Free Markets, Free People

Health Care

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Blatant cronyism? Most likely, yes …

This on-line debacle that’s so embarrassed the Democrats and the Obama administration?  It is likely the result of blatant cronyism.  The inept hiring the incompetent:

A tech firm linked to a campaign-donor crony of President Obama not only got the job to help build the federal health-insurance Web site — but also is getting paid to fix it.

Anthony Welters, a top campaign bundler for Obama and frequent White House guest, is the executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, which owns the software company now at the center of the ObamaCare Web-site fiasco.

UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), which built the data hub for the ObamaCare system, has been named the new general contractor in charge of repairing the glitch-plagued HealthCare.gov.

Welters and his wife, Beatrice, have shoveled piles of cash into Obama’s campaign coffers and ­apparently reaped the rewards.

Beatrice Welters bundled donations totaling between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s campaign during the 2008 election ­cycle, according to campaign- ­finance data compiled by Center for Responsive Politics.

Well, how sweet is that?  Give a little, get a lot!  And while this certainly isn’t the first administration or political party to practice cronyism, it certainly is the most open about it.  One would almost think they believe that they are entitled.  A spoils system of sorts.

UnitedHealth Group is one of the largest health-insurance companies in the country and spent millions lobbying for ObamaCare.

The insurance giant’s purchase of QSSI in 2012 raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, but the tech firm nevertheless kept the job of building the data hub for the ObamaCare Web site where consumers buy the new mandatory health- ­insurance plans.

QSSI has been paid an estimated $150 million so far, but officials couldn’t say how much more the company might collect on the ­repair contract.

Whatever happened to the belief that there should be a distance between politics and business?  Once, it was a point of integrity to ensure there was no shadow or hint of a possible conflict of interest?

Now?  Just line up at the trough, those that gave the most get the most.  As for the work?  Just like every other government program (except health care), they’ll be glad to overpay for shoddy work.

And here we are.

“I’m extraordinarily frustrated,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) ­after top Obama-administration officials gave Senate Democrats a private briefing on the state of the Web-site repairs.

He said they were losing confidence the site could be quickly fixed.

“I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the room. This is more of a show-me moment,” said Merkley.

I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the country – except, of  course, the “true believers”.

~McQ

Accountability–an unknown word in DC

Or so it seems.

Tell me, if a senior executive of any corporation had rolled out a product that was as bad as the ObamaCare website and had caused as much embarrassment and grief for the corporation as this roll out has produced for this administration, would they likely still be employed by the corporation?

Oh, I’m sure you can think of some “lifeboat” instance where it might happen, but for the most part, they’d have been sent packing immediately after the depth of their non-performance was ascertained. 

But not in this government.  I’m of the opinion that Kathleen Sebelius must have Obama’s college transcripts or something to still be employed.  That said, pressure for her ouster continues to build:

It’s Kathleen Sebelius’s turn now. On the Hill, they’re calling for her resignation and tossing around words like “subpoena.” Pundits are merrily debating her future. (She’s toast! Or is Obama too loyal to fire her so soon?) Her interviews, more closely parsed than usual, seem wobbly. Though never a colorful presence on the political scene, she’s suddenly a late-night TV punch line.

And on Wednesday morning, the embattled secretary of health and human services will submit to a quintessential station of the Washington deathwatch — testifying before a congressional committee — to discuss her agency’s failings in the botched rollout of the federal health-insurance Web site.

Granted, this is only part of the on-going debacle that is the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare”.  And while it will, in years to come, be cited as the perfect example of ineptitude coupled with incompetence, it isn’t the big problem right now.  The big problem, as pointed out yesterday, is the country was purposely lied too in order to garner enough support to push this monstrosity through Congress and make it law.

Lied too.  Point blank and with a smile.  Jonah Goldberg shares my opinion of Obama’s lie and goes a century or two more:

And that lie looks like the biggest lie about domestic policy ever uttered by a U.S. president.

Ever.  For those of you who want to cite Clinton, Nixon or some other president, Goldberg points out:

The most famous presidential lies have to do with misconduct (Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” or Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations”) or war. Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan “He kept us out of war” and then plunged us into a calamitous war. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a similar vow: “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Roosevelt knew he was making false promises. He explained to an aide: “If someone attacks us, it isn’t a foreign war, is it?” When his own son questioned his honesty, FDR replied: “If I don’t say I hate war, then people are going to think I don’t hate war. . . . If I don’t say I won’t send our sons to fight on foreign battlefields, then people will think I want to send them. . . . So you play the game the way it has been played over the years, and you play to win.”

Is that the case with Obama? Lying in order to pass some cherished legislation which won’t at all do what you promise it will do is “the game” and in politics, justifies “playing to win”?

Or is it, much more simply, damn the truth, the ends justify the means?

Yeah, that’s how I see it too.

As for accountability for the Obama lie, don’t hold your breath.  Sebelius may end up biting the bullet.  But the buck won’t even slow down at Obama’s desk.

~McQ

ObamaCare – it just keeps getting better and better

Or not:

16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law’s benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1.

And how many have managed to enroll?  Well it appears that number is in the thousands, and as we mentioned on the podcast last night, most of those are enrolling in Medicaid.

Meanwhile, the failed law continues to impact the lives of fellow citizens negatively.

New Jersey:

Hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans opened the mail last week to find their health insurance plan would no longer exist in 2014 because it does not cover all the essential benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. … The changes will impact more than 800,000 people in New Jersey who purchase insurance on the individual and small-employer markets, according to Ward Sanders, president of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans.

Florida:

Florida Blue is dropping 300,000 customers whose policies the health insurer says aren’t sufficiently comprehensive under the health care overhaul. The Jacksonville-based insurance company said Thursday that the 300,000 policyholders have plans that don’t include all of the 10 categories of benefits required under the Affordable Care Act.

California:

Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. … Blue Shield of California sent roughly 119,000 cancellation notices out in mid-September, about 60 percent of its individual business.

Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC:

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is being forced to cancel plans that currently cover 76,000 individuals in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., due to changes made by President Obama’s health care law, the company told the Washington Examiner today. That represents more than 40 percent of the 177,000 individuals covered by CareFirst in those states.

Pennsylvania and surrounding regions:

Independence Blue Cross is canceling coverage for 24,000 members in the Philadelphia region because their insurance plans don’t comply with new rules from the Affordable Care Act, Newsworks reported.

[...]

Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.

And these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  16 million dumped after they were promised what?

“If you like your current plan, you will be able to keep it. Let me repeat that:  if you like your plan, you’ll be able to keep it.”

Because, you remember, that was a MAJOR FEATURE of ObamaCare:

“In fact, one of our core principles is that if you like the health care you have, you can keep it.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.8642, 8/3/09)

Ah yes, the lying liars that brought us the biggest lie of the 21st century to date.

“All we’ve been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it… I’m infuriated because I was lied to.”

How’s it feel to have been “had” this badly?

~McQ

ObamaCare’s technical failure only masks its worse failures

As a designed program it is a disaster. Why? Because it does few if any of the things it was supposed to do (remember: “if you like your insurance and want to keep it?”). Now the New York Times – a rah, rah supporter of the law – has found another “design flaw”:

As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.

While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.

You have to chuckle a bit at the abject ignorance the Times often displays as evidenced by the fact that they don’t seem to understand that price controls/setting isn’t going to foster much competition among anyone. And, when government decides what each policy must contain, they’re not going to be cheap. Oh they may seem relatively cheap, but then there are those damnable deductibles, aren’t there?

Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.

The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.

“There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,” said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. “I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.”

The Obama administration has said 95 percent of Americans live in areas where there are at least two insurers in the exchanges. But many experts say two might not be enough to create competition that would help lower prices.

What was that word again? Oh yeah, “incentive”. What “incentive” is there for an insurer to enter a market simply to lower prices so no one can survive? Yeah, probably not much. And in rural areas where population is thin in comparison to urban areas, the cost of doing business may preclude the entrance of a third carrier because there’s no positive incentive to do so. I.e. they don’t see profit being higher than the cost of doing business. Imagine that?

But hey, it’s the law and law is magic, you know. It declares something will be so and it must be so. Right?

Well, that’s the “thinking” behind this law, such that it is … the law of the underwear gnomes come to life.

~McQ

ObamaCare launch is debacle of the leadership’s own making

Everything I read about this debacle that is ObamaCare’s launch is summed up pretty well in this paragraph:

In an era where Google is making self-driving cars and Amazon offers next-day delivery for just about anything, the White House plunged ahead with a system it knew to be defective and is relying on the technology of the 19th century as the fall-back. Five days before the exchanges launched, the Health and Human Services Department increased the Virginia information technology company Serco’s $114 million contract by $87 million—to help process paper applications. Are contingency plans in place to sign up via telegraph?

Pitiful doesn’t begin to describe the effort. Incompetent is too tame to encompass the leadership. Inept would be a compliment if describing the launch.

And yet we think these people, the people who designed and put this monstrosity together and thought it good enough to launch, can be trusted with our health care.

Really?

It makes one wonder about the collective intelligence of the citizenry.

P.S.  Thought you’d like to know that in the new liberal conventional wisdom, “death panels” are now a “good thing”, especially if the state has final say.

Gee, never saw that coming.

BTW, can anyone guess the greatest lie of the 21st Century to date?

“If you like your insurance and want to keep it, you can.”

~McQ

ObamaCare rollout: When you’ve lost MSNBC …

How bad is it?  Well, here’s a clip of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.  In it, the group isn’t even polite about it – they simply point out that the administration is now engaged in lying about it’s rollout and the numbers involved.  Even they can’t find it in themselves to prevaricate about what’s been going on.  It’s a disaster and even the left can see that:

Usually, when something is so bad that it can’t be denied, even the left will finally admit it.  Here’s that point.  Two years after it was passed, two years of being able to enlist the help of world class contractors and putting a state-of-the art system together, what have we got?

The Edsel of systems.  In fact, that’s not fair to Edsel.  It at least ran.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Sebelius continues to cash her paychecks.

~McQ

ObamaCare – let the race to the bottom begin

Doctors in New York aren’t particularly happy about ObamaCare:

New York doctors are feeling queasy about ObamaCare — and many won’t participate in the new national insurance program because they fear they’ll go broke, The Post has learned.

“ObamaCare is going to send me more patients to see and then cut the payments to provide the care — that’s what’s going to happen,” predicted Donald Moore, a primary-care doctor in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. “I will not accept it.”

Moore claims that President Obama made a big mistake by requiring uninsured residents to obtain medical coverage from for-profit insurers through the ObamaCare health exchanges instead of through public health programs like Medicaid.

Under tremendous pressure to keep costs down and profits up, Moore said he’s concerned that commercial insurers will pay doctors less for patient visits and services than either Medicaid or Medicare.

Many doctors, he argues, won’t be able to cover their costs with such skimpy fees.

Moore scoffed, “Who’s going to sustain the losses? The insurance companies? It’s basically going to be a race to the bottom.”

No kidding.  And that’s precisely what was predicted here long ago.  Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean a doctor is going to take you on as a patient.  Result?  The same solution – packed and overcrowded emergency rooms.  Hospitals going broke treating everyone who comes through the door on the pittance their insurer pays for the treatment.

And how do doctors feel about the beginning of ObamaCare?  Well they’re not sure at all how it works:

Despite a much publicized rollout, many other doctors said they haven’t decided whether to become ObamaCare providers, because they haven’t been notified by insurers or the state about ­reimbursement rates.

“I have not spoken with anyone who has made a decision to participate in the exchanges. We simply don’t have any information about which we can make a decision,” said Dr. Paul Orloff, president of the New York County Medical Society.

“We have no idea what the reimbursements will be or what the claims-form process will entail.”

Until they are, why would any sane medical practice take on new patients?

Finally:

The Medical Society of New York State is conducting a survey of doctor concerns about the program and asking whether they will accept patients who buy policies.

“There’s a real question about how many doctors will participate. Doctors are concerned about being left holding the bag,” said Sam Unterricht, an ophthalmologist and the president of the state medical society.

The clumsy launch of ObamaCare in New York and elsewhere — with computer glitches and sketchy information — worries the medical community, he said.

“It’s really shaky right now,” Unterricht said.

Spooked about the payments they’ll receive under ObamaCare, other doctors said they’ve stopped hiring staff for their medical practices.

“I’m apprehensive. I’m certainly not hiring anyone new,” said James Reilly, an obstetrician who has delivered 4,000 babies and heads the Richmond County Medical Society.

“We want to see the impact on the bottom line,” said Reilly, who has a 12-member staff and pays a hefty $200,000 annual medical-malpractice insurance premium.

Yes, the enthusiasm for the new system is, well, overwhelming, isn’t it?  Of course they want to see the impact on the bottom line – they’re small business owners.  Government is involved in price fixing and they’d like to see if they can live with the fixed price or not.  If any other entity was involved in doing what the government is involved in here, they’d have been arrested.

But hey, when government decides it can make legal for itself what is illegal for you (consider the lottery, for instance) then you know you’re on the fast road to total decline.  The sign posts are whipping by so fast, no one can even read them anymore.

~McQ

ObamaCare: Patience is not an American virtue

Experts tell you that you have about 2 seconds to have your webpage download (or at least begin to download) or the person who clicked the link is likely to move on.  We Americans are not a patient people.

So how has that impacted the ObamaCare debacle?  Well, since the disastrous launch of the exchanges, there’s been a huge drop off in attempts:

The number of visitors to the federal government’s HealthCare.gov Web site plummeted 88 percent between Oct. 1 and Oct. 13, according to a new analysis of America’s online use, while less than half of 1 percent of the site’s visitors successfully enrolled for health insurance the first week. …

Based on a sample of two million users — or 1 percent of all online users in the U.S. — which Millward Brown Digital has permission to track, it suggests that the rush of traffic administration officials cited as the cause of the site’s problems trailed off within a matter of days.

Of the 9.4 million unique visitors to the site during the launch’s first week, according to the analysis, roughly a third attempted to register, and a third of that number — 1.01 million — completed registration. Ultimately, roughly 36,000 Americans signed up for an insurance plan online, the report said.

Not that I’m upset, but 36,000 out of 9.4 million is just incomprehensible incompetence at work.

Yet Kathleen Sebelius still has the “full confidence” of the other incompetent in office – one Barack Obama.  No surprise there.  No accountability either.

Meanwhile for those that do manage to get through, sticker shock is sure to await them.

~McQ

The dirty little secret of the ObamaCare scam

Remember, it’s called the “Affordable Care Act” officially, but in reality, it is anything but that.   The purported purpose of the act was to provide a means for people and families to buy affordable health insurance if they weren’t insured.  But, in fact, reality is proving this to be the usual smoke and mirrors government usually manages to produce.   Not only is the insurance more expensive in many cases, it has a higher deductible as well.  From the Chicago Trib.

Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner, considers himself better informed than most when it comes to the inner workings of health insurance. But even he wasn’t prepared for the pocketbook hit he’ll face next year under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

If the 33-year-old single father wants the same level of coverage next year as what he has now with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals, his monthly premium of $233 will more than double. If he wants to keep his monthly payments in check, the Carpentersville resident is looking at an annual deductible for himself and his 7-year-old daughter of $12,700, a more than threefold increase from $3,500 today.

“I believe everybody should be able to have health insurance, but at the same time, I’m being penalized. And for what?” said Weldzius, who is not offered insurance through his employer. “For someone who’s always had insurance, who’s always taken care of myself, now I have to change my plan?”

Do a little math. You are someone who hasn’t been able to afford health insurance in the past. The $1,000 a month you had to pay for your family is unaffordable. So you opt into this system assuming the premium will be lower (Well, you don’t “opt” in, you are required to enroll and pay). And to your joy, it is. Only $500 a month, something you can barely afford, but at last you have insurance.

But wait, there’s more:

To promote the Oct. 1 debut of the exchanges, the online marketplaces where consumers can shop and buy insurance, Obama administration and Illinois officials touted the lower-than-expected monthly premiums that would make insurance more affordable for millions of Americans. But a Tribune analysis shows that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered on the Illinois health insurance exchange for Cook County have annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage.

Those deductibles, which represent the out-of-pocket money consumers must spend on health care before most insurance benefits kick in, are higher than what many consumers expected or may be able to stomach, benefit experts said.

By comparison, people who buy health insurance through their employer have an average individual deductible of just more than $1,100, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

An $8,000 family deductible.  So instead of paying $13,100 a year for family coverage that you couldn’t afford (along with a $1,100 deductible you might have been able to struggle through)  you get to pay $14,000 (including deductible) before the insurance you have begins to kick in.

What a deal.  And that, of course, assumes that you can find a doctor that will take your insurance.  Of course that likely won’t matter since unless you have a health care emergency over $14,000 you’re going to be paying cash anyway.

Oh, and don’t even think about saying “screw it” unless you want the IRS on your rear end.

Haven’t enrolled yet?  Get on it, dude.  And good luck (you may up having to pay the penalty anyway because you can’t find a way to enroll):

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been trying for two weeks to sign up for ObamaCare.

Unfortunately as she reported on Monday’s New Day, despite trying for fourteen days including at hours that were claimed to be “off peak,” she still hasn’t been able to establish an account.

~McQ

Competence, incompetence and the Obama administration

USA Today nails it:

President Obama’s chief technology adviser, Todd Park, blames the unexpectedly large numbers of people who flocked to Healthcare.gov and state websites. “Take away the volume and it works,” he told USA TODAY’s Tim Mullaney.

That’s like saying that except for the torrential rain, it’s a really nice day. Was Park not listening to the administration’s daily weather report predicting Obamacare’s popularity?

Park said the administration expected 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users. It got 250,000. Compare that with the similarly rocky debut seven years ago of exchanges to obtain Medicare drug coverage. The Bush administration projected 20,000 simultaneous users and built capacity for 150,000.

That’s the difference between competence and incompetence.

Yup … and all we’ve seen, for years with this current administration, is exercises in incompetence.

I remember when the word of the day for Democrats during the Bush years was “incompetence”.  They had to work very hard to try to sell it.

Well, the sales job now would be a walk in the park.  Except the parks are closed.

Incompetence – look in the dictionary and you’ll see this administration depicted.

Worst. Governance. Ever.

And that covers a lot of territory.

~McQ

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