Washington state residents are upset with their disastrous Obamacare exchange website.
More than 15,000 insurance applications are currently described as “stuck” by state officials.
The Seattle Times reports:
Five months since the launch of the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange, officials say many of the website problems consumers experienced in the early weeks have been fully resolved. At the same time, they acknowledge there are still thorny issues they are working to fix.
At the top of the list are more than 15,000 insurance applications that are “stuck.”
About 5,000 to 6,000 of them have problems because the data entered by consumers isn’t matching up with state databases that track which benefits, including Medicaid, applicants are eligible to receive. An applicant, for example, may name a different head of household or street address than is contained in the state’s other eligibility databases.
An additional 5,000 or so applications have tax-filing related issues, and the remaining 5,000 require more information from the applicant.
What defines our biases is not how we think, or what we believe, but the way in which we disseminate information to others. Bias is not simply making your beliefs known to others, which is so often what people imagine. Bias is using your perspective as a weapon against others. Bias is the deliberate leaving out of information to skew the perspectives of others.
Our media—as if this hasn’t been talked about a trillion times before—is severely biased toward liberalism. This is mostly due to the fact that journalists tend to be liberal, and as such, want their political beliefs to be validated, and spread to other Americans. We know this, and we combat this with things like Fox News, and talk radio. We have done what we can to set in place a balance, but that balance is not nearly enough to stem the tide of liberal journalism. Liberal journalists still carry so much weight in our society, to the point where even comedic journalists are liberal.
CNN’s Don Lemon recently made it known that he has struggled with just how much to criticize the president, due to Obama being black.
“When you are the first of anything there is a bigger responsibly put on you. He is a spectacle in a way, everyone is looking to hit him everyone is looking to punch him and I understand that, and as journalist you weigh how much you should criticize the president, because he’s black, but then you have to do it because ultimately you’re a journalist.”
Lemon recovers very quickly by saying that he does indeed criticize the president when it is necessary, because he is a journalist, and that is his job. But the issue is not what it appears. It seems like every other day, conservatives are being called racists simply because they dare to criticize Barack OGandhi. Conservatives don’t care about race, they simply care about issues. That is what differentiates conservative journalists with liberal ones. One side covers politics, while the other covers the pettiness of people.
Lest you think I am kidding, this was actually taken from the Washington Post’s headline yesterday. While I suppose it is a good thing that they seem to finally be waking up, this message and lesson have come way too late for Obama, Biden, Kerry, and their band of merry Libertards who still think that the idea of projecting ‘smart’ or ‘soft power’ is the new reality of the world today. They have actually criticized Putin over and over again for his lack of game and still making use of what they call ’19th century acts.’ Listen:
“For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which ‘the tide of war is receding’ and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces…Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances—these were things of the past….John F Kerry displayed this mindset…when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, ‘It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century….Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st—century behavior. Neither has China’s president Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th—century war against his own people…These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.”
The problem is that Obama has been sending signals of weakness for far too long. This ends up leading to the undeniable facts that other countries will end up paying the price for our lack of action. With Putin, it was Georgia in 2008. He actually got away with this without paying much of any price. Of course, there was widespread criticism from a number of prominent conservatives including John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. Remember the Presidential debate where Romney tried to warn us about the ‘Russian threat?’ Obama basically laughed him down, saying that ‘the 80′s want their foreign policy back.’
Sure, no one wants to have to commit US troops to foreign soil. Yet, every President is called upon to make tough choices. Yet, it seems that Obama has already made his choices in terms of no longer committing US forces and even re-calling them from troubled spots. Not to mention trying to reduce the size of the military considerably. This is bad news, not only for our country but also for the entire world. Because men like Putin, Xi Jinping, and Assad will carefully consider what ACTIONS we take, not what statements or economic sanctions we impose.
As Putin is carefully considering whether to advance further in Ukraine, possibly even invading the eastern half of the country, do you think he will be worried about US statements and condemnations? No, he will only be worried about we might actually do to force his hand. The same will go for China and their next activities in the East China Sea.
This is simple schoolyard bully behavior. When you see a bully acting as such, the only thing that can really stop him is to get right in his face and smack him. A little bloody nose or a fat lip will make him think about trying the same thing again. But since Obama is living in a fantasy world with his foreign policy, this is quite unlikely to happen. Senator Rubio and others have outlined a number of things that could potentially help this situation. Let’s hope that Obama wakes the hell up and actually does something that will help, rather than cowering in the White House behind his pen and phone!
What do YOU think? How should Obama have handled this situation? Why should our allies continue trusting us if we are incapable of acting on the world stage under Obama?
Two private insurance exchanges across metropolitan areas in 45 states provide more options more cheaply than Obamacare exchanges, the National Center for Public Policy Research found.
Senior fellow for health policy David Hogberg found that on average both single 27-year-olds and married 57-year-old couples have more choice in private companies in 2013 than they’ll be able to find in Obamacare exchanges.
This is true even though the younger demographic is typically healthier with low health care costs and the older group is more likely to be subsidized by younger customers.
On average, both male and female 27-year-olds will have ten more options on eHealthInsurance.com than an Affordable Care Act marketplace. Young men will have 31 more choices on Finder.healthcare.gov than Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov, while young women will see 38 more. The results pan out for older customers as well. For a 57-year-old married couple, eHealth offers nine more plans on average, and Finder offers 19 more.
“Obamacare supporters, including the president himself and Nancy Pelosi, claimed the exchanges would yield more choice and lower prices,” Hogberg said. “This study shows those claims do not stand up.”
The price of the policies is likely to be a sticking point for many Americans. Still, a sizable chunk of the private alternatives proved to be less costly than Obamacare exchanges. For 27-year-old males, 32 health insurance policies on eHealth and 38 plans on Finder were less expensive than the exchanges’ cheapest policy. Young women can find 18 and 20 cheaper plans on the two exchanges respectively and for older couples, 29 and 28 plans on eHealth and Finder.
The private companies even beat subsidized options under Obamacare.
“For a 27-year-old earning $25,000 annually, the subsidy he would receive was often insufficient to make the cheapest exchange policy cost less than options on eHealth and Finder,” Hogberg found. “Even after subsidy options were accounted for, 27-year-old males still had access to an average of 18 cheaper policies on both eHealth and Finder, while a 27-year-old female had access to an average of nine on eHealth and eight on Finder.”
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has recalled embattled former IRS exempt organizations division head Lois Lerner to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Lerner’s apology for improperly scrutinizing and harassing conservative groups applying for non-profit status kicked off the IRS targeting scandal ten months ago, and Lerner has been stonewalling ever since (famously trying to invoke the Fifth Amendment the last time she testified but failing because she made a statement attesting to her innocence first). Her lawyer said she intends to “continue to assert her Fifth Amendment rights.” Since she already waived them, Issa better not allow that.
If The Daily Caller was Darrell Issa (and at this point we really should be) here are seven questions we’d ask Lois:
1. Will you admit you lied when you blamed the Cincinnati office?
Lerner initially blamed the conservative targeting on “our line agents in Cincinnati” and former IRS commissioner Steven Miller said the targeting was initiated by two “rogue” Cincinnati agents. The New York Times quickly went to bat for the administration, writing a widely mocked piece about problems at the “backwater” Cincinnati office, which allegedly operated with little to no Washington oversight. But Lerner’s own emails debunked her claim.
“Tea Party Matter very dangerous… Counsel and Judy Kindell need to be in on this one… Cincy should probably NOT have these cases,” Lerner said in a February 2011 email.
“Cincinnati wasn’t publicly ‘thrown under the bus’ (but) instead was hit by a convoy of Mack trucks,” wrote Cindy Thomas, former director of the IRS exempt organizations office in Cincinnati, in a May 10, 2013 email to Lerner.
2. How many offices targeted conservative groups?
Now that we know the wacky gang in Cincinnati wasn’t cooking up the whole scheme between Bengals games, trips to Oktoberfest and cups of Skyline Chili, we’re wondering how many offices received orders from Washington to “BOLO (Be on the Lookout).” By The Daily Caller”s count, there were at least five: Cincinnati, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Laguna Niguel, California, and El Monte, California.
3. How much did the IRS collude with Democratic political operatives and how involved was the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)?
“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner said in an email, responding to a complaint the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. The IRS and FEC reportedly collaborated on conservative targeting.
4. So these new 501(c)(4) rules restricting the political activity of nonprofit groups: When did you start developing them and why?
Lerner and the Obama administration’s Treasury Department conspired to draft new 501(c)(4) regulations to restrict the activity of conservative groups in a way that would not be disclosed publicly, despite the IRS’ claim that the rules are meant to clarify regulations following the scandal. The Treasury Department and Lerner started devising the new rules “off-plan,” meaning that their plans would not be published on the public schedule. Emails about the developing rules date back to at least 2011.
“Don’t know who in your organizations is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off -plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting…,” Treasury official Ruth Madrigal wrote in a June 14, 2012 email to Lerner and others.
5. Provide every single communication between the White House and the IRS between 2010 and 2012.
Top Internal Revenue Service Obamacare official Sarah Hall Ingram discussed confidential taxpayer information with senior Obama White House officials, according to 2012 emails. Lerner also received an email alongside White House officials that contained confidential information.
Ingram attempted to counsel the White House on a lawsuit from religious organizations opposing Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Email exchanges involving Ingram and White House officials — including White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz and deputy assistant to the president for health policy Jeanne Lambrew — contained confidential taxpayer information.
6. How many IRS agents did you specifically order to target conservative groups, and why was the Special Counsel’s Office involved?
“In April 2010, Mr. Hull was instructed to scrutinize certain Tea Party applications by one of his superiors in Washington. According to Mr. Hull, these applications were used as ‘test’ cases and assigned to him because of his expertise and because IRS leadership in Washington was ‘trying to find out how [the IRS] should approach these organizations, and how [the IRS] should handle them,’” according to Oversight Committee documents.
“According to Hull’s testimony, Ms. Lerner… gave an atypical instruction that the Tea Party applications undergo special scrutiny that included an uncommon multi-layer review that involved a top advisor to Lerner as well as the Chief Counsel’s office,” according to Oversight Committee documents.
In August 2012, the “Chief Counsel’s office held a meeting with Mr. Hull, Ms. Lerner’s senior advisor, and other Washington officials to discuss these test applications.”
7. Who ordered you to target conservative groups?
We know you weren’t the highest-ranking bureaucrat on the food chain. Now, regardless of whether or not we give you the immunity your lawyers have been trying to get you, you’re not going anywhere until you answer this question. Why don’t we make the lights a little brighter, turn up the heat in here, lock the ladies’ room door and put on the most recent Justin Bieber album. Go ahead and play it on repeat. We’re going to be here for a while. Ready to talk?
Nearly 4,000 applicants for a state program that provides undocumented immigrants with pregnancy services were instead enrolled in full Oregon Health Plan coverage, contrary to federal law, thanks to problems with the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange.
State officials say they discovered the problem several weeks ago and are correcting it.
The pregnancy program goof, however, is just one of many little-known problems that Oregon Health Plan members, providers, care groups and state officials have wrestled with as Oregon’s system for enrolling people undergoes chaotic change.
It’s the flip side of the Cover Oregon debacle, where much of the attention has focused on the travails of people applying for private or commercial insurance.
Two thirds of Cover Oregon’s enrollments — more than 70,000 — have gone into the low-income Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid. Combined with other enrollments since Oct. 1, OHP membership has swelled by more than 200,000, or about a third — a favorite talking point of state officials.
Many of those enrollments, however, have not gone smoothly:
•Thousands of OHP enrollees were labeled as individuals rather than family members, meaning some families were split between care organizations – creating needless hassles for parents seeking care.
•For months, the state grappled with inaccurate Medicaid coding, crucial to securing accurate federal matching funds.
•Department of Human Services workers who used to help clients afflicted by erroneous information now face difficulties doing so because their responsibilities have been transferred to Cover Oregon.
Some of the problems with OHP enrollments are due to limitations with the Cover Oregon exchange information technology. Others stem from flaws in the many “workaround” band-aid systems set up to patch for problems with the exchange. Officials say they are working through these issues slowly and attribute them to standard growing pains.
“It never works perfectly the first time out,” said Kathleen Paul, an Oregon Health Authority manager who has worked on the Cover Oregon information-technology project.
The Cover Oregon health insurance exchange was designed to communicate electronically with the Oregon Health Authority, which has a system for tracking Oregon Health Plan members.
That interface failed to work, however, and in late November Cover Oregon set up a backup system by which new OHP enrollee information is sent to the Oregon Health Authority, where state workers upload the data manually.
The information was sent over incorrectly and in an incomplete fashion until a few weeks ago, Paul said Friday. That resulted in 3,800 applicants for the Citizen/Alien-Waived Emergent Medical program receiving full OHP benefits instead. The program is set up for immigrants who are either undocumented or haven’t met the residency requirement for Medicaid.
“We were just getting people into the services,” Paul said, adding that the state will finish fixing the problem in the coming week.
Not only that, but Cover Oregon sent over names of thousands of Oregon Health Plan enrollees as individuals, rather than labeling them properly as families. In some cases this has caused some family members to be assigned to one care organization and provider group while others are assigned to a completely different one.
Paul says that problem is being fixed manually on a case-by-case basis.
“It’s been a mess for us,” said Jeff Heatherington, CEO of Family Care, Inc., one of the organizations that cares for Oregon Health Plan members in the Portland area. “It makes it very difficult for us to tie families together in our database. We can’t identify them, so we have to go through and set up a new data structure internally and then match addresses — all of which have been hand-entered so they don’t necessarily match.”
Jan Buffa, CEO of the Willamette Valley Providers Health Authority, an OHP provider organization based in Salem, says her group has seen fewer problems, but has been perturbed by mysterious fluctuations in its member rolls maintained by the Oregon Health Authority.
“We had a few hundred people disappear off of our enrollment, and (OHA) couldn’t explain it,” she said. “We’ve been waiting patiently for their explanation.”
Another problem: Oregon Health Authority workers have had to send out federally required notices to OHP members by hand, rather than in the automated way originally intended.
Many of the problems faced by OHP clients filter down to the caseworkers and eligibility specialists who staff the offices of the Department of Human Services, which used to handle enrollment before the exchange came along.
There, workers used to be able to fix problems such as address changes or incorrect information. But now, under the new system, they are largely denied the ability to change files to correct the many problems clients are reporting.
“It’s a very confusing and trying time right now,” said Jan Mautz, an eligibility analyst for the Oregon Health Authority, who says the situation was “horrendous” but is improving. She spoke through the Service Employees International Union, which represents Mautz and other caseworkers. “We’re trying our best to get people through the broken system. The systems don’t talk to each other.”
Lawmakers recently received an anonymous letter from state employees detailing a dozen such problems affecting tens of thousands of enrollees, including that the new IT system used by the Oregon Health Authority for OHP doesn’t properly calculate the code used to determine federal matching funds. “Medicaid has suffered an assault (and) is bleeding profusely,” the letter said.
Paul says there have been problems with the Medicaid code cited, but they’ve been recently fixed and stemmed not from the technology, but how the system was programmed. She said the letter reflects a misunderstanding of many of the issues, and many of the problems have been resolved.
“Things are different than they used to be, and that is presenting challenges for staff,” she said.
The agency is slowly making progress, officials stressed. For instance, a backlog of 30,000 applications and change orders that existed in late January has been whittled down to about half that figure.
Donald White, a spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said he couldn’t comment on the allegations made by the anonymous state employees.
“Until we have the results of an investigation, or at least a request for an investigation, there’s not much that I could actually say,” White said. “To the degree that there is HHS grant money involved, of course the Office of the Inspector General is very interested in pursuing the facts of this matter.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said “unacceptable threats” by US Secretary of State John Kerry over Crimea failed to take into account the violent power seizure in Kiev carried out by radicals.
In the statement released Monday, the ministry said Kerry’s “Cold War” rhetoric would do nothing to punish “radical extremists” who carried out the coup, but rather sought to put the focus on Russia. It was also critical of the G7’s decision to suspend preparations for the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, saying the move was unjustified.
The Foreign Ministry accused Washington and its allies of turning a blind eye to the excesses of what it called militant, Russophobic and anti-Semitic forces operating on Kiev’s central Independence Square, which pushed for the ouster of Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych last month.
“Not bothering to make any effort to understand the complex processes occurring within Ukrainian society or make an objective assessment of the environment, which is furthering the degradation following the forceful seizure of power in Kiev by radical extremists, [Secretary of State John Kerry] operates with a ‘Cold War’ stamp, offering not to punish those who carried out the government overthrow, but the Russian Federation,” the statement said.
“And while glossing over this, the USA and its allies have closed their eyes to the excesses of the radical fighters on Maidan, their bullying of political opponents and ordinary citizens, as well as their anti-Semitism and militant Russophobia.”
Moscow further accused European powers of standing idly by while the “newly born Kiev regime” trampled on the EU mediated agreement of February 21, in which Yanukovich reached a deal with the opposition to settle the crisis. The ministry noted the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland had signed off on the document which was thrown out of the window when opposition forces seized power the next day. In the process, the West has effectively allied itself with neo-Nazis who are smashing up Orthodox churches and synagogues while “declaring war on the Russian language.”
On Sunday, Kerry threatened to isolate Russia economically and politically for deploying troops in the Crimea to protect the majority Russian speaking population, which Moscow says is under threat.
“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests,” Kerry said during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”
“There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal trade routine, there could be business drawback on investment in the country,” he continued. “There could even be ultimately asset freezes, visa bans.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Monday warned that suspending preparations for the upcoming Group of 8 summit in Sochi would not only damage the member states, but the entire international community.
“In connection with a number of well-known statements from Group of Eight members, the decision to suspend work within the framework of the Russian presidency in the international structure will motivate nothing,” the spokesman said.
“It is not only politically defective, but also contrary to the principles of constructive cooperation of this format, which is oriented towards using the combined potential of the G8 in the interests of development, global stability, and the fight against transnational challenges and threats.”
Lukashevich said that he hopes that as opposed to the prevailing politicized climate in some capitals, they member states would be able to continue working together in the G8.
“The Russian side is ready for this,” he said.
On Sunday, the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission condemned Russia for what it called a”clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
“Russia’s actions in the Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion.”
Kerry issued a starker warning, saying that not only the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, but Russia’s membership in the global forum, were at risk.
“He is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry said. “He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble.”
The 40th G8 summit is to be held on June 4-5 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. If the meeting goes ahead, the leaders are expected to focus on responses to new global threats.