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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)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Burwell's Nomination as Captain For The DHHS Titanic | Nonstop Obamacare Problems

Today in Washington, D.C. - June 5, 2014: The Senate reconvened at 10 AM today.

The House is scheduled to meet at 3 PM today.

At 1:45 PM, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Following that vote, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination of Carolyn Radelet, to be Director of the Peace Corps.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 67-28 to invoke cloture (i.e. cut off debate and move to a final vote) on the Burwell nomination and voted to confirm three district judge nominees.

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Today, the Senate will vote on President Obama’s newest choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services. In other words, the person he’ll be sticking with the impossible task of trying to make Obamacare work. By most accounts, Sylvia Burwell is a smart and skilled public servant. But her embrace of Obamacare calls her policy judgment into question. And when it comes to the task of implementing this ill-conceived and disastrous law, the President may as well have nominated Sisyphus. Because, as I indicated, Ms. Burwell is being asked to do the impossible here. Obamacare has already inflicted tremendous pain on the lives of countless Middle Class Americans, including many thousands in my own state. It’s increasing costs for families all across the country – despite endless promises to the contrary. It’s reduced access to the doctors and hospitals my constituents relied on – despite endless promises to the contrary. And it’s caused Kentuckians to lose the plans they liked and wanted to keep – despite endless promises to the contrary. . . . Nearly every major Obamacare promise from several years ago is a broken Obamacare promise today.”

While things like the VA scandal, the Obama EPA’s costly new job-killing regulations, and various foreign policy stumbles by the White House have dominated the news recently, Obamacare has continued to generate stories about its failures and headaches.

Of course, the law continues to break the core promises Democrats made when they passed it, among those that it would lower premiums. In one of the Democrat-run states that wholeheartedly embraced Obamacare, Vermont, the AP reported yesterday, “The two health insurance companies offering coverage through the state health exchange want to raise their rates for people and small businesses. The state's largest insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, has requested an average 9.8 percent increase and MVP Health Care is seeking an average 15.4 percent increase. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont says the increase is driven by significant medical price increases as well as changes related to federal and state health care reforms.”

Then there are the state exchanges that are still floundering after high profile implosions. The Wall Street Journal wrote this week, “Five states that launched health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act expect to spend as much as $240 million to fix their sites or switch to the federal marketplace, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows. Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada and Oregon estimate the money will be needed to fix problems with troubled marketplaces or to join the federal exchange before the next enrollment period in November, according to an analysis of data provided by the state exchanges. Funds may come from the states, remaining federal grants and new federal requests. The fresh spending is fueling a pitched debate in some states that could shape how residents buy their health insurance. Some local lawmakers say upgrading or sustaining the exchanges could deplete funding for roads, education or other vital programs. In Washington, some Republicans lawmakers want a moratorium on spending federal funds on marketplaces still bedeviled by problems. ‘I don't think more money will solve the problem,’ said Sen. John Barrasso, (R., Wyo.). ‘We should stop the bleeding.’ . . . In Maryland, legislators are urging Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley to support a switch to the federal exchange, which they say would come at scant cost. But state officials are looking to adopt technology from Connecticut's marketplace. Maryland estimates it will cost as much as $50 million to upgrade. . . . In Rhode Island, some state legislators are balking at the cost of sustaining the marketplace, which has so far received $140 million in federal grants. GOP state Rep. Patricia Morgan in March introduced legislation that would prohibit state funding for the exchange after federal funds run out. Co-sponsors said the state would spend $40 million annually on exchange operations, money that could be used to fix potholes, roads and bridges. ‘They built it and never thought about how they'd pay for it,’ she said. . . . Beginning with the November enrollment period, Oregon will use the federal exchange to sign people up for private plans. The state will cover that cost, which is estimated at up to $6 million. The Oregon Health Authority, which operates most of the state's health-care programs, will take over Medicaid eligibility and enrollment. The federal government will pick up 90% of that estimated $35 million cost.”

Oregon’s collapse continues to generate problems on top of problems. According to KATU TV in Portland, “Some people who signed up for private health insurance plans through Cover Oregon this year will need to re-enroll for next year. It affects more than 80,000 people, or about a quarter of those who enrolled through Cover Oregon. It’s a step in the state transferring Cover Oregon to the federal government. . . . Come November, people who purchased private plans through Cover Oregon for 2014 will have to re-enroll for coverage through the federal website, which only handles private plans. . . . Right now, four insurance companies who offered private plans through Cover Oregon don't offer any through the federal exchange. . . . The Cover Oregon debacle has infuriated many Oregonians, especially people who got caught up in it. The website failed to enroll a single person as it was promised.”

But the federal system isn’t faring that well in actually administering this mess of a law either. Yesterday, the AP reported, “A government document provided to The Associated Press indicates that at least 2 million people enrolled for taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance have data discrepancies in their applications. Each individual has at least one mismatch between key personal information they supplied and what the government has on record. Consumers who get a notice about such problems would do well to pay attention. If unresolved, it could affect what they pay for coverage, or even their legal right to benefits. It's also creating a huge new paperwork headache for the administration, although officials say they hope much of the pile can be cleared away this summer. Congressional Republicans opposed to the law are launching investigations, saying they worry the government may be wasting money by paying overly generous subsidies. . . . The May 8 document provided to the AP said that 2.1 million people enrolled through the new health insurance exchanges were ‘affected by one or more inconsistency’ as of the end of April. The number of people affected could well be higher. According to the administration, the 2 million figure reflects only consumers who signed up through the federally administered HealthCare.gov website and call centers. The government signed up about 5.4 million people, while state-run websites signed up an additional 2.6 million. . . . The document provided to AP describes a laborious effort to try to resolve the problems, largely requiring hands-on attention from a legion of workers employed by government contractor Serco Inc. ‘Current system access and functionality ... limits the ability to resolve outstanding inconsistencies,’ said the document. ‘A phased approach is proposed, initially leveraging manual processes.’”

And earlier this week, >Roll Call found that “[a]t least 2.9 million Americans who signed up for Medicaid coverage as part of the health care overhaul have not had their applications processed, with some paperwork sitting in queues since last fall . . . . The problems are most acute in three states — California, Illinois and North Carolina — where almost 1.5 million Medicaid applicants remain in limbo. Though all three are experiencing high volumes of enrollment, problems vary from California’s balky electronic sign-up system to Illinois’ inability to predict a surge of applications. The waits are linked in part to the troubled rollout of the federal insurance website healthcare.gov last fall. Alaska, Kansas, Maine and Michigan still are unable to receive applications their residents completed through the federal website. Others such as Georgia received applications submitted last fall in May. . . . Beyond the individuals, the delays have left doctors, hospitals and other health providers unsure whether they will be reimbursed for care they provide to people who appear eligible for Medicaid but haven’t received benefit cards. . . . In the 36 states whose residents signed up through healthcare.gov, at least 1.4 million people faced delays because the website was unable for months to transmit the information to states. Once it did, states complained they weren’t receiving all of the applications and that data was incomplete or riddled with errors. The logjams were so bad that officials asked applicants to re-apply directly through the states, where workers often sorted the information by hand. That created duplicate applications for as many as half of prospective Medicaid enrollees in Idaho and Louisiana. . . . States that ran their own websites, including California and Illinois, also experienced troubles. The new California computer system has technical glitches, including difficulty sending information to counties that help process applications.”

As Leader McConnell explained, “In January, the Secretary certified to Congress that she would verify that people were actually eligible for Obamacare subsidies before they were sent out. In recent weeks, we learned from media accounts and testimony that many of the systems needed to protect taxpayers against inaccurate or fraudulent payments still have not been built, tested, or used. And yesterday we learned that nearly one in four applications may have an inconsistency that could affect the accuracy of these payments from American taxpayers. Any wasted tax dollar is a problem, but when you consider that many of these are dollars raised from tax increases or raided from Medicare to make payouts by mistake or through fraud, it’s enough to make your head spin. This is just the kind of thing everyone warned about as Washington Democrats tried to ram this law through. And it will only get worse if we give up now and just accept the giant mess they’ve made of health care. I mean, if they can’t even get a website fixed – after spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars – how can they possibly regulate such a huge sector of our economy in any effective way?

“How can any Administration official possibly repair all the broken Obamacare promises? The question answers itself: they can’t. The nominee before us can’t. No one can. The problem is the law itself. Obamacare is what prevents the successful implementation of Obamacare. And Americans don’t want it. They want real health reforms – reforms that can actually lower costs, increase choice, and help the Middle Class. So, in my view, the Senate shouldn’t be focusing on a new captain for the Titanic. It should focus on steering away from the iceberg. . . . I’ll be voting against this nominee, because I think we need to focus on repealing and replacing this law, not trying to do the impossible by pretending we can make it work.”

Tags: DHHS nomination, Sylvia Burwell, DHHS Titanic, Obmacare, 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 11:45 AM - Post Link

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