Americans are so down on President Obama at the moment that, if they could do the 2012 election all over again, they'd overwhelmingly back the former Massachusetts governor's bid. That's just one finding in a brutal CNN poll, released Sunday, which shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That's an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent.
Two years ago, Obama won re-election with about 51 percent of the vote.
It was announced today that an additional 7.6 million U.S. vehicles are being recalled. GM stock is trading around $37 today (you'll recall it needed to hit around $55 a share for the taxpayers to break even on their "investment").
It's worth noting the decision was unanimous with the Justices, reminding the President that the Senate makes Senate rules, not the White House; and that Obama's appointments were unnecessarily extreme.
The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.
The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall's congressional elections.
Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a "bailout" for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law.
They continue to argue that most insurers shouldn't need to substantially increase premiums because safeguards in the healthcare law will protect them over the next several years.
But the change in regulations essentially provides insurers with another backup: If they keep rate increases modest over the next couple of years but lose money, the administration will tap federal funds as needed to cover shortfalls.
“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal. No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”
In Denver, 2½ times as many people enrolled in the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program from October through the first quarter of 2014 as those who signed up for private insurance through the state exchange, state figures show.
And in Colorado and nationwide, Medicaid enrollments outpace private insurance registrants.
Colorado ranked 11th in the nation of states with the highest percentage of Medicaid enrollments compared with private insurance subscribers through marketplaces as of the end of February, a Denver Post analysis of federal numbers shows.
State Sen. Kent Lambert, a Colorado Springs Republican who serves on the Joint Budget Committee, said the Medicaid figures show that the Affordable Care Act was more about expanding government-funded health care than getting more people covered by private health insurance.
"It's a huge burden on taxpayers," Lambert said. "Colorado made a decision, the governor made a decision under Democratic leadership to expand the criteria for Medicaid to a much larger population, and the federal government also expanded Medicaid."
So we forced lots of folks onto a taxpayer-funded program, that is already overburdened. Obviously that means taxes will have to go up, to meet the new demands.
Nice program, Mr. President.
Even those that were willing to pay for their own coverage, were surprised to learn they get it for free:
Denver resident Patrick Jones tried to sign up for private health insurance through the state exchange after quitting his job to return to get more work training, but he said he was directed to Medicaid.
"I was shocked," said the 27-year-old who left an Internet marketing job to learn programming through an online course. "I was ready to pay for insurance, and I was shocked when I was told you are going to receive Medicaid."
But Jones is happy because he gets insurance coverage with no monthly premium at least until he starts a new job and gets employer coverage or makes too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Up to six people were stabbed at a high school near Pittsburgh and one person is in custody early Wednesday, emergency officials say.
Dan Stevens, spokesman for Westmoreland County emergency management, said the suspect is in custody at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, roughly 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.
"A critical incident has occurred at the high school," a message on the school district's website reads. "All elementary schools are cancelled, the middle school and high school students are secure. Additional information will be released as soon as possible. Please keep our campus clear of traffic."
It's unclear if the suspect and the victims are students, adults, or a mix of both. Stevens said it doesn't appear any of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.
A person may have ran through the school slashing or puncturing students with a knife or other sharp object, according to early reports cited by The Associated Press.
Let me be perfectly clear here. I'm not in any way, shape or form trying to lessen the horror of what happened in Pennsylvania today. I'm merely pointing out the obvious: when someone is determined to do harm to others, they will always find a way to do it.
The Today show is reporting "up to 20" injured in the attack.
The hospital bills are hitting Larry Basich’s mailbox.
That would be OK if Basich had health insurance. But he doesn’t.
Thing is, he should be covered. Basich, 62, bought a plan through the state’s Nevada Health Link insurance exchange in the fall. He’s been paying monthly premiums since November.
Yet the Las Vegan is stranded in a no-man’s-land where no carrier claims him, and his tab is mounting: Basich owes $407,000 for care received in January and February, when his policy was supposed to be in effect. Instead, he’s covered only for March and beyond.
Basich has begged for weeks for help from the exchange and its contractor, Xerox. But Basich’s insurance broker said Xerox seems more interested in lawyering up and covering its hide than in working out Basich’s problems. Nor is Basich the only client facing plan-selection errors through the exchange, she added.
Xerox, meanwhile, said it’s working every day to fix Basich’s problem, and its legal counsel is routine.
In the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its insurance exchanges, you can find a success story for every failure. But Basich’s case is extreme.
Basich said he began trying to enroll on Oct. 1, the day the exchange website went live. Like many consumers, he fought technical flaws during multiple sign-up attempts. In mid-November he finally got through and chose his plan: UnitedHealthcare’s MyHPNSilver1.
“It was like reaching the third level of Doom,” Basich said of the torturous sign-up process.
Basich paid his first premium on Nov. 21, and within days the exchange withdrew the $160.77 payment from his money-market savings account. Because Basich paid a month before the Dec. 23 deadline, his coverage was to begin Jan. 1.
Weeks ticked by, but Basich received nothing to confirm he had insurance. Nevada Health Link kept telling him he was enrolled, but UnitedHealthcare said he wasn’t in their system.
Basich’s predicament went critical on Dec. 31, when he had a heart attack. His treatment, which included a triple bypass on Jan. 3, resulted in $407,000 in medical bills in January and February that no insurer is covering.
Basich and his insurance broker, Tamar Burch of Branch Benefits Consultants, said the issue appears to be confusion at the state exchange. Xerox’s system says Basich chose a plan from another insurer, Nevada Health CO-OP, even though Basich has paperwork that shows he selected MyHPNSilver1. In short, Xerox can’t seem to decide where Basich belongs, Burch said.
So the exchange is trying to compromise, putting Basich with Nevada Health CO-OP for January and February, when he incurred his bills, and with UnitedHealthcare from this month on. But CO-OP officials say Basich is not their member.
Nevada Health CO-OP CEO Tom Zumtobel told the exchange board on Feb. 27 that the nonprofit carrier spent seven days with Xerox determining Basich’s eligibility, only to find that Basich hadn’t chosen the group’s coverage.
“If he had picked our health plan, we would be advocating for a solution. But he didn’t pick us,” Zumtobel said. “We need someone on the board to advocate for him.”
Why have four months passed without a resolution?
“Xerox is truly out of their league. They need to understand they are an administrator, they are not an insurance company,” Burch said. “They need to understand their boundaries. They don’t understand this world. Everybody is at the mercy of Xerox, and they are not doing this right.”
Xerox representatives responded that they’re working hard to make it right.
“Mr. Basich’s issue is complex, and we’re working on it every day. We are in touch with Mr. Basich, his broker, the carriers, (Silver State Health Insurance Exchange) leadership, and the Division of Insurance to sort it out,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer.
The help didn’t come fast enough, said Basich, who blames his back-and-forth with the exchange in December at least in part for stress that caused his heart attack. That stress has turned up a few notches now that Basich is getting the bills. He fretted in the exchange board’s Thursday meeting about what will happen to his credit rating — and his ability to qualify for a mortgage — if the bills are not covered.
“All I wanted to do when I moved here was buy a house, get a dog and go to some spring training games for the Dodgers,” said Basich, who moved to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2012.
Meanwhile, the exchange sent Basich premium invoices for January and February. He paid them both.
ObamaCare's implementers continue to roam the battlefield and shoot their own wounded, and the latest casualty is the core of the Affordable Care Act—the individual mandate. To wit, last week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty.
This latest political reconstruction has received zero media notice, and the Health and Human Services Department didn't think the details were worth discussing in a conference call, press materials or fact sheet. Instead, the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don't comply with ObamaCare benefit and redistribution mandates. Our sources only noticed the change this week.
That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.
In 2013, HHS decided that ObamaCare's wave of policy terminations qualified as a "hardship" that entitled people to a special type of coverage designed for people under age 30 or a mandate exemption. HHS originally defined and reserved hardship exemptions for the truly down and out such as battered women, the evicted and bankrupts.
But amid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you "believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy" or "you consider other available policies unaffordable."
This lax standard—no formula or hard test beyond a person's belief—at least ostensibly requires proof such as an insurer termination notice. But people can also qualify for hardships for the unspecified nonreason that "you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance," which only requires "documentation if possible." And yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance. In a word, these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.
Keep in mind that the White House argued at the Supreme Court that the individual mandate to buy insurance was indispensable to the law's success, and President Obama continues to say he'd veto the bipartisan bills that would delay or repeal it.