The Morning Jolt

Go Figure: Neither Hillary Nor Kerry Took Cybersecurity Seriously at State

Not exactly surprising, but useful to have evidence to confirm our suspicions:

The State Department was among the worst agencies in the federal government at protecting its computer networks while Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary from 2009 to 2013, a situation that continued to deteriorate as John Kerry took office and Russian hackers breached the department’s email system, according to independent audits and interviews.

Note that last part. One of the hallmarks of government in the Obama era is not just mistakes, but the steadfast refusal to learn from mistakes.

The State Department’s compliance with federal cybersecurity standards was below average when Clinton took over but grew worse in each year of her tenure, according to an annual report card compiled by the White House based on audits by agency watchdogs. Network security continued to slip after Kerry replaced Clinton in February 2013, and remains substandard, according to the State Department inspector general.

In each year from 2011 to 2014, the State Department’s poor cybersecurity was identified by the inspector general as a “significant deficiency” that put the department’s information at risk. The latest assessment is due to be published in a few weeks.

Note this process: There’s a scandal, President Obama insists he knew nothing about it, he learned about it from the media, he’s as mad as anyone, blah blah blah . . . and then another scandal follows it.

I suppose the State Department was counting on the Office of Personnel Management to lower the bar for everyone:

Now that hackers have stolen millions of federal personnel records, two Congressmen say the government agency that lost them should no longer be trusted to protect sensitive documents.

Hackers stole 21.5 million personnel records from the government’s human resources department, the Office of Personnel Management. That included 5.6 million fingerprints on file.

OPM knew who had security clearances to know government secrets. Experts warned this could put American spies at risk and sure enough, the U.S. pulled spies from China after the hack.

U.S. Congressmen Ted Lieu and Steve Russell want to prevent that from happening again.

“We strongly believe that security clearance data — which has been described as ‘crown jewels’ of our national intelligence — should not be protected by OPM, which is neither an intelligence agency nor a defense organization,” they wrote.

Here’s the problem: If the Office of Personnel Management isn’t up to the task of . . . managing personnel records . . . what are they there for? And don’t our official-cover spies need at least “cover” personnel files within the OPM records, so they don’t stand out from all of the other government employees?

Health Care, That Big Issue Thats Gone Almost Entirely Unmentioned in the Debates . . .

Hey, remember Healthcare.gov? You know, the $2 billion web site that didn’t work at first and now works “for the most part”?

The construction of healthcare.gov involved 60 companies, supervised by employees of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instead of a lead contractor, according to the inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department. The project was marked by infighting among the contractors, CMS officials and top officials at HHS, the Cabinet-level department that oversees CMS, according to e-mails released Sept. 17 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Or maybe it costs $2.5 billion by now. It’s hard for the federal government to keep track of the money it spends, apparently:

The Medicare agency and independent auditors have had trouble tracking the costs of Affordable Care Act programs. The Government Accountability Office, a congressional agency, said in a Sept. 22 report that it was “difficult and time consuming” to obtain financial information for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the CMS office that manages many ACA programs, and that it “could not determine the reliability of most of the amounts” CMS provided.

A mere three years after the launch, the web site is now including the ability to search for a doctor and what plans they accept.

President Obama keeps going around the country, insisting everything’s working fine; the numbers indicate the administration and the Democratic Congress had no idea how difficult this would be when they passed the law:

The effort to ease the consumer experience is driven by the administration’s push to reach the 10.5 million people who Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, says are still uninsured but eligible for marketplace coverage. While 9.9 million people have received health insurance through the exchanges as of June 30, the law has far to go to reach the 21 million people the Congressional Budget Office estimated in March would be enrolled next year. Federal health officials say that target is too optimistic, but they have yet to announce their own numerical goal.

Meanwhile, out in Oregon:

Health Republic Insurance, one of two nonprofit insurers created in Oregon under President Obama’s health care law, announced Friday that it is shutting down.

Health Republic will continue to pay claims through the rest of the year but won’t sell policies for 2016, the company said. The 15,000 individuals and 800 small businesses that get insurance through Health Republic will have to turn to another insurer.

The company blamed a reduction in federal payments that are supposed to help insurers smooth out the risk of taking on newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act. CEO Dawn Bonder said the company assumed it would get those payments when it set premiums, but due to a change made last year by Congress, insurers are receiving less than 13 percent of the money they’d expected.

For Health Republic, that represented a hit of $20 million for 2014 and 2015.

Co-ops like Health Republic were created as part of a compromise in the Affordable Care Act to compete with for-profit insurance companies.

But that’s just Oregon. Surely things are better in New York . . .

Regulators will shut down Health Republic Insurance of New York, the largest of the nonprofit cooperatives created under the Affordable Care Act, in the latest sign of the financial pressures facing many insurers that participated in the law’s new marketplaces.

The insurer lost about $52.7 million in the first six months of this year, on top of a $77.5 million loss in 2014, according to regulatory filings.

. . . or Kentucky! Democrats are always pointing to the success in Kentucky . . .

Kentucky Health Cooperative, a nonprofit insurer known as a co-op, explained that it could not stay financially afloat after learning of a low payment from an ObamaCare program called “risk corridors.”

That program was intended to protect insurers from heavy losses in the early years of the health law by taking money from better-performing insurers and giving it to worse-performing ones.

However, the Obama administration announced on Oct. 1 that the program would pay out far less than requested, because the payments coming in were not enough to match what insurers requested to be paid. Therefore, insurers only will receive 12.6 percent of the $2.87 billion they requested.

Okay, how about Colorado?

Colorado’s biggest nonprofit health insurer announced its closure Friday, forcing nearly 83,000 Coloradans to find a new insurer for 2016.

Colorado HealthOP announced Friday that the state Division of Insurance has said it can’t keep selling health insurance. That’s because the cooperative relied on federal support, and federal authorities announced last month they wouldn’t be able to pay most of what they owed to a program designed to help health insurance co-ops get established.

Okay, but in Tennessee, things are bet– oh, wait, never mind.

Community Health Alliance will no longer offer insurance coverage next year, forcing about 27,000 enrollees to find new health insurance plans.

The Knoxville-based health insurance cooperative, created under the Affordable Care Act, will continue to pay out existing claims but will wind down its coverage by not taking on new customers.

You would think a sentence like this one would be spurring a national discussion: “Nearly a third of the innovative health insurance plans created under the Affordable Care Act will be out of business at the end of 2015.”

Whew! Hillary Still Leads!

It looks like things have settled in the Democratic side:

With the first Democratic debate in the books, a new CNN/ORC poll finds most who watched think Hillary Clinton had the best performance of the night, but her strong showing hasn’t boosted her standing in the race for the party’s nomination.

Clinton stands at 45% in the race for the Democratic nomination, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders behind her at 29%. Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a run for presidency and did not participate in last week’s debate, follows at 18%.

Behind the top three, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb had 1% support, while former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Harvard professor Larry Lessig and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley all held less than 1% support.

Compared with pre-debate polling, Sanders’ support is up five points since mid-September, but no other candidate showed significant change.

ADDENDA: This Wednesday is the National Review Institute’s William F. Buckley dinner held in Dallas, Texas. Thursday I’ll be speaking at the Heritage Foundation’s Legal Strategy Forum’s closing luncheon in Washington. (That’s also the morning Hillary testifies before the Benghazi Committee. Hope the plane has WiFi!) 

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