Changing the Wrapping Doesn’t Change The Package

Yesterday Paul Mirengoff posted an article at Power Line about the changes made to the ObamaCare replacement bill.

The article quotes Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton:

“Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.”

The article at Power Line states the following:

If, under a Republican plan, premiums/deductibles continue to rise, people will believe that Obamacare’s replacement made things worse. They will blame Republicans and the GOP will pay a heavy price.

No Republican should support replacement legislation unless he or she is confident it will result in better outcomes with regard to premiums/deductibles. If Democrats won’t support legislation that’s likely to produce that result, Republicans should either push such legislation through without Democratic support (overruling the Senate parliamentarian) if necessary or let such legislation be voted down.

Republicans have no obligation to pass replacement legislation they don’t like in order to patch up Obamacare. The Democrats created the current mess. If they won’t cooperate with the GOP in fixing it properly, Republicans shouldn’t take the political hit that would come with pretending to fix it on their own.

I left the Republican Party because I felt that they had forgotten their commitment to smaller government and had become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. The current ObamaCare replacement bill is a perfect example of that. Republicans were told that if we gave them the House, ObamaCare would be gone. When it wasn’t gone, we were told that if we gave them the House and the Senate, ObamaCare would be gone. When it wasn’t gone, we were told that if we gave them the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, ObamaCare would be gone. If this bill passes, it won’t be gone. We will simply have ObamaCare Light, a bad bill that the Republicans would be totally responsible for–just as the Democrats were totally responsible for ObamaCare. That is not a step forward–it is a step backward! Please, Republicans, do not pass this bill. Simply repeal ObamaCare. Then you can fight over its replacement. Don’t break faith with the voters.

 

A Law We Can Understand And Support

Yesterday CSC Media Group, a conservative website, posted an article about S.222, a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Rand Paul. The bill, called the ObamaCare Replacement Act, would repeal and replace ObamaCare. Currently the bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance. The bill is four pages long. The summary of the bill is not yet posted at Thomas.gov, but you can go to Thomas.gov and put in S.222 and read the entire bill. You can also follow the link to the website above and read the bill.

The following is the CSC Summary of the bill given in the article:

Legalizes Inexpensive Insurance Plans:

  • Ensures that Americans can purchase the health insurance coverage that best fits their needs.
  • Eliminates Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement, along with other restrictive coverage and plan requirements, to once again make low-cost insurance options available to American consumers.

Protects Individuals with Pre-Existing Conditions:

  • Provides a two-year open-enrollment period under which individuals with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
  • Restores HIPAA pre-existing conditions protections. Prior to Obamacare, HIPAA guaranteed that those in the group market could obtain continuous health coverage regardless of preexisting conditions.

Helps More People Save To Buy Health Insurance and Cover Medical Costs:

  • Incentivizes savings by authorizing a tax credit (up to $5,000 per taxpayer) for individuals and families that contribute to HSAs.
  • Removes the annual cap on HSAs so individuals can make unlimited contributions.
  • Allows HSA funds to be used to purchase insurance, cover premiums, and more easily afford a broader range of health-related expenses, including prescription and OTC drugs, dietary supplements, nutrition and physical exercise expenses, and direct primary care, among others. 

Guarantees Fair Tax Treatment of Health Insurance:

  • Equalizes the tax treatment of the purchase of health insurance for individuals and employers by allowing individuals to deduct the cost of their health insurance from their income and payroll taxes.
  • Frees more Americans to purchase and maintain insurance apart from their work status.
  • Does not interfere with employer-provided coverage for Americans who prefer those plans.

Helps Individuals Join Together to Purchase Insurance:

  • Expands Association Health Plans (AHPs) to allow small business owners and individuals to band together across state lines through their membership in a trade or professional association to purchase health coverage for their families and employees at a lower cost.
  • Also allows individuals to pool together through any organization to purchase insurance.
  • Widens access to the group market and spreads out the risk, enhancing the ability of individuals and small businesses to decrease costs, increase administrative efficiencies, and further protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Allows the Purchase of Insurance Across State Lines:

  • Creates an interstate market that allows insurers who are licensed to sell policies in one state to offer them to residents of any other state.

Increases State Medicaid Flexibility:

  • Enables states to fully exercise current flexibilities afforded to them through Medicaid waivers for creating innovative state plan designs.

Empowers Physicians:

  • Allows non-economically aligned physicians to negotiate for higher quality health care for their patients.
  • Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a physician a tax deduction equal to the amount such physician would otherwise charge for charity medical care or uncompensated care due to bad debt, limited to 10% of a physician’s gross income for the taxable year.

Rand Paul is a doctor who practiced medicine for more than ten years before becoming a Senator. I believe he understands the problems involved in health insurance better than most senators. Among other things, his plan allows doctors to treat patients who cannot pay and take a limited tax deduction for providing the services. I think that is a wonderful idea.

This is a healthcare plan I can support.

It Can Be Fixed, But It’s Not Right Yet

Yesterday The Heritage Foundation posted their evaluation of the bill to replace ObamaCare. Admittedly, The Heritage Foundation is a politically conservative group, so their solution to ObamaCare would be aimed at shrinking government, not just moving the chairs around.

The article lists some of the problems with the bill:

Basically, the bill focuses on protecting those who gained subsidized coverage through the law’s exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion, while failing to correct Obamacare’s misguided insurance regulations that drove up premiums for Americans buying coverage without government subsidies.

That is both a policy problem and a political problem.

The article goes on to explain that the people who need relief from ObamaCare are the people whose premiums and deductibles rose dramatically. That is the group the does not get relief in the new bill. The new bill leaves costly regulations in place and attempts to offset those costs with subsidies. That is what most Americans want to get rid of.

The article explains:

In that regard, the draft bill’s new “Patient and State Stability Fund” is particularly problematic. That program would provide grants to states of up to a total of $100 billion over the nine years 2018-2026.

There are a several significant problems with this new program.

First, it substitutes new funding for old Obamacare funding without adequately addressing the misguided Obamacare insurance market rules and subsidy design that made the exchanges a magnet for high cost patients.

Those mistakes in Obamacare created an insupportable burden on the individual insurance market by concentrating expensive patients in only that small portion of the total market.

Second, like Obamacare, it doesn’t actually reduce premiums, but rather masks with subsidies the effects of Obamacare provisions that drove up premiums in the first place.

Third, it creates a new entitlement for states. Furthermore, without a resulting reduction in unsubsidized premium levels, future Congresses will likely face pressure from states and constituents to extend and expand the program.

That is exactly backwards from what is needed.

The new healthcare bill also fails to reign in Medicaid.

The article reports:

Under the Medicaid expansion, the federal government reimbursed states 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to able-bodied adults, with federal support eventually declining to 90 percent.

Yet, states continue to receive significantly less federal assistance (50 percent to 75 percent, depending on the state) for covering the more vulnerable populations (such as poor children and the disabled) that the program was intended for. That policy was both inequitable and unaffordable.

The draft bill does not correct that inequity, but rather reduces the enhanced match rate from 95 percent to 80 percent. The better approach would be to allow states to immediately cap expansion population enrollment, while also setting federal reimbursement for any new expansion enrollees at normal state match rates.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. There are three things that need to happen with health insurance in America–the policy needs to be attached to the person–not their employer, policies need to be portable across state lines, and people with pre-existing conditions need to have a way to be insurance. Other than that, the government needs to get out of the healthcare business and let the free market rule. It will be bumpy for a short while, but if we don’t do it now, things will only get worse.

Repeal It Or Go The Way Of The Whigs

Yesterday Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial about the repeal of ObamaCare. The editorial made some very important points. First of all, the writer reminded us that the demonstrations opposing the repeal of ObamaCare were planned by the Democrats shortly after the election. There are some people who want to keep ObamaCare, but despite what you see on the news, they are a minority.

The editorial reminds us:

Imagine that Democrats announced a health care reform plan that would force millions to cancel health plans and leave the doctors they like, drastically reduce choice and competition in the individual market, cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket, blow billions of taxpayer dollars creating faulty “exchanges” and failing co-ops, leave millions of middle-class families stuck with higher deductibles and higher premiums, cause massive industry losses, slow the economy, cost jobs, and increase the deficit.

Those are the results ObamaCare’s critics predicted and, without exaggeration, what it has produced. Does anyone honestly believe ObamaCare would have ever made it to Obama’s desk if its backers had been honest with the public?

Yes, the uninsured rate has come down, but as IBD noted, the “20 million gained insurance thanks to ObamaCare” claim is a wild exaggeration, and the gains that did occur are entirely due to the expansion of Medicaid — a terrible and financially troubled program — and other government insurance programs, not ObamaCare’s individual market “reforms.”

ObamaCare will implode on its own in a year or so, but the chaos it will leave will take years to undo. It makes much more sense to repeal it before it collapses.

There is another aspect of this mentioned in the editorial–the trust of the voters. First Republicans said, “Give us the House, and we will repeal ObamaCare.” Voters did that, and ObamaCare was not repealed. Then Republicans said, “Give us the House and the Senate, and we will repeal ObamaCare. Voters did that, and ObamaCare was not repealed. Then Republicans said, “Give us the Presidency, and we will repeal ObamaCare.” Well…

During the Obama Administration, Congress took numerous votes to repeal ObamaCare. It was a safe vote–Congressmen knew that President Obama would veto anything that actually got through the Senate, and nothing would happen. Now that a vote to repeal ObamaCare would actually mean something, Congress is stalling.

I have not given up on the repeal of ObamaCare. However, I have pretty much given up on the Republican party. If they choose not to repeal ObamaCare, how are they any different from the Democrats? How can their platform say that they support smaller government and their actions say something else? In plain English, it is time for the Republicans in Congress to put up or shut up.

Is Medicare Going Bankrupt?

Yesterday The New York Post posted an article about the financial condition of Medicare. It seems that Medicare is really doing rather well.

The article cites some interesting statistics:

As the new Congress convenes, budget cutters are eyeing Medicare, citing forecasts the program for seniors is running out of money. But federal bean counters have erroneously predicted Medicare’s bankruptcy for decades. One reason: They don’t consider medical breakthroughs.

Another problem is medical ethicists like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who insist the elderly are a burden and that resources would be better spent on the young.

The facts prove otherwise. New medical findings give plenty of reason for optimism about the cost of caring for the elderly. According to data published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Medicare spending on end-of-life care is dropping rapidly, down from 19 percent to 13 percent of the Medicare budget since 2000. Living to a ripe old age shouldn’t be treated like it’s a problem. It’s a bargain. Someone who lives to 97 consumes only about half as much end-of-life care as someone who dies at 68.

Dr. Emanuel has some unique ideas about aging, which are stated in the article:

Why would we emulate Zeke Emanuel, age 59, who swears that at 75, he will forego all medical care and let death come quickly? “Our older years are not of high quality,” he insists. He’ll skip them. In The Atlantic magazine, he dismissed compression of morbidity as “quintessentially American” wishful thinking, and mocked seniors for trying to “cheat death.”

Keep in mind that Dr. Emanuel was one of the people behind ObamaCare who espoused the idea of limiting medical care for older Americans. That is one of the reasons it was so surprising that the AARP supported Medicare. They betrayed their own members.

The article concludes:

Too often, Congress treats Medicare as a piggy bank — raiding it when money is needed elsewhere. In 2010, Democrats in Congress paid for over half of ObamaCare’s spending by cutting Medicare. This year, Republican lawmakers eager to control federal health spending should avoid that error and instead focus on fixing Medicaid, the money pit program for the poor, where spending per capita is growing twice as fast as for Medicare. (I added the italics to this quote.)

Medicaid spending now tops $8,000 per recipient. That’s thousands more than is spent on people in private plans. And for all that money, studies show Medicaid isn’t improving patients’ health.

By contrast, Medicare is a success story. It has transformed aging, enabling older Americans to lead longer, more independent lives than our grandparents did. The average man turning 65 today will live five years longer than in 1970. Not just more years. Quality years. What a gift.

Medicare is partially paid for by payroll deductions from both the employee and the employer totaling about 2.9 percent, so Medicare is at least partially paid for. Medicaid is a gaping hole in our pockets that does not guarantee quality care to anyone. Healthcare in America is a problem that ObamaCare has made worse. Hopefully Congress and President Trump can come up with something that provides care for everyone who needs it, but also allows free market competition to keep the costs down for everyone.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Fox News reported yesterday that illegal immigrants and others whose citizenship status was unclear received up to $750 million in ObamaCare subsidies as of June 2015.

The article reports:

The report, produced by Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, examined Affordable Care Act tax credits meant to defray the cost of insurance premiums. It found that as of June 2015, “the Administration awarded approximately $750 million in tax credits on behalf of individuals who were later determined to be ineligible because they failed to verify their citizenship, status as a national, or legal presence.”

The review found the credits went to more than 500,000 people – who are illegal immigrants or whose legal status was unclear due to insufficient records. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed to FoxNews.com on Monday that 471,000 customers with 2015 coverage failed to produce proper documentation on their citizenship or immigration status on time – but stressed that this does not necessarily mean they’re ineligible.  

The people who make comments like “that does not necessarily mean they’re ineligible” have obviously never raised teenagers.

The Senate report states that it is doubtful that the IRS will be able to recoup the money as there is no concrete plan to locate the people who illegally took the subsidies.

The article concludes:

The Senate report says the IRS and HHS initially failed to coordinate on a plan for recouping funds, and claimed that a subsequent plan from the IRS to recoup the money is still “ineffective and insufficient.”

In a July letter to Johnson, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen assured that the agency is “committed to identifying and efficiently addressing” improper payments. He reiterated that anyone “not lawfully present” who enrolls for ObamaCare coverage “must repay” the advance premium credit payments, and would be breaking the law if they don’t.

And the government has suddenly become efficient????

The Current State Of ObamaCare

Today’s Wall Street Journal included an article about the current state of ObamaCare. The article mentioned that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently announced that by the end of next year she expects 10 million people to be enrolled in ObamaCare. She failed to mention that in March 2014 the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 21 million people would be enrolled in 2016. The Obama Administration explains the difference as the result of fewer companies dropping employee heath insurance than expected.

There are some facts left out of the statistics quoted by ObamaCare supporters. Supporters claim that ObamaCare helped 9 million Americans get health insurance coverage in 2014. The Heritage Foundation showed that nearly 9 million people were added to Medicaid. The 9 million were given free or nearly free health insurance. That’s really not much of a sales accomplishment.

The article reminds us:

In other words, ObamaCare expanded coverage in 2014 to the extent that it gave people free or nearly free insurance. That goal could have been accomplished without the Affordable Care Act. To justify its existence, ObamaCare must make affordable private insurance available to a broad cross-section of uninsured Americans who are ineligible for Medicaid.

But with fewer people buying insurance through the exchanges, the economics aren’t holding up. Ten of the 23 innovative health-insurance plans known as co-ops—established with $2.4 billion in ObamaCare loans—will be out of business by the end of 2015 because of weak balance sheets.

The article is written by Andy Puzder, Chief Executive Officer of CKE Restaurants. He observes that of his company’s 5,453 employees who were not eligible for company health insurance, only 420 enrolled in ObamaCare. The problem with ObamaCare is that it expects healthy young people to pay higher premiums to cover the cost of the older, less healthy, insured. Young people are not inclined to do that and are instead paying the penalty for not being insured. The problem with that is that the penalties are paid to the government and not to the insurance companies and do nothing to help with the imbalance on what is paid in and what is paid out. Insurance companies charge premiums based on actuary tables, and ObamaCare has chosen to ignore the basis of the business model of insurance companies. In essence, they have attempted to reinvent the wheel while leaving out the spokes and the hub. The private sector always does better than the government when it comes to business models.

The article concludes:

How have things changed under ObamaCare? Wealthy Americans continue to have health insurance, albeit at a higher price. But they can afford it. Many middle-class Americans are paying higher premiums they can hardly afford. And then millions more low-income Americans have heavily subsidized insurance or Medicaid coverage.

However, millions of other Americans who enjoyed good individual insurance before ObamaCare have found themselves forced out of affordable plans, with their new premiums rising rapidly. Other middle- and working-class Americans who were uninsured are still uninsured and paying the penalty or claiming an exemption. That isn’t affordable care. In many cases, it isn’t care at all.

Hopefully, we will elect a President next year who will rid us of this horrendous program.

Why The Government Needs To Get Out Of Healthcare

CBS Local in New York is reporting today that the New York State Health Exchange gave out  $325,000 in overpayments to the deceased throughout the 2013 fiscal year.

The article reports:

Auditors said flaws in the eligibility process also resulted in New York enrolling 21 dead people for Medicaid, while continuing government-funded health coverage for 333 others who died.

The state comptroller’s office says its auditors found overpayments of $3.4 million in total for the year starting Oct. 1, 2013.

The Health Department says it’s been awaiting a new federal system to verify deaths. It confirmed 321 people cited in the audit were dead, four are still alive and it’s checking the other 29.

This might be one way to cut the cost of Medicaid–make sure the people claiming to be covered under it are alive.

The article further reports:

The NY State Health Exchange launched in Oct. 2013, but many faced confusion and other issues like lost insurance coverage and high premiums though the initial enrollment process.

The exchange was established under the Affordable Care Act in an effort to extend coverage to uninsured New Yorkers.

Medicaid now covers about 6 million New Yorkers and costs $60 million annually.

The department notes state enforcement efforts in 2011-2012 recovered $1.73 billion.

It’s time to get the government out of healthcare!

The Republican Congress Did Actually Accomplish Something This Year

On Friday, The Daily Signal posted an article about the payments that were supposed to bail out insurance companies for their losses under ObamaCare. When the health insurance companies initially balked at the provisions of ObamaCare, President Obama sweetened the pot by demanding that everyone have insurance, providing subsidies to make insurance affordable and expanding Medicaid.

The article explains:

The law also created two back-end bailout programs designed specifically to benefit insurers selling Obamacare plans in the individual market. Goody No. 1 was a reinsurance program that reimburses Obamacare plans for most of the expenses run up by people with high annual claims. Funded by a tax on everyone with non-Obamacare coverage, the reinsurance program shoveled nearly $8 billion to Obamacare insurers last year.

The second bailout provision was a “risk corridor” program designed to collect payments from insurers who made excess profits—as determined by the federal government—and make payments to insurers with excess losses. If the government didn’t collect enough from profitable insurers to cover the compensatory payments, taxpayers would be stuck with covering the “shortfall.”

The design amounted to a double bailout, with taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing insurance company losses on the back end as well as for the front-end subsidies and mandates that benefited insurers.

Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, led the effort to block the subsidies to insurance companies.

The article further reports:

In January, Sessions’ committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee had identified that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lacked an appropriation for bailing out insurance companies through the risk corridors. They asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the matter. That September, the GAO issued its legal opinion: the administration would need an appropriation from Congress to make outgoing payments.

Congress decided that the taxpayers should not be responsible for bailing out the insurance companies, and the taxpayers saved $2.5 billion this year.

The Republican Congress can say that it accomplished at least one thing this year.

The Problem Is Not The Income

The Wall Street Journal posted an article yesterday about the amount of tax revenue the federal government collected for fiscal 2015. The good news is that the government collected a record amount of money–$3.249 trillion. That is an 8 percent increase in revenues for the year. The bad news is that the government still managed to spend more than it took in. The budget deficit was $435 billion–a decline of $48 billion. The article notes that although the decline is small, it is huge for the seventh year of what the government claims is an expansion. The article also notes that inflation is growing by less than 2 percent.

The article reports:

The reason for the small decline is that spending for the fiscal year climbed 5.2% to $3.685 trillion. That increase came even though defense spending fell $16 billion, or 2.7%, thanks to the drawdown in Afghanistan.

The spending burst included a 16.1%, or $49 billion, increase in Medicaid for the first full year of ObamaCare. Medicaid spending has climbed $85 billion to $350 billion in two years, and that’s with 19 states declining to join.

The Congressional Budget Office also cites a $30 billion, or 51%, spending increase for the Department of Education—“mostly because of an $18 billion upward revision in the estimated net subsidy costs of student loans and loan guarantees issued in past years.” Translation: Mr. Obama’s takeover of the student-loan business is costing far more money than advertised, probably due to growing defaults.

Let’s put these numbers together. Inflation is less than 2 percent. There was an 8 percent increase in revenues collected by the federal government. There was a $435 billion deficit. These numbers are unsustainable. They will assure the destruction of America. We need to elect people to Congress and the White House who will cut government spending. It is a national disgrace to have an 8 percent increase in revenues and still have a deficit. It is time for any rational members of Congress to demand a spending cut.

Is Death An Excuse For Missing Work?

Is death an excuse for missing work? I don’t mean a death in the family–I mean your own death. Well, not in New York City. The New York Post reported that that Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver was fired after not showing up for his hearing where he was to be accused of going AWOL because he had not shown up for his job since November 2013. Toliver died at age 65 on Dec. 8, 2014.

 

The article reports:

“How do you fire a man who is already dead? He deserves better. The agency itself should have known,” said Ted Willbright, who added that he considered Toliver as a brother.

“Some people he worked with were very supportive, so how did HRA the organization not know? He’s dead, and they’re saying he abandoned his job. He didn’t abandon his job, his job abandoned him. He was a good man. Truly, truly a good man.”

HRA officials said they sought to remove Toliver from his $38,000-a-year job after they couldn’t reach him for well over a year.

They marked the start of his absence as Nov. 12, 2013, and said calls and certified letters mailed to his home were never answered.

“We did everything we could to contact him and his family,” said HRA spokesman David Neustadt. “This employee was not paid when he wasn’t working, but we left his job open in case he recovered.”

He said that now that the agency knows of his “unfortunate death,” it would take no further action.

What would be the appropriate further action to take against a dead man?

Here’s One Place We Can Cut Government Spending

The Washington Examiner posted a story today about Medicaid fraud. Medicaid is the federal program that provides medical care to people who can’t afford it.

The article reports:

Healthcare providers banned from Medicaid may have been reimbursed $213 million in federal money, thanks to a state agency oversight, a government watchdog reported.

Valid identification numbers — identifiers that ensure providers are eligible for Medicaid reimbursements — were missing from 800,000 Colorado claims in 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general reported Wednesday.

The state reimbursed the providers $424.4 million for the claims, of which, $213 million was federal money.

Regardless of how you feel about government-provided healthcare and whether or not it is constitutional, a $213 million dollar savings in federal spending would be nice. If one state has that much Medicaid fraud, how much do the other states have?

The article goes on to explain that the computer system in Colorado was not able to alert officials to missing or incorrect identification numbers and that the problem would not be corrected until 2016. However, the agency is now denying claims with invalid or missing numbers. It sounds like Colorado is working with the same programmers that designed the ObamaCare website.

The Cost Of Immigration

America is a country that was built by immigrants. People came here from Europe and other places to celebrate freedom, escape religious persecution, or simply to begin again. The Catholics fled the potato famine, the Jews fled the pogroms, and others came to buy land to farm and support a family.

Well, not all of today’s immigrants have the same sort of ambition. National Review reported today that 42 percent of new Medicaid recipients are immigrants.

The article reports:

Federal law bans the admission of immigrants who are likely to be significant beneficiaries of welfare, technically a “public charge,” but that definition doesn’t consider in-kind welfare programs like Medicaid: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines being a public charge as “the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” The USCIS union president has recently complained that President Obama is not enforcing public-charge laws.

Illegal immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid currently and are technically ineligible for the Medicaid expansion or any other direct Obamacare benefits, but fraud in the program is rarely investigated and recipient-level eligiblity is rarely investigated.

The article also reminds us that Medicaid has been expanded so that people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible. This greatly increased the cost of the program.

I am not opposed to immigration, but I question the wisdom of an immigration policy that allows people to come here and be a burden on the federal government. Our federal deficit is out of control, why are we passing laws that make it worse?

Once The Camel’s Nose Is Under The Tent

On Monday, Byron York posted an article at the Washington Examiner about the problems involved in getting rid of ObamaCare as it becomes entrenched in American medicine.

The article reports:

What is different about Republican calls for repeal today — as opposed to calls for repeal from 2010 to the end of 2013 — is that Obamacare is now in place. It exists. Exchanges are running — many of them badly, but running. Subsidies are being paid. Insurance companies have changed the way they do business. Medicaid has been expanded. Special taxes are being collected.

Even though the system is new, millions of Americans have gone to a lot of trouble to adjust to it, and it would be disruptive to them to just stop cold. Halt subsidies? Undo Medicaid expansion? Just as last fall, when millions of Americans received coverage cancellation notices, millions more would face new burdens under the repeal of Obamacare.

This is not good news for the American healthcare system, but it is not unexpected news. Just as ObamaCare was extremely disruptive to the system in place, repealing ObamaCare is going to be disruptive to what has been put in place since the law was passed.

Meanwhile, in an effort to avoid a stunning defeat in the mid-term elections, the rules of ObamaCare have been changed again.

The Washington Post reported yesterday:

The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.

The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.

This is another example of the Obama Administration moving the goal posts when it is to their political advantage to do so. It would be nice if someone in Congress had the backbone to stand up for the Constitution.

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Where Does Your Tax Money Go

Investor’s Business Daily posted an article showing some of the details of President Obama’s proposed budget.

The article includes the following chart:

This chart illustrates the fact that 70% of all the money the federal government spends will be in the form of direct payments to individuals.

The article reports:

In effect, the government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine, taking $2.6 trillion from some and handing it back out to others. These government transfers now account for 15% of GDP, another all-time high. In 1991, direct payments accounted for less than half the budget and 10% of GDP.

…Where do these checks go? The biggest chunk, 38.6%, goes to pay health bills, either through Medicare, Medicaid or ObamaCare. A third goes out in the form of Social Security checks. Only 21% goes toward poverty programs — or “income security” as it’s labeled in the budget — and a mere 5% ends up in the hands of veterans.

The fact that so much of the federal spending is going toward direct payments makes it very difficult to cut the budget. Rather than cut these payments, the government is forced to cut programs it is actually constitutionally required to fund, such as defense.

The bottom line here is simple. We need to elect fiscal conservatives to Congress. We have reached the point where Democrats and establishment Republicans are no longer fighting over cutting spending–they are simply fighting over who will control the out-of-control spending. It is time for a change. It is also time to understand that Democrats and establishment Republicans will be working against that change.

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Beware Of The Small Print In ObamaCare

Yesterday the Seattle Times posted an article about a provision of ObamaCare that has come as a surprise to some of the elderly people who are subscribing to the program.  The story deals with Sofia Prins and Gary Balhorn, both 62, who after reading the fine print in Medicaid that has changed as a result of ObamaCare, decided to get married.

The article explains the problem:

Medicaid, in keeping with federal policy, has long tapped into estates. But because most low-income adults without disabilities could not qualify for typical medical coverage through Medicaid, recovery primarily involved expenses for nursing homes and other long-term care.

The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed that. Now many more low-income residents will qualify for Medicaid, called Apple Health in Washington state.

But if they qualify for Medicaid, they’re not eligible for tax credits to subsidize a private health plan under the ACA, which requires all adults to have health insurance by March 31.

Prins, an artist, and Balhorn, a retired fisherman-turned-tango instructor, separately qualified for health insurance through Medicaid based on their sole incomes.

But if they were married, they calculated, they could “just squeak by” with enough income to qualify for a subsidized health plan — and avoid any encumbrance on the home they hope to leave to Prins’ two sons.

The article further reports:

Late Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and the state Medicaid office said they plan to draft an emergency rule to limit estate recovery to long-term care and related medical expenses.

They hope to be able to change the rules before coverage begins Jan. 1.

Fixing the problem will cost the state about $3 million a year, said Dr. Bob Crittenden, Inslee’s senior health-policy adviser, but it’s the right thing to do.

“There was no intent on the part of the ACA to do estate recovery on people going into Medicaid (for health insurance),” Crittenden said. “The idea was to expand coverage.”

One of the problems with ObamaCare is that it will move many people who previously had basic health insurance into Medicaid. Unfortunately, Medicaid cannot support this increase–it is already going broke. The increase in Medicaid enrollment will put a severe financial burden on states, and create budget problems for the states that have formed healthcare exchanges.

The article explains the risk of the fine print in ObamaCare:

For health coverage through Medicaid, income is now the only financial requirement.

At first, Prins was pleased at the prospect of free coverage.

But the more she thought about the fine print, the more upset she got. Why was this provision only for people age 55 and older? Why should those insured by Medicaid have to pay back health expenses from their estates when people with just a bit more income who get federal subsidies don’t? Why didn’t she and Balhorn know about this before getting to the application stage?

As Prins began searching for answers, she found that even those trained to help people sign up for insurance under the ACA weren’t aware of this provision, nor were some government officials.

Around the country, the issue has sizzled away in blogs and commentaries from both right and left. The National Women’s Law Center noted the ACA and its regulations prohibit age discrimination in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the politically conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, writing in the The Washington Times, called the recovery provision “a cash cow for states to milk the poor and the middle class.”

“People will think this is wonderful, this is free insurance,” Orient said in an interview. “They don’t realize it’s really a loan, and is secured by any property they have.”

Even states that are now limiting estate recovery, she warned, can change the rules again if budget problems become more intense.

When you think about it, taking money from the estates of the middle class is simply another way to redistribute wealth, one of the major results of the implementation of ObamaCare. It is becoming very obvious that ObamaCare is a nightmare for the states, the insurance companies, and the insured. It needs to be repealed and replaced.

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I Have A Card, Why Can’t I See A Doctor?

One of the distinctions that has not been clearly made in the discussion of ObamaCare is the difference between having a card that says you have medical insurance and actually being able to obtain medical care when you need it. Somehow that has been pretty much left out of the discussion. Well, as theory meets reality, access to care (regardless of whether or not you have insurance) will become an issue.

Yesterday the New York Times posted a story about what is happening to California’s Medicaid program as a result of ObamaCare.

The article tells the story of one California doctor:

Dr. Ted Mazer is one of the few ear, nose and throat specialists in this region who treat low-income people on Medicaid, so many of his patients travel long distances to see him.

But now, as California’s Medicaid program is preparing for a major expansion under President Obama’s health care law, Dr. Mazer says he cannot accept additional patients under the government insurance program for a simple reason: It does not pay enough.

“It’s a bad situation that is likely to be made worse,” he said.

His view is shared by many doctors around the country. Medicaid for years has struggled with a shortage of doctors willing to accept its low reimbursement rates and red tape, forcing many patients to wait for care, particularly from specialists like Dr. Mazer.

In theory, ObamaCare was supposed to help people who were not able to afford health insurance to get medical care. In practice, ObamaCare will probably result in less care and more people with serious health issues not getting the care they need. The promise of “if you like your insurance, you can keep it” has been proven to be false, and now the promise of access to medical care for all Americans is also turning out to be false.

The article further reports:

In California, with the nation’s largest Medicaid population, many doctors say they are already overwhelmed and are unable to take on more low-income patients. Dr. Hector Flores, a primary care doctor in East Los Angeles whose practice has 26,000 patients, more than a third of whom are on Medicaid, said he could accommodate an additional 1,000 Medicaid patients at most.

“There could easily be 10,000 patients looking for us, and we’re just not going to be able to serve them,” said Dr. Flores, who is also the chairman of the family medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles.

We need to repeal ObamaCare before it does any more damage and replace it with a private-sector-based plan that actually works. If we don’t stop this train wreck now, we may not be able to stop it later.

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A Simple Guide To ObamaCare

Heritage.org posted an article detailing who is impacted by ObamaCare. The simple answer is everyone, but they posted an detailed list:

If You Have Insurance Through an Employer:  The administration claims that employee-provided coverage will not change–but it will. The administration promises better coverage, but there is a large price tag on that coverage. ObamaCare also requires maternity care for men and for women past child-bearing age. They have to pay for that coverage.

If You Buy Insurance Yourself:  If your insurance is not Obama-compliant, you will lose it. Your new policy will have higher premiums and a smaller network of doctors and hospitals.

If You Qualify for Subsidized Insurance:  Many Americans will be forced to buy insurance plans they do not want subsidized by other taxpayers. The $1.8 trillion spent on exchange plans and Medicaid will be a burden for future taxpayers.

If You Are a Senior Citizen on Medicare:  Half a trillion dollars was taken out of Medicare to fund ObamaCare. The reductions in Medicare spending could cause 15 percent of hospitals to become unprofitable by 2019, and 40 percent to become unprofitable by 2050. That could significantly impact senior citizens access to healthcare.

This really does not sound like a good deal for anyone.

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ObamaCare Is Coming

The Heritage Foundation produced a video by doctors on the impact of ObamaCare. The video is found at the Heritage Foundation website and on YouTube.

The article at Heritage lists the reasons the foundation believes ObamaCare should be defunded:

1. ObamaCare will cause people to lose their current health insurance and their current doctors.

2. Government boards will determine who will receive treatment–not doctors and patients.

3. Senior citizens will suffer because of the cuts to Medicare.

4. Millions of Americans will be placed on Medicaid–a system that is already broken. Heritage President Jim DeMint said in an op-ed this morning, “Expanding a broken Medicaid program is just giving millions of Americans a cruel and empty promise—an insurance card with limited access to real health care.”

We need to defund ObamaCare and put healthcare back in the hands of patients and doctors. Our current healthcare system is not perfect, but ObamaCare will be a nightmare for all Americans.

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Prepare For An Exponential Increase In Government Intrusion

Yesterday The Examiner posted an article about a provision of ObamaCare that has not gotten a lot of publicity. The provision allows government agents to engage in “home health visits” for those in certain “high-risk” categories. Doesn’t sound too ominous until you look at the “high-risk” categories.

The article lists the categories:

Families where mom is not yet 21;
• Families where someone is a tobacco user;
• Families where children have low student achievement, developmental delays, or disabilities, and
• Families with individuals who are serving or formerly served in the armed forces, including such families that have members of the armed forces who have had multiple deployments outside the United States.

Missing from the list given in the article is families with firearms, but that is now included in the questions your doctor is supposed to ask you.

The article explains how this program will totally invade the privacy of Americans and undermine the authority of American parents:

Constitutional attorney and author Kent Masterson Brown said that despite what HHS says, the program is not “voluntary.”

“The eligible entity receiving the grant for performing the home visits is to identify the individuals to be visited and intervene so as to meet the improvement benchmarks,” he said. “A homeschooling family, for instance, may be subject to ‘intervention’ in ‘school readiness’ and ‘social-emotional developmental indicators.’ A farm family may be subject to ‘intervention’ in order to ‘prevent child injuries.’ The sky is the limit.”

Joshua Cook said that while the administration would claim the program only applies to those on Medicaid, the new law, by its own definition, has no such limitation.

“Intervention,” he added, quoting Brown, “may be with any family for any reason. It may also result in the child or children being required to go to certain schools or taking certain medications and vaccines and even having more limited – or no – interaction with parents. The federal government will now set the standards for raising children and will enforce them by home visits.”

The Health and Human Services Department has allocated $224 million for these home visits.

This needs to be stopped before it begins.

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Why Elections Matter

The Chippewa Herald reported on Sunday that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed a $70 billion, two-year state budget.

The article reports:

The budget approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature includes all Walker’s priorities, including a $650 million income tax cut, expansion of private school vouchers and changes to the state’s Medicaid and food stamp programs.

…Walker made 57 changes to the budget using a veto power that allows him to cut words from sentences to change their meaning and remove individual digits to create new numbers. His two most significant vetoes eliminated provisions creating a bounty hunter program and kicking an investigative journalism center off the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

I live in Massachusetts, where our taxes are going up and the gasoline tax is going to be indexed to inflation so it can be automatically raised without the Democrats who control the state having to take responsibility for the tax increase. Massachusetts has some of the best schools in the country and obviously some of the least educated voters. I don’t know anything about schools in Wisconsin, but obviously their voters are pretty smart.

 

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Would Taxpayer Money Flow So Freely If The Taxpayers Were In Charge Of Spending It?

Yesterday I posted an article about the number of dead people collecting welfare benefits in Massachusetts (rightwinggranny.com). Well, it seems as if Massachusetts is not the only state that can’t keep track of where welfare dollars are going.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that prisoners in New Jersey had erroneously received welfare benefits.

The article reports:

Over a 22-month period, New Jersey paid nearly $24 million in unemployment, welfare, pension and other benefits to 20,000 people who did not qualify for them because they were in prison, according to a report from the state comptroller released on Wednesday.

…Some of the people in prison — those whose Medicaid benefits were paid out to managed care organizations, for instance — may not have been aware they were defrauding the state. In other cases, the fraud seemed deliberate; in addition to the $24 million in benefits improperly paid out, the audit found that 13 state employees had used sick leave to cover their time in prison. (The report said this resulted in “relatively immaterial amounts of improper payments.”)

One of the questions that immediately comes to mind when I read that last paragraph is, “What were the state employees doing in prison and how long were they there?” Can you imaging anyone in the private sector having enough sick leave to cover a prison term?

I think we can safely conclude at this time that the ‘safety net’ is broken. It’s not broken because it is not helping people who genuinely need it–it is broken because it is subsidizing lifestyles of people who do not need or deserve to be subsidized.

I suspect that what has happened in Massachusetts and New Jersey regarding welfare payments going to people who were either dead or not entitled to them is only the tip of the iceberg. We have people in this country working hard, scrimping to get buy, and being taxed to death to support fraud. It’s time we held states accountable for how they spend taxpayers’ money. If a state is not doing a good job, it’s time to elect new officials. Voters need to pay attention and take a stand.

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When Reality Gets In The Way Of Promises

Remember the promise that ObamaCare would eventually make health care cheaper for everyone because universal coverage would make us all healthier? Well, it seems as if we tend to be as healthy as we want to be regardless of whether or not we have universal coverage.

On Friday the Daily Beast reported that a study on Oregon’s Medicaid expansion showed that the people who were now eligible for medical treatment had no improvement in their health (as measured by basic health indicators such as like blood pressure or cholesterol).

The article reports:

health insurance doesn’t actually improve access to necessary treatment that much.  If someone else covers the cost, it can help with the financial burden of health care.  But uninsured people will mostly find a way for the most important treatments, the ones we know improve health, from stitches to control bleeding, to antibiotics, to blood pressure medication.  It’s the expensive stuff on the frontier–the stuff that’s as likely to be useless, or harmful, as it is to help–that the uninsured mostly forego. 

When you consider the fact that hospitals are not permitted to turn away patients because of their inability to pay, this makes sense.

The article concludes:

…But I think it’s instructive that the political campaign for Obamacare leaned so heavily on claims about death and untreated suffering.  Whether or not we should provide that sort of insurance, I don’t think that Obamacare would have passed if its backers had said “The best study available shows that we’ll probably get a nice reduction in depression and catastrophic expenses, but no statistically significant improvement in diabetes, mortality, or cardiovascular health.”

That should give us pause.  We passed a big, complicated piece of legislation on the assumption that Medicaid expansions like Oregon would make us healthier–so much helathier that we’d obviously be able to measure it.  It just made gut sense, after all.  And that shouldn’t just make us pause and think about Obamacare. What other policies are we pulling out of our intestinal loops?

Frankly, I think the best thing the government could do for the health of Americans would be to get out of healthcare. Repeal ObamaCare, and set up a system that subsidizes low income people who need insurance and let the free market run healthcare. There would have to be some basic guidelines set up for pre-existing conditions, but the healthcare industry knows much more about healthcare than the government does. Let’s let them take care of America.

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Another Suit Against Planned Parenthood For Billing Fraud

CBN News is reporting today that a former Planned Parenthood official in Los Angeles is claiming that the abortion provider over-charged the state and federal government by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The article reports:

Victor Gonzalez, former CFO for Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, alleges that Planned Parenthood received fraudulent Medicaid reimbursements in excess of $200 million after illegally billing the federal program for oral contraceptives and contraceptive devices.

…Gonzalez’s accusations support the findings of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group, which has charged the abortion organization with abuse, waste, and potential fraud totaling over $100 million in tax funding.

In August 2012, CBN News reported on another Planned Parenthood fraud case in Texas.

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While The News Media Is Focused On Sequestration…

Today Breitbart.com reported:

In an announcement on Friday, however, the Obama administration revealed that it would be significantly reducing funding for Medicare, a move that one health insurance analyst said “would turn almost every plan in the industry unprofitable.”

…According to Richard Foster, former chief actuary to the Medicare program, ObamaCare’s cuts to Medicare Advantage will likely force half of its current participants back into the old Medicare program, originated in 1965. It is estimated that this change will cost Medicare enrollees an average of $3,714 in 2017 alone.

On July 14, 2012, I posted an article (rightwinggranny.com) explaining that the Obama Administration had launched an $8.35 billion “demonstration project” to delay Obamacare cuts to the Medicare Advantage program until after the 2012 election. This was to prevent seniors who were not paying attention from seeing what was actually happening.

To those of us that have followed Obamacare from the start, the cutting of Medicare is not a surprise. The people who were behind Obamacare were known to hold the belief that the group of people the government should spend the majority of their healthcare dollars on are those between twenty and forty–the most productive years. There was a philosophy that the younger and older members of society were not contributing as much as the group between the ages of twenty and forty, and therefore were not entitled to the same quality of healthcare. That is one of many reasons why Medicare is being cut and Medicaid is being increased. One of the other reasons is to redistribute wealth in America. Obamacare has never been about healthcare–it’s about power and wealth redistribution.

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