Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Obamacare’
July 24th, 2014 at 2:20 pm
ObamaCare’s Eligibility Verification System Open to Abuse

The Government Accountability Office set up a sting operation to test whether ObamaCare’s eligibility verification system is open to abuse.

GAO discovered a resounding Yes.

“Fake applicants were able to get subsidized insurance coverage in 11 of 18 attempts,” reports National Journal.

Investigators had the most success when using ObamaCare’s online and telephone enrollment systems. These improper enrollments resulted in subsidies totaling $30,000 annually.

The findings of the sting operation bode ill for the controversial health reform law. The failure to correctly match applicants to subsidies indicates that ObamaCare’s expensive digital architecture is failing in one of its most basic tasks.

And the failure could be costly.

Assuming most ObamaCare applicants are not attempting to defraud taxpayers – but rather are just trying to comply with the law’s individual mandate – incorrectly receiving financial help this year could result in a heavier tax bill next year. That’s because the IRS is tasked with settling accounts on ObamaCare subsidies, with taxpayers required to pay back any subsidies they weren’t eligible for when calculating their income tax liability.

So far, the IRS hasn’t rewritten ObamaCare to cushion the blow from bad drafting – like it did when it made subsidies available to citizens in states without a state-based exchange.

Apparently, that kind of face-saving deference is only extended to government-growing ideologues; not every day Americans just trying to play by the rules.

July 15th, 2014 at 11:36 am
Judiciary Could Force Obama to Work with Congress

John Fund documents the Supreme Court’s growing impatience with the Obama administration’s refusal to adhere to the letter of the law in a piece out today with National Review.

Citing Jonathan Adler, a conservative legal expert, Fund highlights several recent Supreme Court decisions that slap down the executive branch’s significant regulatory overreach. Justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum – from the liberal Kagan to the conservative Scalia – refuse to grant President Barack Obama and his bureaucratic lieutenants the authority to change statutory requirements on a whim to suit policy goals the underlying law does not allow.

This backdrop is important as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hand down its decision in Halbig v. Burwell, a case that challenges an IRS interpretation of ObamaCare that, if overturned, could prohibit the subsidies most Americans need to pay for the law’s expensive insurance plans.

Weighing in the challengers’ favor are the 13 unanimous Supreme Court decisions that have invalidated moves by Obama executive agencies since he took office. In its reasoning the Court has consistently said that the president must adhere to the constitutional framework for making laws, which limits the executive to faithfully executing (i.e. carrying out) what Congress has actually passed as legislation.

In the ObamaCare context, that means striking down the IRS rule that explicitly ignores the prohibition on giving federal subsidies to users of the federal health insurance portal.

Making them available only on state exchanges was an enticement to get states to foot the bill for implementation. It has since backfired with 34 states declining the deal.

Does that complicate the Obama administration’s ability to call federal ObamaCare plans affordable? You betcha. But it also preserves the constitutional check on a president prone to act beyond his designated powers.

Though it might be unpleasant for the White House and its allies, the world will not end if Barack Obama is forced to negotiate with Congress. Another judicial reminder to respect the structure of the Constitution would be a public service by the D.C. Circuit – and the Supreme Court.

July 8th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Keep an Eye on Mike Lee

If you want to see what the future of the Republican Party might look like consider Mike Lee’s social network.

The Utah Republican has an enviable number of connections to fellow U.S. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Each is strategic. With Paul it’s teaming up on civil liberties issues like reining in the National Security Agency and prison reform. Few remember that it was Cruz and Lee who helped force the government shutdown to halt ObamaCare. And now Rubio is coming around to Lee’s push to make the tax code more family friendly.

As James Antle puts it in a terrific post, “You don’t have to agree with all of the aforementioned proposals to see how different the Republican Party would look if Lee’s policy entrepreneurship with Paul and Rubio gained traction: Less identified with war, wiretapping, and mandatory sentences; more identified with reforming government programs and cutting taxes for the non-rich.”

By influencing the policy platforms of three likely GOP presidential contenders in 2016, Mike Lee is also forging friendships that could make him one of the most powerful officeholders on Capitol Hill.

Keep an eye on Mike Lee. He just may be the most important Tea Party Senator not running for president.

June 27th, 2014 at 6:17 pm
Cover Oregon Offers Bonuses to Staff Not to Leave

Oregon’s failed ObamaCare website is so fraught with failure the state is offering to pay employees bonuses just to keep them on the job.

After spending over $250 million – and retaining more than $50 million in federal grants – to build an ObamaCare health insurance exchange that failed to enroll a single person, Oregon decided to switch to Healthcare.gov, the federal equivalent.

Apparently, though, the crisis isn’t over. Since April, 27 staff members of Cover Oregon have left, taking with them valuable skills that can’t easily be replaced in time to transition to the federal website. To staunch the bleeding, Oregon is making a total of $650,000 in bonuses available to the remaining 163 employees, if they stay on till the end of the job.

As I explained in my column this week, state officials are primarily responsible for the costly disaster that is Cover Oregon. This news is just one more reminder that simple, avoidable mistakes by politicians and bureaucrats have huge and prolonged consequences.

H/T: NRO

June 24th, 2014 at 6:42 pm
Oregon v. Oracle ObamaCare Brawl Heating Up

There is a nasty fight brewing between Oregon’s governor and Oracle, the software company the state hired to create its doomed ObamaCare website.

Earlier this year Cover Oregon, the state board that contracted with Oracle, decided to scuttle the project after spending upwards of $300 million for a website that failed to enroll a single person.

When Oregon nixed the deal in April, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber blamed the entire fiasco on Oracle, suggesting the state should consider suing the company to recover its losses.

But at a House Energy and Commerce hearing last week in Washington, D.C., Oracle hit back.

“The website was operational in February,” Oracle said, but “the state of Oregon pulled the plug on it for political reasons.”

The company had previously written to state officials that “Cover Oregon executives have stated to Oracle that application functionality is sufficient to support individual enrollment. However, Cover Oregon has not agreed to give individuals direct access to the application. Thus Cover Oregon, not Oracle, made the decision to keep the exchange closed to individuals even though the functionality has been delivered by Oracle.”

Kitzhaber may face a surprisingly difficult reelection campaign due to the spectacular failure of Cover Oregon. The governor embraced ObamaCare early, so any negative fallout from the law’s poor local performance could sink him.

To be fair, though, Oracle isn’t totally without blame. Saying that the website was functional in February when the enrollment period began in October – and ended in March – is hardly prompt performance. Does anyone seriously think that one of Oracle’s private sector clients wouldn’t be threatening legal action under the same circumstances?

Whatever the outcome of the ongoing investigation, Oregon’s ObamaCare debacle is sure to cost taxpayers even more money as lawyers, tech consultants and political strategists get their part of a never-ending spending spree.

May 27th, 2014 at 4:26 pm
ObamaCare Causing 54% of Small Businesses Not to Hire

An article at the website Accounting Today starts with the headline, “ObamaCare Weighing Less on Hiring Plans.” In it, the author analyzes new poll results asking accountants who work with small businesses how the health law is impacting their hiring practices.

Last year, an identical poll found that 66 percent of small businesses said ObamaCare made it less likely they would hire new employees. This year’s survey reported a drop to 54 percent.

This is great news, according to the firm that commissioned the poll. “[W]hile planning for the Affordable Care Act is still impacting many businesses’ plans for hiring, it is causing significantly fewer businesses to slow hiring in the coming year in comparison to last year, which is positive.”

It would be more accurate to say, “less negative.”

Imagine the euphoria if ObamaCare wasn’t a factor at all. That would allow 54 percent of small businesses to base hiring decisions on opportunities to win market share. Instead, a stout majority are holding tight on their headcount because they can’t afford ObamaCare’s increased compliance costs.

Going forward, we’re likely to see more poll numbers and reporting like this that makes it seem like ObamaCare’s influence on economic growth is diminishing, when in fact businesses have already absorbed the initial hit that comes with ObamaCare, and have fundamentally changed their operations.

There is a ‘new normal’ of less full-time jobs, more part-timers and an increasing reliance on independent contractors. Dramatic year-to-year changes are likely to diminish over time as employers factor in ObamaCare’s increased labor costs and staff accordingly.

The real story here isn’t how many businesses will hire less people because of ObamaCare; it is how many jobs are not being created because of ObamaCare.

May 21st, 2014 at 1:55 pm
Nevada Closes Its ObamaCare Exchange, Hawaii Next?

Fed up with a dysfunctional health exchange operated by Xerox, Nevada officials voted to terminate the contract and transfer responsibility to the federal government.

Apparently, spending $75 million to enroll about one-fourth the number of people initially projected convinced Nevada to throw in the towel.

Nevada joins Oregon, Maryland and Massachusetts as states who have scrapped their original state-based exchanges because of exceedingly poor performance.

The next domino to fall may be Hawaii, whose ObamaCare exchange – the Hawaii Health Connector – has registered just 8,500 people but needs at least 150,000 enrollees to ensure the program is self-sustaining.

Not surprisingly, Hawaiian officials are already being pressured to shut it down.

May 20th, 2014 at 1:28 pm
Feds Can’t Verify Over 1 Million Income Statements Seeking ObamaCare Subsidies

Amid all the legitimate privacy concerns with ObamaCare’s regulatory apparatus – in particular the proposed data hub that allows agencies like the IRS, Social Security Administration and HHS to share reams of information about individual citizens with each other, states and insurance companies – it’s been taken for granted that the liberals in charge of this grand social experiment at least had the technical competency to build the necessary infrastructure.

But the facts say otherwise.

“Of the roughly 8 million Americans now signed up for coverage this year under the health care law, about 5.5 million are in the federal insurance exchange,” reports the Washington Post. “And according to internal documents, more than half of them – about 3 million – have an application containing at least one kind of inconsistency.”

The Post says the most frequent inconsistency is a discrepancy in the income reported on an ObamaCare application and the income reported to the IRS. This type of inconsistency is present on between 1.1 million and 1.5 million applications. To their credit, citizens have sent in “about 650,000 pieces of ‘proof’” to justify their asserted income.

Because of the level of detail required when filling out the 20-plus page ObamaCare application, it’s no surprise many people mistakenly enter something wrong; especially when considering that most people get help on their taxes from either a certified professional or software that easily finds all the right deductions. Neither option was readily available to the vast majority of ObamaCare applicants.

What is astonishing, however, is the federal government’s complete inability to process and verify corrections digitally. “Because the computer capability does not yet exist, the work will start by hand, according to two people familiar with the plans,” says the Post. (Emphasis added)

ObamaCare subsidies are the essential ingredient for claiming that ObamaCare insurance is “affordable” since they at least partially offset the increased cost of coverage. Failing to launch a website capable of verifying income claims that determine whether a person qualifies for subsidies is inexcusable.

If there is any silver lining to this latest blunder it’s that Serco – the federal contractor accused last week of billing HHS $1 billion while hiring employees literally to do nothing – is now on the hook for correcting the inconsistencies. Small comfort though, since apparently Serco gets paid based on the number of employees it hires rather than the efficiency of its work product. Requiring the company to sort paper applications by hand seems almost too awful to be true.

May 19th, 2014 at 2:05 pm
ObamaCare’s Cost Increases Could Push 90% of Workers at Large Firms onto Exchanges

“According to a new report from S&P Capital IQ, 90 percent of American workers who receive health insurance from large companies will instead get coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges by 2020,” writes Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute.

Large companies are those that employ 10,000 workers or more. They cover 59 percent of the American workforce.

ObamaCare’s escalating barrage of mandates, fees and fines are estimated to extract “about $163 million to $200 million in additional cost per employer – or $4,800 to $5,900 per employee,” says Pipes. Compared to the $2,000 per employee fine for not offering health insurance, large employers will in effect be forced to dump workers on ObamaCare exchanges to stay profitable.

There are many aspects of ObamaCare that defy easy explanation, but this much is clear – Forcing large employers who want to provide health insurance to their employees to pay more than twice the price of compliance just doesn’t pencil.

The only financially sensible thing to do – from a company’s perspective – is to shove workers onto taxpayer-funded exchanges. That may keep the firm afloat, but it will only add to the federal government’s fiscal problems.

May 16th, 2014 at 5:53 pm
ObamaCare Hurts Single Working Mothers

Remember that “War on Women” meme that Democrats keep throwing at Republicans?

Well, it turns out ObamaCare’s employer mandate – by requiring that businesses with 50 or more employees purchase medical insurance for everyone that works 30 hours or more – incentivizes shifting to a part-time labor force.

“This has a negative effect on women,” says Corie Whalen of Generation Opportunity, “because 57 percent of part-time workers are female. When companies are forced to cut hours and there’s more competition for part-time work, women, especially single mothers, suffer.”

ObamaCare makes it harder for single working mothers to support their families. How’s that for a War on Women?

May 8th, 2014 at 6:48 pm
More States Eye Switching to Healthcare.gov

A CNBC report says that multiple states now operating an ObamaCare exchange could decide the costs are unsustainable and relinquish control to Healthcare.gov, the exchange run by the federal government.

The reasons are multiplying. Oregon decided to shutter its woebegone website after spending $248 million and failing to enroll a single person online. Massachusetts is abandoning its software program, but if its replacement isn’t ready to launch by the next enrollment period in November it plans to default to Healthcare.gov. Colorado and Rhode Island are trying to figure out how to make their exchanges financially viable once federal subsidies run out. And at least one expert thinks Nevada and Hawaii may also decide to let the feds be responsible for continuing IT updates and rules changes.

But it’s not like the once foundering Healthcare.gov is experiencing smooth sailing. Recent testimony before Congress confirmed the existence of duplicate enrollments that cast doubt on the Obama administration’s overall enrollment claims.

“Due to website glitches, some individuals may have enrolled multiple times,” explains the Illinois Policy Institute. “For example, if there are three people with one enrollment each and one person with two enrollments, the government will report this as five total enrollments. If the first three people paid for each of their policies and the fourth person paid for one policy, the insurer will report 100 percent payment. In this way, the government numbers may be further overstating enrollments.”

And with it, Healthcare.gov’s ability to handle the increased responsibility for processing many more people.

May 7th, 2014 at 4:28 pm
Cruz Highlights 76 Lawless Actions by Obama Admin

Today, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) unveiled his fourth cataloguing of the Obama administration’s abuses of power.

Among the 76 instances described, the Daily Caller spotlights eight that show the range and depth of the executive department’s dereliction of duty:

1.    “Obama implemented portions of the DREAM Act by executive action”

2.    “Ended some terror asylum restrictions”

3.    “Recognized same sex marriage in Utah despite a Supreme Court stay on a court order allowing the institution”

4.    “Illegally revealed the existence of sealed indictments in the Benghazi investigation”

5.    “Illegally delayed ObamaCare verification of eligibility for healthcare subsidies”

6.    “Ordered Boeing to fire 1,000 employees in South Carolina and shut down a new factory because it was non-union”

7.    “Terminated the pensions of 20,000 non-union Delphi employees in the GM bankruptcy”

8.    “Government agencies are engaging in ‘Operation Choke Point,’ where the government asks banks to ‘choke off’ access to financial services for customers engaging in conduct the Administration does not like – such as ‘ammunition sales.’”

As this partial listing makes clear, good luck finding an example where the Obama administration has flouted the law to favor conservatives and obstruct liberals.

Download the full report (pdf) here.

May 2nd, 2014 at 1:23 pm
Podcast: The IRS, ObamaCare, Keystone XL Pipeline and Other Scandals
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment, discusses damaging emails between IRS official Lois Lerner and DOJ employees, misleading numbers in ObamaCare, and another delay with the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Listen to the interview here.

April 30th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Oregon Scraps $248M ObamaCare Exchange

Oregon spent $248 million developing its own ObamaCare insurance exchange and never enrolled a single person online.

That kind of return on investment convinced state officials “to abandon the exchange entirely and switch to the federal website, the first state to do so,” writes Lou Cannon. “The Oregon board made its decision after being told it would cost $78 million to fix Cover Oregon compared to $4 million to $6 million to make the technical changes needed to join the federal exchange.”

Investigations are ongoing into why the state’s heavily bankrolled website was such a bust. Once thought to be a model for progressive high-tech governing, Cover Oregon is now a source of embarrassment for the state’s Democratic establishment.

Whatever the causes for the technology failure, Oregon’s switch to the federal alternative could hit enrollees hard. An estimated 70,000 Oregonians enrolled with paper applications through Cover Oregon, making many of them eligible for federal subsidies. However, the text of ObamaCare doesn’t make subsidies available if insurance is bought via the federal website. So far, the IRS isn’t making the distinction, but a three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit seems ready to apply the law as written.

The intent of ObamaCare’s drafters was to reward state citizens with federal subsidies if they chose to shoulder the start-up costs associated with running a state-based exchange. Now that Oregon is pulling the plug on its failed website, its citizens may be losing the assistance they need to make ObamaCare affordable.

April 26th, 2014 at 5:57 pm
Bad News: Holder Says He’s Staying

Any hopes the GOP had that Kathleen Sebelius’ resignation as HHS Secretary might convince fellow Obama Cabinet member Eric Holder to do the same were quashed on Friday.

“The Attorney General does not plan to leave before the mid-terms,” said a Justice Department official. “That does not mean that he is definitely leaving after the mid-terms, just that he is at least staying through that time.”

Prior to Sebelius taking the fall for ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout, it was Holder who was the face of bureaucratic scandal. Though voted in Contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives, Holder continues to stonewall investigators on details surrounding the “Fast and Furious” program that led to the deaths of at least one American and dozens of Mexicans.

Credit Sebelius with this much – At least the department she ran wasn’t responsible for killing anyone on her watch.

April 24th, 2014 at 6:05 pm
ObamaCare and Income Inequality

If President Barack Obama wants to improve income inequality he could start by removing ObamaCare’s barriers to working more hours.

“The savings from restricting hours worked can be enormous,” explains the Wall Street Journal. “If a company with 50 employees hires a new worker for $12 an hour for 29 hours a week, there is no health insurance requirement. But suppose that worker moves to 30 hours a week. This triggers the $2,000 federal penalty. So to get 50 more hours of work a year from that employee, the extra cost to the employer rises to about $52 an hour – the $12 salary and the ObamaCare tax of what works out to be $40 an hour.”

Liberals thought themselves clever by dropping full-time status to 30 hours per week from the traditional 40. What they didn’t count on was that the actual result would be an 11 hour per week pay cut.

April 22nd, 2014 at 10:14 am
ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers: Why the Administration’s Celebration is Premature
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses how the Obama Administration’s enrollment figure celebration for ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges is premature, why four years of ObamaCare failures is long enough and her testimony before the U.S. Senate on what the U.S. health care system can learn from other countries.

Listen to the intervie here.

April 18th, 2014 at 4:10 pm
Issa to Investigate Pro-ObamaCare ‘Census-Gate’

Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Government Oversight & Reform Committee, wants the Census Bureau to explain why it failed to tell Congress that it would change the way it measures whether people have health insurance in the same year ObamaCare goes into effect.

The new survey produces a lower uninsured rate than previous versions asked by the Census Bureau. The concern is that the new lower numbers will make ObamaCare enrollment figures now and the in the future appear to be higher than they would have had the same questions been asked.

“A two-percent adjustment in the nationwide uninsured rate would represent a change in status for six million Americans and could be used in misleading arguments about the coverage impact of the Affordable Care Act,” Issa wrote in a letter to the Census Bureau.

Politically-motivated shenanigans are nothing new for ObamaCare, but this latest revelation indicates that even a highly respected agency like the Census Bureau – which researchers in several fields look to for objective data – is being used to push the narrative that the controversial health law is a historic success; data to the contrary notwithstanding.

H/T: Washington Examiner

April 17th, 2014 at 1:58 pm
Sebelius Back to Kansas as a U.S. Senate Candidate?

Say it ain’t so!

Soon-to-be-former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “is considering entreaties from Democrats who want her to run against her old friend, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas,” reports the New York Times.

It’s hard to see how this news is anything other than an attempt to put a softer spin on Sebelius’s disastrous tenure as the face of ObamaCare.

Considering how much the Left loathes her mismanagement of Healthcare.gov – driving down public confidence in government to record lows – it’s no surprise that friends of Sebelius are trying to rehabilitate her image by saying the former two-term Kansas governor could be just the candidate to topple Roberts.

Making the GOP spend money and time on a race they would otherwise win easily could burnish Sebelius’s ‘good soldier’ credentials. Actually winning the seat would give Democrats their first U.S. Senator from Kansas since 1939.

Still, whatever goodwill Sebelius had as governor has been forgotten long ago. In the current reality, it’s difficult to see how she could step down from such a bad job at HHS into an underdog Senate campaign and emerge as anything other than a twice rejected public servant.

April 15th, 2014 at 6:31 pm
Suspicious Timing of Census Bureau’s New Health Insurance Questions Helps ObamaCare

After compiling three decades-worth of responses to health insurance questions, the U.S. Census Bureau is about to implement a new version that will make it impossible to compare insurance coverage data before and after ObamaCare.

Coincidence?

It gets better.

“An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a ‘total revision to health insurance questions,’ and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured,” reports the New York Times.

In practical terms this means “it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.”

According to the Times, the new survey has been in the works for awhile. But there is no explanation given for why it is going into effect in the same year when millions of Americans are transitioning to the ObamaCare regime. The controversial health law was sold as a way to extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Why would the non-partisan Census Bureau make it impossible for observers to see whether ObamaCare actually achieved its goal?

Whatever the official line, it’s difficult to understand the timing of this development as anything other than a naked attempt to avoid accountability.