**Written by Doug Powers
If you want the latest Obamacare data from the “most transparent administration in history,” you’ll have to wait for a long time. However, if you want to know the name of the CIA’s station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, no biggie!
From the Washington Post:
The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops.The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.The disclosure marked a rare instance in which a CIA officer working overseas had his cover — the secrecy meant to protect his actual identity — pierced by his own government.
The Post is withholding the name of the CIA officer at the request of Obama administration officials who warned that the officer and his family could be at risk if the name were published.
The White House issued a revised list — after the email containing the name of the CIA’s Kabul station chief had already been emailed to 6,000 recipients. What could possibly go wrong?
The White House is expected to issue an official response after President Obama learns about the station chief’s blown cover from news reports a few days from now.
The administration has quietly stopped releasing ObamaCare enrollment numbers
POSTED AT 7:01 PM ON MAY 24, 2014 BY ERIKA JOHNSEN
During the initial open enrollment period, the Obama administration released monthly enrollment reports that — even if they were exasperatingly incomplete and/or doctored in what data they chose to reveal — gave us at least some sort of idea of what was going on with the president’s crowning legislative achievement. Now that the Obama administration has that alleged 8 million sing-ups number to tout, however, they evidently no longer feel the need to even keep up the pretense of releasing regular reports on the law’s progress. AsPolitico reports (paywall):
The Obama administration has quietly decided to halt its monthly updates on Obamacare enrollment, which were a major pipeline of information about the impact of the health law heading into the 2014 campaign season. ‘HHS issued monthly enrollment reports during the first marketplace open enrollment period in order to provide the best understanding of enrollment activities as it was taking place,’ an HHS spokeswoman emailed. ‘Now that this time period has ended, we will look at future opportunities to share information about the marketplace that is reliable and accurate over time as further analysis can be done but we do not anticipate monthly reports.’ The agency offered no information about the timing or level of detail in any future updates.
Yes, the initial open enrollment period is over, but people can still sign up for health insurance through the exchanges if they experience a qualifying “life event” (job loss, new baby, etc.). That means that the number of the ObamaCare-insured could continue to rise throughout the year, but people can also still drop their newfound health insurance at any time for any number of reasons — meaning that the number could fall, too. As Michael Cannon explains at Forbes:
I have written at some length about the huge incentives ObamaCare creates to drop one’s coverage and wait until sick to re-enroll, and how those incentives threaten the stability of the law’s health insurance Exchanges. Basically, if you drop your coverage, (1) avoiding the penalty is fairly straightforward, (2) you can get re-enroll the following January no matter how sick you get, and (3) in many cases, ObamaCare lets you enroll in coverage before January, again no matter how sick you get. If healthy enrollees become aware of and act on this perverse incentive, the Exchange pools will grow sicker, premiums will rise further, and the Exchanges could collapse.Gaba expects enrollments to continue to rise each month. But if attrition overwhelms new enrollment, it could mean that consumers find Exchange plans too expensive relative to job-based coverage, or that the poor quality of Exchange coverage is causing people to flee, or that people are gaming the system in the above manner.
In other words, the Obama administration doesn’t really know what’s going to happen with the trajectory of the enrollment numbers — and they don’t really want us to find out, especially not before the midterms while they still have that awesome 8 million “mission accomplished” number to trumpet. I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything less from The Most Transparent Administration, Evah.
WASHINGTON — Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day — or $36,500 a year — for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.
The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.
Under a central provision of the health care law, larger employers are required to offer health coverage to full-time workers, or else the employers may be subject to penalties.
Many employers — some that now offer coverage and some that do not — had concluded that it would be cheaper to provide each employee with a lump sum of money to buy insurance on an exchange, instead of providing coverage directly.
But the Obama administration raised objections, contained in an authoritative question-and-answer document released by the Internal Revenue Service, in consultation with other agencies.
The health law, known as the Affordable Care Act, builds on the current system of employer-based health insurance. The administration, like many in Congress, wants employers to continue to provide coverage to workers and their families.
“I don’t think that an employer-based system is going to be, or should be, replaced anytime soon,” President Obama said recently, when asked if the law might speed the erosion of employer-sponsored insurance.
When employers provide coverage, their contributions, averaging more than $5,000 a year per employee, are not counted as taxable income to workers. But the Internal Revenue Service said employers could not meet their obligations under the health care law by simply reimbursing employees for some or all of their premium costs.
Christopher E. Condeluci, a former tax and benefits counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, said the ruling was significant because it made clear that “an employee cannot use tax-free contributions from an employer to purchase an insurance policy sold in the individual health insurance market, inside or outside an exchange.”
If an employer wants to help employees buy insurance on their own, Mr. Condeluci said, it can give them higher pay, in the form of taxable wages. But in such cases, he said, the employer and the employee would owe payroll taxes on those wages, and the change could be viewed by workers as reducing a valuable benefit.
Andrew R. Biebl, a tax partner at CliftonLarsonAllen, a large accounting firm based in Minneapolis, said the ruling could disrupt arrangements used in many industries.
“For decades,” Mr. Biebl said, “employers have been assisting employees by reimbursing them for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The new federal ruling eliminates many of those arrangements by imposing an unusually punitive penalty.”
When an employer reimburses employees for premiums, the arrangement is known as an employer payment plan. “These employer payment plans are considered to be group health plans,” the I.R.S. said, but they do not satisfy requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Under the law, insurers may not impose annual limits on the dollar amount of benefits for any individual, and they must provide certain preventive services, like mammograms and colon cancer screenings, without co-payments or other charges.
But the administration said employer payment plans do not meet those requirements.
Richard K. Lindquist, the president of Zane Benefits in Park City, Utah, a software company that helps employers reimburse workers for health insurance costs, said, “The I.R.S. is going out of its way to keep employers in the group insurance market and to reduce the incentives for them to drop coverage.”
The ruling came as the Obama administration rushed to provide guidance to employers and insurers deciding what types of coverage to offer in 2015.
In a new regulation, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would provide financial assistance to certain insurers that experience unexpected financial losses this year. Administration officials hope the payments will stabilize premiums and prevent rate increases that could embarrass Democrats in this year’s midterm elections.
Republicans want to block the payments, which they see as a bailout for insurance companies that supported the president’s health care law.
In a separate rule, the administration prohibits states from imposing onerous restrictions on insurance counselors, who educate consumers and help them enroll in health plans. Under the rule, states cannot establish standards that impair the counselors’ ability to help consumers or to perform other tasks required by federal law.
In January, a federal district judge in Missouri found that the state was illegally obstructing the activities of insurance counselors, including those known as navigators. The state has appealed the decision.
**Written by Doug Powers
The president tried to do the “mad as hell” thing this morning during remarks about the VA scandal, but Obama does the anger thing so unconvincingly he makes Ned Flanders look like a rage-o-holic.
From the AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to head off a growing furor over veterans’ health care, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals are “dishonorable” and will be not be tolerated by his administration.“I will not stand for it — not as commander in chief but also not as an American,” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.His administration is under mounting pressure from Capitol Hill to address troubling allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals.
Obama basically said he’s ordering more investigation into the studies of the reports of the problems, as CNN mentioned following Obama’s remarks (CNN wasn’t going to cover the VA story but they already had a reporter in Phoenix looking for the missing plane, so they figured what the hell):
One of the people Obama has assigned to investigate this horrible VA story? Why, the head of the VA, naturally:
Second, I want to know the full scope of this problem, and that’s why I ordered Secretary Shinseki to investigate. Today he updated me on his review, which is looking not just at the Phoenix facility but also VA facilities across the nation. And I expect preliminary results from that review next week.
There hasn’t been as impartial an inquisitor since the last time Eric Holder investigated Eric Holder.
So far, the only “punishment” that we’ve seen is the resignation of a VA official who was already retiring anyway (heads never roll — but they are given haircuts and nice retirement packages).
Out of all the scandals (“phony” and otherwise), how many people has Obama held accountable in any meaningful way?
How America treats illegal aliens vs. veterans
by Michelle Malkin
by Michelle Malkin
A government that fails to secure its borders is guilty of dereliction of duty. A government that fails to care for our men and women on the frontlines is guilty of malpractice. A government that puts the needs of illegal aliens above U.S. veterans for political gain should be prosecuted for criminal neglect bordering on treason.
Compare, contrast and weep:
In Sacramento, Calif., lawmakers are moving forward with a budget-busting plan to extend government-funded health insurance to at least 1.5 million illegal aliens.
In Los Angeles, federal bureaucrats callously canceled an estimated 40,000 diagnostic tests and treatments for American veterans with cancer and other illnesses to cover up a decade-long backlog.
In New York, doctors report that nearly 40 percent of their patients receiving kidney dialysis are illegal aliens. A survey of nephrologists in 44 states revealed that 65 percent of them treat illegal aliens with kidney disease.
In Memphis, a VA whistleblower reported that his hospital was usingcontaminated kidney dialysis machines to treat America’s warriors. The same hospital previously had been investigated for chronic overcrowdingat its emergency room, leading to six-hour waits or longer. Another watchdog probe found unconscionable delays in processing lab tests at the center. In addition, three patients died under negligent circumstances, and the hospital failed to enforce accountability measures.
In Arizona, illegal aliens incurred health care costs totaling an estimated $700 million in 2009.
In Phoenix, at least 40 veterans died waiting for VA hospitals and clinics to treat them, while government officials created secret waiting lists to cook the books and deceive the public about deadly treatment delays.
At the University of California at Berkeley, UC President Janet Napolitano (former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security) has offered $5 million in financial aid to illegal alien students. Across the country, 16 states offer in-state tuition discounts for illegal aliens: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. In addition, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and the University of Michigan Board of Regents all approved their own illegal alien tuition benefits.
In 2013, the nation’s most selective colleges and universities had enrolled just 168 American veterans, down from 232 in 2011. Anti-war activists have waged war on military recruitment offices at elite campuses for years. The huge influx of illegal aliens in state universities is shrinking the number of state-subsidized slots for vets. [And the Obama administration put military tuition assistance up front on the politically-driven chopping block during the sequestration circus last spring.]
In 2013, the Obama Department of Homeland Security released 36,007 known, convicted criminal illegal aliens, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The catch-and-release beneficiaries include thugs convicted of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and thousands of drunk or drugged driving crimes.
The same Department of Homeland Security issued a report in 2009 that identified returning combat veterans as worrisome terrorist and criminal threats to America.
In Washington, Big Business and open-borders lobbyists are redoubling efforts to pass another massive illegal alien amnesty to flood the U.S. job market with low-wage labor.
Across the country, men and women in uniform returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have higher jobless rates than the civilian population. The unemployment rate for new veterans has spiked to its worst levels, nearing 15 percent. For veterans ages 24 and under, the jobless rate is a whopping 29.1 percent, compared to 17.6 percent nationally for the age group. A Forbes columnist reported last year that an Air Force veteran was told: “We don’t hire your kind.”
And last December, Democrats led the charge to reduce cost-of-living increases in military pensions — while blocking GOP Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ efforts toclose a $4.2 billion loophole that allows illegal aliens to collect child tax credits from the IRS, even if they pay no taxes. Stopping the fraudulent payments to illegal aliens would have offset the cuts to veterans’ benefits.
America: medical and welfare welcome mat to the rest of the world, while leavings its best and bravest veterans to languish in hospital lounges, die waiting for appointments, and compete for jobs and educational opportunities against illegal border-crossers, document fakers, visa violators and deportation evaders. Shame on us.