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ObamaCare’s Failing Cost Control

The law’s ‘accountable care’ experiment is a bust so far.

The Symbol of ObamaCare

The Symbol of ObamaCare

by Editorial Board   •   Wall Street Journal

A major claim of ObamaCare’s political salesmen is that it will reduce U.S. health spending. The heart of this claim is the Accountable Care Organization, or ACO, but already evidence is accumulating that it isn’t working.

That’s the news in the recent Health and Human Services release of the results from the first two years of ACO experience under the Affordable Care Act. The much-delayed data received zero media notice despite a speech from HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell citing “evidence that we have bent the cost curve.” The data show the opposite.

ACOs were supposed to be a new paradigm for health care, with hospitals, primary care physicians and specialists working in teams to be more efficient and coordinate patient treatment across providers. In 2011 HHS introduced this business model as a new federal regulation, so providers that reduce spending according to a formula are paid a bonus that is a portion of the savings. If participants boost spending over this benchmark, they pay a penalty. [Read more...]

Obamacare Cancellations. Again!

This time, small-group plans used by small employers are being especially hard hit.

by Tim Phillips   •   USATodayCancelled Cancellation ObamaCare

Last fall, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief when Obamacare didn’t cancel their health care plans. Now they’re holding their breath once again.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will soon receive cancellation letters affecting their 2015 health care plans — and that number may quickly rise into the millions. This wave of cancellations will fall into two categories. The first group hit will be in the individual market, the same group that suffered through at least 6.3 million cancellation letters last year. They will almost certainly be joined by millions of people in the small-employer market, which has 40 million plans and will be under Obamacare’s control starting next year.

That’s right: President Obama’s now-infamous promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” — Politifact’s 2013 “Lie of the Year” — is still being broken, potentially worse than before.

Most of the individual market cancellations will be for plans that were supposed to be canceled last year, when Obamacare first went into effect. After the fallout from last year’s fiasco became too politically toxic, President Obama unilaterally changed the law so that some non-compliant policies could continue for at least another year. That 12-month period is now up. [Read more...]

Policy Backgrounder: Ensuring a Free Internet – ICANN Transition Moving in the Wrong Direction

FOF Policy Backgrounder

by Jared Smith

Overview

When the United States Government announced its intent to forfeit its historical role of providing oversight for the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS), it did so prematurely – before ensuring that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would be independent and strong with a clearly limited role. The vague conditions of the transition set forth by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) allow room for the process to be potentially subverted by unfriendly governments or intergovernmental organizations with ulterior motives – or neutered by ICANN itself. As the process moves forward, the United States must require that ICANN be able to ensure its ability to maintain the security, stability, resiliency, and openness of the Internet Domain Name System, while meeting the needs and expectations of global customers and partners of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and supporting a multi-stakeholder model of governance.  

Background

Since the establishment of ICANN’s contract with the NTIA to manage the backend functions of the Internet in 1998, the United States Federal Government has repeatedly expressed the desire to privatize oversight of the DNS process. However, the privatization of ICANN’s role has routinely been delayed due to ICANN’s inability to perform its proper functions without the guidance of the NTIA.

Since the late 1990s, Presidential Administrations and Congress have supported the NTIA in its goal of ensuring  the Internet’s core functions are controlled by the broad Internet community; the importance of these functions is too great to risk foreign government interference. As the Internet has matured, it has grown in scope and importance. Concerns have been raised regarding the power vacuum the United States’ absence would create. Governments with unfriendly views towards an open Internet – including Russia, China, and even some democracies – have made their intentions and desires to limit critical speech well-known. Were one of these nations able to exert influence over ICANN, they could potentially limit or favor specific domain names based on political affiliations or organization. If a government were successful in limiting free speech on the Internet, it could serve as precedent for limitation of speech and discrimination against minorities in other venues or through mediums. [Read more...]

It is now painfully clear — Obama Sees Ebola as a Political Issue

Editorial Board   •   Investor’s Business Daily government incompetence

Faced with what the World Health Organization calls the “most severe acute health emergency in modern times,” who gets the job of Ebola Czar? A political hack who signed off on the Solyndra fiasco.

Everything about how the unfolding Ebola crisis is being handled by the Obama administration suggests unseriousness and incompetence — painfully ironic considering that “making government work for the people” was one of President Obama’s original promises.

From refusing to ban travel to and from the West African Ebola hot spots; to the misinformation about medical protocols to isolate any cases of the disease appearing in the U.S. being ready; to the dubious claims that only those with symptoms could pass on the virus; this administration has gotten it wrong.

Challenged by so much confusion and so many dangers, the president canceled several fundraising trips for his party, but who does he then appoint to oversee the U.S. government’s efforts against Ebola? Famed rags-to-riches neurosurgeon Ben Carson perhaps?

No. Ron Klain, a political operative played by Kevin Spacey in a movie about the 2000 Florida recount. [Read more...]

There is no sugar-coating the weak economy

Regardless of the President’s claims, the economy is weak and the “recovery” is almost invisible to most Americans. 

Editorial Board   •   Washington Examiner

Sluggish EconomyDuring his 60 Minutes interview late last month, President Obama put an old and familiar rhetorical question to the voters: “Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’…And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office.”

Most members of the public do not share this view, according to this week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. Only 22 percent surveyed agreed that they are “better off financially” than they were when Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 — including only 37 percent of Democratic partisans. This says a lot about how people feel, because six years ago, the nation was embroiled in the very financial crisis that Obama still cites to absolve himself from blame for America’s continued economic doldrums.

When pressed in the same interview, Obama had to concede that most Americans aren’t feeling the recovery he has been touting ever since the so-called “Recovery Summer” of 2010. That’s because for workers, there hasn’t been much of a recovery. [Read more...]

Ebola Isn’t a Matter of Politics

It’s time the Obama administration handled the crisis without petty finger-pointing.

by Peter Roff   •   US News & World Report

Ebola Disease VirusMixing the possibility of a deadly pandemic together with the incompetence of the Washington bureaucracy produces a cocktail that is poisonous to public confidence. No one gets high marks for the way the Obama administration has handled the arrival of Ebola on American soil – especially the president.

It’s times such as these, when little is known and even the slightest misstatement could cause a general panic that the American people look to the president for leadership. Instead, what they are getting is more of the arrogant, self-confident, “smartest guy in the room” pronouncements and hectoring for which President Barack Obama is now famous.

Instead Obama has failed time and again to demonstrate he has a firm grasp on the situation. He’s not taking concrete steps – using his phone and his pen – to prevent the disease from spreading. Instead he’s letting his subordinates – no doubt thoroughly schooled in the Saul Alinsky arts of manufacturing or at least using a crisis to force the political system to give in to your demands – make outrageous statements intended to turn a potential public health catastrophe into a weapon of political leverage in the closing days of the current campaign season.

The worst thing yet said is perhaps the contemptible charge leveled by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins that if it weren’t for budget cuts insisted upon by congressional Republicans, the agencies under his direction might already have come up with a cure for Ebola.

The data contradicts his statement (the National Institutes of Health have had plenty of money since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich decided to plus up its budget back in the 1990s), but was an otherwise effective misdirection. [Read more...]

Spectacular incompetence turns deadly

Ebola Virus Diseaseby Joseph Curl   •   Washington Times 

It was only a matter of time.

President Obama, a short-term college professor and failed community organizer who became a mostly absentee state senator and then an all-but-invisible U.S. senator, has Petered out. Per the Peter Principle, he has risen to his level of incompetence — some would argue far beyond it.

The president — and the president alone — let Ebola into America. He could have made one phone call (even on Saturday, when playing his 200th round of golf as president) and said one sentence to protect all Americans from the usually fatal disease: “No one from West Africa gets into the country.”

Done. That single sentence would have kept Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who had carried an Ebola sufferer back into her home after she was turned away at a hospital, out of Dallas. While he lied on an airport questionnaire about whether he had had contact with anyone suffering the disease, and while hospital workers blundered badly even though they knew he has been in Liberia, the bottom line is Duncan would not have been in America had the president banned visitors from Ebola-stricken countries. Simple. [Read more...]

Data points don’t support Obama’s claim that we’re ‘better off’

by the Oklahoman Editorial Board

obama reaganBarack Obama has always seen himself as an agent of change, a la Ronald Reagan. His goal was to do for progressive politics what Reagan had done for conservatism.

Thus it was no surprise that he parroted a Reagan trope in recently asking the question of whether Americans are better off today than when he took office — and then answering his own question by concluding that “the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office.”

For Reagan, it was a campaign strategy drawn as a weapon against Jimmy Carter in 1980. Are you better off, he asked voters, than you were four years ago?

Such comparisons aren’t unique to Reagan and Obama, of course, but Reagan put his own stamp on it — quite successfully as it turns out.

“By every economic measure,” Obama told college students the other day, “we are better off than when I took office.” So not only has this president adopted the Reagan line (even crediting Reagan). He’s turned it into yet another example of repeated, robotic rhetoric in the endless campaign speeches made by a man “who is not running for anything except the exit,” in the words of Caroline Baum, a former Bloomberg News columnist. [Read more...]

White House Approving & Disapproving Content of Press Reports

by Paul Farhi   •   Washington Post

mediabiasWhite House journalists are creating an alternative system for distributing their media “pool” reports in response to the Obama administration’s involvement in approving and disapproving certain content in official reports.

A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalists.

Pool reports — those summaries of the president’s public appearances that go to the news media at large and are used in countless news stories — are filed by a rotating group of journalists whose work is intended to be free of content changes by the White House.

The pool journalists, however, must submit their reports to the White House press office, which distributes them via e-mail to hundreds of news organizations and others. The White House maintains the list of recipients.

Reporters have complained that the Obama White House exploits its role as distributor to demand changes in pool reports and that the press office has delayed or refused to distribute some reports until they are amended to officials’ satisfaction. [Read more...]

A Patriot That Packs a Punch

Congressional approval of a plan to modernize the missile system is critical to U.S. defense.

by Peter Roff   •   US News & World Report

Patriot_missileThough lulled into a false sense of security by the fall of the Berlin Wall, America is waking up to the fact that the world is still a dangerous place. Events throughout the Obama administration have made it abundantly clear that freedom still has its enemies.

From terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to cyber-hacking, foreign regimes and groups are consistently testing not just our resolve but our ability to defend ourselves. The prospect of boots on the ground in the Middle East is once again a very real possibility thanks to the atrocities being committed in parts of Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State group.

Are our nation’s warfighters prepared for another prolonged engagement so far from home? It’s a question Congress needs to take seriously as it formulates budget allocations and approves weapons systems that will carry us through conflicts in different parts of the globe over the next several decades.  [Read more...]

Obamacare is in hiding until after the election

How the Administration is obscuring facts about your health insurance until after the election.

by Robert Laszewski    •   USAToday 

ObamaCare Cancelled PoliciesThe second Obamacare open enrollment is scheduled to begin on November 15th and end on February 15th. Instead of learning critical lessons from the mistakes of the first open enrollment fiasco, the Obama administration appears to be trying to silence potential critics.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration sent an email to the insurance companies participating in Obamacare telling them to keep their mouths shut about the testing of the new health law’s enrollment system saying, that unlike last year, they would require “all testers (the insurance companies) to acknowledge the confidentiality of this process” before they would be allowed to participate. The administration reminded insurers that their confidentiality agreement with the Obama administration means that insurance executives “will not use, disclose, post to a public forum, or in any way share Test Data with any person or entity, included but not limited to media…” This includes any “results of this testing exercise and any information describing or otherwise relating to the performance or functionality” of the Obamacare enrollment and eligibility system. [Read more...]

China unrest and the future of the open internet

by Peter Roff    •    Washington Times

internet-censorship-ICANNMany of those watching the pro-democracy demonstrations underway right now in Hong Kong are concerned, appropriately, about the impact they will have on the global march of human freedom.

That we can see the demonstrations at all has a lot to do with the Internet, itself a tool that global pro-democracy movements have successfully used to make the entire world sit up and take notice of what they are trying to accomplish. Authoritarian leaders like China’s Xi Jinping therefore have an unsurprisingly cautious attitude toward the World Wide Web; they understand its open nature and the free flow of words and video pose a very real and constant threat to their power.

That openness is a direct result of the influence of core American values on Internet governance. The Internet was invented by the United States government, which has turned the management of many of its essential functions over to a California-based nonprofit corporation created for that specific purpose called ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Up to now the U.S. connection has insured the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution shapes the way it operates. [Read more...]

The real unemployment is much higher and most Americans know it

by By Ken Braun    •    Michigan Live

unemployment-numbersJust one third of Americans know the official unemployment rate is around six percent, according to the latest Pew Research Center News IQ Quiz. A tiny 4 percent cited a lower total, while a whopping 45 percent guessed much higher.

Past versions of the Pew quiz have often been portrayed as a reason to bemoan the ignorance of the American people. This one has plenty of that go around. With four multiple choice options to select from 40 percent couldn’t identify Ukraine as a former component of the Soviet Union.

But regarding the unemployment rate, it’s the official statistics that don’t properly identify reality. [Read more...]

Little reason to battle against voter ID laws

Voter ID Fraud

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board

When they go to the polls in a few weeks, voters in many states, including Oklahoma, will be asked to show some form of identification. This is no thanks to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who made it his mission during six years on the job to undo a number of voter ID laws.

Holder, who is stepping aside soon, went so far as to compare voter ID laws to bygone Jim Crow-inspired laws designed to tamp down minority participation. The comparisons were beyond ridiculous, particularly given that in state after state, voter ID laws have withstood legal challenges from liberal interests. [Read more...]

ObamaCare: The Bad News Continues to Mount

by Robert E. Moffit     •     National Interest

ObamaCare Side EffectsOn November 15, open enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges begins again. Before the second act of our national healthcare drama commences, let’s review what we’ve learned in Act I.

For starters, everyone now knows that federal officials are challenged when it comes to setting up a website. But they’ve demonstrated the ability to dole out a huge amount of taxpayers’ money for millions of people signing up for Medicaid, a welfare program. And they’ve proved they can send hundreds of millions of federal taxpayers’ dollars to their bureaucratic counterparts in states, like Maryland and Oregon, that can’t manage their own exchanges. But there are many other lessons to be gleaned from Year One of Obamacare. Here are three of the most important ones.

1. Health costs jumped—big time. Huge increases in deductibles in policies sold through the exchanges were a big story in Florida, Illinois and elsewhere. While the average annual deductible for employer-based coverage was a little over $1,000, the exchange deductibles nationwide normally topped $2,000. [Read more...]