Employees at an Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) processing center in Wentzville, Missouri, with a contract worth $1.2 billion are getting paid to do nothing but sit at their computers, a whistleblower told TV News 4.
The facility is operated by Serco, owned by a British company awarded $1.2 billion partially to hire workers to handle paper applications for coverage under the new healthcare law.
A worker told News 4 that weeks can pass without employees receiving a single application to process. Employees reportedly spend their days staring at their computers.
Four states that spent nearly a half-billion dollars in federal money to build their own state Obamacare exchanges are facing a tough decision – collect even more federal dollars to salvage their websites or transition over to the federal exchange, scrapping the sites and throwing away the money that has already been spent.
Currently, the federal system serves 36 states, more than the federal health care reform plan had expected, reports Politico. But the sites for the states of Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland are all considered failures, and the government must either write them checks to give them a second chance, or for less money include them with other states that use the federal website to service Obamacare plans. The four states alone have used some $474 million in attempts to build their own healthcare exchanges.
Two Republican senators, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced a bill Wednesday, May 14, 2014, that would punish states who completely scrap their state-run ObamaCare exchanges, requiring them to pay back the federal government for the money that was wasted.
The bill would apply to states who forego their own state exchange in favor of the federal marketplace.
“The American people are sick and tired of writing a blank check for the health care law’s complete failures,” Barrasso said in a statement.
Obamacare enrollment success and payment rates continue to be controversial. But can those numbers be fully verified? A May 7 Associated Press article, reveals leading health insurers recently told members of Congress that more than 80 percent of people who’ve enrolled have paid their premiums. The article appeared on the Washington Examiner.com.
Insurer Aetna claims premium payment rates are in the “low-to mid-80 percent range.” Wellpoint, another insurer, maintains the rate is as high as 90 percent. Health Care Service Corporation, who sells Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states, says the rate is 83 percent or above. AP says, “Democrats seized on the figures disclosed at a House hearing as the latest sign that the health care law has defied its critics and is working.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said, “By any rational, reasonable measure we can call this law a success.” However, Republicans still see things differently and want to know if rates will increase in 2015, and by how much? The GOP also wants to know how many of those now covered previously had no insurance plan.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, commented, “While the administration toasts the law’s success with its Hollywood allies, declaring this conversation is over, we will continue our pursuit for facts.”
Will the confirmation process for Sylvia Mathews Burwell be relatively controversy-free? The White House’s new choice to oversee the Affordable Care Act recently underwent the first of two congressional interrogations from Senate Republicans, according to Jennifer Haberkom, May 7 on Politico’s website.
With the strong support of Senate Democrats, Burwell still has a strong likelihood of confirmation. Even some Republicans have indicated they could vote for her ─ barring any faux pas or skeletons suddenly emerging from her closet. Still, Republicans will utilize both hearing sessions in an attempt to undermine legislation that she’ll be responsible for both implementing and administering.
Questions Burwell will likely face include:
● How much Burwell knows about healthcare.
● What changes she might make to the ACA.
● The number of people have lost coverage and how many were previously uninsured.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) commented on Burwell, “. . . And she lacks experience in that and you would think that in this point in history you would get somebody who served as a head of a state health department, a state Medicaid [agency], who ran an insurance company or a big medical company or just a big company that bought a lot of health care.”
An April healthcare tracking survey performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, says perceptions of Obamacare show very little change, adding that recent sign ups have had minimal effect on views of the ACA. The report was referenced by John McCormack in a May 5 article on The Weekly Standard website.
McCormack reports the poll number of those who disapprove of the law (55 percent) “is as high as it ever has been in the four-year history of the law.” Only 41 percent view the 2010 law favorably.
Former GOP Congressman, Tom Davis of Virginia, commented on the high percentage who disapprove the law by saying, “It’s huge.” Davis was once chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee.
A Heritage.org article says under a proposed amendment by Senator David Vitter (R-La.), everyone from the President to all political appointees, Congress, and their staff, would obtain health insurance on the exchanges (or marketplaces). The May 5 report says Vitter wants this realized, “under the same conditions as every other American.”
With Vitter’s plan, no subsidy or tax credit would be provided to members of Congress or staffers that is not offered to other subscribers. Congress previously voted to remove members from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and “require Members and staff to get their healthcare coverage through the exchange program this year,” according to Heritage. A key sticking point is that “neither current or prior law provides any authorization for any such subsidies.”
Georgia Senate Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, says, “No one in Congress should get a subsidy to pay for their own health care.” Her campaign ad says she is “adopting GOP talking points,” as well as “distanc[ing] herself from Mr. Obama on his health care law.”
More legal challenges are being brought against the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The Hill.com reports Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) sharply responded to a colleague finding fault with his lawsuit over how lawmakers’ health coverage is supposedly funded under the Affordable Care Act. Recently, on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” Johnson defended himself against Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) denying that his lawsuit is “a fruitless attempt to stop the [healthcare] law,” referring to it as an “unfortunate political stunt.”
On the program on April 29, Johnson said, “This is not frivolous. This is not a stunt. This is a very serious constitutional question.” The majority of employees in both private and public sectors are granted a healthcare subsidy from their respective employer in an effort to reduce coverage costs.
“Hopefully now he understands that it’s not just about this narrow regulation on the special treatment,” Johnson said. “It’s more about the overall constitutional issue.”
The Christian Science Monitor reports on May 8 that Obamacare is under a bright spotlight again ─ a legal one. A federal lawsuit alleges Senator Harry Reid violated the Constitution with his own maneuverings to pass Obamacare. The case, filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a conservative legal advocacy fund, is to go before a federal judicial panel. The PLF wants enforcement of a “constitutional command”: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” PLF counsel argues that the ACA, as initially passed by the Senate and later approved by the House, occurred in violation of the Constitution’s Origination Clause.
Predictably, the Obama administration disputes this recent legal contest. Justice Department Attorney, Alisa Klein, responded, “The Supreme Court has never invalidated an Act of Congress on the basis of the Origination Clause, and this suit presents no reason to break new ground.”
The Origination Clause in the U.S. Constitution mandates that bills looking for money from Americans “emerge first from the legislative body closest to the people themselves,” so says the Christian Science Monitor. CSM adds, the ideal result of this mandate is full political transparency “by forcing political accountability by forcing such measures to win initial approval among lawmakers in the House.”
While the Senate has “gut-and-amend” powers over a bill, to date “no court has ever held that the Senate can use such a procedure to originate a bill for raising revenue,” PLF lawyers claim.
Scary predictions that individual health plan insurance premiums would dramatically increase in the first year of Obamacare turned out to be mostlhy wrong. But the roughly 8 million people who bought insurance through the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) exchanges may suffer some sticker shock as they begin using their benefits.
That’s because many of the plans make consumers shoulder a lot of the costs of their medical care through deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance—payments the newly insured may not have grasped when they signed up. Research suggests that most people don’t understand those terms.