In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino explains why ObamaCare still matters and why the American people must continue to hold their representatives in Congress accountable on the issue.
Senik: The Midterms in Prospect: The Senate (Part 3)
Lee: Inversion: America Has Gone From Attracting Global Business to Penalizing It
Ellis: Report: Obama Admin Can’t Say How Much It Spends To Promote ObamaCare
Video: Why ObamaCare Still Matters
Podcast: Will We Ever Get to the Bottom of the IRS Scandal?
Jester’s Courtroom: Time Out
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CFIF’s Timothy Lee, Senior Vice President for Legal and Public Affairs, discusses this week’s United Nation’s summit on climate change, more inconvenient truths about global warming, and Harry Reid’s court packing efforts.
Listen to the interview here.
Eric Holder, the controversial face of the Obama Justice Department, is stepping down as United States Attorney General.
The timing seems odd. If Democrats lose control of the U.S. Senate in this year’s midterm elections – a very likely prospect – it will be impossible for President Barack Obama to win confirmation for a replacement as polarizing as Holder.
That would be a good thing for the Republic.
Among the many blemishes on Holder’s tenure as AG – such as the Fast and Furious scandal, his unprecedented Contempt of Congress citation, his failed attempt to prosecute the 9/11 conspirators in a civil court instead of a military tribunal – it’s the so-called “legacy” actions Holder took that should give observers the most pause.
According to NPR, “Holder most wants to be remembered for his record on civil rights: refusing to defend a law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman; suing North Carolina and Texas over voting restrictions that disproportionately affect minorities and the elderly; launching 20 investigations of abuses by local police departments; and using his bully pulpit to lobby Congress to reduce prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Many of those sentences disproportionately hurt minority communities.”
Notice what’s missing?
Only one achievement on the list actually enforces the law. (And even this area, prosecuting allegedly abusive local police departments, tells us a lot since it’s directed at cops and not, say, verified abuses by the New Black Panthers.)
Everything else – from refusing to defend a traditional marriage statute to playing a prison reform lobbyist – are actions designed to undermine the law as written.
Eric Holder shouldn’t worry. His legacy is clear. His will be remembered as the time when activism replaced lawyering and the rule of law suffered.
Hopefully, it’s not the start of a trend.
If you’ve tried to buy insurance on an ObamaCare exchange, you’re familiar with the four levels of coverage available: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each level covers a set percentage of costs should you incur health-related expenses.
For example, a Bronze plan covers 58-62 percent, a Silver plan 68-72 percent, Gold 78-82 percent and Platinum 88-92 percent.
Notice, however, that there are gaps between the coverage levels.
Recall as well that ObamaCare’s coverage requirements get tweaked from year-to-year, changing the actuarial value – i.e. the percentage of covered benefits the insurance company is expected to pay – each year.
Here’s the problem.
“Suppose you are in a Bronze plan with an actuarial value of 58 percent. Then, a year from now, because of price changes, technology changes, or some other kind of change, your plan suddenly covers 64 percent of expected expenses. That’s good for you, right? Wrong. Because your plan no longer fits into one of the metallic corridors, it’s no longer a valid plan – despite the fact that it has become a better plan,” explains John C. Goodman, a conservative health policy expert.
The same is true at the other end of the coverage spectrum.
“Now let’s suppose you have a really good plan – a plan that pays 98% of expected health care costs,” writes Goodman. “Given the large number of Democrats who believe that health insurance should pay almost every medical bill, you would think that the law passed by a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote would strongly encourage such a plan. If you’re inclined to think that, you are mistaken, however.
“Any plan that pays more than 92% of expected health care costs for the average enrollee is illegal under Obamacare.”
Get ready to change your health insurance more often than you change your auto insurance.
Doctors who spent heavily trying to comply with ObamaCare’s electronic health records mandate could still be hit with costly penalties.
ObamaCare gives doctors until October 1, 2014, to switch from paper-based to electronic health records. Failure to comply results in losing 1 percent of federal reimbursements for treating Medicare patients.
Here’s the rub.
“[P]hysicians who went electronic for the first time this year are discovering that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS] won’t be ready to officially register the evidence of their work until mid-October. That means they will miss the Oct. 1 deadline, and CMS will withhold 1 percent of their 2015 Medicare payments,” reports Politico.
That means that a doctors’ group like Morganton Eye Physicians in North Carolina spent $1.3 million to buy and implement new software – and added $250,000 to its annual operating budget – only to be threatened with a $65,000 penalty because the federal government can’t meet its own compliance deadline.
One would think CMS has a moral obligation to waive compliance until the agency is able to do its job, but so far it’s requiring doctors to submit to a cumbersome hardship process. How does a business politely explain that the hardship exists completely because of government ineptitude?
Welcome to ObamaCare’s bureaucratic hell. More episodes to follow.
In an interview with CFIF, Marita Noon, Executive Director for Energy Makes America Great and Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, discusses what President Obama has not done for American energy workers, the lessons he could learn from Texas Governor Rick Perry’s efforts to convince companies to relocate to Texas, and the important role that energy plays in our lives.
Listen to the interview here.
Last week the Obama administration released its first official headcount of ObamaCare enrollments since applauding itself for 8 million initial sign-ups.
The current enrollment is 7.3 million, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
But there’s reason to be suspicious.
“Under ObamaCare, after a person has paid their first premium, a health plan can’t cancel anyone until they have gone three months without making a payment,” writes health care policy expert Bob Laszewski.
By saying that the 7.3 million number includes all enrollments that have occurred through mid-August, CMS is “effectively double counting by including the ‘adds’ while also keeping the ‘deletes’.” That means the 7.3 figure “also still includes every person who has failed to make a premium payment in June, July, and August – since the carriers can’t yet knock them off the rolls,” explains Laszewski. “The health plans tell me there is a 2% to 4% monthly attrition rate. That means the 7.3 million could be overstated by 6% to 12% of the total.”
Unfortunately, the most transparent administration in history refuses to release the monthly enrollment numbers since ObamaCare went online. That makes it impossible to verify whether the 7.3 million is accurate.
If the Obama administration is so proud of its new number, why not release the data on which it’s based?
Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.” Today’s guest lineup includes:
4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT: Steve Bucci, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation: Should the U.S. Negotiate with ISIS?;
4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT: Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute: Expansion of Executive Powers
5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT: Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President for Legal and Public Affairs: The Unimportance of the U.N.’s Climate Summit; and
5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT: Cleta Mitchell, Political Law Attorney and Partner in Washington, D.C. office of Foley & Lardner: The Continuing Saga of the IRS Scandal.
Listen live on the Internet here. Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.
An interesting new bit of original research by The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson entitled “Why Britain Is Poorer Than Any US State, Other Than Mississippi” helps reconfirm the concept of American Exceptionalism even amid the Obama Malaise. First, Mr. Nelson takes a welcome swipe against the all-too-common habit of American self-criticism:
No one beats up America better than Americans. They openly debate their inequality, conduct rigorous studies about it, argue about economics versus culture as causes. Their universities study it, with a calibre of analysis not found in Britain. Americans get so angry about educational inequality that they make films like “Waiting for Superman.” And the debate is so fierce that the rest of the world looks on, and joins in lamenting America’s problems. A shame: we’d do better to get a little angrier at our own.”
Nelson then gets to the heart of the matter:
If Britain were to somehow leave the EU and join the US, we’d be the 2nd-poorest state in the union. Poorer than Missouri. Poorer than much-maligned Kansas and Alabama. Poorer than any state other than Mississippi, and if you take out the south east we’d be poorer than that, too.”
He also addresses the cliche of horrific American inequality along the way:
It’s not surprising that America’s best-paid 10 per cent are wealthier than our top 10 percent. That fits our general idea of America: a country where the richest do best while the poorest are left to hang. The figures just don’t support this. As the below chart shows, middle-earning Americans are better off than Brits. Even lower-income Americans, those at the bottom 20 percent, are better-off than their British counterparts. The only group actually worse-off are the bottom 5 per cent.”
Obama may not believe that American Exceptionalism is of any greater merit than British Exceptionalism, but the facts and some Britons contradict that notion.
Happy “International Talk Like a Pirate Day,” which can make for a bit of harmless office fun on a Friday.
Unfortunately, real piracy of the online variety is no laughing matter. It costs the American economy billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs each year, and even threatens life and health through such things as counterfeit drugs.
This week, a new report was released highlighting the role played by online “cyberlockers” in facilitating worldwide piracy. Entitled “Behind the Cyberlocker Door: A Report on How Shadowy Cyberlocker Businesses Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions,” the report from Digital Citizens Alliance cogently introduces and explains the nature of this problem:
Rogue ‘cyberlocker’ operators peddling stolen content are making nearly $100 million in annual revenues by operating as hubs for the for-profit distribution of infringing digital copyrighted content. That is the finding of our research looking at the profitability of the leading cyberlockers. Unlike legitimate cloud storage services whose clients are people and businesses that need to store, access, and share data, the cyberlocker business model is based on attracting customers who desire anonymously to download and/or stream popular, copyright infringing files that others have posted. The cyberlocker business model is designed around content theft. In fact, cyberlockers generally pay or provide various incentives to those who distribute popular infringing content and discourage the use of their services for reliable data storage. As this study shows, the overwhelming bulk of files distributed by cyberlockers infringe copyright.”
For those unfamiliar with the term “cyberlockers,” here is DCA’s definition:
Cyberlockers are online services that are intentionally architected to support the massive distribution of files among strangers on a worldwide and unrestricted scale, while carefully limiting their own knowledge of which files are being distributed. The link to a user’s file stored on a cyberlocker can be posted to any location for any user to access: cyberlockers generally place no limits on who can download or stream a file.”
DCA studied 30 sites, and those alone accounted for some $96.2 million in total annual revenue, or $3.2 million per site (one site alone accounting for $17.6 million). While we must avoid interfering with meritorious technological innovation and the legitimate online marketplace, we must at the same time recognize this emerging problem and advocate corrective social policy to remedy existing piracy threats and deter their spread. Legitimate market participants must therefore determine proper recourse, and elected officials must also begin to consider reasonable avenues to help put a stop to this growing form of theft.
Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.
View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.
Intentionally or not, President Barack Obama’s current strategy for defeating and destroying ISIS is “unattainable,” says his first Defense Secretary, Robert Gates.
“…there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [there won’t be troops on the ground], the president in effect traps himself,” Gates said on CBS This Morning.
“I’m also concerned that the goal has been stated as ‘degrade and destroy’ or ‘degrade and defeat’ ISIS,” because it sets an “unattainable” goal.
Gates is speaking from experience. As Defense Secretary for both Obama and George W. Bush, he saw the United States military inflict “some terrible blows” against al Qaeda – including the killing of Osama bin Laden. But even after 13 years of warfare, al Qaeda hasn’t been destroyed or completely defeated.
Ironically, Gates indicated that the bluster of Joe Biden may come closer to the mark. In a speech earlier this month in New Hampshire, the vice president said that ISIS terrorists should know that the United States “will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice…”
Meting out some measure of justice – be it death on the battlefield or convictions for war crimes – to specific ISIS members is a realistic goal, if ground troops are used.
The confusing aspect about Obama’s current ISIS policy is that it is both too little (no ground forces) and too much (complete destruction). Untethered from reality, it’s a strategy that looks like it is set up to fail.
H/T: Weekly Standard
At least one Obama administration official is complaining of a “cover-up” that seeks to conceal “high-risk” security weaknesses in Healthcare.gov, the federal website where millions of Americans input their private health and financial data.
The explosive allegation came to light when House Oversight Committee investigators uncovered an email from a mid-level official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) saying she is “tired of the cover-ups,” and that she intended to give “a truthful update of exactly what was going on” in a status report she was tasked to write.
CMS is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the development, launch and maintenance of Healthcare.gov.
Investigative reporter Sharyl Atkisson broke the story for The Daily Signal.
The timing is particularly bad for CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner who is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee today.
Previous reporting documented specific instances where CMS officials in charge of the website’s security were either mislead or kept in the dark about the portal’s “limitless” security risks.
This new revelation will only increase the suspicion that the integrity of Americans’ private information takes a backseat to whatever saves face for the Obama administration.
The largest player on Minnesota’s ObamaCare exchange is dropping out, and not even the promise of federal subsidies can get it back.
Earlier today PreferredOne – an insurance company that covered 59 percent of Minnesota’s ObamaCare population – announced that it will not offer health care plans next year paid for with ObamaCare subsidies.
Apparently, the decision is being driven by high administrative costs associated with doing business with MNsure. Even after hiring an additional 50 workers to handle the exchange’s post-launch fixes and tweaks, PreferredOne says continuing to participate is financially unsustainable.
The move makes it likely that MNsure’s ObamaCare rates will jump since PreferredOne sold the lowest cost option. Those rates will be released sometime in October – just weeks before the midterm elections.
In what some observers presume is an early sign of a presidential run, over the weekend Hillary Clinton spoke at a high-profile political event for Iowa’s retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.
“One of the things she always worked on was advancing this concept, this idea that health care should be a right and not a privilege in this country,” said Harkin. “So, Hillary was not there when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, she was of course secretary of state, but I want you all to know that her fingerprints are all over that legislation. It would not have happened without her strenuous advocacy in that committee all those years.”
Any hopes Clinton had of distancing herself from a law that only gets more unpopular is gone. All opponents have to do is show her smiling behind a gushing Harkin to make the connection.
Don’t like ObamaCare? Blame HRC.
No conservative could have said it better.
If you’re confused about what to call the newest terrorist threat – ISIS or ISIL – Daniel Pipes, the renowned conservative Middle East expert, has an answer.
Whichever one you want.
The Obama administration prefers “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL), while almost everyone else uses “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). At first blush, some commentators think they detect a subtle framing effect to blur any possible links between the rise of this group with Obama’s blundering Syria policy.
Pipes isn’t one of them. According to him, “both translations are accurate, both are correct, and both have deficiencies – one refers to a state, the other has an archaic ring.” Pipes should know since he wrote a book about the underlying history that gives rise to the translation difficulty.
Whatever one calls ISIS/ISIL, Pipes rightly focuses on the most important issue: “…ridding the world of this barbaric menace.”
As ObamaCare’s next open enrollment period draws near, some of the controversial law’s biggest backers are cheering a seven city survey claiming that health insurance premiums associated with it are dropping.
This leads liberal health policy expert Ezra Klein of Vox to say that “Obama’s signature accomplishment is succeeding beyond all reasonable expectation.”
But not if you get your health insurance from your employer, however.
“Employees are on the hook for more and more of their health care costs. Premiums are increasing so slowly in part because employers are continuing to shift toward higher deductibles, requiring employees to pay more out of their own pockets before their health care plans kick in,” explains Sam Baker in National Journal.
Comparing monthly premium rates year-to-year makes sense if that’s the best single indicator of how ObamaCare is impacting paychecks. But it isn’t. For employees working in the real economy the shift to high deductible plans means more out-of-pocket spending every time they visit the doctor.
Translation: ObamaCare makes health insurance for workers more expensive.
When it comes to measuring ObamaCare’s success, we need to make sure we’re looking at the most relevant data. Otherwise, we risk scoring political points at the expense of the truth.
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In our piece this week entitled Senate Democrats and Scorched-Earth Judicial Politics , we note the way in which Senate Democrats habitually play hardball, whereas Republicans tend to play Nerf. Disturbingly, the Democrats’ methods paid off just days ago:
Just days ago, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which Reid and Obama had packed after ending the Senate filibuster, voted to rehear en banc the Halbig v. Burwell decision from earlier this year… The full court’s unjustified decision to rehear the case en banc not only unnecessarily obstructs and delays Supreme Court resolution, it appears to be a transparently politicized decision to rescue ObamaCare. On that note, Harry Reid openly congratulated himself when asked whether his Senate tactics underlie this turn of events by saying, ‘If you look at simple math, it sure does.’”
Famed conservative author David Horowitz agrees in an excellent Washington Times piece today entitled “Why Nice Guys Finish Last in Politics: Politics is War, but Some GOPers Just Don’t Get It.” His observations are worth quoting at length:
Going into the 2016 election, you can count on Republicans to stay ‘positive,’ to emphasize policy, and above all, not to hit the Democrats where it hurts. You can also count on Democrats to do just the opposite. Because they always do…
Democrats have a massive punch in the mouth for Republicans, and it’s always the same punch. Republicans are painted as racists, sexists, homophobes, anti-poor, selfish and uncaring. Note that this is a moral indictment. It defames the character of Republicans like the corporate predator and dog-abuser Mitt Romney. The only answer to an attack like this is to attack Democrats with an equally potent indictment of their moral character…
How difficult is it to understand this: If you are perceived by voters as racist or even just selfish and uncaring, they are not going to have the same interest in your policy advice, as Mitt Romney found out in 2012. Here is what Republicans need to understand to win: Politics is street war, and there are no referees to maintain the rules – and the ones that infrequently pop up (such as CNN’s Candy Crowley during one of the last presidential debates) are there to bury you. Attack your opponents before they attack you. Attack them with a moral indictment; if well-executed, it will win the day.
And remember that even if you fail to do this to them, they will certainly do it to you. You can count on that.”
Americans can determine for themselves whether Horowitz’s advice is wise. But they must also acknowledge that Republican presidential campaigns in recent decades have been more notable for their moderation than their tenacity, whereas the opposite is true of Democratic campaigns. And which party has won five of the past six popular presidential votes, after the landslide Reagan and Bush victories of the 1980s?