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Tags: Kathleen Sebelius

Nation Shocked to Learn Kathleen Sebelius Hadn’t Resigned a While Ago



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From the last Morning Jolt until the Monday after Easter:

Nation Shocked to Learn Kathleen Sebelius Hadn’t Resigned a While Ago

News that is surprising only in that it took this long:

Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the bug-ridden rollout of a federal health insurance program that she herself called “miserably frustrating,” is resigning as secretary of Health and Human Service… Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White House official said.

Man . . . everything this woman does gets delayed.

This is actually long past the point of having much consequence. The news is clear that Sebelius is resigning, not that she’s being fired, and there’s not even much sense that the president wanted this or thought it was an appropriate consequence for how Obamacare’s rollout proceeded on her watch.

“The White House official said that President Obama was ‘deeply grateful’ for Sebelius’ service.” Why? What would she have to do for him to not be grateful for her service?

The example has already been set. A month ago I wrote about the dysfunctional federal bureaucracy and noted, “The managers of the worst offenders rarely if ever are held accountable, and, as we’ve seen, apparently no scandal is sufficient to warrant firing a cabinet secretary. If Sebelius escaped consequence for failure, why should anyone below her worry, or anyone in any other branch of the federal bureaucracy?”

And of course, she had to offer at least one more lie on the way out the door:

On March 31, Sebelius joined HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski to discuss the Affordable Care Act sign-up deadline. When asked if she would still be part of the Obamacare effort in November, Sebelius said she “absolutely” would.

When prompted a second time to confirm her intention to remain with the administration, Sebelius declared, “I’m in.”

A lot of people chuckled over Ezra Klein’s declaration, “Kathleen Sebelius is resigning because Obamacare has won.”

How many people will call 96 doctor’s offices and find they’re not taking new patients or they’re not accepting the insurance plan they purchased through the exchange?

A gentle reminder: health insurance does not become health care until you can find a doctor to treat you.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans live in areas with an insufficient number of primary care doctors. Sixteen percent live in areas with too few dentists and a whopping 30 percent are in areas that are short of mental health providers. Under federal guidelines, there should be no more than 3,500 people for each primary care provider; no more than 5,000 people for each dental provider; and no more than 30,000 people for each mental health provider.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), unless something changes rapidly, there will be a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors in the United States (as well as a shortfall of 46,000 specialists) by 2020.

In some ways, the shortage of providers is worse than the numbers indicate. Many primary care doctors and dentists do not accept Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates, and many of the newly insured will be covered through Medicaid. Many psychiatrists refuse to accept insurance at all.

Does Obamacare still “win” if you get an insurance plan and you get a doctor? Because you sure as heck don’t!

Heck of a job, Sebbie!

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

BusinessWeek Notices ‘Obamacare’s Surprise Medicare Cut’



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A few weeks ago, I wrote about HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s decision to cut the maximum amount she could from Medicare’s payments for home health-care services. The short version:

Sebelius cut the maximum permitted by law, 3.5 percent, and declared HHS would do the same for the next three years.

As Angle’s report: noted, “The cuts were deep enough that officials offered a damaging prediction of the impact saying, it was estimated that approximately 40 percent of providers would have negative margins.”

“Negative margins” is another term for losing money. And businesses that lose money either go kaput or lay off workers. Forty percent of the firms in the industry adds up to roughly a half-million jobs. That doesn’t mean that 500,000 home health-care workers will be fired tomorrow, but it does mean that they’re at serious risk for layoffs in the next three years.

So we’re talking about a massive job-killer in a field dedicated to treating the health problems of the elderly. Keep in mind the National Association for Home Care and Hospice forecasts much worse consequences for these cuts, projecting that the reductions will likely render three-quarters of all industry operators unable to run profitably by 2017.

So here we have an administration that plays the “Mediscare” card as well as anyone, making big cuts to care for the elderly and hoping no one notices.

The good folks at BusinessWeek have caught up, and offer a headline that I’ll bet you’ll see in GOP attack ads this year:

Democrats can insist that Obamacare won’t be an epic liability in the midterm elections, but one wonders if they’ve accounted for millions of dollars in attack ads declaring that Obamacare cut Medicare and left providers of home health care “stunned.” How long until we see an ad depicting a Sebelius look-alike tossing Granny off a cliff?

Tags: Obamacare , Medicare , Kathleen Sebelius

The Obama Administration vs. the Home Health-Services Industry, Part Two



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From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

The Obama Administration vs. Home Health Services

Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner wrote in with a thought or two on why, as detailed in yesterday’s Jolt, Kathleen Sebelius’s Health and Human Services Department is slashing Medicare’s payments for home health-care services.

“The Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — both big Obama backers — have been trying to organize these home health care workers, mostly by leaning on states to declare people who receive the subsidies state employees,” Higgins writes. “The states then hand over the workers’ contact info to unions. That is the basis of the current Supreme Court case, Harris v. Quinn: whether these workers ‘really’ are state employees. . . . A problem the unions have run into is that the rates are set by the feds so there is little to bargain with the states for — and therefore little reason for the healthcare workers to join a union. It is hard to get somebody to sign a union card if they don’t think the union can actually do anything for them.”

Back in January, covering the legal fight, Higgins wrote:

In 2003, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared that home workers for the physically disabled were now state employees. Anyone who does this work now has to join the Service Employees International Union, or at least pay it monthly fees.

I wanted to ask Blagojevich about this decision but was prevented by the fact that he is currently serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison on 17 counts of corruption related to his duties as governor.

In 2009, current Gov. Pat Quinn declared home workers for the mentally disabled were also state workers.

Tellingly, both declarations stated that they were not public employees for the purposes of state pensions, health benefits or protection from civil liability. Just unionization.

A puzzle piece falls into place, in some way; here’s a group of workers that is paid for through Medicare, resisting membership in the big public-sector unions. If they won’t get with the program, they’ve got to be punished. As Obama said early in 2009, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

Tags: Unions , Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius

Why Is Obama Squeezing the Home Health-Service Industry?



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This is one of those mornings where I want to post the whole Morning Jolt as soon as it’s done. But it’s better to subscribe, so you’ll get the whole package faster.

Why is the Obama Administration Squeezing the Home Health-Service Industry?

A couple of nights ago, Jim Angle of Fox News pointed out a largely unnoticed aspect of Obamacare: HHS Kathleen Sebelius’s decision to  cut the maximum amount she could from Medicare’s payments for home health-care services.

Home health-care services are when a professional from a Medicare-certified home health agency comes to an elderly person’s house and provides nursing care, physical therapy, or speech-language pathology services.

Sebelius cut the maximum permitted by law, 3.5 percent, and declared HHS would do the same for the next three years.

As Angle’s report: noted, “The cuts were deep enough that officials offered a damaging prediction of the impact saying, it was estimated that approximately 40 percent of providers would have negative margins.” 

“Negative margins” is another term for losing money. And businesses that lose money either go kaput or lay off workers. Forty percent of the firms in the industry adds up to roughly a half-million jobs. That doesn’t mean that 500,000 home health-care workers will be fired tomorrow, but it does mean that they’re at serious risk for layoffs in the next three years.

So we’re talking about a massive job-killer in a field dedicated to treating the health problems of the elderly.

Here’s industry research firm IBISWorld, basically declaring that the outlook for what was, not long ago, one of the fastest-growing health-care fields looks grim:

Prior to December 2013, the Home Care Providers industry was quickly becoming one of the fastest growing healthcare industries in the United States. Home care saves billions of dollars every year by allowing patients to avoid high-cost healthcare settings, such as hospitals . . . 

To help pay for other provisions of the recent healthcare legislation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the implementation of a four-year 3.5% annual reduction to the Medicare base payment for home healthcare services beginning in January 2014. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice estimates that the magnitude of these reductions will likely render three-quarters of all industry operators unable to run profitably by 2017.

(Note: That is way more than 40 percent!)

According to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, the industry experienced its largest job loss in more than a decade in December 2013; although the Medicare reductions were not officially implemented until 2014, CMS’s announcement was enough to spur industry operators to begin cutting costs. The industry is aggressively lobbying Congress to reconsider or revoke these reductions, but unless that happens, IBISWorld expects industry revenue to decrease in the five years to 2019. Spurred by slow revenue growth in 2014, IBISWorld also anticipates significant profit losses across the industry, with average margins decreasing by 2019.

So what’s the administration’s angle here? They never met a dollar they didn’t want to spend, particularly in entitlements, so why are they suddenly putting the screws to the home health-care industry, of all professions? Is it that the financial forecasts of Obamacare have been so wildly overoptimistic and unrealistic that they feel they’ve got to make a big-time cut somewhere to prevent their “bending the cost curve down” promise from becoming an even bigger joke? Or does the administration have something ideological against home health care? Is it that by having the health-care provider coming to a person’s house, there’s not enough of a role for the government to intervene, manage, and meddle?

And why does Paul Ryan get ads depicting him throwing Granny off the cliff when Kathleen Sebelius really is cutting funding for care for the elderly right now?

Does that nurse who visits your home really need that paycheck?

Tags: Barack Obama , Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare , Home Health Services

Sebelius: ‘Absolutely No Evidence’ of ‘Any Job Loss’ Related to Obamacare



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Of course:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says there is “absolutely no evidence” that the Affordable Care Act will drive down employment, despite a report from the Congressional Budget Office released Feb. 4 predicting fewer people would be working. “There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job-loss related to the Affordable Care Act,” Sebelius told reporters in Orlando, Fla., on Monday.

Because if there’s anything we’ve learned in recent months, it’s that Kathleen Sebelius is completely on top of all the details of Obamacare, that she always knows how the rollout is progressing and informs the president and the public about it, and she is always honest when discussing it.

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius

Conservative of the Year for 2013: Kathleen Sebelius!



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Quite a few folks were amused by this portion of today’s Jolt, an award named only partially in jest:

Person of the Year: For remaining oblivious or hiding the catastrophe of Obamacare’s implementation until it was too late, Sebelius has done irreparable damage to the reputation of the Obama administration, the president, big government, and American liberalism. For this accomplishment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the Conservative of the Year for 2013 and perhaps the decade. Had she run Obamacare well, the country would look completely different; if, as many of us argue, Obamacare cannot run smoothly as it is currently written as law, she could have at least warned the president and the rest of the administration of the impending disaster. For failing to do either of those, she has inflicted more damage on the public’s faith in big government in one year than you or I will do in a lifetime.

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Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

Obama’s Cabinet: The One Place Americans Can’t Get Laid Off or Fired



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt . . . 

Obama’s Cabinet: The One Place Americans Can’t Get Laid Off or Fired

Hey, remember when we used to joke that Obama was always throwing people under buses?

In USA Today, political science professor Ross Baker notes the strangely persistent presence of Kathleen Sebelius at the Department of Health and Human Services, and examines how rare it is for President Obama to directly fire anyone.

People have come and gone in Obama’s five years in office, but most were urged to jump rather than wait to be pushed. Both generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus knew they were doomed and tendered their resignations. Early in Obama’s first term, Social Secretary Desiree Rogers was urged to resign after two unauthorized guests were admitted to a state dinner, and environment adviser Van Jones stepped aside under pressure when some of his controversial writings surfaced. But not all officials who are under fire agree to face-saving devices.

The explanation usually offered by the Obama folks on background is that firing cabinet members or other staffers is usually perceived as a panic move. That person has to be replaced, and the replacement usually takes weeks or months or even a year to get up to speed. And Obama’s staffers are quick to point out he’s never going to be bullied into firing anyone by a Beltway media that he insists he ignores.

Okay, but Sebelius still managed and directed perhaps the biggest and most consequential cluster-you-know-what in American domestic-policy history. She helped craft a policy that was sold with PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” and the Washington Post Fact-Checker’s biggest Pinocchio of the Year. What’s more, if Obama is telling the truth, he was kept in the dark about the unfolding disaster until a week after Healthcare.gov launched. She still isn’t giving straight answers. If all of that hasn’t earned a dismissal, what does?

We know that Obama isn’t particularly close to anyone in his cabinet; Politico called serving in Obama’s cabinet “the worst job in Washington.”

The staffers who rule Obama’s West Wing often treat his Cabinet as a nuisance: At the top of the pecking order are the celebrity power players, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to be warily managed; at the bottom, what they see as a bunch of well-intentioned political naifs only a lip-slip away from derailing the president’s agenda. [Energy Secretary Steven] Chu might have been the first Obama Cabinet secretary to earn the disdain of White House aides, but he was hardly the last.

“We are completely marginalized . . . until the [s-word] hits the fan,” says one former Cabinet deputy secretary, summing up the view of many officials I interviewed. “If your question is: Did the president rely a lot on his Cabinet as a group of advisers? No, he didn’t,” says former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

It’s hard to believe Obama really thinks of Sebelius or anyone else in his cabinet as indispensable.

Of course, Obama’s not the first president to demand loyalty from his staff and repay it in kind. George W. Bush was loyal to “his guys” and “his gals.” That was one factor in how Harriet Miers came to be nominated by the Supreme Court.

The advantages of the Bush-Obama loyalty approach are obvious, but let’s imagine the opposite. Imagine you had a president who wasn’t afraid to fire any member of the cabinet who turned into a liability. Imagine a president bold enough to say he likes being able to fire people for bad service. Imagine a president known for cutting people loose, quickly and coolly, after any massive foul-up with big consequences.

Don’t you think that might cut down on the number of massive foul-ups with big consequences?

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius

It Could Always Be Worse.



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The Heritage Foundation is offering some Thanksgiving cards. I suspect this one will be eagerly sent around by Greg Schiano, Rex Ryan, Joe Philbin, Gary Kubiak, and other NFL coaches nervous about their job security:

Coach Sebelius: “Our team will not be fully functional in December, but it will be performing significantly better than it was back in early October.”

Tags: Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius , Something Lighter

Sebelius’s Obamacare Promotional Tour Continues With Invitation-Only Events



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HealthCare.gov is still “systematically flawed” and “won’t work seven weeks after launch,” but that hasn’t stopped Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from her national tour to promote the site. Today she’s in Detroit:

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in the city Friday morning to focus attention on efforts underway to inform Detroit-area community members about their health insurance options under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The invitation only event is being held at the Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center.

The promotional tour isn’t getting less popular, it’s appealing to a more exclusive audience. I suppose they have to restrict access to avoid embarrassing moments like this one in Tennessee:

She’s also doing an event in Milwaukee today.

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

Oh, Gee, the Administration Had the Enrollment Figures All Along.



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“Kathleen Sebelius Caught Lying” isn’t exactly a shocking headline anymore, but it is worth noting that the health and human services secretary and the administration will lie about very basic matters.

Take, for example, Sebelius’s statement before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about a week ago that “we do not have any reliable data around enrollment, which is why we haven’t given it to date,” in response to a question from Representative Lee Terry (R., Neb.).

Since the website launched, Sebelius and her staff at HHS have insisted that they could not say how many Americans had signed up for insurance plans under the exchange until after one month, a rather implausible claim. How could the site not have the ability to calculate that figure until mid-November?

The Washington Post, this morning:

According to one person with knowledge of the figures, slightly fewer than 40,000 people had selected a health plan as of last week. The figures are derived from reports that the government sends to each participating insurer early every evening, letting them know which customers have signed up that day. The figure was first reported Monday by the Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration always had the figures. They just didn’t want to reveal them because they were embarrassingly low.

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

Why Is Sebelius Still Doing a Promotional Tour?



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Beautiful:

The story behind the image:

The only warning State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, gave of what he intended to do at U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ visit to the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library Friday, Nov. 1, was that he would appear “in protest of the visit.” Before it was over, though, he’d done a little more than that. He presented the secretary with a copy of the book “Web Sites for Dummies,” a jab at her department’s problematic rollout of the federal health insurance website.

Perhaps that is a sign she should stop doing the promotional tour while the site isn’t working properly.

Consider that even the White House is dropping the promotional events:

Scrapping a planned push to drive people to the balky website, the White House is organizing a flurry of events on the economy and immigration, as well as health care, a senior administration official said.

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Barack Obama , Obamacare

Sebelius: Insurers Aren’t Dropping Customers, They’re Improving Coverage.



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A little-noticed released statement from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday: “As insurers have made clear – they aren’t dropping consumers; they’re improving their coverage options.”

The insurers aren’t “dropping customers” in the way that the Obamacare insurance-exchange web site has “never crashed,” I suppose. Of course, even if the post-cancellation options are better – an unproven assertion to many wary customers, or they deem the price too high — there are a significant number of folks who just wanted the status quo in their plans. That’s why “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” was so important. A significant chunk of the public just wanted to keep their plan the way it was.

Of course, Sebelius’s comment that the insurance companies are just trying to help people with improved options contradicts House Democrats’ spin that the cancellation notices represent the insurance companies being dishonest and sneaky:

“If your insurance is being canceled, it’s not because of the Affordable Care Act,” [Rep. Frank] Pallone [D., N.J.] said. “The insurance company is not telling the truth!”

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Frank Pallone , Obamaacare

Our Post-Accountability Era



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From the midweek Morning Jolt:

Let the Roasting of Sebelius Begin!

Today, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will go to Capitol Hill and attempt to avoid lying under oath with one simple message: “It’s all CGI’s fault.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius plans to tell the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday that the private contractors who built HealthCare.gov are at fault for the site’s many problems.

Tuesday night, CGI pre-empted her testimony with a simple, well-timed release:

The Obama administration was given stark warnings just one month before that the federal healthcare site was not ready to go live, according to a confidential report obtained by CNN.

The caution, from the main contractor CGI, warned of a number of open risks and issues for the HealthCare.gov web site even as company executives were testifying publicly that the project had achieved key milestones.

But the CGI document, which describes “top risks currently open” and “outstanding issues currently being mitigated” says the testing timeframes are “not adequate to complete full functional, system, and integration testing activities” and lists the impact of the problems as “significant.”

Another element is listed as ” not enough time in schedule to conduct adequate performance testing” and given the highest priority.

One concern, listed as “severe,” warned, “CGI does not have access to necessary tools to manage envs in test, imp, and prod. Specifically (1) we don’t have access to central log collection / view (2) we don’t have access to monitoring tools. We have repeatedly asked CMS and URS but have not been granted this access.”

As CNN helpfully notes, “the warnings run counter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ stated optimism to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that when she woke up October 1, things would go smoothly.”

The confidential memo might as well have been titled, “Our Warning to You Idiots for the Record, to Be Cited When This Blows Up In Your Faces.”

In Sebelius’s reaction to her biggest and most important responsibility’s blowing up like the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic, we get another key lesson in how the administration operates. When bad news pops up, they never confront it directly. They insist it isn’t as bad as it looks. They attack the messenger. They insist it isn’t their fault. They lie, and say that the law required them to take certain actions that it didn’t.

You can argue that the old Washington tradition of cabinet secretaries falling on their swords for the boss after a massive mistake was cynical, or not genuine accountability. But I think the simulation of accountability was better than the current situation of absolutely no accountability. Imagine how differently Obama would be perceived if at any point during the past five years, we had heard . . . 

“Mr. President, I understand it is absolutely unacceptable that an agency under me was sending guns to Mexican drug cartels, including one used to kill an American border patrol agent. My resignation letter is on your desk.”

“I’m sorry I have to accept this, Eric.”

 . . . 

“Mr. President, on my watch, the Internal Revenue Service behaved in an out-of-control manner, unacceptably targeting Americans based upon their political beliefs, abusing its power and violating the trust the American people. My resignation letter is on your desk.”

“I’m sorry I have to accept this, Tim.”

 . . . 

“Mr. President, by allowing Snowden in the door, and failing to keep an eye on him, we’ve allowed one of the biggest intelligence disasters in American history. My resignation letter is on your desk.”

“I’m sorry I have to accept this, Keith.”

 . . . 

“Mr. President, my department made awful, inexcusable decisions about the security for our people in Benghazi. There’s no excuse. My resignation letter is on your desk.”

“I accept your resignation, Hillary.”

 . . . 

But they did fire the guy who made fun of his co-workers on Twitter.

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

Obamacare: More Insurance Losers Than Enrollees So Far



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

So Far Under Obamacare, More People Have Lost Insurance than Enrolled

Campaign Spot’s increasingly regular contributor, IT project management expert Bruce Webster, writes in again:

Lots of people are going around quoting Fred Brooks now — both the “mythical man-month” concept as well as Brooks’s Law (“Adding manpower to a late project makes it later”).

But there’s something else Brooks said with regards to projects that are running late that is directly relevant in the context of the “tech surge”: “Take no small slips.” In other words, if you know a project is going to be late, or if it already is, and you have to come up with a new anticipated release date, you should significantly over-estimate how much time it’s going to take to get it right. (In essence, a recasting of the old engineering maxim to “under-promise and over-deliver.”) It is far better to estimate that you’ll need an extra six months and deliver in four or five, than to estimate that you need one or two months and then deliver in four or five.

I know that rule, or a version of it. I’m just used to seeing it attributed to chief engineer Scotty from Star Trek.

Of course, the natural tendency on the part of HHS & the Administration will be to minimize the estimates of how long it’s going to take to fix things — and those estimates will almost certainly be wrong. So what we may see is the “Never-Ending Story” pattern, where for several months they’re perpetually 4-6 weeks away from having Healthcare.gov working properly.

If I were in charge? I’d pull the plug completely and give no completion date at all until the website reconstruction was at a point where I felt comfortable opening it up for public alpha testing. Based on how the alpha testing went, I might announce a subsequent date for beta testing; and if that went well, then and only then would I announce a planned date to go live. (Here’s some background on alpha test/beta test/release: http://bfwa.com/2013/10/10/an-approach-to-software-release/).

Of course, the administration can’t do that. They need to heave Hail Mary passes from here on out, and hope the thing suddenly and miraculously starts working like the hyperdrive of the Millennium Falcon at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Despite Joe Manchin, the administration is holding fast on the deadline to have insurance (as opposed to the open enrollment period, which is different). They’ve staked everything — including their stance during the government shutdown — on the mandate kicking in on March 31, and this whole thing working properly by that date.

Also, expect the coming days and weeks to feature a big focus on how many of the “enrollees” are from expanding Medicaid, as opposed to purchasing insurance.

Avik Roy:

Therefore the 476,000 number [the administration released] is misleading. My best guess is that for the 17 states that have reported out some data, the number is closer to 193,818 applications (once you pull out the Medicaid applications that have been reported on).

And here’s the devastating statistic you’ll see cited until the numbers change:

Over 500,000 individuals have seen their insurance policies cancelled in just 3 states. In all 50 states, only 476,000 applications have been “filed” in an exchange.

In short, Obamacare has caused more people to lose their health insurance than gain it so far.

Tags: Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius

What Can Obama Say Today Besides, ‘We Failed’?



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Continuing the effort for three consecutive all-conservative, no-RINO editions of the Morning Jolt. . . 

What Can Obama Say Today, Besides, ‘My Administration Failed on an Epic Scale?’

As One Republic sang, “It’s Too Late to Apologize.” And the president probably won’t do that, anyway:

President Barack Obama will declare the glitches in a new healthcare website “unacceptable” on Monday and outline ways for consumers to sign up for insurance while his team scrambles to fix problems that have tainted the rollout of his signature healthcare law.

Fresh from two weeks of budget battles that have consumed Washington, Obama will hold an event at 11:25 a.m. in the White House Rose Garden with consumers, small business owners, and pharmacists who have been affected by the new law.

Place your bets on whether the president will acknowledge that back on October 1, he was among those who said the problems with the web site were minor and routine:

Now, like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix…  For example, we found out that there have been times this morning where the site has been running more slowly than it normally will… We’re going to be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected. 

Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system.  And within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it.  I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads — or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t. 

If an Apple product is still crap weeks after it debuts, nobody buys it and they stop making it.

So what are we to make of this comment from Kathleen Sebelius, offered to the Wall Street Journal in an article appearing this weekend?

After two weeks of review, the HHS secretary concluded, “We didn’t have enough testing, specifically for high volumes, for a very complicated project.”

The online insurance marketplace needed five years of construction and a year of testing, she said: “We had two years and almost no testing.”

She thinks she’s offering the excuse that she was given an extremely difficult and complicated task and given one-third the necessary time to do it. But that isn’t as exculpatory as she thinks, as it means either A) she and her team misjudged the time needed by FOUR YEARS B) someone within the team knew it would take four years, and was ignored or C) she knew it would take four years all along, and was overruled by her boss, the president.

There’s no “innocent mistake” option here. This was either epic incompetence (meaning both the Democratic Congress that passed this bill and the administration that promised to implement it simply couldn’t understand how much time it would take to set up the system) or epic dishonesty (making promises they knew they couldn’t keep, but felt were necessary to ensure the political health of the administration).

On Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services bragged, there have been “over 19 million unique visits to date to HealthCare.gov.” (Mind you, that’s just visiting the web site, not actually filling out any forms.) Way to go, Secretary Sebelius, that’s almost as much as the 21 million hits Drudge gets in a day. In a two-week span, Drudge gets about, say, 450 million hits.

HHS continues: “In that time, nearly half a million applications for coverage have been submitted from across the nation.”

So 19 million hits turned into nearly 500,000 applications… about 2.6 percent of all hits turn into an application?

Note that over at EnrollMaven.com, they keep their eye on the prize, actual plan enrollment (which usually begins after the purchaser has sent the first check to pay for it). It doesn’t measure “web hits, user registrations, applications started, applications completed or any other pre-enrollment parameter, does not include enrollments in jurisdictions which have not yet reported enrollment statistics (except confirmed registrations in states on the federal exchange) and does not count new Medicaid enrollees.”

This morning they put the number of confirmed enrollees at… 19,790. Something in the neighborhood of the attendance of the average NBA or NHL game.

NR cruiser Bruce Webster, professional analyst of big organizations and how they tackle complicated projects, writes in again:

When I saw this

The Obama administration Sunday said it’s called on “the best and brightest” tech experts from both government and the private sector to help fix the troubled website at the root of the Obamacare enrollment problems.

…I immediately thought of this:

“Adding manpower to a late project makes it later.” — Brooks’s Law (first coined in The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., back in 1975…

The two basic ideas behind Brooks’s Law are (1) the new people have to come up to speed on the project, and (2) you’ve just added an exponential number of new possible communication channels — from (N^(2)-N)/2 to ((N+M)^(2)-(N+M)/2, where ‘M’ is the number of new people added.

Tags: Barack Obama , Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare

Why Would the GOP Want Kathleen Sebelius Fired?



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It seems both sides in the Obamacare fight have their positions exactly backward.

The Republican National Committee is tweeting #FireSebelius and their website homepage features a petition demanding that President Obama sack the head of the department in charge of carrying out his signature health reform initiative. The petition calls the glitch-ridden rollout of Healthcare.gov a “systemic failure” and says Sebelius should be held accountable for ignoring “red flags and repeated warnings that Obamacare wasn’t ready for primetime.”

The White House said Tuesday it has no plans to get rid of Sebelius.

If you think Sebelius is a blitheringly incompetent leader and manager, who ignores red flags and who is now requiring underlings to attempt increasingly implausible, desperate spin, and you want to see Obamacare go away . . . why would you want to get rid of her? The next HHS secretary might be better at the job.

And if you’ve staked your entire presidency on the success of Obamacare, you would want to toss her out immediately, if for no other reason than to assure the public that you won’t accept failure on this scale.

You could also believe that Sebelius is doing the best job humanly possible.

(sound of crickets)

Or there’s Option C: that Sebelius isn’t a particularly good leader or manager, but that the problems of Obamacare are built-in, and don’t really reflect her decisions — the website had to be built to handle massive traffic, collect oodles of personal information, connect a variety of government databases, calculate the subsidies, and then hide the costs to the purchaser for as long as possible, all while training ”navigators” to manage a process that usually is handled by a professional insurance agent.

If anything, Sebelius’s most key role so far has been as a terrible, terrible spokeswoman for this program, incapable of answering basic questions from Jon Stewart:

But if she’s a terrible, terrible spokeswoman, and you oppose Obamacare . . . why would you want to replace her?

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , RNC , Obamacare

Now the Administration Claims It Never Had Monthly Enrollment Targets.



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The Obama administration rushes to correct a gloomy blog post by the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters emails: “The Administration has not set monthly enrollment targets. We are analyzing data about the uninsured, state plans for enrollment, and the experience of the state of Massachusetts which implemented a similar system. We continue to focus on reaching as many uninsured Americans as possible, based on experience on the ground. As it did in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D, enrollment takes time.”

Either the Health and Human Services spokeswoman is lying, or the AP imagined the memo listing enrollment targets in this story:

The Sept. 5 memo, for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, lists monthly enrollment targets for each state and Washington, D.C., through March 31, the last day of the initial open enrollment period under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

In the memo, officials estimated that 494,620 people would sign up for health insurance under the program by Oct. 31. And that was portrayed as a slow start.

“We expect enrollment in the initial months to be low,” said the memo titled “Projected Monthly Enrollment Targets for Health Insurance Marketplaces in 2014.”

A big jump was expected after Thanksgiving, since Dec. 15 is the last day people can sign up so their coverage will take effect Jan. 1. Starting in the new year, the health care law requires virtually all Americans to have insurance or face fines. At the same time, insurance companies will be forbidden from turning away people in poor health.

The memo projected enrollment would reach 3.3 million nationally by Dec. 31.

So which is more plausible? That the AP just made up a memo full of target numbers that didn’t exist, or that the Department of Health and Human Services is now panicking and lying in order to spin negative stories?

Tags: Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius

How Many of the New Exchange Accounts Are Duplicates?



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CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen is now reporting that not everyone is required to change their password in the Obamacare insurance exchange web sites; that information came from Obamacare navigators and staff . . . who were given the wrong information.

Earlier this week, Kathleen Sebelius said that while she didn’t know how many people had signed up for insurance through the exchanges, she knew “hundreds of thousands” of accounts had been created.

But a Campaign Spot reader asks how many of the accounts created in recent days are duplicate:

I went to Healthcare.gov this week for the first time . . . 

I went through the sign up process, creating a username that was very convoluted. Naturally, the system crashed on step 3. So I started over. Only this time, my username wasn’t available. Now, it wasn’t like I was selecting my first name and last name as my username. It was a combination of numbers and letters that had been available two minutes earlier. Anyway, I just added a “1″ to the end of my previous username and tried again. It crashed at the same spot.

Well, third time’s the charm right? So I try one more time and, you guessed it, that username was no longer available. I even tried logging in with those names, hoping that if they were in the system enough to tell me they were taken, then maybe they were in the system enough to accept the password . . . 

Nope. So, in the end, I created 3 accounts, yet none of them is a valid, accessible account that I can use. This of course begs the question: How many of the hundreds of thousands of accounts that the Administration has been touting are “real” accounts, and how many are crashed, place-holder accounts? Surely they would do some digging to verify that the numbers they’re putting out there represent actual, usable accounts, and not just look at the total number of usernames that have been created . . . right?

Tags: Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius

The First Four Obamacare Train Wrecks… With Many More to Come



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The First Four Obamacare Train Wrecks… With Many More to Come

Look, Democrats. You fouled up on Obamacare. You fouled up big time, and time is running out to mitigate the damage.

You said you had to pass the bill in order to see what’s in it. Apparently it was like the Ark of the Covenant.

Yes, this is a train wreck. It’s a train wreck upon another train wreck, upon another train wreck… it’s train wrecks all the way down.

For starters, it’s a fragmentation grenade to the full-time job market. CNBC:

With open enrollment for Obamacare about to begin, small- and medium-sized businesses are not hiring because of uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the law, the CEO of nation’s fifth-largest staffing company said on Monday.

“Companies are really not interested in hiring full-time people. That’s really the issue with Obamacare,” Express Employment Professionals boss Bob Funk told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday.

Funk, a former chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, admitted that this trend is a “boon” for his business, but “not healthy for the country as a whole.”

Secondly, the Wall Street Journal reports that the software doesn’t work. These geniuses have spent oodles of taxpayer money encouraging people to sign up for the exchanges, only to find out the software to run the exchanges isn’t working:

Less than two weeks before the launch of insurance marketplaces created by the federal health overhaul, the government’s software can’t reliably determine how much people need to pay for coverage, according to insurance executives and people familiar with the program.

Government officials and insurers were scrambling to iron out the pricing quirks quickly, according to the people, to avoid alienating the initial wave of consumers.

A failure by consumers to sign up online in the hotly anticipated early days of the “exchanges” is worrisome to insurers, which are counting on enrollees for growth, and to the Obama administration, which made the exchanges a centerpiece of its sweeping health-care legislation.

If not resolved by the Oct. 1 launch date, the problems could affect consumers in 36 states where the federal government is running all or part of the exchanges. About 32 million uninsured people live in those states, but only a fraction of them are expected to sign up in the next year.

Thirdly, it botched coverage for working families. USA Today:

A so-called “family glitch” in the 2010 health care law threatens to cost some families thousands of dollars in health insurance costs and leave up to 500,000 children without coverage, insurance and health care analysts say.

That’s unless Congress fixes the problem, which seems unlikely given the House’s latest move Friday to strip funding from the law, which is also called the Affordable Care Act.

Congress defined “affordable” as 9.5% or less of an employee’s wages, mostly to make sure people did not leave their workplace plans for subsidized coverage through the exchanges. But the “error” was that it only applies to the employee — and not his or her family. So, if an employer offers a woman affordable insurance, but doesn’t provide it for her family, they cannot get subsidized help through the state health exchanges.

That can make a huge difference; the Kaiser Family Foundation said an average plan for an individual is about $5,600, but it goes up to $15,700 for families. Most employers help out with those costs, but not all.

Fourth, Obamacare is so poorly-constructed, it manages to louse up coverage and payments for the working-class employees who actually have good plans and care right now. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Kathleen Sebelius managed to be so astonishingly incompetent in designing, building, and implementing this program, they’ve managed to screw over their most stalwart allies. From the Center for Public Integrity:

Many union workers are in health plans with solid benefits and relatively low copayments and coinsurance obligations. Democrats drafting the law bought the insurance-industry’s argument that Americans need to have more “skin in the game,” meaning they should pay more for care out of their own pockets even if they’re insured.

I’ve talked to union members who have not had a raise in years because of rising health care costs. They’ve been willing to forego wage increases at the bargaining table in exchange for keeping decent health insurance.

Obamacare provides employers with a disincentive to continue to offer health plans that exceed a certain value. Such plans will be subject to a premium tax… Another unintended consequence of the law will mean that many other union workers — especially those in the building trades — will have to pay more for coverage than they do now.

I’ll give you a moment to chuckle at Obama-backing union members finding their health coverage is now all loused up, but it goes to illustrate just how badly this legislative and regulatory monstrosity is going to hit everyone – even the folks it would be most expected to help.

Now, if a plan is so bad that it hurts so many of the Americans it’s supposed to help… why are we implementing it?

Tags: Obamacare , Democrats , Barack Obama , Unions , Kathleen Sebelius , Nancy Pelosi

Obama’s Cabinet Using ‘Secret’ E-Mail Addresses



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The Associated Press finds that “some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the Cabinet secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, are using secret government email accounts.”

The official explanation is that the cabinet members use the secret accounts to “prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages” . . . but the AP notes that using secret accounts has another benefit:

secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.

Maybe Sebelius was just afraid Eric Holder would try to read her e-mail.

There is also this bizarre detail: “The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.”

Tags: Kathleen Sebelius , Barack Obama , Secrecy

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