Illegals benefited from $750M in ObamaCare subsidies…

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Illegal immigrants and individuals with unclear legal status wrongly benefited from up to $750 million in ObamaCare subsidies and the government is struggling to recoup the money, according to a new Senate report obtained by Fox News.

The report, produced by Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, examined Affordable Care Act tax credits meant to defray the cost of insurance premiums. It found that as of June 2015, “the Administration awarded approximately $750 million in tax credits on behalf of individuals who were later determined to be ineligible because they failed to verify their citizenship, status as a national, or legal presence.”

The review found the credits went to more than 500,000 people – who are illegal immigrants or whose legal status was unclear due to insufficient records.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed to FoxNews.com on Monday that 471,000 customers with 2015 coverage failed to produce proper documentation on their citizenship or immigration status on time – but stressed that this does not necessarily mean they’re ineligible.

“Lack of verification does not mean an individual is ineligible for financial assistance, but only that a Marketplace did not receive sufficient information to verify eligibility in the time period outlined in the law,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said.

The Senate report also accused the administration of lacking a solid plan to get that money back – and predicted that in the end, the IRS will be “unable to fully recoup the funds.”

“The information provided to the Committee by the IRS and HHS reveals a troubling lack of coordination between the two agencies … and demonstrates that the IRS and HHS neglected to consider how they would recover these wasteful payments,” the report says.

Under the law, the feds can dole out these payments on a temporary basis if a recipient’s legal status is unclear, but are supposed to cut off funding and coverage if the recipient does not later come up with the paperwork. Up to a half-million “ineligible” people, according to the report, applied in this way — with their credits paid in advance to the insurers. The IRS, though, is supposed to get overpayments back from the individuals themselves.

The Senate report, based on a review launched by committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., derisively describes this approach as “pay and chase.”

In other words, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pays credits and subsidies to the insurance companies on behalf of the applicants – and the feds then “chase” after any overpayments to ineligible people once they are discovered.

“This ‘pay and chase’ model has potentially cost taxpayers approximately $750 million,” the report says. The 500,000 individuals in question have been removed from coverage, according to the findings, as the government seeks to get the money back.

The Senate report says the IRS and HHS initially failed to coordinate on a plan for recouping funds, and claimed that a subsequent plan from the IRS to recoup the money is still “ineffective and insufficient.”

In a July letter to Johnson, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen assured that the agency is “committed to identifying and efficiently addressing” improper payments. He reiterated that anyone “not lawfully present” who enrolls for ObamaCare coverage “must repay” the advance premium credit payments, and would be breaking the law if they don’t.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger contributed to this report.

Federal deficit to soar in 2016 after Ryan-Obama tax deal

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– The Washington Times – Updated: 6:33 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The tax-cut deal inked by President Obama and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month has put a major dent in the federal budget, helping send the deficit soaring by 24 percent, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.

The $544 billion deficit projected for 2016 marks the first year since 2009 that the red ink has grown, and it powers the deficit back up over the half-trillion mark, where it had been for most of Mr. Obama’s tenure.

Struck by the grim news, budget watchdogs said politicians needed to heed the wake-up call.

“Turning a blind eye to the problem, as so many congressional and presidential candidates have done, merely means they are passing the buck to the next generation as concerns about political damage outweigh policy advantages,” said Steve Bell, senior director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

CBO projections contained some good news, with the economy showing signs of solid growth in 2016 and 2017, finally overcoming some of the “slack” that built up during the 2008 Wall Street collapse and the Great Recession. Analysts said more people will be enticed back into the labor force, but inflation and interest rates will also rise as the economy ticks along.

But spending and taxes remain the biggest problem for the budget, with the twin deals at the end of last year to break the sequester budget caps that had held spending in check, and to extend a series of special interest tax breaks.

Combined, they meant the government needed more money than ever — but had less flowing in.

Overall, spending will spike by 6 percent in fiscal year 2016, to reach $3.9 trillion. That amounts to 21.2 percent of the country’s output as measured by gross domestic product.

By contrast the government will collect just $3.4 trillion in taxes, or 18.3 percent of GDP.

Those trends will continue for the next decade, the CBO report. Taxes will hold steady at about 18 percent of GDP, while spending will rise from 21 percent to 23 percent — producing ever-worse budget news for the next president to handle.

Deficits peaked at $1.4 trillion in 2009, as the government under first President George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama spent freely to try to prop up banks and to stimulate the economy after the 2008 downturn. The numbers dropped steadily through 2012, when the hole was $1.1 trillion, then dropped more quickly in 2013, falling to $680 billion, and to $439 billion by last year.

At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the economic numbers are proof that the president’s policies have finally righted the economy and produced 70 consecutive months of job gains.

“That’s an indication of a strong bounce back from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” he said.

But Mr. Earnest refused to say whether the president’s 2017 budget, due to Congress in a few weeks, will make progress in cutting the deficit.

“Stay tuned,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Obama has never presented a balanced budget to Congress, and fought the spending cuts that helped reduce the deficits during his time in office. Instead, he’s pushed for tax increases, with the new money being used to finance his plans for broader government spending.

Those budgets have routinely been rejected by Congress, and with Republicans in control of both chambers, Mr. Obama’s latest plan is unlikely to do any better.

Just five months ago the CBO had projected the deficit would drop in 2016. Instead, it will rise some $105 billion.

“That increase is largely attributable to legislation enacted since August — in particular, the retroactive extension of a number of provisions that reduce corporate and individual income taxes,” the CBO said.

As deficits grow again, the debt will also pile up. Debt held by the public, which excludes borrowing from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, already accounts for 73.6 percent of GDP. The CBO last year had projected debt might dip as the deficit dropped, but now says it will continue its steady rise, topping 85 percent by 2026.

The president and Congress did find bipartisan agreement on the tax package and spending hikes last year, undoing several years of progress in holding the line on spending. Indeed, government spending actually dropped in 2012 and 2013, then ticked up in 2014 and 2015.

This year, that trickle will become a flood.

Most of the increased spending will come from the government’s health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, which will surge $104 billion, or 11 percent, compared to 2015.

 

Obama vetoes legislation repealing Obamacare, defunding Planned Parenthood

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President Barack Obama has vetoed legislation that would have repealed much of Obamacare and defunded Planned Parenthood. It is the first time the president has used his power of veto to defend his signature healthcare legislation.

“This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America,” Obama wrote members of the House in a letter.

Earlier on Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the legislation and sent it to the president’s desk. The measure passed by a vote of 240 to 181, with just one Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson (Minneapolis) voting in favor. Three Republicans voted against the measure.

We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: ObamaCare doesn’t work,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said at the time of the vote, according to The Hill.

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With the president’s veto on the books, however, Congress can override the veto only by a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

If passed into the law, the bill would have dismantled the healthcare law’s key pillars, including requirements that most people obtain coverage, and that larger employers offer insurance to workers. It would also have eliminated the expansion of Medicaid coverage to lower-income people and the government’s subsidies for many who buy policies on the newly created insurance marketplaces. Additionally, it would end taxes which the law imposed to cover its costs.

Republicans argued the health law has driven up costs and hurt consumers, and they promised “patient-centered” solutions in its place. Ryan told reporters the House would come up with its own plan this year but hedged when asked when the GOP would ever vote on a replacement to Obamacare.

“Nothing’s been decided yet,” Ryan said, reported the Associated Press. “Just wait.”

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Democrats denounced the measure on the House floor, arguing that roughly 16 million people were enrolled in the Obamacare programs, and that the repeal measure would likely result in about 22 million fewer people having healthcare in 2017, quoting data from analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

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The bill would have terminated the roughly $450 million in federal dollars that annually go to Planned Parenthood, which makes up about a third of its budget. The healthcare service is a target of Republican attacks over its abortion services, as well as a recent scandal over providing fetal tissue for research.

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The repeal legislation was passed by the Senate through a fast-track process known as reconciliation, despite previous efforts by Democrats to filibuster the bill.

Another Obamacare Co-Op Shuts Down

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ANOTHER OBAMACARE CO-OP SHUTS DOWN, AMASSING MORE THAN 50 PERCENT FAILURE RATE

BY JOHN SEXTON

Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan has announced it will be winding down its operation prior to 2016, making it the twelfth Obamacare co-op to fail this year.

An FAQ on the insurer’s website reads, “[You] will need to purchase health insurance from another company prior to December 15, 2015 in order to have coverage on January 1, 2016.” Consumers are also told that, as long as they continue to pay their premiums, the co-op will handle their claims through the end of the year.

The closure of Consumers Mutual represents a grim milestone for the Obamacare co-ops, as more than half of the 23 original co-ops have now failed. Previous closures include the co-ops in Arizona, Utah, South Carolina, Colorado, Iowa/Nebraska, Louisiana, New York,Nevada, Tennessee, Oregon, and Kentucky.

The Obamacare co-ops are non-profit insurers created to offer lower cost options to consumers on the exchange. Their rates were often among the lowest in a given state. However, those low rates turned out to be a problem when enrollment did not meet expectations or when healthcare claims exceeded expectations. An Inspector General’s report published this summer found that 22 of the 23 co-ops lost money in 2014. Nineteen had claims that exceeded premiums.

No statement about the closure has, so far, been released by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. Several of the co-ops that have failed in the last month cited an announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on October 1 that it would only pay 12.6% of requests made under the so-called risk corridors program.

Risk corridors is a pool of money which insurers who earn more than anticipated pay into so that those who earn less than needed to cover expenses can draw from it. In 2014, only $362 million was paid into the pool, and $2.87 billion was requested from it. Because HHS is prevented by law from supplementing the pool with additional funds, it could only pay out 12.6% of claims.

Budget Deal Signed By Obama; Voters Mocked Again

Published on Nov 3, 2015

Rush Limbaugh (11/2/15): “So all’s well, folks. The Democrats won’t blame the Republicans for shutting down the government, and the Democrats are no longer gonna be talking about how senior citizens won’t get their checks and veterans won’t get their health care and Medicare patients won’t get their health care and Medicaid patients.”

Budget Deal Signed By Obama; Voters Mocked Again