched launch of Healthcare.gov. Under pressure from Fox News reporter Ed Henry, Carney pivoted to cheap one-liners aimed at Republicans and sought to downplay the problems currently being frantically addressed by the Obama Administration and a “tech surge” of outside contractors.
Henry asked if a Washington Post report was accurate in saying that before the Website was launched that the administration had tested key parts of it days before with a few hundred people -- a simulation of a few hundred people logging on -- and the system crashed even though, as the Administration has been touting, it was expecting millions of people to log in. Henry also asked if the White House had been informed of this failure prior to the public launch of the site. Carney was evasive in his response.
Meanwhile Senator Rubio introduced legislation to delay the individual mandate until the Healthcare.gov website becomes operational. Under ObamaCare, individuals who qualify for plans under the law will be fined beginning early 2014 if they have not enrolled in an insurance plan. But the website through which two-thirds of Americans would enroll in a plan, HealthCare.gov, has been plagued with “glitches” that have made it exceedingly difficult to navigate, and left the majority of visitors unable to sign up for insurance. The administration is working to fix the problems, but there is not yet a clear date for when the website will be fully operational.
Oct. 21: Fox News: White House will not rule out postponement of the Individual Mandate!
The White House appeared to leave the door open Monday to delaying the so-called individual mandate in the federal health care law, as President Obama acknowledged the main website for enrollment is not working as it should. Press Secretary Jay Carney was peppered with questions on whether the administration would be open to delaying the requirement on individuals to buy health insurance, if the website continues to lock out would-be customers. Echoing Obama, Carney said repeatedly that the country is just three weeks into a six-month enrollment process and suggested it's too early to make any decisions of that magnitude. But he did not close the door on the option.
To a large extent it is the individual mandate that will “encourage” young and healthy people to purchase healthcare from the exchanges. Getting these kinds of “healthy buyers” is needed to keep the premiums from skyrocketing. The inability to purchase coverage online is having a major impact and discouraging “healthy buyers” making the delay of the individual mandate a possibility. Delaying this mandate was one of the key things the House tried to enact as part of the government shutdown and budget battles earlier this month. Perhaps they will get their way afterall.
All of this bring us back to the question – regardless of the impact – are we a country of laws? If so, then since when can our chief executive officer pick and choose what parts of what laws will be enforced and which ones will not; which ones implemented and which ones will be delayed? We cannot have it both ways. Either all the laws are enforced or the whole system starts to fall apart!
Oct. 21: Politico: Five ObamaCare questions Kathleen Sebelius won’t answer
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has offered to testify before Congress next week on the Obamacare website disaster, and it’s a moment that Republicans can look forward to. The administration’s top health official sitting at a hearing table under bright lights, facing a fusillade of questions and criticism. Here are some questions she may not be able to answer:
- What’s actually wrong with Healthcare.gov?
- When will it be fixed”
- Will the Administration delay the individual mandate?
- How many people have actually enrolled? And
- Why didn’t the White House have a good backup plan?
Oct. 21: National Review: President gives out ObamaCare Hotline number but users cannot get through:
President Obama emerged on Monday to assure Americans that the “kinks” surrounding the federal and state health-care exchanges are improving and urged consumers to call the exchange hotline if they continue to encounter problems online. Shortly after he made the suggestion, Twitter lit up with reporters and others who attempted to do so but failed to get through to a navigator as promised. After dialing the number, some callers got a busy signal, others received an automated message, and yet others were referred back to Healthcare.gov.
Meanwhile Real Clear Politics reports Fox News’ Hannity dials the ObamaCare number, gets through, and the Call Center Operator says “Nobody Likes It!” At the top of his radio program today, Sean Hannity called in to an Obamacare call center. Hannity was able to get through to an operator after only several moments of waiting. He spoke to the operator for nearly 10 minutes about Obamacare, what her thoughts of it are and what kind of response she has received so far. The operator was very friendly and had no problem answering all of Hannity's questions.
HANNITY: So people are reporting to you the real deal?
OPERATOR: Yes sir, they are.
HANNITY: Have you ever got anybody that really likes it yet?
OPERATOR: Umm, no, not really.
Oct. 20: The Daily Caller: Reports that ObamaCare is putting Political Correctness head of Healthcare services:
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” under Obamacare — if you both belong to the same race. Reports indicate that Obamacare’s spectacular flop of a rollout distracts from its crude calculus that encourages the allocation of healthcare resources along racial lines and a doctor-patient system splintered into ethnicities. The Center for American Progress (CAP) which examined the House and Senate bill, eventually signed by the President, advocates pairing patients and doctors of the same race, a goal toward which the law channels taxpayer dollars. In other words, fixing the broken U.S. healthcare system means assigning Hispanic doctors to Hispanic patients, African American doctors to African American patients, Creole doctors to Creole patients, and so on.
Oct. 20 Fox News: Obama Administration Responds to ObamaCare Website Issues:
Obama administration officials and other Democrats appeared to respond Sunday to increasing pressure for a full, public explanation from the Health and Human Services Department about the problem-plagued federal health care website. The agency on Sunday posted a blog on its site with some preliminary statistics and an assurance to Americans that officials are “working around and clock” and “committed to doing better.”
The site has had roughly 19 million unique visits, which “confirms that the American people are looking for quality, affordable health coverage, and want to find it online.” HHS however, has yet to release information on how many people have successfully signed up for healthcare coverage, indications that the actual number of successful transactions is low.
The website has been mired in problems since going live Oct. 1, including crashes, slow response times and failing to allow customers to complete the online process by purchasing health insurance. Also on Sunday, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would testify before Congress about the site, amid a growing call for her to accept requests to speak on Capitol Hill.
Oct. 18: Fox News: Reports raise concerns about backgrounds of Obama’s Navigators:
New concerns are being raised about so-called ObamaCare "navigators" following a string of reports about the questionable backgrounds of those selected to guide Americans through what is shaping up to be a rocky roll-out of the health care law. The concerns come on top of the drama over the HealthCare.gov site itself, which is the main federal hub for would-be participants and has been riddled with technical problems. The "navigators" are outreach workers, funded by federal taxpayer dollars, who are supposed to help people sign up for coverage.
The Daily Caller reported that one "enrollment assister" in Lawrence, Kan., had an outstanding warrant for her arrest as well as a troubled financial history. The Heartland Community Health Care Center, where she works, later confirmed to the Caller that she had a bench warrant for an "unpaid medical debt" -- but had been unaware of the warrant. The group said she worked with the courts to satisfy it, and the warrant is "no longer active." Still, the incident raised questions about the background check process, and spurred Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook to push legislation increasing oversight on those assisting the public with enrolling in the exchanges. Her bill would require background checks and licensing for anybody doing that work in Kansas.
Other reports have emerged about navigators playing an active role in advocacy for illegal immigrants. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told Megyn Kelly Friday night on "the Kelly File" that it was "crazy" to pay these kinds of people to be navigators. "It crosses the line when you go to someone's home and attempt to intimidate them," he said. "Now someone engaged in that kind of tactic is getting taxpayer money to implement ObamaCare."
Oct. 18: The Daily Caller: Thus far, about 2,100 percent more people have signed up for a single bondage and sadomasochism website than have signed up for Obamacare.
The Obama administration expected nearly half a million people to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges in the first month. According to an analysis by Millward Brown Digital, though, only 36,000 completed enrollments in the first week. The Atlantic estimates that at least 115,000 people completed applications through the state-based exchanges in the first two weeks of their highly-touted existence.
How do these numbers stack up against other things in the world for which people can sign up?
- Fetlife.com, a “free social network for the BDSM and fetish community,” claims 2,424,946 members (and 105,953 videos, and 204,156 upcoming events). So, thus far, about 2,100 percent more people have signed up for a single bondage and sadomasochism website than have signed up for Obamacare.
- The website CinnamonChallenge.com claims to have found over 40,000 videos on Youtube.com showcasing people who try (and almost always fail) to eat a spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds. A YouTube search using the words “cinnamon challenge” generates approximately 905,000 results.
- According to Wired, as of September more than 200,000 people have applied to live on Mars as part of scheme by a foundation called Mars One to settle the planet in the next decade. Accepted applicants must agree that they will never return to Earth.
Oct. 18: Fox News: Insurers report getting wrong data from ObamaCare Exchanges:
Insurers say faulty data from ObamaCare marketplaces is straining their ability to handle even the first wave of consumers who were able to sign up for health insurance using federally run exchanges during the glitch-ridden rollout of the new law. Executives at more than a dozen health insurance companies say they have received data from online marketplaces that is riddled with errors, including duplicate enrollments, missing data fields and spouses reported as children, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
"The longer this takes to resolve…the harder it will be to get people to [come back and] sign up," Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told the newspaper. "It's not off to a great start," he said, adding, however, that he believes the marketplaces are "here to stay." Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska, which has about 50 ObamaCare enrollees, said it had to stop enrollments from coming through automatically and hire temporary workers to contact customers to fix inaccuracies in submissions, according to the report. Joan Budden, a marketing executive at Michigan-based Priority Health, told the newspaper that staff are reaching out to new customers to make sure they are enrolled in the correct plans, after realizing that some had signed up for multiple plans. "Sometimes they pushed the [submit] button three times," Budden said.
Pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to resolve the technical problems that have plagued the HealthCare.gov website. Since the launch of the site, technical problems have prevented many would-be participants from actually enrolling. Administration officials say the operators are working "24/7" to correct the issues. The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Thursday they have scheduled a hearing on the issue for Oct. 24, and have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to attend.
Oct. 17: The Weekly Standard: ObamaCare Website violates license agreement for copyrighted software:
Healthcare.gov, the federal government's Obamacare website, has been under heavy criticism from friend and foe alike during its first two weeks of open enrollment. Repeated errors and delays have prevented many users from even establishing an account, and outside web designers have roundly panned the structure and coding of the site as amateurish and sloppy. The latest indication of the haphazard way in which Healthcare.gov was developed is the uncredited use of a copyrighted web script for a data function used by the site, a violation of the licensing agreement for the software.
The script in question is called DataTables, a very long and complex piece of website software used for formatting and presenting data. DataTables was developed by a British company called SpryMedia which licenses the open-source software freely to anyone who complies with the licensing agreement. A note at the bottom of the software requires the user to include the following statement within the code: "DataTables designed and created by SpryMedia © 2008-2013." Healthcare.gov used the software without providing the required attribution.
Oct. 17: Fox News: House panel questions firms paid for troubled ObamaCare Website:
A House committee is probing the widespread technical problems with the launch of the ObamaCare website, including the contractors that were paid hundreds of millions of dollars to create it. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, amid the dispute over the now-lifted partial government shutdown, has been steadily firing off letters over the past several days seeking answers to why the HealthCare.gov site was not fully operational when it launched on Oct. 1. "Despite the widespread belief that the administration was not ready for the health law's October 1 launch, top officials and lead IT contractors looked us in the eye and assured us all systems were a go," Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said in a written statement. He said the technical problems have reached "epidemic proportions" and the American people "deserve to know what caused this mess."
Much of the scrutiny has focused on the company that received the bulk of the taxpayer money to help create the website -- CGI Federal, a U.S. subsidiary of Canadian firm CGI Group. According to the company's own announcement, it secured a contract in late 2011 worth a total of $93.7 million, with the base value at $55.7 million. Reuters reported on Thursday that the potential total value for CGI's work has tripled, to nearly $292 million.
Oct. 16: Fox News: The Time is now for the GOP to turn its attention to the train wreck known as ObamaCare:
Radio host Guy Benson told Megyn Kelly Wednesday on “The Kelly File” that after suffering a setback on the partial shutdown fight, the Republican Party should now turn its attention to the “train wreck” that is ObamaCare. “The best thing, actually, for the party is that these crises are temporarily over and now the real attention can shift to the slow-motion, jaw dropping, train wreck that is the president’s health care law,"said Benson, who is also TownHall.com political editor.
Turning to America’s unfunded liabilities, including what it owes for Social Security, Medicare and federal employees’ future retirement benefits, Benson said the nation’s total debt soars to unimaginable levels. “That 17 trillion number only scratches the surface,” he said. “The number is actually closer to 90, nine zero – trillion with a t – dollars.” Benson noted that as part of the deal to fully reopen the government, both the House and the Senate will appoint conferees to try to come up with a plan to tackle the nation’s spending and debt problems – the first such meeting in four years.
Oct. 15: The Daily Caller: Forbes: ObamaCare Website Troubles are meant to weed out healthy middle class who face massive premium increases:
The technical disasters of the ObamaCare exchange debacle over the past two weeks are not an accident, but rather a way to disguise the costs of healthcare plans and weed out people who don’t qualify for a federal subsidy, Forbes reports. Tech experts examining the Obamacare federal health exchange, Healthcare.gov, are becoming increasingly convinced that the traffic bottlenecks and site crashes experienced over the first two weeks were not by accident, wrote Forbes.
An HHS spokesperson recently told The Wall Street Journal that implementation of a feature enabling users with the option to preview premiums was delayed as a way to filter users. “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies,” wrote the publication. The agency was worried that the spike in healthcare premiums under the new system would scare prospective buyers away, concluded Forbes writer Avik Roy.
Oct. 14: The Hill: Unions poised to win delay in ObamaCare tax:
Labor unions are poised to score the delay of an ObamaCare tax in the bipartisan budget deal emerging in the Senate.
The bargain under negotiation would make small adjustments to the healthcare law, including delaying the law's reinsurance fee for one year. The three-year tax is meant to generate revenue that will stabilize premiums on the individual market as sick patients enter the risk pool. The tax applies to all group health plans, but unions argue it will raise their healthcare costs while providing them no benefit. The reinsurance tax figured prominently in discussions at a recent AFL-CIO convention, where workers passed a resolution demanding changes to ObamaCare.
The White House recently denied labor's top priority on ObamaCare, ruling that union health plans are not eligible for the new subsidies because they are already helped by the tax code. Democrats could be pushing to delay the reinsurance fee for one year as an olive branch after that apparent slight, though it could also create trouble for insurers on the marketplaces.
The possible Senate deal would raise the nation's debt ceiling until mid-February, immediately reopen the government and provide funding until Jan. 15. By doing so the next automatic sequester cut would be avoided, a key issue to Democrats who want to do away with sequester spending cuts. It remains to be seen if House Republicans will accept a package that does little to thwart ObamaCare. The emerging Senate deal does nothing to delay or end a new tax on medical devices. The 2.3 percent tax, which has opposition in both parties, is expected to generate about $30 billion in revenue for ObamaCare over the next 10 years.
Oct. 13: USA Today: Hospital Engine Sputters as thousands of Jobs are cut are imposed due to reduced insurance payments
Hospitals, a reliable source of employment growth in the recession and its aftermath, are starting to cut thousands of jobs amid falling insurance payments and inpatient visits. The payroll cuts are surprising because ObamaCare whose implementation was suppose to take a big step forward this month, is eventually suppose to provide health coverage to as many as 30 million additional Americans. "While the rest of the U.S. economy is stabilizing or improving, health care is entering into a recession," says John Howser, assistant vice chancellor of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Health care providers announced more layoffs than any other industry last month — 8,128 — largely because of reductions by hospitals, according to outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas. So far this year, the health care sector has announced 41,085 layoffs, the third-most behind financial and industrial companies.
Oct. 13: The Miami Hearld: People who have signed up for ObamaCare have become an Urban Legend, We’ve heard of them but not actually met them:
Will the people who have enrolled for Obamacare please stand up? Nearly two weeks after the federal government launched the online Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov, individuals who have successfully used the choked-up website to enroll for a subsidized health insurance plan have reached a status akin to urban legend: Everyone has heard of them, but very few people have actually met one.
The Miami Herald searched high and low for individuals who completed enrollment for a subsidized health plan through the marketplace, also called an exchange, launched by the federal government on Oct. 1 in 36 states, including Florida. The Herald solicited readers for stories of enrollees online and in the newspaper, and received a fair number of responses reflecting various degrees of success with HealthCare.gov, which has been plagued by technical problems that federal officials attribute to an overwhelming number of people trying to access the website at once.
A keystone of the federal healthcare reform law (ObamaCare), the exchange is intended to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for the millions of Americans who do not have coverage. As of Friday, however, only a smattering of success stories had emerged in news reports. Politico.com, an online news outlet, reported that a 21-year-old Georgia resident who enrolled successfully has become a cause célèbre, with national media and even the White House touting his story.
Oct. 8: The Daily Caller: I like Obama, but I’m broke! Americans upset that ObamaCare costs money!
Obamacare’s been stumbling along at quasi-full force for over a week now, and for some Americans, the Affordable Care Act is not all it was cracked up to be: I checked out an Obamacare exchange and it impressed me... Until I saw the lowest premium for me was 3x what I am paying now. Justin Gaines My health insurance will TRIPLE in cost. I can't afford that. Austin Lee
Oct. 5: Fox News: ObamaCare Website Glitches show the President’s Healthcare plan is not ready for prime time?
House Speaker John Boehner criticized the Obama administration's plan to disable a key part of its health overhaul website this weekend to resolve glitches that overwhelmed the launch of new health insurance markets. “The news that its enrollment system is already going offline confirms that the launch of the president’s health care law has been an unmitigated disaster," Boehner said in a statement Friday.
The Health and Human Service Department is using overnight hours this weekend to debug the system. The department did not release a schedule for hours of operation, but a spokeswoman said the site would be taken down at 1 a.m. EDT each night for a few hours. Boehner blasted the White House for dismissing the technical problems as glitches and not disclosing how many Americans were able to sign up for plans using the "fatally-flawed system." "This announcement is more proof that we need to delay the law and provide basic fairness, just as Republicans have called for. How can this administration tax individuals for not purchasing a product from a website that doesn’t even work?," Boehner said in the statement.
Oct. 4: Politico: HHS to take ObamaCare applications off line while Website is shutdown for maintenance this weekend:
Why would the HHS ObamaCare website be down for maintenance just four days after it opened for business? Is something not going according to plan?
The agency reports that it will take down the application section of Healthcare.gov this weekend during off-peak hours “for scheduled maintenance.” In a release titled “Week One Success,” the agency touts “sustained improvements” to the consumer experience since the launch Tuesday, despite the ongoing and widespread prevalence of long waits and error messages greeting people around the country who are trying to use the site.
The website’s application system will be down for “a few hours” starting at 1 a.m. each night, an HHS spokeswoman said, and the call centers will remain open. The statement also said consumers should see “significant improvements in the online consumer experience” on Monday. At least a few cases of successful enrollment have been confirmed, and HHS reports that “the system is working.”
Oct. 4: The Daily Caller: Dead people can sign up for health care in Kentucky:
Obamacare can help dead people, too. This is apparent in Kentucky, where application forms for the state’s new Obamacare benefit exchange asks if the application is for someone who has recently died.
Question 39 on the kynect: Kentucky’s Healthcare Connection printable application form for a single person health seeking either coverage or help paying costs, states: “If you are filling out this application on behalf of a person who recently passed away, enter the deceased person’s date of death.” “This is for Medicaid — it will pay three prior months of medical expenses for the eligible,” Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told The Daily Caller on Friday. “It also allows us to prevent fraud by noting the date of death, time-limited benefits.”
Continue this chronology June-Sept 2013