Recent Posts From Jason Pye
Grab the violin and get ready to play, “My Heart Bleeds for You,” because many Democratic congressional staffers are suffering from “sticker shock” after seeing the premiums for health plans available through the District of Columbia’s Obamacare exchange:
Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.
“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.”
In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.
For instance, the premiums for gold-level Aetna HMO plans in D.C. cost an average of $684.40 per month for a 55-year-old. A similar plan would cost an average of $287.11 for a 27-year-old. The gold-level CareFirst HMO plans have an average premium of $573.07 for a 55-year-old — more than double the $240.41 average for 27-year-olds. That’s before the federal employee contribution toward the premium.
Not only did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) give Democrats a convenient political distraction from the Obamacare meltdown, the “nuclear option” was also very obvious power grab that gives President Barack Obama virtually unchecked power to whomever he wants to his cabinet or to federal courts.
But the executive appointments that can now be made without any real check in the Senate are not just innocuous posts. Sam Baker of National Journal noted last week that the elimination of the filibuster gives President Obama the ability to make appointments to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), otherwise known as “death panels.”
“The IPAB is technically supposed to submit its first proposed cuts in January, but Obama hasn’t even nominated anyone to the board yet. Nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate, which until today required 60 votes—and Republicans were highly unlikely to help confirm anyone to the board,” wrote Baker on Thursday.
“But now that the Senate has moved to a 51-vote threshold for executive appointments, Obama will likely be able to fill the board and move ahead with one of the most significant cost-control measures in his signature health care law—if he wants to,” he noted, adding that Senate aide confirmed that the filibuster change applies to IPAB.
Democrats have insisted that they’re not running from Obamacare, despite the disastrous and politically embarrassing rollout of the law. In fact, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) recently told CNN that incumbents and candidates from her party “will be able to run on Obamacare as an advantage.”
If that’s truly the case, that Democrats will run on Obamacare next year, then why did the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) delay the open enrollment period for 2015 until after the mid-term election?
That’s right, folks. HHS announced on Friday that it is pushing back the open enrollment period to November 15, 2014, according to Bloomberg. Open enrollment was set to begin on October 15, just weeks before the November 4 mid-term election.
Why would HHS do this? It’s a sign that the administration expects health insurance premiums for plans on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges will be much higher than anticipated. Stories of “sticker shock” would be a big problem for Democrats running in competitive races across the country. Any technical issues user experience would also be a non-factor.
News broke late Saturday evening that a historic deal had been reached between Iran and six countries — including the United States, Russia, and China — that would limit the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.
The “historic” deal would require the regime in Teheran to destroy its 20 percent uranium and freeze the 3.5 percent stock the country has currently produced for its nuclear energy program.
The Washington Post explains that 20 percent uranium is “needed for research reactors that produce isotopes for cancer treatment and other applications, such as agricultural to enhance fertilizers.” The paper notes that this level of enrichment is “only several steps away from being boosted to weapons-grade levels at more than 90 percent.”
In return, there would be no further sanctions against Iran for at least six months, provided that the regime allows daily inspections and follows through on the destruction of the higher levels of enriched uranium.
“These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” said President Barack Obama in a televised statement late Saturday evening. “Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.”
During an appearance on CNN’s Crossfire, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) declined to endorse his home state colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), for reelection next year.
The comments came during a discussion on internal strife in the Republican Party, including primary challenges to incumbents who don’t always vote in a manner with the fiscally conservative views they espouse on the campaign trail. Van Jones, a former Obama Administration official turned pundit, asked Scott if he was supporting Graham.
“You know, as you three have heard recently, I am up for reelection myself. I’m going to make sure that Tim Scott gets out and knocks on as many doors as possible,” the junior South Carolina senator demurred.
“No endorsement for Lindsey tonight?” asked Jones, to which Scott replied, “I’m certainly going to work really hard for Tim Scott reelection.”
It’s not uncommon for a politician who is up for reelection not to endorse in other races during primary season for fear of upsetting supporters. Scott, who was appointed to the seat in December, may truly just want to ensure his own reelection rather than getting involved in another race. That’s one take.
Americans have been inundated with stories about the Obamacare meltdown, there has been some news about the NSA and domestic surveillance programs in the last few days, and none of it is good.
TechDirt reported on Tuesday that Justice Department is fighting a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order to release the government’s secret interpretation of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Section 215 of the 2001 anti-terrorism law has been used to justify domestic spying programs employed by the NSA, despite a clear limitation on whom the government can collect information. At some point since its passage, however, the government came up with its own interpretation that says something entirely different.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who sponsored the law, contends that the NSA is defying congressional intent as the provision only allows intelligence agencies to seize records related to an actual investigation into terrorist activity.
“The phone records of innocent Americans do not relate to terrorism, whatsoever; and they are not reasonably likely to lead to information that relates to terrorism,” said Sensenbrenner in a speech last month at the Cato Institute. “Put simply, the phone calls we make to our friends, our families, and business associates are private and have nothing to do with terrorism or the government’s efforts to stop it.”
Sheila Salter is a small business owner from North Carolina, founder of early2surg, a marketing company specializing in the surgical device industry. She is not happy that the health plan she had was taken from her and now has to purchase a much more expensive government-approved plan on the Obamacare exchanges.
Salter showed members of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee a chart comparing her pre-Obamacare plan cost her $202 a month and the plan she was offered through the exchange. The plan through the exchange has more than doubled her premiums. With the “essential benefit” mandate, the plan will cost her $584 per month, or more $4,584 each year.
“When I hear people talk about oh, you know, go to the exchanges, shop, shop, shop. You have one plan, okay? That plan includes the benefits listed in the left-hand column. Now you can see Sheila’s plan,” Salter told the committee, chaired by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). “Sheila’s plan was the one that I chose. I chose my services. I’ve done that all these years. I chose those services, chose that deductible for $202 a month.”
“Now, with Obamacare, I have to have those ten essential benefits. Now I challenge anybody in this room to look at the services that I selected for myself, noting that I’m 61. I now I don’t look it, and I have no children or history of alcohol or drug abuse. Yet. Okay, because this is driving me to drink,” she said to laughter in the room. “But does anybody here really think that I need all the services on the left-hand column? I don’t think so.”
The Obamacare disaster has put Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is a tough spot. Not only is he finding discontent from vulnerable Democrats who are fearing for their political futures, Nevada’s largest paper is calling on Reid to consider Republican healthcare ideas because of the Obamacare “meltdown.”
The Las Vegas Journal-Review isn’t buying lines from President Barack Obama and other congressional Democrats who claim that Republicans who oppose the law don’t have any healthcare policy alternatives. The paper points to a comprehensive reform package introduced by Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA) with a number of ideas from which to draw.
“Rep. Price’s plan is lacking in paper weight — it’s 250 pages, compared with the more than 2,000 pages of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its accompanying thousands more pages of regulations — but it’s heavy on ideas that would make health insurance and medical care more affordable,” wrote the Journal-Review’s editorial board.
Shortly after last week’s brutal Quinnipiac poll was released, we noted that there was a significant decline in President Obama’s support from young people, a generation frequently referred to as “Millennials.”
While this crucial bloc of Americans overwhelmingly backed President Obama in his re-election, their support began to wane in mid-to-late June, around the time the NSA spying controversy became public knowledge.
The Quinnipiac poll isn’t a one-off. The Obamacare disaster has, seemingly, intensified young Americans’ frustration with him, as the details of this week’s ABC News/Washington Post poll show, via Rare:
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday shows young adults, the voting bloc President Obama wooed and won by sweeping margins in 2008 and 2012, have withdrawn their support of the president’s pet project.
During her visit to Florida earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters that launching the federal Obamacare exchange website, Healthcare.gov, on October 1 “was a bad call” (emphasis added):
On Tuesday, Sebelius told the AP it would work for most users by the end of the month, but would still require fixes because of the magnitude of the first-of-its-kind project.
“We recognize that there will still be periodic spikes, glitches, whatever that people will experience,” she said.
When asked why officials pushed ahead with the Oct. 1 launch date despite warnings the site hadn’t been properly tested, Sebelius said they were hoping to give consumers as much time as possible to enroll before coverage begins in January.
“We were hoping to maximize that,” she said. “Clearly that was a bad call.”
Administration officials are now trying to spin the problems with the website by claiming that it’s working for 90% of people who have been sent “try us again” emails. But a Gallup poll released this week found that 63% of uninsured Americans who have visited both state and federal exchange website report a negative experience. Just 34% said they had a positive experience.