Wall Street Journal

Administration tweaks the individual mandate in a big way

In a post on Friday, we posed the question, “Could the administration delay the individual mandate?” The administration has delayed and/or declined to enforce a number of Obamacare provisions and regulations, the most recent of which was allowing insurers to extend health plans that were to be outlawed this year.

Obamacare, for the most part, has been gutted. But the individual mandate, its central provision, has remained untouched, at least until now. The Wall Street Journal notes that the Department of Health and Human Services has ostensibly delayed enforcement of the individual mandate for Americans who claim a “hardship” in trying to find a insurance (emphasis added):

ObamaCare’s implementers continue to roam the battlefield and shoot their own wounded, and the latest casualty is the core of the Affordable Care Act—the individual mandate. To wit, last week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty.
[A]mid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you “believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy” or “you consider other available policies unaffordable.”

Cruz delivering on promises to shake up the GOP

Does Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) care about electing a Republican majority? That’s a question the Wall Street Journal ostensibly asked last week after the Texas conservative, who the paper calls, the “minority maker,” forced a procedural vote on the debt ceiling, putting some of his Republican colleagues on the spot and, possibly, in the cross hairs of voters in their home states:

Democrats had enough votes to pass the increase with a simple majority, which means they would have owned the debt increase. But then Senator Ted Cruz —the same fellow who planned the GOP’s shutdown fiasco in October—objected on the floor and insisted on a 60-vote majority. This is exactly what Democratic leader Harry Reid wanted because if the bill failed he would have sent the Senate home on recess and returned later this month to join President Obama in flogging the GOP as the debt-ceiling deadline neared.

The 60-vote threshold was reached only after GOP leaders Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn and 10 others voted to let the final debt-ceiling vote proceed. All 12 then opposed the increase on final passage, but thanks to Mr. Cruz they had to walk the plank with Democrats on a procedural vote.

Not coincidentally, activist groups allied with Mr. Cruz announced they will use those votes in GOP primaries this year against Messrs. McConnell and Cornyn. Mr. Cruz claims to be neutral in Senate primaries, but he knew exactly what he was doing.

MSNBC: Americans losing their doctors a problem for Democrats

 Obamacare causing Americans to lose doctors

The Wall Street Journal ran a story today highlighting the pressure that insurers are under from politicians and state regulators to expand provider networks in plans on being sold on the Obamacare exchanges. That’s a “serious problem,” as Joe Scarborough said this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“I think this is, at the end of the day, the issue that’s the greatest challenge for everybody,” said Scarborough as he pointed to the headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. “If patients aren’t allowed to go to the doctor of their choice, that’s going to be a serious problem.”

Mark Halperin, a senior political analyst at Time, pointed out that the problem extends beyond doctors to “medical clinics or any kind of providers.”

“It’s as if the plans are being regulated by both the state and, increasingly, by the federal program,” Halperin told Scarborough. “And it’s going to deny people access to medical providers they had in previous plans.”

Strassel: “God Made a Farm Bill”

We don’t often write here at United Liberty to celebrate works in other publications, but Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal has written something so epic, so flawless, so profound, and so important, that it needs to be celebrated and read by every voter and every taxpayer in this country.

First, a little back story. In 1978, legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey gave a speech to the Future Farmers of America convention, which included a section that became known as “So God Made a Farmer.” It was a continuation of the Biblical story of creation, using similar prose and Harvey’s profound voice to celebrate the importance of hard-working farmers in America. His speech was actually adapted from an earlier column he wrote, which was in turn adapted from a 1940 letter published in the Ellensburg Daily Record, but Harvey’s speech made it into an instant classic.

Heritage: U.S. drops out of top 10 in economic freedom

The United States has dropped is no longer in the 10 top freest economies in the world, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, a joint annual study from the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal that offers a look at the economies of 178 countries.

Economic freedom in the United States has declined each year since President Barack Obama took office, from 6th in 2009 to 12th in 2014. The researchers explained that new financial and healthcare regulations have “contributed significantly to the erosion of U.S. economic freedom.”

“Over the 20-year history of the Index, the U.S.’s economic freedom has fluctuated significantly. During the first 10 years, its score rose gradually, and it joined the ranks of the economically ‘free’ in 2006,” note the researchers. “Since then, it has suffered a dramatic decline of almost 6 points, with particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending.”

“The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years,” they added.

Hong Kong has the freest economy in the world, thanks to its fiscal freedom as well as its strong commitment to private property rights, open markets, and free trade. Researchers note that the Chinese protectorate also has a “highly motivated workforce and a high level of labor freedom,” which, they explain, “have added to Hong Kong’s economic dynamism and resilience.”

LA Senate: Landrieu’s PAC backs anti-oil Democrats

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) wants her constituents to believe that she is a different kind of Democrat, one who supports her home state’s oil and gas industry, which accounts for nearly a tenth of its economy.  But a recent Wall Street Journal report noted that Landrieu’s political action committee has given tens of thousands of dollars to help elect anti-oil and anti-gas Democrats:

Behind the scenes, however, Ms. Landrieu has been working just as hard to make sure she’s irrelevant. Through the auspices of JAZZ PAC, her leadership political action committee, she has from 2006 to 2012 contributed some $380,000 to re-elect some of the most ardent Senate opponents of the oil and gas industry. One result is a bloc of liberal members who easily cancel out Ms. Landrieu’s votes and guarantee the defeat of legislation designed to help Louisiana.
Ms. Landrieu has taken in more than $1 million in donations since 2004. Energy contributors include Marathon Oil, Murphy Oil, Sunoco, Coastal Land & Drilling, and lobby firms that do work for energy companies. Ms. Landrieu repays that support by funneling their money into the campaigns of members who routinely vote to undermine Louisiana oil and gas.

An example: In March 2012, Ms. Landrieu’s fellow Louisiana senator, Republican David Vitter, managed to get a vote on an amendment that would have implemented a 2008 offshore drilling plan to allow new oil and gas leases throughout the Outer Continental Shelf. Ms. Landrieu voted for the amendment.

Poll: Just 24% of uninsured say Obamacare is a good idea

The Obama Administration is relying heavily on uninsured Americans to enroll in health plans through the state and federal health insurance exchanges to meet their already long-shot enrollment goals. But a poll released last week showed that the uninsured are very skeptical of Obamacare, in what is an ominous sign for the administration.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that just 24% of the uninsured believe that Obamacare is a good idea, while a stunning 56% believe the law will have a negative impact on the healthcare system.

The numbers show an 11-point decline from September, according to the Wall Street Journal, when 35% of the uninsured believed that Obamacare was a good idea. The negative sentiment toward the law has risen markedly since then, to the current 56% from just 32% three months ago.

What’s more, the poll showed that 42% of the uninsured believe Obamacare will be bad for them and their families. Just 16% expect the law will have a positive impact.

The administration estimated that 700,000 people would enroll in health plans on the Obamacare exchanges in the first two months of the open enrollment period, October and November. Numbers released last week by the Department of Health and Human Service showed that just 364,682 people had selected plans (ie. not necessarily enrolled) through the exchanges through November.

More signs Healthcare.gov won’t be ready by November 30

During testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, an Obama Administration official admitted that as much as 40% of the IT systems needed to support the federal Obamacare exchange website, Healthcare.gov, still need to be built so that the scheme can function properly.

“How much do we have to build today, still. I mean, what do we need to build — 50%, 40%, 30%?” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) asked Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I think it’s — just an approximation — we’re probably sitting somewhere between 60% and 70% [completion],” said Chao, a key official in construction of the website, adding after a follow up that payment systems to insurers still need to be built.

That’s right, folks, the payment system that would send premiums to insurers for the health plans purchased on the federal exchange has not been built.

If you like your doctor, you may not be able to keep him

Doctors and Obamacare

Not only did President Barack Obama tell Americans that they could keep their health plans under Obamacare, he also said on numerous occasions that they could keep their doctors. Like his health plan promise, there was no ambiguity or nuance to the statement.

“Under the reform that I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you’ll keep your doctor,” said President Obama on July 29, 2009. “If you like your health care plan, you will keep your plan.”

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” he said, again, on March 10, 2010. “I’m the father of two young girls –- I don’t want anybody interfering between my family and their doctor.”

Despite that promise by President Obama, many Americans are losing their doctors. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that UnitedHealth Group dropped thousands of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network, leaving many seniors without access to the doctors they liked and trusted:

50,000 Obamacare enrollments through Healthcare.gov


We’re finally getting an idea of how many enrollments were completed through the disastrous federal Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov, and the numbers are ominous. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday afternoon that somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 enrollments were submitted to participating private health insurers in October:

So far, private health plans have received enrollment data for 40,000 to 50,000 users of the federal marketplace, the people familiar with the figures said. The federal marketplace uses an industry-standard format to exchange enrollment information, known as an 834 transmission.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt said Monday she couldn’t confirm the enrollment numbers. She added, “We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time.”

This number doesn’t include the enrollments from the 15 separate state Obamacare exchanges. Avalere Health reported that there were 49,100 enrollments in 12 of those exchanges, though that includes enrollments in November. That doesn’t include California, Massachusetts or Oregon, the latter of which hasn’t enrolled a single person.

So the early estimate is approximately 50,000 enrollments into private health insurance plans during the month of October, the first month in which the federal exchange was open. That’s going to go up as states that haven’t reported their numbers finally released them.

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