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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, July 31, 2014

GAO Reports On Obamacare Website Train Wreck: Ongoing Problems, Management Failures, Cost Overruns | House Votes To Sue President

Today in Washington, D.C. - July 31, 2014
The House reconvened at 9:00 AM today.
On their agenda today is H.R. 5230 — "Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, and for other purposes."

Yesterday, the House passed the foillowing:
H. Con. Res. 107 (Voice Vote) — "Denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law."
H. Res. 676 (225-201)"Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States."
House voted (420 - 5) on the conference report to accompany H.R. 3230.
H.R. 5195 (Voice Vote) — "To provide additional visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program, and for other purposes."

Yesterday, newly discovered emails from the House Ways and Means committee from Lois Lerner show her hostility towards conservatives — who she refers to as “crazies” and “assholes.” May not come as a surprise that she’s not a fan. These were included in a letter from Rep. Dave Camp to Eric Holder today.

As mentioned above the House along party lines voted in support of H. Res. 676 allowing the House to sue the President or other executive branch officials for taking action inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) urged House members to Defend the Constitution and to support of H. Res. 676, authorizes the House to enter into litigation in opposition to President Obama’s attempts to make his own laws, actions that challenge the constitutional separation of powers. He said, “Let me thank my colleague for yielding, and I also want thank the whole House for its work to address the people’s concerns about jobs and our economy. All told, we have sent the Senate now more than 40 jobs bills, almost all of them in a bipartisan way. From the first day of this Congress, I’ve said our focus would be on jobs, and it has been.

“But also on that first day, you may recall that I addressed the House about the importance of our oath of office. I noted that it’s the same oath we all take, it makes no mention of party, makes no mention of faction, or agenda. The oath only refers to the Constitution – and our obligation to defend it. I said that with moments like this in mind…I said that knowing there would be times when we would have to do things we didn’t come here to do, we didn’t plan to do, things that require us to consider interests greater than our own interests.

“I have to think this is why, on several occasions, members of the minority party have taken a similar step. In 2011, some of them filed litigation against the vice president. They took similar steps in 2006, 2002, 2001, and so forth.

“Because this isn’t about Republicans and Democrats. It is about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold, and acting decisively when it may be compromised.

“No member of this body needs to be reminded of what the Constitution states about the president’s obligation to faithfully execute the laws of our nation. No member needs to be reminded of the bonds of trust that have been frayed, of the damage that’s already been done to our economy and to our people. Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change? Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our Founders have built?

“Think not only about the specifics of the oath you took, but think about how you took it: as one body, standing together. That is all I am asking you to do today: to act as one institution, to defend the Constitution on behalf of the people we serve.”

The Senate reconvened at 9:30 AM today and resumed post cloture consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 2648, Senate Democrats’ emergency supplemental appropriations bill which includes money requested by the White House for the border crisis, Israel’s Iron Dome system, and western wildfires. Votes are likely today on the bill.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 63-33 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to (i.e. take up and debate) S. 2648. Earlier in the day, Democrats failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance their designed to fail campaign bill on outsourcing, S. 2569, by a vote of 54-42.

A devastating report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the failures of the Obamacare website once again demonstrates the expensive bureaucratic mess that Democrats’ unpopular health care law is, just as Republicans warned it would be.

The AP reports, “Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president's new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday. While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start. After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked ‘effective planning or oversight practices’ for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans. As a result the government incurred ‘significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,’ William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.”

Reuters writes, “Ten months after the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, Obamacare's federal health insurance exchange is still dogged by cost overruns and technology delays that could hamper enrollment when it resumes in November, a U.S. watchdog said. The total cost of HealthCare.gov and its supporting systems hit $840 million in March, according to a forthcoming report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). Excerpts of the report were released on Wednesday by a U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee. . . . The GAO report blamed cost increases on lax oversight, the complexity of the system and the need to rework technology. . . . The overall cost of developing the federal marketplace, which helps consumers in 36 states sign up for subsidized private health insurance, nearly quadrupled to $209 million by last February from $56 million in September 2011, GAO said. The cost of developing a related federal data hub jumped from $30 million to $85 million. Meanwhile, large segments of the marketplace system still remain unbuilt, including a financial management system to automate payments of federal subsidies to health insurers that is due to be completed in December.”

According to The Washington Post, “Such management failures are the central conclusion of the first report issued by the Government Accountability Office as part of a wide-ranging appraisal of the reasons the computer system was not ready when the marketplace opened in October. . . . Building ‘a first-of-its-kind marketplace’ was certain to be a complex undertaking, the investigators conclude in the report, made public on Wednesday. But agency officials aggravated the situation by allowing too little time for the work; changing the directions it gave the main contractor, CGI Federal; and not scrutinizing the contractor’s progress, the investigators found. The results, the GAO says, were ‘significant cost increases, schedule slips’ and delays. . . . Overall, the GAO concludes, the efforts of federal health officials ‘were plagued by undefined requirements, the absence [of] a required acquisition strategy, confusion in contract administration responsibilities, and ineffective use of oversight tools.’ . . . Once officials belatedly realized that CGI was running far behind, the report says, they ‘“increasingly faced a choice of whether to stop progress and pursue holding the contractor accountable for poor performance or devote all its efforts to making the October deadline.’ Staffers chose the latter, the GAO says, noting that they considered but rejected withholding fees from CGI last August, two months before the marketplace opened. Ultimately, the agency withheld just 2 percent of the contractor’s fees.”

The New York Times adds, “The administration ‘launched HealthCare.gov without verification that it met performance requirements,’ Mr. Woods said, and federal officials did not have a ‘quality assurance surveillance plan’ to monitor the work of contractors like CGI Federal, which had the main responsibility for building the marketplace, or exchange. Despite close supervision by the White House, ‘there was confusion about who had the authority to approve contractor requests to expend funds for additional work,’ Mr. Woods said. In 40 instances, he said, the staff members of the federal exchange ‘inappropriately authorized contractors to expend funds, totaling over $30 million.’”

USA Today summarizes the GAO’s findings: “A new report finds that the government did not plan well or properly provide oversight for the new federal health exchange launched last October. And the website faces new headaches for open enrollment in the fall if officials don't control spending, increase oversight and ensure back-end issues are properly fixed. . . . The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services went ahead with the exchange ‘despite facing a number of challenges that increased both the level of risk and the need for effective oversight,’ according to the report. . . . GAO investigators found that contractors building the exchange had too little time to do the job, and faced too many changes from the government as they tried to build. The report states:

  • Contractors had to build the data hub without knowing how many states would participate;
  • Contracting officials had to finalize new contracts without knowing exactly what the requirements would be, leading to more money spent than was originally expected;
  • Contracts with unusual amounts of flexibility because of changing requirements should have had more oversight to prevent overspending;
  • The federal marketplace was originally expected to cost $30 million, but increased to $85 million;
  • The site was launched without verification that it met performance requirements;
  • Because of inconsistent contractor oversight, there was confusion about who had the authority to approve contractor extensions. $40 million worth of work, though it may have been necessary, was improperly approved;
  • The government almost decided to withhold the fee for CGI Federal last summer but instead decided to try to meet the October deadline for launch with CGI as the contractor.”

Looking ahead to this fall’s enrollment process, the NYT writes, “The federal health insurance marketplace, a centerpiece of President Obama’s health care overhaul, still suffers from serious problems, raising questions about whether it will be ready to enroll millions more people this fall, federal investigators said Wednesday. . . . In testimony prepared for a House hearing on Thursday, William T. Woods, a senior official at the auditing agency, warned of ‘significant risks’ in the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. His comments were striking because the White House has said that the problems were mostly solved with the help of a new team of professionals led now by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services.”

As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this month, “Obamacare may not have existed in the English language just a few years ago. But in short order, it’s become a byword for broken promises and almost-cartoonish inefficiency. . . . Computer systems that should have been ready to go last October still have not been built yet. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a Leslie Nielsen movie – not in real life. . . . Many of us predicted that these kinds of problems would be the likely outcome of giving government such expansive power over such a huge segment of our economy. Of course you’re going to have massive inefficiency. And probable fraud. And migraines for middle-class families that already have enough to deal with. Of course you’re going to see all this. It seems inevitable. That’s why Republicans say we need to start over with actual health care reform – reform that can actually lower costs and increase the quality of care without resorting to this tired government-centric approach. Obamacare is built upon the intellectually lazy idea that we can simply legislate a desirable outcome into existence; that we can tell a hulking federal bureaucracy to simply bureaucratize affordable healthcare into being. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Reality always intervenes, just as we’ve been seeing with the pain of Obamacare these past few years — pain that will only continue until Washington Democrats join with us to enact a serious, bipartisan approach that actually addresses many of our health care challenges and dispenses with the failed policies of this Administration.”


Tags: GAO. Obamacare, problems, House resolution, suing the president To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
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