House committee grills Sebelius on Obamacare implementation, website problems

Kathleen Sebelius

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee got their chance to ask embattled Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the disastrous rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange website,, and other issues that have arisen in recent days with the law.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee welcomes the President’s point person on healthcare, Secretary Sebelius, as part of our continuing oversight of the healthcare law and we look forward to a thoughtful conversation on a number of issues, including transparency and fairness,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) in his prepared opening remarks.

Does the Administration Dream of ObamaCare Sheep?


Keep dreaming, the flock is scattered.  We’re less than one month away now from the supposed grand opening of the ObamaCare exchanges, and yet 44% of Americans aren’t even sure whether ObamaCare is still a law.

Which begs the question: Is ObamaCare a law?

This 44% shocker from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s August Health Tracking Poll reveals America’s collective “wtf?” when it comes to ObamaCare’s legal status.  Some appear to think that the House’s two symbolic full repeal attempts were actually successful (wishful thinking), others believe it was overturned by Chief Justice John Roberts and company (perhaps they read the advance copies before he went the “tax” route?).  But most (31%) just can’t figure out what the heck is going on with this law.  Can you blame them?

- Is it a law when President Obama spends years telling you that his signature legislation will let you can keep your plan and your doctor if you like them, but you’re now facing the reality of potentially losing both come 2014?

Missing the point on the contraception mandate

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion of the Obama Administration’s decision to mandate that even organizations associated with the Catholic Church cover contraception.  This has raised the ire of many on the right, who view this mandate as an assault on religious freedom.  Since the Catholic Church does not believe in using contraception, they argue, forcing them to cover it means they must violate their consciences.  Leaving aside the details, one thing is clear to me - the critics of the mandate are almost without exception missing the larger point.

The contraception mandate is awful, for sure, but not because it is an “assault on religion.” It is wrong because the government has no business telling ANYONE what they must cover.  The mandate would be wrong whether it was inflicted on a Catholic group, or a secular one.  And to be honest, I don’t think that religion is even a major factor in the decision to establish the mandate.  It is born out of a belief that there is some imaginary “right” to free health care, including contraception.  That is the true abomination.

Furthermore, why is there outrage only now?  Is it somehow okay to force non-Catholics to pay for other’s health care?  I understand this involves an issue of great moral importance to Catholics.  But is a federal mandate more wrong because it goes against a religious teaching?  I say this because many, including myself, do not subscribe to a religion, or belong to one without much political clout.  It is disturbing that somehow my liberty is not worth as much because I am in a minority and I don’t have groups lobbying on my behalf.

Ever Wonder Why Healthcare Is So Expensive?

Note: I intended to merely comment on this chart when sharing it via my Posterous. During the 5 or so minutes I was commenting, it grew to be something more substantial, and at the urging of others, it has been cross-posted here.


Since the 1960s, the percentage of total healthcare cost paid directly by the end consumer, aka patient, has dropped drastically, but out of pocket costs have risen and the cost of healthcare has risen drastically over that same period.

What has happened between then and now? The intervention of government into the marketplace. Insurance regulations, government mandates about what MUST be covered, Medicare/caid, and inflation make costs skyrocket, but the opacity of the prices keeps patients from seeing what each visit, prescription, and procedure actually costs. With that opacity, there is no competitive pricing, because the prices paid by patients are merely co-pays and the withholding from their paycheck for employer-sponsored health plans, insurance companies, and government programs that pay negotiated rates. Without competition and price transparency, prices will continue to rise.

In addition, patients largest out of pocket expense is their insurance coverage, which does not fluctuate to accommodate the amount of healthcare services consumed. The patient knows they only pay $10-$50 for each office visit, but the overall costs of those visits can be thousands of dollars. The patient rarely, if ever, sees the actual cost… Usually only if their insurance claim is denied.

Thanks, Obamacare!: Individual health insurance premiums skyrocketed in California, and young people were the hardest hit

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini acknowledged this week that Obamacare plans are “really not an affordable product for a lot of people.” He wasn’t kidding. The Los Angeles Times reports that individual health insurance premiums have skyrocketed in California, in some cases doubled, over last year’s rates:

For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, [California Insurance Commissioner Dave] Jones said Tuesday.
For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, Jones said Tuesday.

“The rate increase from 2013 to 2014, on average, was significantly higher than rate increases in the past,” Jones said in a news conference in Sacramento.

The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, according to a report that Jones released Tuesday.

Yes, Jay Carney, Obamacare is a government program

Facing questions from reporters on Monday about Obamacare enrollments, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the administration’s inability to come up with the number of paid premiums. But there was one particular part of his comments that stood out.

“We are talking about private insurance. This is not a government program,” Carney told reporters. “The contract that you sign if you get health insurance through or through a state marketplace is a private contract between you and an insurance company.”

PolitiFact named statements that Obamacare is “a government takeover of healthcare” as its “Lie of the Year” for 2010. The fact checker, however, only examined the statement through the most basic lens.

“‘Government takeover’ conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees,” Bill Adair and Angie Drobnic Holan wrote in December 2010. “But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market.”

It’s true that the Obamacare relies on private insurance companies participation in the state and federal exchanges. It’s also true that enrollees are entering into private contracts with insurers for coverage. But that doesn’t mean that Obamacare isn’t a government program.

Individual mandate: In a true free market, individuals decide for themselves if a product or service best suites their needs. Taking the politically convenient loopholes out of the equation, the individual mandate exists to coerce Americans into purchasing health plans.

Report predicts higher health premiums for 65% of small businesses

The actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predicts that Obamacare will lead to higher health insurance premiums for 65% of small businesses, affecting some 11 million employees:

The report, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary, is the latest piece of bad news for the president’s signature domestic achievement. While the law was designed to curb rising health costs, some consumers have seen their premiums or other out-of-pocket costs increase this year, or had their plans canceled altogether.

The report analyzed employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees that buy outside insurance policies for workers, a group it estimated at 17 million people in 2012. It focused on a piece of the 2010 law that prevents insurance companies from pricing policies based on customers’ health status.
The report concluded that about 65% of small businesses, or plans covering 11 million people, would see an increase in insurance premiums under these so-called community-rating provisions of the health law. About 35% of employers would see a decrease for plans covering six million people. These employers aren’t required to pay a penalty under the federal health law if they don’t insure workers.

These premium hikes have been mostly tied to the individual market, but most don’t realize that small-to-large businesses as well as their employees are also going to be hit with higher costs.

Walmart health plan is better than Obamacare

Oh, this story is sure to have Obamacare supporters heads’ exploding. The Washington Examiner reported this morning that the health plan offered by Walmart, which is frequently a target of the radical Left, is cheaper and offers better coverage than the government-approved plans available on the Obamacare exchanges:

[A] Washington Examiner comparison of the two health insurance programs found that Walmart’s plan is more affordable and provides significantly better access to high-quality medical care than Obamacare.
Walmart offers its employees two standard plans, a Health Reimbursement Account and an alternative it calls “HRA High” that costs more out of employees’ pockets but has lower deductibles. Blue Cross Blue Shield manages both plans nationally.

Also offered is a Health Savings Account plan that includes high deductibles but allows tax-free dollars to be used for coverage.

For a monthly premium as low as roughly $40, an individual who is a Walmart HRA plan enrollee can obtain full-service coverage through a Blue Cross Blue Shield preferred provider organization. A family can get coverage for about $160 per month.

Plans available through the Obamacare exchanges are incredibly expensive — thanks to mandates and taxes in the law. The price difference between Walmart plans and government-approved plans is huge:

AR Senate: Ad urges Pryor to listen to small business’ concerns over Obamacare

 Obamacare Hurts Arkansas Small Business

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has released a new ad in Arkansas featuring a family-owned small business trying to cope with added healthcare costs that have come along because of Obamacare.

“We’re a small business that has been part of the Central Arkansas community for four generations,” said John Parke, Chief Operating Officer of Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company. “Our employees are the backbone of our business.”

“What Obamacare means for Arkansas businesses is tough choices — the mandates, the increased costs, the increased taxes. Our premiums are increasing 19% for next year. Arkansans are counting on Washington to do the right thing. But we keep getting more empty promises,” he added.

The ad urges voters to call Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and tell him that “Obamacare is broken” and to “stand up for Arkansas’ small businesses and workers.” The NFIB is spending $550,000 to, according to a statement on the ad, “educate Arkansans on the difficulties faced by small businesses due to Obamacare’s many failures, broken promises and increased uncertainty.”

No, the insurance industry hasn’t been under-regulated

During his speech last week in Boston, President Barack Obama tried to sell his healthcare reform law by slamming “bad-apple” insurance companies that, in his opinion, sold health plans that weren’t up to par.

“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy,” he said. “So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.”

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