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Tags: Obamacare

Wrong Subsidy Payments Mean 2015 Tax Season Will Be a ‘Disaster’



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obamacare: The ‘Success’ Story Continues

An Obama supporter takes to the Washington Post to lay out how the promises of the Affordable Care Act just weren’t kept:

“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable,” President Obama promised in 2012.

The fact that this wasn’t true would be our biggest disappointment. In November 2013, Jim learned his small-business policy would be canceled because it didn’t comply with the new mandate to cover pediatric dentistry and maternity care. So Jim went to Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, to look for coverage for his employee and himself.

He found that the cost of his employee’s individual “bronze” plan monthly premiums went up 13 percent, and that his own new individual “silver” plan was also more expensive. In 2014, Jim was individually paying $82 more a month in premiums. The deductible (the amount you have to pay before the insurance company starts footing the bill) did go down — from $5,000 to $2,000 for each individual insured. But if you added together 12 months of premiums, the deductible, and the new policies’ out-of-pocket maximums, we were potentially on the hook for $13,260 — rather than the $11,024 from 2013 — if Jim got very sick.

She details having to change doctors because they weren’t accepting their new insurance – remember “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”? – and the outlook for the future is pretty grim:

What Obamacare hasn’t eliminated is worry: We’re deeply concerned about our ability to get quality medical care from doctors we trust. The day may soon come when we can’t afford the plans our doctors accept, or we’ll have to wait hours to seen. Will the best doctors flock to a cash-only model? How long can a good doctor be satisfied with the $39.75 the insurance company paid her for my annual check up a few months ago?

We had thought that our work and businesses had paid us enough to live on in these older years — but we’re discovering we didn’t account for such dramatic increases in health care costs. Medical expenses already gobble up 20 percent of our income. In 2015, if we keep the same plans, our premiums will rise $95 a month. We have no choice to opt out of the required pediatric dentistry or maternity coverage we’ll never use, so we’ll eventually have to settle for less generous policies, with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

Just wait until they get their tax bill for next year!

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was head of the CBO from 2003 to 2005 and is currently president of the American Action Forum, said Dec. 5 that the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy payments made for 2014 are unlikely to have been accurate, which means some people will have to reimburse the government for over-payments. Holtz-Eakin spoke at a forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on what the next Republican Congress will do on health care.

The 2015 tax filing season “is going to be a disaster,” he warned, adding that the result may be more traction in Congress for major changes to the law.

At least enrollment is okay, right?

May 1:

The latest enrollment data filled out the demographic small print that was lacking in President Barack Obama’s mid-April announcement that enrollment in the exchanges had passed 8 million — exceeding goals and expectations for an open enrollment season that got off to a disastrous start.

When no one was paying attention, enrollment dropped 16 percent.

CNBC today:

Just before open enrollment began, there were about 6.7 million people enrolled in Obamacare plans nationally.

HHS overcounted . . . twice.

Tags: Obamacare , Taxes

Could King v. Burwell Save Democrats from Obamacare?



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If you accept that . . .

A) Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act is an extraordinarily complicated, interlocking, jenga-tower-like piece of legislation that will not work if any significant part is removed, particularly the individual mandate or the subsidies for those purchasing on the federal exchange, and . . . 

B) President Obama will never, ever, ever allow Obamacare to be repealed, or for Republicans to repeal a portion that would lead to the collapse of the entire initiative, and . . . 

C) That certain Democrats are beginning to realize that Obamacare is a political albatross that will only worsen with time . . . ​

Will certain Democrats secretly hope that the Supreme Court rules in King v. Burwell that the text of the law only allows for subsidies on state-run exchanges, and that the IRS cannot allow subsidies on federal exchanges?

That decision would effectively destroy Obamacare. The consequences would be instant and severe, with millions of people losing their subsidies, determining that their insurance policies are now unaffordable, and canceling them. There’s an argument that eliminating the subsidies in states using the federal exchange would be a backdoor way of rescinding the individual mandate: “The mandate includes an exemption for people who can’t afford coverage, and without subsidies, millions more people would qualify for that exemption.” Insurers would have millions of canceled policies, with former customers who can’t afford a new policy. The consequences of unsubsidized Obamacare might be so bad that there could be bipartisan agreement to repeal the whole thing and start over.

If you’re a Democrat, this is a way to get rid of the political costs of Obamacare without ever having to admit that the law was badly conceived, written, implemented, administered, and so on.

A Democrat who privately thinks Obamacare has turned into a political deadweight for his party but doesn’t want to admit so publicly could even complain loudly about “runaway ultra-conservative judicial activism,” “right wing ideologues in black robes snatching away health insurance from the poor,” and so on. But Obamacare would be gone, and with it, the consequences for Democrats for their vote to pass unpopular legislation that canceled plans, raised premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and so on.

This would allow a lot of Democrats to turn back to their true preferred option, a single-payer system.

Of course, having experienced the mess of Obamacare, Americans are unlikely to yearn for a system with even more government control of the health-care system, and single-payer would go nowhere with a GOP-held U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. But it would put the Democrats back in their comfortable position of touting a hypothetical future plan of government-run health care making everyone happy, instead of defending the current status quo of government-mandated purchases of private health-insurance plans.

Maybe this will turn out to be Obamacare’s . . . “​death panel.”

Tags: Obamacare

How Democrats’ Obamacare Headaches Are Just Beginning



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Today’s extended thoughts on how Obamacare is going to cause Democrats serious headaches for at least the next two years, and perhaps long after that . . . 

Tags: Obamacare

There Has Been an Awakening . . . to Obamacare’s Forceful Dark Side



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From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

There Has Been an Awakening . . . to Obamacare’s Forceful Dark Side

As the Star Wars trailer declared and asked . . . “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”

 

The Dark Side of Obamacare’s . . . er, force is real. And some Democrats are awakening to it, and what they have done to themselves, and the nation:

The views of Democratic advocates of Obamacare notwithstanding, public opinion has generally sided with Schumer.

A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional connection poll of 1,013 adults in mid-November 2013 found that by a 25-point margin, 59-34, respondents said that the health care law (which includes a major expansion of Medicaid to cover anyone up to 133 percent of the poverty line, and subsidies for the purchase of private insurance for those between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line) would make things better for the poor. But respondents also said, by a 16-point margin, 49-33, that the law would make things worse for “people like you and your family.” White respondents were even more critical, with 58 percent saying that Obamacare would make things worse for people like you and your family, and 63 percent saying it would make things worse “for the middle class.” . . . 

During a September pre-election panel discussion on the continuing political repercussions of the Affordable Care Act, Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Report, put his finger on the health care problem facing Democrats when he pointed out that the public perception of the party has been indelibly imprinted by Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act has “framed where the Democratic Party is,” Cook said. “If I would sum up my assessment, it was huge, it did play a central role in framing everything.” By 2014, health care reform “lost a little bit of its oomph, but it still is more important in setting things up than any other issue was over the last six years.” . . . 

As if Democrats do not already have enough trouble, data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that many, if not most, of the seven million people who purchased insurance through the A.C.A. will either have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles, or submit themselves to the complex process of switching plans.

Oh, Democrats . . . you don’t know the power of the dark side . . . of this law. But you will.

Tags: Obamacare

What If the Media’s ‘Narrative Journalism’ Harms Their Own Causes?



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From the midweek Morning Jolt:

What If the Media’s ‘Narrative Journalism’ Harms Their Own Causes?

Allow me to play devil’s advocate…

What if the mainstream media’s increasing devotion to “narrative journalism” – preconceived storylines that fit a particular agenda or political or ideological view, almost always progressive –  as opposed to say, “factual journalism” — is actually harmful to the causes they seek to advance?

We’ve seen the media’s “narrative journalism” insisting that Officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown represented a vivid, awful example of racist police forces recklessly using deadly force against defenseless black men. The grand jury remained unconvinced. They saw too many pieces of evidence and witness testimonies that contracted that simple morality play.

The media’s “narrative journalism” contended that George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin represented a brutal crime, revealing a reckless, gun-toting vigilantism loose on the streets of America, preying upon innocent young black men. The jury looked at the available evidence and acquitted Zimmerman. All that one-sided “narrative journalism” left a portion of their audience completely unprepared for the jury’s decision, because it seemed so contrary to everything they had been told.

You may recall similar examples of juries rejecting a convenient narrative embraced by the media’s most powerful voices, such as the case against the Duke Lacrosse players. Jurors aren’t like most news viewers. For the purposes of the decision before them, they’re not “low-information voters.” They don’t have the option of tuning out the story when it gets boring. They have to pay attention – or at least appear to pay attention – to all of the facts, and hear both the prosecution’s side and the defense’s side.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, are furious and are publicly demanding a result that is extremely unlikely to happen: federal charges and a conviction of Darren Wilson.

You may have missed this story back in October:

The Justice Department is not expected to bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, according to three law enforcement officials, despite allegations that the killing was racially motivated.

The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department’s civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it.

Not even Eric Holder’s politicized Department of Justice wanted to step up and try Zimmerman on federal charges; the burden of proof is just too high and the odds of a successful conviction are just too low.

As in the Trayvon Martin case, all of the agitation and drum-beating and fury-feeding has created an expectation that the Obama administration is unlikely to meet.

You see the phenomenon outside of criminal cases, as well.

The media’s “narrative journalism” did pro forma coverage of Jonathan Gruber’s comments about Obamacare and an ill-informed electorate… but that left a juicy story for the alternative media. And it’s not like ignoring Gruber’s comments has made Obamacare any more popular. All the puff pieces in the world dissipate as soon as somebody gets that policy cancelation letter in the mail. All the “narrative journalism” cheerleading for Obamacare, clashing with the harsh real-life experiences, has discredited the traditional progressive view on the health care system:

For the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans (52%) agree with the position that it is not the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to the start of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2009, a majority of Americans consistently took the opposite view.

Yes, the media’s “narrative journalism” can certainly set the terms of discussion, bring issues to prominence, downplay inconvenient stories, and so on. And yet that approach generates the opposite results they want pretty regularly, doesn’t it?

Tags: Obamacare , Ferguson , George Zimmerman , Eric Holder

Chuck Schumer: Obamacare Was a Mistake, but Only in the Timing!



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From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Chuck Schumer: Obamacare Was a Mistake, but Only in the Timing!

Let’s take a story like this and figure out what the real angle is:

Sen. Chuck Schumer upbraided his own party Tuesday for pushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010.

While Schumer emphasized during a speech at the National Press Club that he supports the law and that its policies “are and will continue to be positive changes,” he argued that the Democrats acted wrongly in using their new mandate after the 2008 election to focus on the issue rather than the economy at the height of a terrible recession.

There’s some truth to Schumer’s theory, of course. Obamacare never polled well. Deep-rooted national economic anxiety exploded in late 2008 and never dissipated completely.

Remember that thing called “the stimulus”? Schumer’s theory of “How It All Went Wrong” requires us to think the stimulus was a success, and Obamacare was a success, and that the problem for the Democrats was just the order of things:

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform.”

If Americans continue to feel such widespread, deep-rooted economic anxiety, just how much of a success was that “partial success” of the stimulus?

Most Democrats — following the lead of their president — passed the stimulus and believed they had fixed the economy. Do not forget this anecdote from New York magazine, November 29, 2009:

But the most damaging consequence of all may have been inside the White House, where bullishness about how rapidly the stimulus would kick in led to foolish projections that unemployment would peak at 8 percent — and where the bill’s passage bred a certain cockiness and complacency about the need to drive a sustained economic message in the months thereafter. “I recently talked to a very senior friend of mine in the White House, and I said, ‘How did we not spend a year talking about the economy?’ ” a Democratic think-tank maven recalls. “And he said, ‘Look, I think Barack did the stimulus and he thought he checked the box and he moved on.’ I said, ‘That’s not governing, dude. That’s some other thing.’ ”

The ailments of the American economy are too big, interconnected, and complicated for any one giant Keynesian spending spree to fix — particularly one that that ends up as the usual crony-capitalist, special-interest giveaway. Do enough of our workers really have the skills to compete against foreign competition? How can we expect wages to increase when we’re importing workers — particularly low-skilled and unskilled workers — from other countries? Are great ideas being born in some big dreamer’s garage? Haven’t underwater mortgages made it harder for workers to move to areas of the country with job growth? Are our universities churning out too many sociology majors and not enough engineers? Aren’t too many schools at every level failing to prepare students for the workforce?

Schumer needs an explanation for two consecutive blowout losses in the midterms that indicate Democrats have a difficult time winning without Obama’s personality on the ballot. He’s in the right neighborhood, by recognizing that economic fears are still strong, but he can’t quite bring himself to acknowledge that neither the stimulus nor Obamacare lived up to the hype for the average American.

Tags: Chuck Schumer , Barack Obama , Obamacare , Stimulus

The Administration Remains a Die-Hard Liar About Obamacare Enrollment Figures



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It was all a giant scam . . . 

The Obama administration included as many as 400,000 dental plans in a number it reported for enrollments under the Affordable Care Act, an unpublicized detail that helped surpass a goal for 7 million sign-ups.

Without the dental plans, the federal government would have had 6.97 million people with medical insurance under the law known as Obamacare, investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform committee calculated, using data they obtained from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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.

Blending dental and medical plans let the administration assert that enrollment remained greater than 7 million, the original projection of the Congressional Budget Office. The move also partly obscured the attrition of more than 1 million in the number of people enrolled in medical insurance.

Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, said he didn’t have a comment yet, hours after being asked for one.

. . . which continues the family tradition of elaborate deceptive efforts designed to collect ill-gotten financial gains, aimed at taking advantage of the “stupidity” of Americans.

Worst sequel ever?

Tags: Obamacare

Gruber: GOP Governors’ Refusal to Expand Medicaid ‘Almost Awesome In Its Evilness’, Blames ‘Racial Reasons’



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Who’s up for another Jonathan Gruber video?

On April 9, 2014, Gruber appeared on the  “Curbside Consult” interview series with Harold Pollack, at healthinsurance.org;  the host introduced Gruber as the “architect of Obamacare”, and Gruber made no objection.

Pollack says, “One of the things that’s really striking to me is there’s a politics of impunity towards poor people, particularly non-white poor people that is almost a feature rather than a bug in the internal politics in some of these states, not to cover people under Medicaid, even if it’s financially very advantageous to do so.”

Gruber’s response:

That’s a great way to put it. There’s larger principles at stake here. When these states are turning – not just turning down covering the poor people – but turning down the federal stimulus that would come with that. So the price they are willing … They are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.

Ironically, later in the conversation, Gruber admits that the costs of Medicaid expansion are increasing as the number of patients on Medicaid grows rapidly:

Pollack: Medicaid is effectively becoming the 900-pound gorilla in the health insurance market in Kentucky. Something like one-third of the non-elderly population is going to be covered by Medicaid or related programs. How do you think that’s going to change the nature of Medicaid as it takes on such a large swath of the population?

Gruber: I think that’s a great question and I think the big issue is going to be: Can Medicaid continue to pay its doctors so poorly as it’s covering a larger and larger share of the population. Part of the reason Medicaid is cheap is because it pays doctors so poorly. Can that continue when it’s covering a third of the population? I’m not entirely sure that’s possible.

Later in the conversation, Gruber attributes the desire to cut Medicaid spending to racism:

I really believe that if we could politically help explain the costs to society of cutting provider rates, of cutting back Medicaid, I think we’d get the majority of people to support strengthening that program. I think it’s just because of racial reasons and other things, we just haven’t managed to get through with that message.

Your tax dollars at work, America.

Tags: Jonathan Gruber , Obamacare , Medicaid

Gruber’s ‘Remarkable Hubris’ Denounced By... Jay Carney.



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Jonathan Gruber is “someone who helped write Obamacare” who “speaks from the ivory tower with remarkable hubris about the American voter and by extension, the American Congress,” says… former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney?!

Now we’ll have to see if Gruber responds, “I learned it from watching you!

Tags: Jay Carney , Jonathan Gruber , Obamacare

Obama Is Now Washington’s Most Powerful Obstructionist.



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In light of overwhelming public opinion like this opposing Obamacare, doesn’t President Obama seem… obstructionist?

Americans were slightly more positive than negative about the law around the time of the 2012 election, but they have consistently been more likely to disapprove than approve of the law in all surveys that have been conducted since then. Approval has been in the low 40% or high 30% range after a noticeable dip that occurred in early November 2013. This was 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 the ACA was passed.

The current 37% [approval] comes on the heels of last week’s midterm elections, in which Republicans won full control of both houses of Congress. Already, party leaders are discussing efforts to repeal the unpopular law.

Repeal is highly unlikely, given Obama’s veto power, but the law’s new low in approval — and new high in disapproval (56%) — could potentially have an impact on its future. The president himself has acknowledged he will consider modifications to the law, which could include repealing the tax on medical devices.

Here’s the Republican Party, promising to pass legislation reflecting the will of the people, and one extremist is blocking enactment of the popular will. Isn’t this an “unyielding consistency and a complete disconnect with the wishes of all except the most vocal part of their base that enforces extremism”, as was claimed about Republicans?

Isn’t the refusal to go along with the majority on Obamacare, or threatening to veto the Keystone Pipeline, or an executive branch effort to regulate the Internet without legislation, or an insistence upon an unpopular deal with Iran a form of ”sabotage governing“? Doesn’t it amount to “a refusal to govern“? Isn’t this “doubling-down on opposition, and refusing to budge“?

Of course, of course, it’s different when he does it.

President No.

Tags: Obamacare , Barack Obama , Keystone Pipeline , Iran

Joe Wilson’s ‘YOU LIE!’ Wasn’t Wrong. It Was Prescient.



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President Obama, back in September 2009: “There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.: “YOU LIE!”

Fact-checkers: How terrible Wilson shouted this! “Obama can make a pretty thorough case that reform doesn’t apply to those here illegally.”

Fast-forward to 2014, and lo and behold, the Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell “called for extending Obamacare benefits to DREAM-eligible illegal immigrants.”

Burwell was speaking on a public Google hangout with prominent Latina bloggers to promote Saturday’s opening of the Obamacare enrollment period when she shifted to her thoughts on immigration reform.

“DREAMers are not able to be covered in the marketplace. And this is an issue that I think is more than a health care issue — it is an immigration issue,” Burwell said in response to a question about whether families with mixed immigration statuses can get coverage.

“And I think everyone probably knows that this administration feels incredibly strongly about the fact that we need to fix that. We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need that will lead to benefits in everything from health care to economics to so many things — a very important step that we need to take as a nation.”

Only legal immigrants are eligible for Obamacare benefits, but liberal and pro-immigration groups have asked that Obamacare benefits be extended to illegal immigrants as well. Several groups have also advocated for the Obama administration to mandate Obamacare exchange eligibility for DREAMers, a term used to describe  illegal immigrants who are granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status.

Wilson wasn’t wrong. He was prescient.

Tags: Joe Wilson , Barack Obama , Obamacare , Illegal Immigration

OBAMACARE: 122 colleges slash and cap student, faculty hours



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The Affordable Care Act is a misnomer if ever there was one. The bottom line is Obamacare shrinks student and faculty paychecks.

At least 122 colleges and universities across the nation have cut student and faculty work hours to skirt the federal law’s pending mandate requiring employers to provide healthcare to people who work 30 hours or more per week, according to a compilation of anecdotal evidence published Tuesday at The College Fix. That tally will only grow larger when the mandate kicks in in 2015/16.

Taking a cue from the Investors Business Daily’s list of 450-plus public and private companies, school districts, colleges and institutions that have slashed and capped work hours to comply with the employer mandate, The College Fix began its own list focusing on colleges and universities exclusively, and will add to it each time we learn of a new group of students or educators hit by the law.

But if the model holds out, the list will grow exponentially over the next two years.

Tags: Obamacare

Oregon and Our Future of ‘Set It and Forget It’ Leftism



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Oregon: Our Progressive Future of Corrupt Government and Oblivious Voters

Greetings from Portland, Oregon — the state with the most egregiously failing Obamacare exchange in the country, now set to reelect the governor whose administration oversaw that disaster and wasted all that money.

Okay, the CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted from September 20 to October 1, has Governor John Kitzhaber only up by 7 points against Republican Dennis Richardson. So it’s not a rout, and it’s not a slam-dunk. But Kitzhaber’s heavily favored.

Richardson is now focusing heavily on the scandals surrounding Oregon’s “First Lady”, the governor’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes.

The Oregon Republican Party filed a state ethics complaint on Wednesday naming Gov. John Kitzhaber, his fiancée Cylvia Hayes and his political consultant Patricia McCaig.

It’s the second complaint filed with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission this week naming Kitzhaber and Hayes.

The governor made his own request on Monday, asking the commission for advice on whether the first lady is considered a “public official” and subject to state ethics laws. He also asked for guidance on whether Hayes’ private consulting work conflicted with her role as the first lady and self-described advisor to the governor.

In addition, Hayes admitted in recent days that she married an immigrant as part of a visa-fraud scheme in 1997 and had a role in an illegal marijuana-growing operation around that same time.

Richardson probably has to try to make the most of the stories surrounding Hayes, as it’s undoubtedly the biggest news to come out of the Oregon governor’s mansion in years. But the more salacious aspects probably generate some sympathy for Governor Kitzhaber; his fiancée hid a criminal past from him.

But it seems like relatively small potatoes compared to a state-exchange site that never worked properly, never enrolled a single citizen online (everything had to be done with pen and paper), and cost, oh, $305 million.

And the bad news for Oregon’s attempt at health insurance just keeps piling up.

A Klamath Falls woman who applied for health coverage through Cover Oregon says the insurance exchange mailed her the personal information of other applicants.

Ann Migliaccio told The Associated Press that she received documents last week containing the names and birth dates of two applicants from Hillsboro. She says the documents did not include Social Security numbers.

This is the 18th low-level security breach in the past six months, Cover Oregon officials said. They say the information inadvertently shared in these breaches included addresses, names, dates of birth and internal Cover Oregon IDs, but no Social Security numbers.

And piling up:

More than 12,000 people who purchased policies through Cover Oregon could owe money at tax time because of errors in tax credits issued by the health exchange.

The figure is updated from an estimate of about 800 people that exchange officials shared with the Legislature last month, only to realize they’d got it wrong.

A more recent internal staff estimate released under Oregon Public Records Law found errors in 12,772 policies, or 38 percent of those who received tax credits.

Portland intrigues me. If you are one of those despairing conservatives who think that the United States of America is caught in an inescapable whirlpool of progressive-driven decline, our future is probably going to look something like Portland.

And at first glance — or at least a visit — the progressive utopia of Portland has its upsides. The ludicrously restrictive zoning laws kept farmland close to the city, so there’s always plenty of locally grown food, produce, and so on for the run-amok foodie culture. There’s plenty of green space and parks. (Our old friend Mark Hemingway wrote one of the definitive takedowns of modern Portland.)

But the upshot of Oregon’s failed insurance exchange, and the seeming lack of any lasting public outrage, is the confirmation that a key element of modern progressivism is never, ever, ever getting upset about government spending if it’s done with the right intentions.

What’s revealing is how “progressive” does not necessarily mean “follows politics or news coverage of government at any level.” There’s a lot of “set it and forget it” Leftism going around. Because you would figure that any self-designated True Believer in the Power of Government to Improve People’s Lives would be breathing fire over something like this. Because all Cover Oregon’s debacle did was make a lot of money for Oracle, and whoever got the contract for those silly singing television commercials. Think about it — big, incompetent government, paying a fortune to a big, incompetent or insufficiently-competent corporate contractor, and most of the lefties in Oregon yawn or just shake their head in mild disapproval.

The formula here — a governing class, cozy with certain big, corporate contractors, coupled with a tuned-out electorate that reflexively elects and reelects the proper names from the progressive class — turns representative government into a giant con. The funny thing is that the stereotypical leftist from, say, the 1960s was extremely suspicious of the government, but that suspicion focused upon the military, the “military-industrial complex”, the intelligence agencies, the police . . . the spiritual and ideological children of those 1960s liberals walk around with enormous faith that the government knows what it is doing and it can be trusted with ever-more amounts of tax money.

Isn’t there any suspicion left over for state health and human services and insurance administrators? Any anger to spare for governors remaining oblivious at best to serious problems within their administration?

Some of these folks can summon skepticism about childhood vaccines, but not the Obamacare insurance mandate.

Tags: Oregon , John Kitzhaber , Dennis Richardson , Obamacare

Will Millennials Avoid Getting ‘Dunked’?



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Today, self-described “millennial advocacy organization” Generation Opportunity is unveiling new ads, running for one week in Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. The ad is entitled “Dunked,” and aims to highlight how Obamacare disproportionately hurts young people. The ad urges young people to contact Democrats Mark Udall, Bruce Braley, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, and Jeanne Shaheen to ask them to stop supporting Obamacare and “dunking” young people.

You’ve seen their “creepy Uncle Sam” commercials . . . Wait a minute . . . is that @KurtSchlichter in this ad?

Tags: Obamacare

And You Thought You Didn’t Like Mark Udall Before!



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From today’s Morning Jolt:

And you thought you didn’t like Mark Udall before:

Republican operatives believe they have found a smoking gun against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who said during a 2008 debate he was against a “government-sponsored” solution for health care.

The then-congressman, who was running for an open seat in the U.S. Senate, echoed arguments made by conservatives.

“I’m not for a government-sponsored solution,” Udall said. “I’m for enhancing and improving the employer-based system that we have.”

In a debate overshadowed by other issues — rising energy prices and the war on terror — Udall’s answer that July barely created a ripple. But in the context of Sen. Udall’s vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and his tough re-election bid against Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in November, the statement takes on new meaning.

These red and purple state Democrats just lie. They say they oppose these liberal ideas, and then once they’re in, they go along with Pelosi and Reid and all the rest.

Because by 2010, Udall, the guy who insisted he didn’t want “a government-sponsored solution,” said he supported the public option:

Bennet made national headlines by writing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding the chance to put a “public option,” government-run insurance alternative in the final legislation. More than 40 senators signed the letter, but the public option was never reconsidered. Udall, however, was not among the Democrats who signed Bennet’s letter.

Udall said he supports creating a public option, but added, “I thought we needed to bring this drawn-out process to an end.”

Words don’t have much meaning anymore, huh?

Tags: Mark Udall , Obamacare

Obamacare’s Bad News Didn’t Stop; The Media Just Lost Interest



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Several news cycles pass without much discussion of Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act. Some may interpret this as a sign that disapproval of the law is wavering — it isn’t — or that the reports of frustration, waste, mismanagement and premium hikes have stopped. They haven’t stopped, they’re just not surprising news anymore, and they’ve been pushed to the back pages by the summer’s cavalcade of crises: the humanitarian crisis on the border, ISIS taking over Iraq, Russian separatists shooting down airliners, Israel fighting Hamas, and so on. As mentioned in today’s Jolt

Just Because You’re Not Hearing About Obamacare Messes Doesn’t Mean Obamacare Isn’t Making New Messes (or Exacerbating Old Ones)

Hey, remember Obamacare?

The New York Times checks in with those who have insurance for the first time:

Last week, Salwa Shabazz arrived at the office of a public health network here with a bag full of paperwork about her new health insurance — and an unhappy look on her face. She had chosen her plan by phone in March, speaking to a customer service representative at the federal insurance marketplace. Now she had problems and questions, so many questions.

“I’ve had one doctor appointment since I got this insurance, and I had to pay $60,” Ms. Shabazz told Daniel Flynn, a counselor with the health network, the Health Federation of Philadelphia. “I don’t have $60.”

Mr. Flynn spent almost two hours going over her Independence Blue Cross plan, which he explained had a “very complicated” network that grouped doctors and hospitals into three tiers. Ms. Shabazz, who has epilepsy, had not understood when she chose the plan that her doctors were in the most expensive tier.

Another survey indicating that a significant chunk of the uninsured aren’t paying any attention to anything:

Among those who were uninsured last year and remain uninsured, only 59% were familiar with the new Obamacare marketplaces and 38% were aware of federal subsidies to lower their insurance costs, according to the survey conducted in June by the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

About 60% of respondents list cost as the main reason for not having insurance. But 20% say they don’t want health insurance or would rather pay the fine for not having coverage.

The price tag just keeps growing, well beyond previous estimates: “Between September 2011 and February 2014, the “federally facilitated marketplace” (FFM) saw costs grow from $56 million to $209 million. Meanwhile, the costs for the related data hubs, the so-called ‘back office operations,’ rose from $30 million to $85 million.”

Up in Massachusetts, the folks who failed to gets the state’s health-insurance exchange running smoothly on time . . . are getting a bunch of raises.

Recently, Massachusetts Health Connector executive director Jean Yang doled out raises of $10,000 or more to 11 of the agency’s 53 workers. The increases ranged from 15 percent to 24 percent, with another 3 percent on the way in the fiscal 2015 budget if the agency meets goals to successfully re-launch its balky website by November.

Yang said the salary increases are needed to retain valued employees and improve performance going forward. This action comes after the embarrassing debacle associated with the state’s rollout of its Obamacare website, which has cost taxpayers nearly $1 million in computer fixes and lawsuits and still isn’t resolved.

Yang is also planning to hire eight more workers, increasing the staff to 61.

The last time we saw Yang she was tearfully testifying on Beacon Hill about the website’s failures. The strain on her staff, and the demoralizing effects it had on them, were articulated quite extensively.

Indeed, failure is demoralizing. Speaking of Massachusetts, you may have missed this Friday:

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) slammed the administration’s ObamaCare rollout, calling President Obama’s claim that people could keep their insurance plans under the law a “lie.”

“The rollout was so bad, and I was appalled — I don’t understand how the president could have sat there and not been checking on that on a weekly basis,” Frank said in an interview with the Huffington Post published Friday.

“But frankly, he should never have said as much as he did, that if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it,” he continued. “That wasn’t true. And you shouldn’t lie to people. And they just lied to people.”

Here’s a story of Hartford, Connecticut doctors facing reality on the reimbursement rates:

On a recent afternoon at his office in Hartford, Conn., Dr. Doug Gerard examines a patient complaining of joint pain. He checks her out, asks her a few questions about her symptoms and then orders a few tests before sending her on her way.

For a typical quick visit like this, Gerard could get reimbursed $100 or more from a private insurer. For the same visit, Medicare pays less — about $80. And now, with the new private plans under the Affordable Care Act, Gerard says he would get something in between, but closer to the lower Medicare rates.

That’s not something he’s willing to put up with.

“I cannot accept a plan [in which] potentially commercial-type reimbursement rates were now going to be reimbursed at Medicare rates. You have to maintain a certain mix in private practice between the low reimbursers and the high reimbursers to be able to keep the lights on,” he says.

Three insurers offered plans on Connecticut’s ACA marketplace in 2014 and Gerard is only accepting one. He won’t say which, but he will say it pays the highest rate.

“I don’t think most physicians know what they’re being reimbursed,” he says. “Only when they start seeing some of those rates come through will they realize how low the rates are they agreed to.”

Gerard’s decision to reject two plans is something officials in Connecticut are concerned about. If reimbursement rates to doctors stays low in Obamacare plans, more doctors could reject those plans. And that could mean that people will get access to insurance, but they may not get access to a lot of doctors.

Tags: Obamacare

Painful New Polls for Obama and Obamacare . . .



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Elsewhere in today’s Jolt . . . 

Obama Job Approval Hits . . . 40 Percent in Latest AP Poll

Does anyone else hear a quacking sound coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Take it away, AP:

Asked about world trouble spots:

42 percent say the conflict between Israel and Hamas is “very” or “extremely” important to them; 60 percent disapprove of the way Obama has handled it.

40 percent consider the situation in Afghanistan highly important; 60 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

38 percent give high importance to the conflict in Ukraine; 57 percent disapprove of what Obama has done about that.

38 percent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

Opinion of Obama’s foreign policy has slid nearly as low as his overall approval rating.

Just 43 percent were OK with the president’s handling of foreign relations in the new poll, while 40 percent approved how he’s doing his job overall. AP-GfK polls in March and May show a similar picture.

Talk about burying the lede! Obama’s approval rating hit 40 percent in the AP poll! And in a likely related note . . . 

Remember How Americans Were Going to Warm Up to Obamacare?

Yeah, not so much:

Even after survey after survey has recently shown a major drop in the nation’s uninsured rate, Obamacare just had its worst month in a key health-care poll.

Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done arguably the best and most consistent polling on the health-care law in the past four-plus years, found that public opinion on the law sank to a record low in July. More people than ever (53 percent) last month said they viewed the law unfavorably, an increase of 8 percentage points since June — one of the biggest opinion swings ever.

Was this an unusual sample? Or is reality setting in?

As the foundation notes, more people seemingly made up their minds about the law last month. The rate of those without an opinion on the Affordable Care Act dropped from 16 percent in June to 11 percent in July.

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare , Polling

Public Disapproval of Obamacare Proving Intractable



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Since the beginning of the year, the highest level of approval that any pollster has found for Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act was 48 percent, in the ABC News/Washington Post poll in late March. The lowest level of disapproval any pollster found was 43 percent, in the AP poll in March. Even in those polls, a larger percentage disapproved of the law than approved. The last time a pollster found more people approving it than disapproving it was CNN’s poll in January 2013.

As you can see, the aggregate is stable — disapproval in the low to mid-50s, approval in the low to mid-40s:

Tags: Obamacare , Polling

Obama’s Law Professor: ‘I Wouldn’t Bet’ on Obamacare Surviving Next Legal Challenge



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President Obama’s old Harvard Law professor, Laurence Tribe, said that he “wouldn’t bet the family farm” on Obamacare’s surviving the legal challenges to an IRS rule about who is eligible for subsidies that are currently working their way through the federal courts.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Tribe told the Fiscal Times. “But I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.”

The law’s latest legal problem is that, as written, people who enroll in Obamacare through the federal exchange aren’t eligible for subsidies. The text of the law only provides subsidies for people enrolled through “an Exchange established by the State,” according to the text of the Affordable Care Act. Only 16 states decided to establish the exchanges.

The IRS issued a regulation expanding the pool of enrollees who qualify for the subsidies. Opponents of the law, such as the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and Jonathan Adler, argue that the IRS does not have the authority to make that change. (Halbig v. Burwell, one of the lawsuits making this argument, is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit Court; the loser will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.)

“There are specific rules about when and how the IRS can deviate from the plain language of a statute,” Cannon explained to National Review Online, arguing that the subsidies regulation fails to comply with those rules.

The IRS can deviate from “absurd” laws, in theory, but the subsidies language is not absurd. “It might be stupid, but that’s not the test for absurdity,” Cannon says. Similarly, the IRS can deviate in the case of scrivener’s errors — typos, basically — but this is not a typo, Cannon says, because the language was written into repeated drafts of the law.

“They not only keep that language in there, but they even inserted it, this same phrase again, right before passage while the bill was in [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid’s office,” Cannon says. “So, it’s not a scrivener’s error, either.”

Keep reading this post . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare , Supreme Court

The Intolerance at the Heart of the Hobby Lobby Decision Fury



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Quick observation on the Hobby Lobby case . . . 

How many of us who aren’t Orthodox Jews would like to tell an Orthodox Jew, “you have to work on the Sabbath”? How many of us would like to tell a Muslim, you absolutely have to handle pork products? How many would like to tell a Mormon that they have to drink alcohol, or a Christian Scientist that they have to smoke?

I hope you don’t have desire to tell other people to violate their religious beliefs and consciences. You may not share those beliefs, and you may think they’re weird, or strange, or silly, but respecting others’ religious beliefs has been a core component of the United States of America going back to Plymouth Rock. (Yes, there are times in U.S. history when the country hasn’t always lived up to this ideal. This doesn’t mean that there’s no longer any point to attempting to live up to that ideal.)

The folks who run Hobby Lobby believed that these four forms of birth control, out of 20, amount to abortifacients, and thus they are, from their perspective, killing innocent human life. You can disagree with them. But all Hobby Lobby wanted to do was not pay for them. They didn’t ban them (although they may prefer that option, someday down the road). They didn’t swear to fire or punish any employee who used them. All they sought was to follow their consciences and not pay for something they believed equaled murder. Considering how any employee had the option of A) paying for those methods themselves or B) finding another employer, that doesn’t seem like an outrageous expectation on the part of the company.

There is a big difference between disagreeing with Hobby Lobby’s assessment of these four forms of birth control — or even concluding this view is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs — and saying, “I want to use the power of the state to compel you to violate your conscience and religious teachings.” You would think that using the government and the force of law — fines and imprisonment! — to compel people to violate their conscience is something we want to avoid as much as possible. The law permits conscientious objectors to war. Certain states permit the use of peyote during religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court upheld the right to sacrifice animals in Santeria. As long as your practice of religious isn’t directly infringing upon the rights of others, the law is going to let you worship your God as you see fit.

On Facebook yesterday, I saw someone respond to the news by muttering, “Stupid religious people!” Whether or not you think this belief is stupid, a core part of America is the right to hold and practice that belief!

What we’re seeing in the reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision is some liberals’ desire to not allow people to be “stupid religious people” anymore; we must all be reconditioned, to bow before the will and judgment of our betters, who control the levers of the government.

Tags: Supreme Court , Obamacare , Hobby Lobby

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