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Posts tagged ‘HealthCare.gov’

Obamacare to Cover Married Gay Couples in 2015.


Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law beginning in 2015, the government said on Friday, encouraging insurers to begin offering coverage this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced it would extend for one month a temporary program that offers insurance to some of the sickest Americans, who have had trouble finding private plans in new health insurance marketplaces set up in all 50 states under Obamacare.

Friday’s announcements add to the series of delays and modifications the administration has made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, since the law was enacted in 2010 and formally launched last October.

Obamacare’s six-month enrollment period ends March 31. And with volume expected to surge in the final two weeks, officials say the website HealthCare.gov continues to operate smoothly after technical problems in October and November paralyzed the portal for consumers in 36 states. The remaining 14 states run their own markets.

About 4.2 million people have enrolled in private Obamacare health plans so far, and millions more have been found eligible for the Medicaid program for the poor, according to the administration.

It continues, however, to wrestle with complicated and controversial issues related to the law.

In its decision on gay couples, HHS exercised federal authority to prevent discriminatory insurance market practices on an issue that has been caught up in state marriage laws.

The move follows a February lawsuit filed by an Ohio gay couple, who were unable to obtain family coverage under Obamacare, they said, because their state does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The gay community is a key constituency for Democrats, who are facing a Republican onslaught over Obamacare in this year’s midterm elections for control of Congress.

“If an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses,” Dr. Matthew Heinz, who heads HHS outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities, said in a posting to a government website.

“In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.”

A formal clarification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the lead Obamacare agency within HHS, said the administration is encouraging insurers to voluntarily implement the non-discrimination policy for the 2014 coverage year under the Public Health Service Act.

Compliance will be required starting in 2015.

“We expect issuers to come into full compliance with the regulations as clarified in this guidance no later than for plan or policy years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2015,” CMS said.

“We also expect states to begin enforcing the regulations in accordance with this clarification no later than for plan or policy years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2015,” it said.

Administration officials said the gay marriage decision and extension of the program for people with pre-existing conditions, known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), were both intended to help Americans transition to the new healthcare era established by Obamacare.

The law requires most Americans to pay a penalty unless they are enrolled in insurance coverage by March 31, which is also when the PCIP program was set to expire.

Patient advocates welcomed the move, saying people with cancer, multiple sclerosis or other serious disorders need time to find insurance plans that meet complicated healthcare needs.

“We encourage patients in PCIP to look at other insurance options, including the health insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov, as soon as possible so they are assured of coverage beyond the short term,” the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said in a statement.

The extension came a day after U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told lawmakers in Congress that the enrollment deadline would not be delayed.

Administration officials said the PCIP program was being extended through April 30, under congressional authorization that has already allowed for two other extensions. PCIP was originally intended to expire at the end of 2013, but was extended first through January and later through March. (Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Karey Van Hall and Gunna Dickson)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Reid Slammed for ‘Horror Stories’ Claims.


Image: Reid Slammed for 'Horror Stories' Claims

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, while calling “horror stories” about Obamacare lies, “attacked the character and integrity” of Americans who are not afraid to show how Obamacare is hurting them, Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips says.

On Wednesday, Reid said on the Senate floor that there are “plenty of horror stories” being told about Obamacare that are untrue.

Later in the day, the Nevada Democrat amended his statement, saying he wasn’t referring to stories told by everyday Americans, but the “vast majority” of advertising financed by the conservative Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, Fox News reported.

He also continued to criticize the Koch brothers, calling them “un-American,” after earlier in the day accusing them of “trying to buy Americans.”

Phillips, in a response posted on the Americans for Prosperity website, said some of the people sharing horror stories are “battling serious, life-threatening illnesses,” and accused Democrats like Reid of trying to divert attention from Obamacare’s failures by “declaring war on its victims.”

“Instead of admitting that the health care law is a bad deal for Americans, Senator Reid has chosen to attack the brave men and women who are sharing their personal stories about Obamacare,” Phillips said.

In particular, Reid and other critics have focused attention on one Americans for Prosperity ad featuring Julie Boonstra of Michigan, who says she has leukemia and her healthcare has become unaffordable under Obamacare.

She and the conservative group are standing behind the ad despite the criticism.

“The president’s allies are perfectly fine with brushing these horror stories under the rug — but that’s not so easy for people like Julie Boonstra in Michigan and Emilie Lamb in Tennessee, who are being forced by people like Senator Reid to live out the consequences of Obamacare every single day,” Phillips said.

The Koches also responded to Reid, chastising him for using an ad featuring a woman suffering from leukemia for his attack on Republicans.

“While Charles Koch and David Koch were not responsible for the advertisement in question, we believe it is disgraceful that Senator Reid and his fellow Democrats are attacking a cancer victim as part of their campaign against Charles Koch and David Koch,” said Koch spokesman Philip Ellender.

Republicans are also slamming Reid’s original remarks, with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., calling them “astounding and offensive.”

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is demanding an apology from Reid to all those who have felt they are harmed by Obamacare.

“The majority leader, and any Democrat who agrees with him, owes an apology to all Americans who are suffering under this disastrous law and whose personal stories he has dismissed as ‘untrue,'” Thune said.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has read personal stories on the Senate floor several times about Obamacare’s negative impact on his state’s constituents, his spokeswoman Amber Marchand said in a press release.

“A fair question for the majority leader’s office today: Does Harry Reid believe Missourians are making this up?” Marchand said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Arizona Gov. Brewer Mulls Signing Religious Protection Act.


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says she will closely review a bill that would let business owners cite their religious beliefs as legal justification for refusing service to same-sex couples and others.

The legislation was approved Thursday with overwhelming Republican support, reports The Arizona Republic.

Brewer, a Republican, told CNN Friday she will review the bill carefully, but didn’t reveal her opinion of the legislation.

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“I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with,” Brewer commented to CNN in Washington, DC, where she is attending a governors’ conference. “But I don’t know that it needs to be statutory. In my life and in my businesses, if I don’t want to do business or if I don’t want to deal with a particular company or person or whatever, I’m not interested. That’s America. That’s freedom.”

The governor’s advisers said she will meet with lawmakers, the business community, and others as she weighs whether to sign the bill, which gay rights activists say will legally permit discrimination.

“In this instance, you have a bill that had a party-line vote,” an unnamed adviser told The Republic. “It puts her in a difficult spot.”

Story continues below video.

Brewer does not plan to return to Arizona until Tuesday, but people on both sides of the issue took to Twitter  to push her to act.

Social conservatives call the bill a matter of religious freedom, reports the Republic, and are urging Brewer to sign the bill so people and businesses will not be forced to act against their religious beliefs and offer services to homosexuals or others with whom they disagree.

“In America, people should be free to live and work according to their faith, and the government shouldn’t be able to tell us we can’t do that,” Joseph E. La Rue, the legal counsel at Scottsdale-based religious-liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, told The New York Times. “Faith shouldn’t be something we have to leave inside our house.”

LaRue’s group and the Center for Arizona Policy, described as one of the state legislature’s top lobbies, drafted the bill.

Some Arizona business leaders voiced strong opposition to the religious freedom bill, as did most of the candidates to replace Brewer in the November election, reports The Arizona Capitol Times.

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and James Lundy, who chairs the organization’s board of directors, sent a letter to Brewer Friday begging her to veto the bill, saying it would have “profound, negative effects on our business community for years to come,” reports the Capitol Times.

They praised Brewer for the work she and the Arizona Commerce Authority have done strengthening the state’s economy, but said the controversial bill will represent a setback.

The council also warned that the bill could cause problems by alienating businesses looking to relocate and hurt tourism as the state readies for next year’s Super Bowl.

Brewer is religious and typically follows the party vote on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, but few people are speculating how she’ll decide on the new legislation.

But even if she follows the party on the bill, she may face repercussions from some Republicans who have been against her since she expanded Medicaid last year.

Arizona is the first state to pass a broad right-to-refuse-service bill, but Brewer in 2001 rejected similar legislation, State Bill 1070, which would have barred the state from taking action against a person’s professional license based on religion. That bill was also passed along Republican party lines.

If Brewer neither signs or vetoes the bill, it will still become law without her signature. But she has only once allowed a bill to go through without signing it, so watchers expect her to act.

But Republican consultant Chris Baker denied Brewer is in a politically precarious position.
“She is a lame duck for all intents and purposes, and unlike (SB) 1070, which really was for her a political decision, she’s not under that type of pressure,” Baker said. “For the most part, she’s free to do what she thinks is in the state’s best interest.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Rep. Tom Cotton: Obamacare Best Example of President’s Failed Policies.


President Barack Obama has “irresponsibly added trillions of dollars to our national debt” while concentrating too much power in Washington — and Obamacare is the best example of the president’s failed policies, Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton said in this week’s GOP address.

“The debt slows economic growth today and it places an immoral burden on our kids and grandkids,” said Cotton Saturday. “And the President’s policies concentrate too much power in Washington — they give more control to bossy bureaucrats, who want to run your lives, while handing out special favors and privileges to the elite and well-connected.”

And in Arkansas, where like most states Americans “have had their grit tested over the last several years through a financial collapse, recession, and a stagnant, jobless recovery,” Obama’s policies are causing the problems, Cotton said.

Story continues below video.

Obamacare promised to lower costs and improve care while cutting spending, said Cotton, but that hasn’t happened.

“We now know the sad reality of Obamacare: lose your insurance, lose your doctor, lose your job,” he said.

“President Obama promised you could keep your plan if you like it. That’s not true. Five million Americans face cancellations, and the President’s own estimates predict that tens of millions more will lose their plan. Many more are losing access to their family doctors, specialists, and local hospitals. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects Obamacare will cost the equivalent of at least two-and-a-half million full-time jobs.”

Meanwhile, the healthcare law adds trillions in new spending during a time of record debt and means less money in paychecks and less capital for businesses, Cotton said.

“Less growth means less opportunity and more stress for families,” noted Cotton. “And the Congressional Budget Office says we’ll still have 31 million uninsured in 10 years — the same number President Obama used to sell the law in the first place.

He pointed out one of his state’s constituents, a woman named Elizabeth, who says her monthly premiums “have risen 85 percent because of Obamacare’s new coverage mandates.”

“She’s now forced to pay for things she does not want and can’t afford, simply because Washington politicians and bureaucrats think they know what’s best for her and her family,” said Cotton.

“What’s worse, Obamacare isn’t just raising her premium costs. Elizabeth now takes home less total pay than she did in 2011 – and that’s after two raises and a promotion. She’s stopped shopping at locally owned businesses because she can’t afford their prices, so Obamacare is hurting her local community, too.”

For such people, Cotton said, Obamacare is “anything but an amazing success story,” and wrong for Arkansas and America.

“Republicans in Congress are committed to stopping the harms caused by the President’s policies, repairing the damage, and getting America working again,” said Cotton. “We’re advocating reforms that trust patients and their doctors – not Washington bureaucrats. And we’re working to get spending under control. That’s because we trust you to make the right decisions for you and your family.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Biden: ‘We May Not Get to 7 Million’ by Obamacare Deadline.


Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged on Wednesday that it will be hard to reach the target on the number of people signing up for health insurance by a looming March 31 deadline for Obamacare enrollment.

The Congressional Budget Office had originally forecast that 7 million people would sign up for insurance, many with help from subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

But the program got off to a rough start in October when a website used to shop for insurance plans failed to work for almost two months. The nonpartisan CBO recently trimmed its enrollment forecast for 2014 to 6 million.

Biden, on his way to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Minneapolis, spoke with a small group of people in the city who are working to help others sign up for insurance, and thanked them for their work.

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“We may not get to seven million, we may get to five or six, but that’s a hell of a start,” Biden said, according to a pool report of his meeting.

The Obama administration said last week that 3.3 million people have enrolled in private Obamacare health plans between Oct. 1 and Feb 1.

The deadline for 2014 coverage is March 31, and the administration and allied groups are pushing to convince more uninsured people in big cities to sign up.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Albert Hunt: Obama, Christie Need to Reset Their Narratives.


There were several reports this month about the Affordable Care Act, most of them positive: Participation is up; the so-called risk corridors, which critics call a giveaway to insurance companies, will make the government money; and the law will increase labor demand.

But more attention has been lavished on the negative: Over a decade, the equivalent of 2.5 million workers will drop out of the labor force because there are alternative health-insurance options, and the employment mandate was postponed again.

Separately, the drumbeat continued around Chris Christie. The Republican governor of New Jersey held a marathon news conference more than five weeks ago as he fired top aides whom he blamed for causing huge traffic disruptions on the George Washington Bridge last autumn. Christie insisted he knew nothing about the closures, which allegedly were political retaliation against Democrats.

Few new facts emerged about the initial controversy. But there has been a rash of other allegations, some stretching back to the 51-year-old governor’s high school days.

These two story lines — one involving Democrats, the other about Republicans — share common elements; they entail significant political fallout. Obamacare, even as the results get better, will hurt Democrats, perhaps seriously, in this year’s congressional elections. And a blow has been delivered to the presidential aspirations of Christie, who just three months ago was virtually coronated by Time magazine as the Republicans’ great hope for 2016.

Both demonstrate that once a narrative is established in U.S. politics, it’s very hard to shake.

The proliferation and growing influence of social media can accelerate a news narrative, like these two stories, says Teddy Goff, who directed President Barack Obama’s digital strategy in 2012. Over time, however, social media also may help a countertheme prevail, he says. This has little to do with overhyped chatter about media bias. There are effective offsets to media partisanship: the Internet versus talk radio; Fox News versus MSNBC. The mainstream media’s only discernibly consistent bias is on cultural issues — abortion, gay rights, guns, race – – while a smaller-movement conservative news media, oblivious to balanced or fair journalism, effectively pounds messages that often end up in the mainstream media.

That message pounding, coupled with the Obama administration’s miscues — the White House still resists tapping a chief executive officer to run the health-care initiative — has locked in, for now, a negative view of Obamacare. This despite some good news: More than 10 million Americans have new or better health-insurance coverage than before; health-care costs are moderating; and reforms such as prohibiting discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions are kicking in.

Optimists such as Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, think that once the kinks are worked out, Obamacare will become popular, much as Medicare and the prescription drug plan for seniors did. Still, as he acknowledges, “It’s taking a long time for people to understand” that the benefits outweigh the problems. Democrats running in November don’t have a long time.

Neither does Christie. Even if no new evidence emerges to contradict his proclamations of innocence, the damage may be irreversible. The governor’s appeal as a front-runner was that he could beat Hillary Clinton; his base is big-money Wall Street guys. As he gets hammered daily and now trails Clinton in presidential trial heats, the rationale and the base are eroding. He can’t shake the narrative.

It’s so embedded now that the best scenario for Christie is that he convinces voters that he had a bunch of second-rate top aides who engaged in political thuggery and that he had no clue what was going on. That’s not a compelling narrative for a would-be president.

 

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Some Workers From Fired Obamacare Website Contractor Stay on Job.


A month after replacing the lead website contractor following the botched Obamacare rollout, The New York Times reports that the Obama administration will continue its working relationship with the company, CGI.

Despite last month’s decision to award worldwide contractor Accenture $91 million for a one-year contract, the government and CGI are expected this week to ink a deal to keep 58 of 189 CGI employees on the job until the end of March, according to The Times, which cited an unidentified source familiar with the procurement process. Three dozen CGI staffers may stay on through April.

In October, Bloomberg reported that between March 2010, when the president signed the Affordable Care Act into law, and September 2013, CGI Federal had been awarded $422 million.

The turnabout comes after eight federal health officials wrote a memo warning that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website “urgently needed repairs,” and blamed CGI for the problems, saying the company had failed to deliver software and services needed to store enrollment data, calculate subsidies, pay insurers, and perform other essential tasks.

The Washington Post reported last month that the government replaced CGI because it had not “been effective enough in fixing the intricate computer system underpinning the federal website.”

A CGI spokeswoman told The Times that the company is committed to the project and stands “ready to contribute our expertise as needed.”

Despite assurances by a CGI official in September that the site would be fully functional for the Oct. 1 launch, “the site failed to load, returned countless error messages, and generally thwarted the attempts of millions of users to create accounts, shop for coverage or enroll,” according to a Reuters report.

The glitches stirred nationwide controversy and resulted in harsh criticism for the Obamacare healthcare reform law.

A March 31 enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act looms, adding additional pressure on Accenture, now the lead contractor. The Times reports that the HealthCare.gov site is still not performing certain functions, such as”providing a ‘special enrollment period’ to consumers who become newly eligible or ineligible for federal subsidies because of a change in income.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melissa Clyne

Ron Fournier: Why I’m Sick of Defending Obamacare.


Incompetent implementation, heavy-handed partisanship, and questionable rule changes are making it difficult to advocate on behalf of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, writes National Journal correspondent Ron Fournier.

He wants Obamacare to work “because I want health insurance provided to the millions without it, for both the moral and economic benefits,” Fournier wrote.

Editor’s Note: New ‘Obamacare Survival Guide’ Reveals Dangers Ahead for Your Healthcare

But it is becoming near impossible to defend the president’s signature healthcare policy because it has been politicized by the White House, he wrote. “The win-at-all-cost mentality helped create a culture in which a partisan-line vote was deemed sufficient for passing transcendent legislation.”

This mentality set the stage for “a dishonest talking point — ‘If you like your health plan, you’ll be able to keep your health plan.'”

As an “epidemic of incompetence” revealed itself in connection with Obamacare’s implementation, defending the policy “became painfully harder.” The healthcare plan’s credibility was further tarnished when “officials started fudging numbers and massaging facts,” writes Fournier.

There have been “at least a dozen major adjustments” to the law without congressional approval further undermined the position of supporters, he wrote. The administration claims broad “authority to grant transition relief” under the Internal Revenue Code’s sections pertaining to enforcement of tax obligations, a position Fournier writes that exposes Obamacare as a tax.

“Even the law’s most fervent supporters are frustrated,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, a Wednesday editorial in The Washington Post said Obama was wrong to unilaterally modify explicit clauses of the Affordable Care Act in order to delay enforcement of the employer mandate.

The newspaper said political expediency is not a good reason for the White House to reinterpret congressional intent.

Editor’s Note: New ‘Obamacare Survival Guide’ Reveals Dangers Ahead for Your Healthcare

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Allen West: New Obamacare Delay Unfair to Individuals.


Image: Allen West: New Obamacare Delay Unfair to Individuals

By Todd Beamon

The latest delay in Obamacare proves that “big government does not work — and we see it happening right here,” former Florida congressman Allen West told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

“The president always talks about fairness and fair share and inequality,” West told John Bachman on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV. “Then, why is he continuing to grant all of these delays and waivers and exemptions to unions, to cronies, to employers, big businesses?

“Why not the same to the individual American citizen, when they see their wages being depressed, they are out of work, they don’t see any future and hope? Mr. President, you talk about fairness. What about fairness to the individual American?”

Story continues below video.

On Monday, the Obama administration delayed another part of the Affordable Care Act, this one affecting companies with 50 to 99 employees. The companies will not face a tax penalty until 2016 for not providing workers with health insurance.

Last July, the employer mandate for Obamacare was delayed until next year, even though individuals face a tax penalty for not having health coverage this year.

The latest delay marked the eighth one-year extension of mandates to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation since it was signed into law in 2010, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. The report was provided to Newsmax by the office of GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

West, who is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, is among many Republicans who have long charged that Obamacare is unworkable and should be repealed.

“Is this the law of the land, or it is just some imperial edict that can be changed willy-nilly by the stroke of a pen or the use of a cellphone?” he asked Newsmax. “We continue to see these changes to employer-based mandates. But the one that is most important: Why not a delay for the individual mandate?

“This was truly rammed down the throats of the American people,” West added. “In the world of academics, theory works very well — but when it comes to practical application, now you see things falling apart.”

Republican disunity is keeping the party from taking the lead in the Obamacare debate, he said.

“That’s the problem with the Republican Party: You cannot get them to come out as unified messengers on major policy issues. Right now, the Republican Party needs a singular voice, a true leader.”

That’s not, however, House Speaker John Boehner.

“He’s supposed to be the third in line to the presidency,” West said of the Ohio Republican. “Any time the president gets up and gives a press conference or something like that, John Boehner should be up there giving the counterargument.

“John Boehner should be up there saying: ‘Here’s our plan. The president keeps talking about we don’t have a plan.’ His denial of us not having a plan does not mean that’s true — and he should be able to articulate that plan step by step.

“The key thing is, in a constitutional republic, a law is supposed to be applicable to everyone,” West said. “That’s why I say this is not the law of the land. This is just an edict that can continually be changed and manipulated according to politics.

“That’s a great point to bring up with this president and his administration. This is not applicable to everyone — and we need to have a law that is applicable to everyone.

“If this law cannot be applicable to everyone, then we need to scrap it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rubio: Obama Administration Leaked Drone Info to Appear ‘Deliberative’.


The administration of President Barack Obama leaked sensitive information about the possibility of using a drone to kill an American who joined al-Qaida in order to position themselves as politically “deliberative,” Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday.

“I’m very concerned about . . . the propensity of this administration to constantly leak sensitive information, I think, in order to position themselves politically. In this case, it’s to appear to be deliberative,” the Florida Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

Officials revealed Monday they were considering using a drone to kill an American overseas who had joined al-Qaida and was threatening an attack on U.S. citizens.

Rubio, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, explained there was a growing threat of “home-grown extremism” among Americans who “become radicalized on websites, and then take the next step and decide they want to become jihadists.”

“This is tricky business. But the fact of the matter is that there are dangerous people out there who happen to be American citizens. And, we need to have laws that reflect that while we protect the innocent Americans from being hurt,” he said.

Story continues below video.

On healthcare, Rubio said the newest change delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate for midsize companies was one more example that the law was “unimplementable” and “poorly thought out.” The many changes the president made to Obamacare, he said, were creating uncertainty among employers.

“I don’t view this from a political perspective. I think it’s hurting the American people. And it’s having a devastating impact on the ability of our economy to grow,” he said.

Rubio on Monday introduced an educational initiative that would allow people to use “knowledge they have acquired from living life” for higher education credit. He explained college costs continued to rise and finding a job was becoming increasingly harder “if you don’t have some sort of higher education.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Wanda Carruthers

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