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Posts Tagged ‘health’
January 29th, 2015 at 8:13 pm
Disgraced ObamaCare Contractor Now Working for the IRS

CGI Federal was the primary contractor responsible for building Healthcare.gov – the federal ObamaCare website that glitched its way into bureaucratic infamy.

In the aftermath, CGI was fired by the Department of Health and Human Services and a number of states holding similar contracts.

But like a vampire rising from the dead, CGI Federal is back in the ObamaCare game, and just in time for tax season!

That’s right, a Republican-led House subcommittee discovered that the IRS has hired CGI Federal to a $4.46 million contract. Recall that, under ObamaCare, the IRS must administer a complex income-reporting system to verify which taxpayers received too generous a subsidy.

This news was too much for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which opined that, “Perhaps CGI is still able to obtain federal business because no one has ever been punished for the worst government technology failures since the Challenger explosion. The political class would prefer to forget, but a new audit from HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson probes what he delicately calls ObamaCare’s ‘inadequacies in contract planning and procurement.’”

“According to the report,” the Journal continues, “HHS rarely obeyed the laws that govern outside hiring, such as competitive bidding and due diligence of past performance. The 33 contractors that contributed to the $800 million website reported to multiple managers and no one at HHS devised an ‘acquisition strategy’ – also required by statute – to integrate the various pieces.”

So if you are confused, frustrated or inappropriately fined by the IRS this tax season, rest assured that CGI Federal is somehow probably responsible – and making millions.

January 27th, 2015 at 6:41 pm
GOP Congress Working on ObamaCare Alternative If Subsidies Struck Down

Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill are busy strategizing for ways to minimize the political fallout if the Supreme Court invalidates health insurance subsidies for millions of people currently receiving them under ObamaCare.

The case, King v. Burwell, challenges the IRS’ decision to make insurance premium subsidies available to citizens of 34 states that do not have a state-run ObamaCare exchange. The policy is in direct conflict with ObamaCare’s text, providing the justices with a clear opportunity to hold the Obama administration to the letter of the law.

The Hill is reporting that Republican members of the House and Senate are discussing ways to be ready when and if an estimated 5 to 6 million Americans suddenly can’t afford to purchase mandated health insurance.

So far, no details have emerged regarding specifics. There is a lot to consider since any change in the law will require President Barack Obama’s signature. A complicating factor may be this president’s willingness to let the media portray Republicans and the Court as heartless conservatives, even though all that’s being asked for is the Obama administration to implement its own law as written.

Nothing new here.

On the flip side, it’s encouraging to hear that Republicans in Congress are trying to get in front of a potentially damaging issue by coalescing around an alternative they can sell to the public.

Hopefully this is the start of a welcome trend.

January 22nd, 2015 at 8:50 pm
Doctor Pay Raise Increases Medicaid Access

Think rationing health care spending has an effect of which patients doctors see?

A new study released by the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid beneficiaries enjoyed a 7.7 percent bump in the number of appointments doctors scheduled with them when government reimbursement rates increased.

Unfortunately for the poor who use Medicaid, once ObamaCare’s temporary subsidy phased out, states didn’t have the extra money to continue the higher reimbursements to doctors.

And so, it’s likely that doctors will respond to the new (lower) price signal and cut back on the number of Medicaid patients they schedule.

From a policy perspective this study confirms that doctors respond to economic incentives, and that if we as a society are going to help the poorest of the poor get adequate health care Congress and the president need to start prioritizing federal spending so that there’s more money available to help those who need it.

If the folks in Washington, D.C. are looking for a place to start trimming, former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) “Wastebook 2014” is a good place to start.

January 21st, 2015 at 7:36 am
“Dozens” of E-Commerce Vendors Gathering Data from Healthcare.gov Users

“Have you been researching a chronic illness like coronary artery blockage? Do you shop online for smoking-cessation aids? Are you investigating genetic markers for a certain type of breast cancer? Are you seeking help for financial problems, or for an addiction?”

Those are just some of the information items potentially being collected on Healthcare.gov – the federal government’s ObamaCare website used by millions of Americans to shop for health insurance.

A report by the Associated Press confirmed that “dozens” of third party vendors like Google, Twitter and Facebook are gleaning personal data points from Healthcare.gov users. These can be sold to internet advertisers to market products directly to consumers who’ve searched for similar items.

The hidden presence of these websites drew concern from two cyber security experts interviewed by the AP, in part because tracking firms can piece together a user’s identity through IP addresses and patterns of behavior.

Once upon a time there was concern that hackers would find a way to access a person’s health and financial records through a weakness in Healthcare.gov. As it turns out, all they need to do is pose as an e-commerce vendor.

January 18th, 2015 at 10:00 pm
Key ObamaCare Implementer Resigning

Marilyn Tavenner, the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced in an email last Friday to staff that she is stepping down at the end of February.

The move comes as something of a surprise, but the timing is similar to that of Tavenner’s former boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Last year, Sebelius said she was leaving her post after ObamaCare’s initial enrollment period ended. Tavenner’s resignation is effective when the controversial health law’s second enrollment period concludes.

Tavenner’s time in office was marred by a glitch-ridden rollout of Healthcare.gov, the federal ObamaCare website that earned the ire of millions of Americans. She also came under fire for overstating ObamaCare’s enrollment figures by inaccurately including 400,000 dental plans that have never been counted toward health insurance numbers.

With Republicans in control of the Senate that will confirm Tavenner’s replacement, it will be interesting to see who President Barack Obama taps to fill her shoes.

January 14th, 2015 at 2:16 pm
Freshman Bill Cassidy Off to Fast Start in U.S. Senate

Fresh from beating Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu in a run-off last December, Republican Bill Cassidy is off to a fast start as a freshman in the U.S. Senate.

Making good on his campaign promise to get rid of ObamaCare, Cassidy, a physician, has introduced two bills within just weeks of taking office.

The “No ObamaCare Mandate Act” would repeal the medical device tax, the employer mandate and the individual mandate, according to a report in The Hill.

In addition, “The Employee Health Care Protection Act” would reduce benefit requirements in health insurance plans regulated by ObamaCare, giving providers more flexibility and consumers more options.

And apparently, Cassidy knows how to give a good speech. In defending the Keystone XL pipeline from ideologically motivated attacks by environmentalists, Cassidy said, “We are not to be guided by our prejudice. We’re not to be guided by what we want to be the case. We are to be guided by the facts.”

Usually, it’s liberals who claim the mantle of science and scold conservatives for being fearful of the truth. It’s good to see a conservative U.S. senator return the favor.

January 14th, 2015 at 1:54 pm
Study: Best Time to Repeal ObamaCare Might be Year 2020

How important is the upcoming 2016 presidential election?

According to research by political scientist Jordan Ragusa, the most favorable time to repeal landmark legislation like ObamaCare occurs about ten years after its passage.

Since ObamaCare was passed in 2010, that means 2020 is the year repeal activity could be at its height.

Ragusa’s ten-year window is an average calculated over a fifty-year study of repeal efforts of major laws. In the context of ObamaCare, Ragusa’s timeline makes perfect sense. Republicans don’t have the supermajority in either chamber of Congress to override a certain veto from President Barack Obama. But if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, all the GOP would need is a simple congressional majority to repeal any or all of ObamaCare.

Yes, it’s important for Republicans in Congress to get whatever wins they can muster now to weaken ObamaCare before it does more damage. But changes in partisan control take time. When ObamaCare was passed Democrats were in complete control of the political branches. The earliest Republicans could be in such a position is January of 2017.

It will also take time for the GOP to coalesce around a comprehensive alternative to ObamaCare, which, according to Ragusa’s data, shouldn’t be too much of a concern as long as a repeal-and-replace bill is signed into law before the Republican president’s first term expires.

There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to securing a free market alternative to ObamaCare. Lack of time to do it right isn’t one of them.

January 7th, 2015 at 11:02 am
IRS Tax Refunds Could be Much Smaller Under ObamaCare This Year

Anyone still looking for a fundamental change to the federal tax code need look no further than ObamaCare.

H&R Block, one of the nation’s largest tax preparation companies, is promoting its free “ACA Tax Impact Analysis” on January 8, 2015, in order help taxpayers understand the true cost of ObamaCare.

Reporting by The Hill quotes an H&R Block executive as saying that the controversial health law is “the biggest tax code change” in two decades. Its passage “has made health care a tax issue and is going to make filing taxes more complicated this year.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise coming to millions of taxpayers is the penalty amount to be assessed for not complying with the law’s individual mandate. Most people know that the IRS can levy a $95 fine for being uninsured this year (which rises every subsequent year). But many do not realize that’s only one option. ObamaCare authorizes fines up to 1% of annual income (which also rises every year), if that amount is greater than $95.

Simply put, a lot of people who passed on ObamaCare’s costly version of “affordable” insurance thinking they would only have to write a $95 check may be missing a much bigger chunk of their IRS refund this year.

December 30th, 2014 at 4:17 pm
Gruber in 2009: ObamaCare Has No Cost Controls

Hat tip to the Daily Caller for unearthing yet another damning admission from ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber.

At roughly the same time in 2009 when President Barack Obama was telling the American people that passing his version of health care reform would lower costs, Gruber was telling an audience in Syracuse, New York it was all a lie.

“Why are we closer than we’ve ever been before? Because there are no cost controls in these proposals. Because this bill’s about coverage. Which is good! Why should we hold 48 million uninsured people hostage to the fact that we don’t yet know how to control costs in a politically acceptable way? Let’s get the people covered and then let’s do cost control,” Gruber told his listeners.

Thanks for the honesty, Professor Gruber, but it only counts if you say it before the damage is done.

December 18th, 2014 at 11:06 am
Citing Costs, Vermont Shelves Single Payer Health System

Vermont will not push forward with its plan to launch a state-based single payer health care system in 2017, reports the Daily Caller.

Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin made the announcement on Wednesday, citing several factors.

Among the most important were changes in financing assumptions. Vermont had been counting on infusions of federal funding to buoy the program, but confirmed that it overshot its estimates by a whopping $311 million. Without the expected seed money of federal tax dollars there’s not enough start-up capital needed to get the project going.

The other blow to Vermont’s single payer scheme – to be called Green Mountain Care – is its lack of financial sustainability. In order to make the enterprise successful, Vermont would need to levy tax hikes like an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an income tax up to 9.5 percent. Those changes would likely kill business development in the state, eroding the tax base necessary to pay for Green Mountain Care.

Though the time, money and effort poured into this failed experiment have been costly, it will hopefully serve as a reality check for government officials to abandon the impossible and instead focus on implementing tangible policies that can improve lives now.

December 9th, 2014 at 1:31 pm
Gruber Gets Gored

Even though Jonathan Gruber did his best to apologize for his incredibly damaging – and seemingly accurate – remarks about how and why ObamaCare was drafted, there was no place to hide from the bipartisan rebuke he received today from the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.

Gruber is the now infamous MIT professor and erstwhile “architect” of Democrats’ signature health reform law that called American voters “stupid” for not understanding basic economics and the deceptive policies embedded in ObamaCare.

Gruber’s comments have incensed Republicans, but they’ve also infuriated Democrats. Of all the anger directed at Gruber today, perhaps none was more forceful than that erupting from Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

“As far as I can tell, we are here today to beat up on Jonathan Gruber for stupid – I mean absolutely stupid – comments he made over the last few years,” Cummings said. “Let me be clear, I am extremely frustrated with Dr. Gruber’s statements” because “They were irresponsibly, incredibly disrespectful, and did not reflect reality. And they were indeed insulting.”

We’ll see if any of this theater persuades the Supreme Court. Next spring the justices consider whether a section of ObamaCare should be interpreted, as written, to deny subsidies to citizens in 37 states that use the federal health insurance exchange. It’s an interpretation that Democrats oppose, but Gruber in at least one viral video adamantly confirms.

It’s been said that a political gaffe occurs when someone says the truth in public. Regarding ObamaCare’s deceptive elements, that may be Jonathan Gruber’s greatest offense.

December 8th, 2014 at 6:22 pm
ObamaCare’s ‘Stupid Voter’ Architect to Testify at GOP Hearing

On Tuesday this week Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and ObamaCare architect made infamous by a series of viral videos confirming suspicions of deceptive lawmaking, will appear before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.

It won’t be a pleasant meeting for Gruber.

Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has titled the hearing, “Examining ObamaCare Transparency Failures.”

The biggest issue will be whether Issa and his fellow Republicans can get Gruber to confirm his previous statement that ObamaCare only grants insurance subsidies to people in states that operate their own health exchange. That’s the central issue in the case going before the Supreme Court next spring, and if the justices accept it, much of ObamaCare could be gutted.

Liberals are already trying to get ahead of any Gruber confessions under oath that could undermine their landmark domestic policy.

In a long-read piece at Politico, a former Democratic staffer tries to minimize the impact of Gruber’s comments by first saying he wasn’t involved in the policymaking process. That’s a fair point.

But then the staffer seems to completely confirm Gruber’s main argument – that the disputed statutory language was deliberately concocted to confuse people who weren’t in on the backroom political calculations.

The Politico reporter sums up the staffer’s argument this way: “The point of having the ‘Balkanized’ approach – state health exchanges plus a federal one for states that didn’t build their own – was to appeal to centrist senators, he said, since most liberal Democrats would have been happy just to have a federal one.”

As the staffer explains it, “No one was willing to fall on their swords to make sure states ran their own exchanges.”

In other words, the text in the law that limits the flow of subsidies to state exchanges is nothing more than an Orwellian wordplay. It doesn’t mean what it says. Rather, it’s designed to give ‘centrist’ senators political cover for voting to do the exact opposite – give subsidies to everyone.

Confused? Gruber isn’t.

This new rationale sounds an awful lot like the “tortured” drafting of ObamaCare that takes advantage of the “stupidity of the American voter” that Gruber’s been saying for years.

Kudos for being honest. Now let’s see if he will remain so under oath.

November 25th, 2014 at 5:03 pm
Jonathan Gruber to Testify Before House Committee

For political junkies, the news that MIT professor and ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber has agreed to testify before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee is must see TV.

Gruber has stirred up a hornet’s nest of negative press for the controversial health care law because of statements he’s made at academic conferences over the last few years. Helpfully summarized by the folks at American Commitment, Gruber’s comments include calling American voters stupid and admitting to writing ObamaCare’s text in a tortured way to avoid a straightforward cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

Also appearing at the hearing will be Marilyn Tavener, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to explain – presumably with a straight face – why revelations that ObamaCare’s reported enrollment of 7 million inexplicably counted 400,000 dental plans. Republicans suspect a bad faith face-saving move since without the incorrectly included dental plans enrollment would have failed to reach CBO’s benchmark estimate.

All in all, December 9, 2014 should be an entertaining day in Washington, D.C. – if you like to watch contentious oversight hearings.

November 20th, 2014 at 7:49 pm
HHS Caught Padding ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers

Is anything the Obama administration says about ObamaCare worth believing?

“The Obama administration said it erroneously calculated the number of people with health coverage under [ObamaCare], incorrectly adding 380,000 dental subscribers to raise the total above 7 million,” reports Bloomberg.

The revelation came to light thanks to diligent work by House Oversight Committee investigators.

Bloomberg quotes Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell as saying, “The mistake we made is unacceptable,” but the news agency goes on to report HHS may have been intentionally misleading in its counts in the run-up to the midterm elections.

“Federal officials said in September they had 7.3 million people enrolled in coverage through new government-run insurance exchanges. They didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.” (Emphasis mine)

Along with the Grubergate deceptions, it’s hard to believe that HHS did anything other the deliberately fudge the numbers to help ObamaCare (barely) meet a previous CBO projection. Falling below that threshold would surely have been an embarrassment to the Obama administration, so someone at HHS just changed the rules so the home team could win.

Sounds similar to the president’s approach to immigration, doesn’t it?

November 18th, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Ahead of SCOTUS Challenge, HHS Murky on State-Based Exchange Definition

With its surprising decision to hear oral argument on an ObamaCare subsidy challenge next spring, the Supreme Court of the United States is causing a flurry of activity as some states try to shore up their status ahead of a potentially costly decision.

“The consulting firm Avalere Health estimates that nearly 5 million people would see their premiums spike 76 percent, on average, if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in states that don’t operate their own exchanges,” reports Governing. “That estimate assumes a greater number of exchanges are considered federal, not state-based, but the question of what exactly constitutes a ‘state-based’ health exchange is murky.”

How murky?

“States have the option of running their own exchange completely (a state-based exchange), managing aspects of plan design or consumer outreach (a partnership exchange) or leaving everything to the federal government (a federally facilitated exchange),” according to the website.

Predictably, the federal Department of Health and Human Services isn’t divulging its exact criteria for categorizing an exchange, a stance that leaves states without a clear picture of how to prepare for a possible elimination of subsidies to residents.

Some states, like Nevada and Oregon that switched to Healthcare.gov – the federal website – are still considered to have state-based exchanges because they retain control over functions like plan approval, data collection and quality reporting. Others, like Utah and Mississippi, also fall into the state-based category because they host small business exchanges (but not individual exchanges).

So, the bottom line appears to be this: If the Supreme Court axes ObamaCare subsidies per the law’s text and intent, there’s a good chance President Barack Obama’s political appointees will engage in verbal gymnastics to find ways to define “state-based exchanges” in whatever manner best suits them.

No matter. Getting something fundamentally better than ObamaCare isn’t the Supreme Court’s job anyway. Best to pocket the subsidy win if it comes and work toward a policy consensus among the political branches that delivers real reform.

November 17th, 2014 at 3:42 pm
Gallup: New High in Public Disapproval of ObamaCare

Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of ObamaCare, the highest number disapproving of the controversial health care law since Gallup began asking the question.

Approval of ObamaCare peaked just before the 2012 presidential election, but has cratered since then.

The culprit is reality.

The beginning of ObamaCare’s nosedive in popularity “occurred in early November 2013”, according to Gallup’s analysis, “shortly after millions of Americans received notices that their current policies were being canceled, which was at odds with President Barack Obama’s pledge that those who liked their plans could keep them. The president later said, by way of clarification, that Americans could keep their plans if those plans didn’t change after [ObamaCare] was passed.”

In other words, the law has continued to grow less popular with each new revelation that it was sold on a pack of lies.

Though completely repealing the entire law seems unlikely because the new Republican Senate majority is less than the number needed to overcome a certain Obama veto, the increasing levels of voter disapproval could convince some Senate Democrats to join Republicans in dismantling large parts.

Unless, that is, they want to risk involuntary retirement when their next election arrives.

November 14th, 2014 at 1:32 pm
Ponnuru: What to Do If SCOTUS Strikes Down ObamaCare Subsidies

With ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber’s admissions that the controversial health law was sold on a pack of lies, the probability is rising that the Supreme Court will interpret the law as written and eliminate subsidies for millions of people.

If that happens, will Republicans in Congress be ready?

In order to lay the groundwork for an ObamaCare alternative that covers as many or more people than the current law, and costs less, Republicans in Congress could unite behind a framework proposed by conservative health experts James Capretta and Yuval Levin. Similar ideas have been endorsed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the incoming-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the likely next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

If the Supreme Court does strike down the subsidies, President Barack Obama won’t have much leverage since, “Much of ObamaCare would have just self-destructed due to its own design flaws and lack of public support, and Republicans would be offering a way to advance the law’s stated goal of assuring coverage – if not in the highly prescriptive and centralized manner the White House prefers”, writes Ramesh Ponnuru. “Democrats’ favored lines of attack on Republicans over health care – that they have no alternative, that they would take people off the insurance rolls – would have been neutralized.”

Sounds like a strategy worth pursuing.

November 12th, 2014 at 6:20 pm
ObamaCare’s 2015 Tax Bite

Too bad the incoming Republican majority in Congress probably can’t repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate before next April, because it looks like millions of middle-income Americans will see their tax refund cut by one-third.

“The financial penalty for skipping out on health insurance coverage [i.e. not complying with the individual mandate] will more than triple to $325 per person in 2015, or 2 percent of income, depending on whichever is higher,” reports CBS News. “Children will be fined at half the adult rate, or $162.50 for those under 18 years old.”

“Based on the flat-rate method, the maximum dollar amount an uninsured family could be fined is $975,” says the news outlet.

To put this into perspective, the average annual American tax refund is about $3,000, meaning that a $975 IRS penalty would reduce the value by one-third.

This is likely to hit middle-income Americans particularly hard since many may be earning too much in wages or salary to qualify for an ObamaCare subsidy. The Catch-22 facing these families is cutting back on other spending to pay high monthly premiums, or foregoing insurance and waiting to see how much the IRS will confiscate. Either way, the predicament facing millions of middle-income Americans is likely to make them even more hostile toward a law billed as the “Affordable Care Act.”

November 10th, 2014 at 7:07 pm
HHS Reduces ObamaCare 2015 Enrollment Prediction by 30%

On Monday, the Obama administration threw out a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that ObamaCare would have 13 million enrollees by February 15, 2015. It also discarded a CBO forecast that the controversial health law would have 25 million enrollees by 2017.

Instead, the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said a more likely scenario would be between 9 and 9.9 million by mid-February – a reduction of 30% from CBO’s calculations. As for 2017 totals, HHS will not commit to any numbers.

“The reduced projection is due to recent data showing ‘mixed evidence’ about how quickly – and how dramatically – people will shift from employer-sponsored health insurance and non-ObamaCare plans into insurance plans sold on government-run marketplaces such as HealthCare.gov,” reports CNBC.

What HHS isn’t saying is how the Obama administration playing politics with statutorily mandated deadlines has fouled up ObamaCare’s implementation timetable. Originally, CBO and others could reasonably anticipate quick and dramatic shifts onto ObamaCare plans because the employer mandate made it financially smart to dump workers onto the exchanges and pay a relatively small fine.

But fearing a voter backlash at such a quick and dramatic change, the Obama administration has delayed implementing the employer mandate at least three times. It now isn’t scheduled to go into effect until 2017 – the first year after President Barack Obama is out of office.

According to an HHS report, “there is considerable uncertainty that a large shift will occur over the new two years”, which, “contributes to an analysis that the ramp up to 25 million will take more than three years.”

In other words, thanks to politically motivated regulators, no one knows when, or if, ObamaCare will meet its most important benchmark – sustainable enrollment.

November 7th, 2014 at 5:45 pm
Supreme Court to Hear ObamaCare Subsidy Challenge

In a surprise move, the United States Supreme Court announced today it will hear a third challenge to ObamaCare in as many years.

The case, King v. Burwell, is one of many lawsuits challenging a controversial IRS decision to extend federal subsidies to any person eligible to buy insurance on an ObamaCare exchange. The legal fight is over whether the text of ObamaCare permits subsidies to be given to citizens purchasing health insurance through Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange, when the law clearly says they cannot.

Supporters of ObamaCare say the disputed statutory language amounts to typos inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of the law. Opponents insist that the plain meaning of the words be honored, or risk the rule of law taking a back seat to bureaucratic whim.

The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision means that oral arguments will be held sometime in the spring with a final decision likely next summer. If the challengers are successful, King v. Burwell may go down in history as the lawsuit that signaled the beginning of the end of ObamaCare.