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Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Obamacare's State Level Nightmares

Today in Washington, D.C. - March 21, 2014
The Senate reconvened at 9 AM today for a pro forma session. The Senate will return for legislative business on Monday, March 24th, when it will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 2124, the bill concerning aid for Ukraine.

The House reconvened at 10 AM for a pro forma session. The House will return on Monday, March 24th.

The Hill writes today, “Opposition to President Obama's healthcare law is close to its all-time high as the reform reaches its fourth birthday. A new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent disapprove of ObamaCare, compared with 41 percent who approve. . . . [T]he consistency of public opposition to healthcare reform is creating challenges for the White House and Democrats as they seek to keep the Senate in November. The survey offers insight into the public's opinion of ObamaCare, just as Republicans are ramping up campaign attacks over the law.”

Increasingly, the flaws and failures of Obamacare are hitting close to home. BusinessWeek reports, “Ben Rosenthal was treated for prostate cancer four years ago and had gallbladder surgery the year before that. A former manager at a market-research firm in Los Angeles, Rosenthal, 57, paid for his own health insurance. Last fall, when his plan was discontinued because it didn’t meet standards set by the Affordable Care Act, Rosenthal bought the best insurance coverage he could find, a top-tier ‘platinum’ policy from Blue Shield of California that costs $792 a month. He figured it would provide access to top hospitals. Then in February he learned the plan wouldn’t cover the hospitals where he was used to being treated. Rosenthal is one of millions of Americans who have purchased insurance under the Affordable Care Act and are discovering that many of the new plans offer a narrow network of doctors and facilities. ‘If I had anything happen, I wouldn’t want to go to a hospital that I’m not familiar with and with doctors I don’t know,’ he says. . . . In addition to having fewer options, buyers are making decisions about which plans to buy based on incomplete or misleading information, says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group. ‘Consumers have a very limited ability to shop in advance and evaluate provider networks,’ she says. . . . People can have trouble determining if their doctors or hospitals will be covered. Plans on healthcare.gov and state marketplaces are required to include links to directories that show which providers accept the insurance. But the information is often missing, wrong, or difficult to navigate, says Oliver Kharraz, chief operating officer of ZocDoc, an online appointment booking company. ZocDoc tried to verify the accuracy of hundreds of directories by calling doctors listed as in-network providers. About half the listings were wrong, Kharraz says.”

Another way Americans are seeing Obamacare’s failures up close is the steady stream of screw-ups, problems, and outright collapses in the state-based exchanges, most of which were set up by enthusiastic Democrat governors and legislatures.

Perhaps nowhere has this been more apparent than what the AP dubbed the “fiasco” in Oregon. The AP writes, “An independent review of Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange has found that a breakdown of management, an overly ambitious scope, and low quality of work by technology contractor Oracle Corp. are some of the reasons for Cover Oregon's failed launch.” In a story examining the Oregon disaster today, The New York Times writes, “As the federal health care overhaul was rolled out over the last few years, Oregon was invariably the eager overachiever in the first row, waving a hand to volunteer. The governor, John Kitzhaber, a doctor who left the emergency room for politics, made health care his main issue. Fellow Democrats controlling the Legislature went along, embracing ambitious plans to extend insurance coverage and Medicaid to low-income residents. Yet for all that, by some measures Oregon has among the most dysfunctional online insurance exchanges in the nation. Only about 50,000 people in Oregon have signed up for a commercial insurance plan through the exchange, well below the state’s goal, according to federal estimates. And almost all of those people enrolled using paper applications or with help from an insurance professional because the website had been so unreliable. On Thursday, a grim-faced Mr. Kitzhaber released a new report, commissioned by the state with a private company, that underscored how systemic Oregon’s failure has been. The report found fault not only with the code-writers at Oracle, the software company contracted to build the site, but also with the state managers who overlooked or minimized repeated warnings that the system they had asked Oracle to build was too complex. . . . [Kitzhaber] also accepted the resignation of the acting executive director of Cover Oregon — two previous executives have left since December — and said that legal action was being considered to recover some of the tens of millions of dollars already paid to Oracle. . . . And there are potentially further blows still to come. The federal Government Accountability Office has said it plans an investigation of how federal money was spent in building the exchange in Oregon and other states.”

Down the Pacific coast, BusinessWeek notes “The California exchange, one of 15 state marketplaces that operate independently of healthcare.gov, created a central directory [of doctors and hospitals] on its website but took it down on Feb. 6 because of errors.” And the Los Angeles Times reports, “Nearly half of callers to California's health insurance exchange in February and March couldn't get through and abandoned their call, state figures show. Those service woes could worsen as more people try to beat the March 31 deadline to get Obamacare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. . . . Still, less than 5% of calls are answered within 30 seconds and about a third of callers get a busy signal, state data show. Overall, 40% of exchange customers surveyed said they found the enrollment process difficult.”

To the east, “Nevada's failed insurance exchange” has been forced to give people who attempted to sign up another 60 days to do so, according to the AP and KRNV in Reno. “Officials say up to 300,000 people may have tried over the past six months to choose a plan over Nevada Health Link but were thwarted by program errors in the system designed by Xerox.”

In New York, Gannett News in Albany reports, “Some applicants to the New York health insurance exchange saw their email addresses revealed this week in a message reminding them of a March 31 enrollment deadline. The automated email sent by the exchange on Monday went to New York residents who completed an online application process but hadn't yet enrolled in insurance coverage. The message didn't make use of the blind carbon copy feature, allowing recipients of the email to see the addresses of others who received it. It wasn't clear Wednesday how widespread the apparent privacy breach was. . . . 2 On Your Side contacted Richard Dvorak, a health care attorney with Kansas-based EMR Legal, Inc., a HIPAA compliance consulting firm. With extensive knowledge of the intricacies of HIPAA -- as well as experience consulting in the state of New York -- Dvorak said the email breach is ‘a potential problem.’”

Across Lake Champlain in Vermont, the Burlington Free Press writes, “Vermont Health Connect, the health insurance marketplace that the state set up in response to a mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act, has experienced chronic technical challenges since launching Oct. 1. The online insurance exchange never worked for small employers who were required by state law to buy insurance for their workers using the website.” The Free Press looks at the frustrations of Neil Jacobson from Sunderland, VT. “He went on Vermont Health Connect on Dec. 16 and selected insurance for himself, his wife and son and has since paid three premiums. Still, he has yet to receive an insurance card confirming his coverage. He has called the Vermont Health Connect call center and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, but he said he can’t find anyone who could move his paperwork from ‘pending’ status. He estimates he has spent 15 hours on the telephone. ‘It appears to me we will be completely uncovered as of April 1,’ Jacobson said Tuesday, adding, ‘I’m desperate.’ . . . When Jacobson failed to receive any policy from Blue Cross for the platinum insurance plan he purchased, he began calling. He noticed that his bill came without an account number. Blue Cross told him his coverage was pending so the insurer couldn’t process it. Vermont Health Connect officials said his paperwork contained an error. Later he received an email saying the problem was he had requested a change to the application. A letter even came addressed to his 10-year-old son informing him that the problem was a change request. ‘I requested no changes,’ Jacobson said. . . . He was on the phone again Tuesday trying to get the problem resolved  . .  . . ‘I’ve been such a good team player,’ Jacobson said. ‘I just feel like I have been lied to.’”

And yet in light of all this, including the most recent polling, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference yesterday to declare about Obamacare, “I believe that it's a winner” and “[w]e just couldn't be prouder” of it.

This law is a disaster. As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said of Democrats recently, “[D]espite the evidence, the policies never seem to change. More money just gets thrown at the same failed programs, year after year, with barely any thought as to whether or not they actually work. Obamacare is a case in point. Here’s a big-government bill that Washington Democrats thought they could just pass and – poof – health care would magically be made affordable for everybody. Yet for millions of Americans, just the opposite happened. Contrary to the assurances, Obamacare has upended lives and businesses across the country. It’s forced painful choices for people who could barely get by as it was. It’s a mess. So you’d assume Washington Democrats would step back and take a long hard look at the accumulating evidence and start thinking about ways to keep this thing from pummeling even more Americans. But you’d be wrong. They just keep doubling down.

When the web site crashed, they called it a glitch. When people started losing their doctors and their plans, they told them to live with it. When Americans started sharing their Obamacare horror stories, they basically called them all liars. And that should tell you everything you need to know how about how much Washington liberals care about middle-class Americans.”

Tags: IObamacare, States, nightmare To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 12:38 PM - Post Link

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