A Tale of Two Subsidies
Leave it to the federal government to build a national health care system without bothering to nail down a cost structure first. Unfortunately, that's just the latest installment of "Adventures in ObamaCare," as the President's team scrambles to figure out how the website's pricing system will work for insurers. Thousands of Americans may be paying for coverage, but insurers still have no way of receiving their money through HHS's joke of a website. As recently as last month, the brain trust behind HealthCare.gov admitted that the website's bridge to insurers hadn't even been built yet.
"It's not that it's not working," Henry Chao told Congress. "It's still being developed." Two months after the launch, HHS is still missing one of the most critical parts of the whole the system: the section of the website that transfers money from the government to insurance plans to pay for premiums and other coverage costs. Since the entire exchange rides on those federal subsidies, President Obama needed a solution -- and fast. As usual, he chose to dump the problem on someone else: the insurance industry. And, in the process, he made his brand new system ripe for fraud.
Until HealthCare.gov is fully operational, HHS is asking insurance companies to decide how much money the government owes them for subsidies. Under this "honor system," the administration will cut plans a check -- no questions asked -- and settle up on the real amount later. In a desperate attempt to soothe the industry's ruffled feathers, the President is putting millions of taxpayer dollars on the line, betting on these companies' honesty.
Even if insurance brokers are truthful, theirs is just a sophisticated "guestimate" of what the subsidies should be -- a guestimate that requires a significant amount of man hours and paperwork. Essentially, the White House is pawning off calculations (which it had three years to complete) on companies that never planned to do them.
Thomas Lifson rips the idea apart in a new piece for American Thinker. "As with so many other aspects of ObamaCare, decisions are being made on the fly, to cover up for systematic failures... If insurance companies generously calculate the subsidies, that means they will charge consumers lower prices, counting on the subsidy to make up the difference. If the feds decide that the subsidy was too high, then the insurance companies will have to go to the policy holders and demand more money. Does anyone think that would be a smooth process?" National Review columnist Avik Roy called it a presidential bailout. "So the Obama administration's saying well the only way we can keep the insurers participating in this market is to pay them in advance and trust them." The bribe could be a costly one, especially if taxpayers are at the insurance companies' mercy.
Speaking of kickbacks, Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) staff is getting a sweet one now that the Majority Leader is breaking his promise to put his office on the government's health care exchange. Yesterday, the Senate's top Democrat (and leading ObamaCare cheerleader) broke his promise and exempted his staff from the coverage he's forcing on the rest ofAmerica. So much for his vow from September: "We're going to be part of exchanges, that's what the law says and we'll be part of that." When it comes to bucking the system, Reid stands alone. Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all honored their pledge to direct staff to the exchange. If you can't beat 'em, exempt them! As one Senate aide said, "I'm sure that regular Americans who just lost their insurance will feel comforted to know that Senator Reid's staff gets to keep their government plan."
Luckily for them, Reid's staff will also be spared the anxiety of knowing their personal information may be exposed to the entire world -- thanks to the website's slack security protections. That's just one of the issues House members hoped to get to the bottom of this week in another series of ObamaCare hearings. Unfortunately, that would require the White House's cooperation -- something that appears to be in short supply of late. When Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) called administration officials in to brief members, both HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services refused to talk about the problems even on a classified basis.
"That's just unconscionable," Rogers fumed. "You're encouraging people to go to a site that our own government knows doesn't meet safety standards when it comes to security of private information."
Common Sense on Common Core
If there's one thing education experts agree on, it's that Common Core isn't creating a lot of common alliances! In an interesting political twist, the President's national standards seem to be producing plenty of strange partnerships. Republicans and Democrats are reaching across the aisle for and against the policy, while tea partiers hatch odd coalitions with teachers unions and President Obama saddles up with Exxon-Mobil. The coalitions around Common Core are as diverse as they are unpredictable. "That wonderful old line [is] that the problem with national standards is: Republicans don't do 'national' and Democrats don't do 'standards," said one leader.
For now, the opposition to the administration's "feducation" seems to be picking up steam, as states like Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania frantically try to roll back Washington's universal standards. In Arizona and Idaho, the benchmarks are so unpopular that leaders have tried changing the program's name to boost its image ("Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards" and "Idaho Core"). Although 45 states and D.C. adopted the Core, Governors likeLouisiana's Bobby Jindal (R) are trying to stop the federal government's overreach. "We need Louisiana standards, not Washington, D.C. standards."
Like us, he knows that behind the curtain of Common Core is a strong drive the federal government to centralize education and strip parents and local schools of their authority. The program is also making headlines for its veiled attempt at data collection through suspicious student surveys and other means. "Common Core means government agencies will gather and store all sorts of private information on every schoolchild into a longitudinal database from birth through all levels of schooling, plus giving government the right to share and exchange this nosy information with other government and private agencies..." Phyllis Schlafly pointed out. "This type of surveillance and control of individuals is the mark of a totalitarian government." What's more, the type of curriculum being spawned by Common Core (CC) is objectionable to many parents. Contact your state officials and encourage them to avoid CC and its lure of federal money. A rotten Core is worse than no core at all.
Adult Stem Cells Finally Getting the Treatment They Deserve!
Rep. Nancy Pelosi once said embryonic stem cell research was "biblical in its power to cure" and "an answer to our prayers." President Obama wasn't been far behind, wholeheartedly throwing his support behind destructive embryonic stem cell research. But as Cheryl Wetzstein at the Washington Times points out, even two of the nation's most socially liberal states -- California and Maryland -- are shifting funding streams to adult stem cells (ASCs), which have no ethical baggage. This latest news is a victory for life and is reason to celebrate FRC's own Dr. David Prentice, who, for two decades, has tirelessly worked to promote ASCs as the true gold standard for stem cells.
They're certainly golden for patients, with more than 60,000 people a year around the world currently treated with adult stem cells. As David recently testified in legislatures and around the world, embryonic stem cell research relies on the destruction of young human life and has zero proven successes for patients. Adult stem cells provide effective treatments now for dozens of diseases and conditions. They're the best cells for the job -- and all without harming the stem cell donors.
Last spring, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law a first-of-its-kind Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center devoted to adult stem cell therapies, research, education, and physician training. Already, the Center has already processed cells for patient treatments and held its inaugural stem cell conference. Adult stem cells are showing tremendous progress, while honoring human life at every stage and every age. Adult stem cells save lives!
** What's the administration's biggest weapon in the fight against conservatives? The IRS. Find out why in Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski's new Breitbart column, "Obama Uses IRS to Eliminate His Enemies."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.