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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)

Monday, November 02, 2015

Troops to Syria, 3rd Obamacare Sign-Up Season Begins: Americans Face Higher Premiums, Discontinued Plans

Today in Washington, D.C. - Nov. 2, 2015:
The White House: New York Times reports: "Discordant Verdicts on U.S. Forces in Syria: Too Much, or Too Little" - "President Obama’s decision to send a small team of United States commandos into Syria as part of the broader war against the Islamic State has raised new questions about his military strategy, its legal foundation and the way it has been sold to the American public.
"After years in which Mr. Obama rejected “boots on the ground,” the deployment of up to 50 Special Operations troops to northern Syria is a relatively modest commitment. . . .

"But critics on both sides of the ideological spectrum said the president’s decision reflected a tactical shift rather than a comprehensive strategy. Republicans belittled it as a paltry move that would not change the dynamics on the ground, especially with Russia now actively involved in the war. Across the aisle, some Democrats expressed distress that Mr. Obama was taking the United States deeper into a fratricidal conflict."

The House will convene at Noon today for a short period with no legislation will be considered until after it reconvenes at 4 PM. However, no recorded votes will be taken until 6:20 PM. With last week's change in the Speaker of the House, their will be deliberations for the chairmanship within some committees. On example is "The Big Race For The Tax Committee Gavel." The author, Ralph Benko notes, "That race is between two Congressmen, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH). Both are bidding for the Ways and Means gavel and, with it, the power to shape the tax code, meaning power, among other things, over our checkbooks."

Yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said “This speakership is going to be about communicating a conservative vision and bold agenda for the American people, and I’m building a first-rate team to help me do the job.” He then announced new appointments to the communications staff in the Office of the Speaker. The team will be headed up by previously-announced Chief Communications Advisor Brendan Buck.Press Secretary for White House Press: Doug Andres
Director of Speechwriting: Brian Bolduc
Senior Communications Advisor: Vanessa Day
Deputy Press Secretary: Molly Edwards
Communications Director: Mike Ricci
Digital Communications Director: Caleb Smith
Press Secretary: AshLee Strong
Director of Media Affairs: Sarah Swinehart
Separately, Speaker Ryan announced that Andy Speth, his long-time chief of staff, will assume the position of Senior Advisor in the Office of the Speaker.

The Senate is not in session today and will reconvene at 10 AM on Tuesday when it will resume consideration of S. 1140, Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) legislation to overturn the Obama administration’s “Waters of the U.S.” regulation. At 2:30 PM on Tuesday, the Senate will vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to (i.e. whether to take up and debate) S. 1140.

3rd Obamacare Sign-Up In the News:
The AP writes, “[A]s a third sign-up season gets underway, President Barack Obama's health care law is approaching limits. Enrollment on the federal and state exchanges began Sunday. . . .

“Supporters may feel they're running to stay in place, rather than taking a victory lap during the president's last full year in office

“The reasons have to do with the structure of the complicated law, the effects of a major change introduced by the Supreme Court and political divisions likely to be magnified in an election year

“The fate of the Affordable Care Act — known as ‘Obamacare’ to its detractors — is very much in the hands of the next president. A weak sign-up season could embolden opponents who are so far unwilling to relent.”

The AP points out, “The law's two major engines of coverage expansion face challenges simultaneously.

“Costs are going up on the private, taxpayer-subsidized coverage sold through and state insurance exchanges, and many of the more than 10 million eligible uninsured Americans are skeptics. They tend to be younger people on tight budgets, with other priorities for spending their money.”

Indeed, for weeks there have been "reports about double digit premium increases to health insurance plans in many states.

The Omaha World-Herald writes, “Soaring health insurance premiums in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges have sparked questions about whether the law is helping to contain medical costs nationwide.

“Increases in premium rates in the Nebraska and Iowa exchanges, or marketplaces, range from 9 to 20 percent or more as open enrollment begins this week. . . .

“Rates in the employer-sponsored plans that most people have are expected to rise, too, although not nearly as much as those in the exchanges. Employer-sponsored plans could see increases of around 5 to 9 percent, according to one estimate.

“Some say the premium increases are a dark omen for the future of the Affordable Care Act. Others say it’s too early to either make dire predictions or to say ‘Mission accomplished.’

“Experts tie the cost increases in the exchange plans to the fact that marketplace customers as a whole have been sicker than those who typically bought insurance before. While this was anticipated, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska says the contrast was starker than expected, driving up rates.

“Sean McGuire, an Affordable Care Act consultant in Omaha, contends the premium increases are a bad sign. ‘There’s really no effort to contain costs,’ McGuire said. ‘I’m saying it’s not sustainable financially.’”

And in Allentown, Pennsylvania, The Morning Call reported, “When the Affordable Care Act's third open enrollment starts Sunday, many Lehigh Valley participants will have to pick new insurance plans.

“That's because one-third of last year's 62 plans, including more than a dozen from Highmark Blue Shield, will soon cease to exist as the insurance industry moves toward coverage that shifts costs to consumers in the form of higher deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses. . . .

“Throughout much of the country, rates are going up. In the 37 states, including Pennsylvania, where the federal government runs the online insurance marketplace, premiums next year will increase an average of 7.5 percent for the second-lowest-cost silver plan, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. . . .

“In the nine insurance regions of Pennsylvania, where 473,000 residents receive coverage through the federal marketplace, the price of the second-lowest-cost silver plan will rise even more — 11 percent on average, HHS said. For the Lehigh Valley, that translates to an extra $52 expense ....

“Take, for example, one of the most popular plans in the Lehigh Valley from Capital BlueCross — its platinum Healthy Benefits PPO plan. The monthly premium for a 40-year-old nonsmoker will go up 14 percent, to $549 a month, in 2016 from $482 in 2015.”

In the AP discussion of the 3rd enrollment season for Obamacare, the story notes, “On the law's Medicaid expansion, the other big mechanism driving coverage, the limitations are clearer and perhaps more consequential. The 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld the law's individual coverage requirement also gave states the choice to decline expanding Medicaid. Across the South, Republican-led states have turned down the Medicaid option . . . .”

Skepticism of the Medicaid expansion in many states is understandable given what states that have done so have discovered. According to WAVE in Louisville, “Supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act have held up Kynect -- Kentucky's online and operator-assisted way to sign-up for coverage -- as a shining example of what's right and wrong with making health insurance mandatory.

“Now that open enrollment has begun, ‘undercover testing’ from the federal government Accountability Office gives both sides ammunition.

“Kynect has enrolled at least ten people who don't exist, all of whom would receive taxpayer dollar help to pay for coverage. ‘Specifically, our fictitious applicants provided invalid Social Security identities (for Medicaid coverage),’ the audit reported. ‘In situations where we were asked to provide immigration document numbers, we provided impossible immigration document numbers.’

“GAO investigators made half these applications online, the other half via telephone.

“Fake applicants were also able to qualify for help paying for insurance even if they already had coverage, by claiming to work for an employer whose coverage offerings failed to meet ‘minimum essential’ standards. . . .

“‘The health care marketplace eligibility determination and enrollment process remains vulnerable to fraud,’ the audit concluded.”

Tags:  President Obama, Troops, Syria, ISIS, ISIS War zone, map, Obamacare, Sign-up,Americans, face, higher premiums, discontinued plans, GAO, KY Exchange Enrollment, Vulnerable To Fraud 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 11:00 AM - Post Link


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