CO Senate: Republicans competitive as Obama, Obamacare hang over Udall

Once thought to be a relatively safe bet for reelection, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) has found himself racing a tough race against Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) as the map of competitive Senate races expands into Colorado, a state that President Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012.

A poll released by Public Policy Polling on Tuesday found that Udall holds a 2-point lead, 42/40, over Gardner. Udall’s lead is within the poll’s 4.1% margin of error, meaning that the race is statistically tied.

Gardner, a two-term Congressman, entered the race late last month and is seen as the strongest candidate Republicans have to taken on Obamacare. Ken Buck dropped out of the race a day after Gardner announced. Owen Hill, a state senator with Tea Party backing, announced his exit from the race this week, leaving no serious primary challenge to Gardner.

Though Udall’s approval rating is slightly above water, 41/40, those numbers are concerning for any politician entering an election year. Making the Colorado Democrat’s problems worse are President Obama’s underwater approval rating, 43/53, and tepid support for Obamacare.

ObamaCare Is Doomed Without the Youth

The fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seems bleak and who will end up undoubtedly losing because of that?


By now, 4.2 million people have picked their plan through the ObamaCare exchange website, a figure that is not even close to the administration’s original 7 million goal.

The Obama administration estimated that by the end of the open enrollment season for health coverage through the exchange program, which ends in one month, at least 38.5 percent of enrollees should consist of young men and women under the age of 35.

According to the latest reports, however, only 25 percent of enrollees happen to be in the “invincible” age group. At this rate, the Obama administration might not be able to get at least 1.8 million people to sign up until the end of March, which could trigger costs to exceed premiums. Once that happens, insurance companies will break even only with the help of hefty federal subsidies.

Because the program cannot stay solvent without the participation of young players, the Department of Health and Human Services has been insisting that a greater number of young enrollees will eventually sign up just before the deadline expires. It might still be early to know whether the HHS will be able to obtain the number of enrollees it needs. At the moment, many questions concerning the real number of paying enrollees linger, as the percentage of those who have picked a plan through the ObamaCare exchange website and have also made their payment hasn’t been disclosed.

Insurers: Obamacare premiums will skyrocket

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to downplay the expected rise in health insurance premiums last week, telling a House committee that premiums would ”go up at a smaller pace than what we’ve seen since 2010.”

Those comments are already questionable. Obamacare caused the average individual health plan premium to increase by 39% between 2013 and 2014 and the average family plan to increase by 56%, according to data provided last month by eHealthInsurance.com.

These increases surpass the average of the previous eight years combined, a consequence of the law’s actuarial requirements, taxes and fees, as well as the mandated essential benefits.

For their part, insurers are disputing Sebelius’ claim, The Hill reports. They’re expecting premiums to rise sharply in some areas of the country, perhaps double or triple, which is partially blamed on the botched rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange:

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.
“It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out … is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity.

Today in Liberty: NSA watchdog left in dark about spying, Dem pundits see writing on the wall

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” — P.J. O’Rourke

— House GOP Obamacare alternative still missing: Republicans have made Obamacare repeal a central part of their campaign platform, but they’ve yet to coalesce around a single set of specific proposals to pitch to voters, even though there’s been a lot of talk about rolling out a plan this year. “Republicans aren’t even convinced they will find consensus on any specific set of new health care bills. The ideas they’re discussing — the ability to buy insurance across state lines, wider use of health savings accounts and cutting federal regulations — are the same principles they have kicked around since 2009,” wrote John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman. “But the party is not much closer to finding a proposal — or set of proposals — that would garner enough Republican support to pass the House.”

— Who’s watching the watchers?: The Defense Department’s internal watchdog was left in the dark about the NSA’s most controversial domestic surveillance program. “The bulk of that is in reviews that we have done, and in the collaborative work that we have done with the NSA IG,” Anthony Thomas, who is charged with oversight over the NSA, told The Guardian. “From my own personal knowledge, those programs, in and of themselves, I was not personally aware.” Oh, and he’s not investigating the NSA over the programs either, despite the ongoing controversy. That’s comforting.

35% of uninsured Americans don’t plan to participate in Obamacare

Despite the Obama administration’s final push for Americans to sign up for health plans on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, more than a third of the uninsured intend to stay that way, according to a new survey.

The poll, commissioned by BankRate.com, found that 35% of uninsured Americans don’t plan on buying health insurance. The reason most frequently cited is the cost of coverage, though some are refusing to buy insurance because they oppose Obamacare or they’re health and don’t believe they need a health plan.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of the uninsured do plan on purchasing coverage, though time is quickly running out for them to do so.

The poll also found that 46% of uninsured Americans are unaware of the March 31 deadline to purchase health insurance, after which they could be hit with a tax penalty, assuming they don’t claim the “hardship exemption” loophole that the administration recently carved out.

What’s more, a staggering 70% of the uninsured aren’t aware of the subsidies available for health insurance coverage purchased through the exchanges. This, despite efforts by the administration to highlight the availability of the subsidies.

“This is a staggeringly high percentage,” Doug Whiteman, an insurance analyst at BankRate.com, told CBS News. “The government has spent over half a billion dollars promoting the Affordable Care Act, and more than two-thirds of uninsured Americans still don’t know about the subsidies.”

Poll: Virginians less likely to back Medicaid expansion when tied to Obamacare

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) is currently traveling around the Commonwealth of Virginia to build support for his push to expand Medicaid and apply pressure to the Republican-controlled House of Delegates to get behind the biggest initiative of his nascent term in office.

Virginians, however, haven’t been swayed by McAuliffe’s arguments for Medicaid expansion, part of Obamacare made optional through the 2012 Supreme Court decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.

A poll commissioned by the Foundation for Government Accountability found that though likely voters initially support Medicaid expansion by a very small margin, their moods shift as they learn more about it.

Voters were first asked, “The Legislature and Governor are deciding whether or not to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program to give taxpayer-funded Medicaid health coverage to 400,000 mostly working-age, non-disabled adults with no kids. Knowing this, do you support or oppose expanding Medicaid in Virginia?”

Forty-two percent (42%) of voters said that they support Medicaid expansion, while 41% oppose it (numbers have been rounded). That’s within the poll’s +/- 4.5 margin of error. Around 13% were undecided.

Expect more House Democrats to announce retirements

It was a mostly foregone conclusion that Republicans would keep control of the House of Representatives even before the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Now that there’s talk of a wave election, in which Republicans could build upon their majority in the House and take control of the Senate, there may be more Democrats who decide to retire rather than face voters this fall.

“We’ve seen a number of senior House Democrats announce their retirements,” noted John King yesterday on CNN’s Inside Politics. “I’m told in the next week to 10 days look for two, perhaps three, more as Democrats decide we’re not going to win the majority back, might as well get out of Dodge.”

Sorry, Obama, young people can avoid Obamacare by claiming “hardship”

With just two weeks left in the open enrollment period, the White House is pulling out all the stops to sway young people to sign up for health plans available on the Obamacare exchanges, even enlisting the help of NBA star LeBron James and the mothers of celebrities to help spread the message.

In an appearance on Friday with radio host Ryan Seacrest, President Barack Obama made a different pitch: sign-up for Obamacare or we’re going to tax you:

President Obama warned young people that if they don’t sign up for Obamacare by March 31, they will face a penalty — if they can afford it.

“If you can afford it — you just decide you don’t want to get it because your attitude is ‘nothing’s ever going to happen to me’ — then you’ll be charged a penalty,” Obama explained.
Obama was careful to specify that people who can’t afford Obamacare will not suffer a penalty, thanks to a “hardship exemption,” but encouraged everyone to sign up.

“[Y]ou never know what kind of curveballs life throws at you,” he warned.

Obamacare premium increases eclipse previous eight years combined

During testimony last week before the House Ways and Means Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius conceded that health insurance premiums would go up for plans in 2015, though she downplayed the increase by claiming that they would “go up at a smaller pace than what we’ve seen since 2010.”

There are varying estimates about how much premiums have gone up over the last several years, but everyone tends to agree that the increased costs are a concern. In fact, President Barack Obama has cited premium increases as part of the larger case for healthcare reform, promising that Obamacare would reduce premiums by $2,500 per year.

But, to Sebelius’ point, let’s take a look a premium increases, not just since 2010, but going back to 2005 through data provided by eHealthInsurance.com. As you can see in the chart below, the average individual health insurance premium rose by 37% from 2005 to 2013 and by 31% for the average family premium. Keep in mind that these are pre-Obamacare premiums.

 Average Individual and Family Premiums and Deductibles (With Year-over-Year Change) 2005-2013

Here’s the kicker, folks. eHealth, the nation’s first and largest private exchange, has also released data comparing average February 2013 premiums to unsubsidized plans that were being purchased in February 2014.

Turley blasts Obama’s “uber presidency”

Jonathan Turley continues to be one of the few leftists with a conscience when it comes to the concentration of power in the executive branch. Though he agrees with many of President Barack Obama’s policies, the Georgetown law professor, who recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee, has serious concerns about the means through which he has enacted them.

In a post at his blog on Friday, Turley responded to latest major change in the law, in which the administration ostensibly delayed enforcement of the individual mandate, blasting President Obama for ignoring the Constitution and criticizing Democrats for enabling the administration: (emphasis added):


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