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Posts tagged ‘department of health and human services’

Obama administration placed children with human traffickers, report says


January 28

URL of the original posting site: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/obama-administration-placed-children-with-human-traffickers-report-says/2016/01/28/39465050-c542-11e5-9693-933a4d31bcc8_story.html

The Obama administration failed to protect thousands of Central American children who have flooded across the U.S. border since 2011, leaving them vulnerable to traffickers and to abuses at the hands of government-approved caretakers, a Senate investigation has found.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, failed to do proper background checks of adults who claimed the children, allowed sponsors to take custody of multiple unrelated children, and regularly placed children in homes without visiting the locations, according to a 56-page investigative report released Thursday.

And once the children left federally funded shelters, the report said, the agency permitted their adult sponsors to prevent caseworkers from providing them post-release services.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) initiated the six-month investigation after several Guatemalan teens were found in a dilapidated trailer park near Marion, Ohio, where they were being held captive by traffickers and forced to work at a local egg farm. The boys were among more than 125,000 unaccompanied minors who have surged into the United States since 2011, fleeing violence and unrest in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.hell

The report concluded that administration “policies and procedures were inadequate to protect the children in the agency’s care.”you think

tyrantsHHS spokesman Mark Weber said in a statement that the agency would “review the committee’s findings carefully and continue to work to ensure the best care for the children we serve.”

The report was released ahead of a hearing Thursday before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Portman co-chairs with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). It detailed nearly 30 cases where unaccompanied children had been trafficked after federal officials released them to sponsors or where there were “serious trafficking indicators.” 

“HHS places children with individuals about whom it knows relatively little and without verifying the limited information provided by sponsors about their alleged relationship with the child,” the report said.

For example, one Guatemalan boy planned to live with his uncle in Virginia. But when the uncle refused to take the boy, he ended up with another sponsor, who forced him to work nearly 12 hours a day to repay a $6,500 smuggling debt, which the sponsor later increased to $10,900, the report said.

A boy from El Salvador was released to his father even though he told a caseworker that his father had a history of beating him, including hitting him with an electrical cord. In September, the boy alerted authorities that his father was forcing him to work for little or no pay, the report said; a post-release service worker later found the boy was being kept in a basement and given little food. 

The Senate investigation began in July after federal prosecutors indicted six people in connection with the Marion labor-trafficking scheme, which involved at least eight minors and two adults from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala.

One defendant, Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, used associates to file false applications with the government agency tasked with caring for the children, and bring them to Ohio, where he kept them in squalid conditions in a trailer park and forced them to work 12-hour days, at least six days a week, for little pay. Castillo-Serrano has pleaded guilty to labor-trafficking charges and awaits sentencing in the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo.

The FBI raided the trailer park in December 2014, rescuing the boys, but the Senate investigation says federal officials could have discovered the scheme far sooner.

In August 2014, a child-welfare caseworker attempted to visit one of the children, who had been approved for post-release services because of reported mental-health problems, according to the report. The caseworker went to the address listed for the child, but the person who answered the door said the child didn’t live there, the report added. When the caseworker finally found the child’s sponsor, the sponsor blocked the caseworker from talking to the child. Instead of investigating further, the caseworker closed the child’s case file, the report said, citing “ORR policy which states that the Post Release Services are voluntary and sponsor refused services.”hell

That child was found months later, living 50 miles away from the sponsor’s home and working at the egg farm, according to the report. The child’s sponsor was later indicted.

VanSickle is a reporter for the Investigative Reporting Program, a nonprofit news organization at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Cartoon: An Omnibus Chistmas


waving flagCommentary By Glenn Foden / / December 18, 2015

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Several Heritage Foundation researchers gave their reaction to the spending bill that was announced this week:

Early Wednesday morning, the House Rules Committee posted text for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of the 2016 fiscal year (FY). This $1.1 trillion spending package, known as the omnibus, shows Washington at its worst.

Lawmakers are being asked to sign off on 2,200 pages (with an additional 1,000 pages of explanatory materials), at the 11th hour, without having had sufficient time to analyze its contents.

The House plans to begin consideration of the bill on Friday morning, with final votes expected to come Friday afternoon before the House leaves town until Jan. 5. Exact timing of when the Senate will vote on the bill is unclear, but lawmakers are expected to wrap up consideration quickly and begin their vacation, perhaps as early as Friday night. In the meantime, another short-term continuing resolution will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown at midnight.

The omnibus spending package, along with the tax extenders package, is full of provisions that were negotiated behind closed doors.

Heritage experts have combed through the bill’s numerous provisions and have provided their analysis on several key issues below:

Higher Spending

Once again, Congress has missed a critical opportunity to abide by the Budget Control Act spending caps and will not rein in wasteful and excessive spending. Base spending for the omnibus comes in at $1.066 trillion, the level agreed upon in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The defense and non-defense subcategories are at the agreed upon levels as well.

Overall, FY2016 base discretionary spending in the omnibus is $50 billion higher than the original Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) levels.

The Bipartisan Budget Act set a maximum amount of discretionary spending, not a spending goal that had to be obtained. Since its enactment in 2011, the Budget Control Act caps set by the law have been exceeded each year.

With the Bipartisan Budget Act’s revised FY2017 spending level already set to bust the caps and be above the FY2018 cap, unless Congress starts making the tough spending decisions and abiding by the Budget Control Act, we are poised to continue this trend in the future.

War Account as Slush Fund

Funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) is also at the $73.7 billion level agreed upon in the Bipartisan Budget Act, with defense receiving $58.8 billion and non-defense receiving $14.9 billion in FY 2016. The Bipartisan Budget Act increased Overseas Contingency Operations funding by $16 billion for each of the next two years.

The $8 billion designated for non-defense is likely to be used to cover base budget needs of the State Department rather than for continuing war efforts, once again using Overseas Contingency Operations money as a slush fund to increase non-defense discretionary spending up to the president’s requested level while defense remains underfunded.obama- Marxist tyrant

Even Higher Spending With Gimmicks

On top of the base discretionary funding and Overseas Contingency Operations funding agreed upon in the Bipartisan Budget Act, the omnibus also includes other above-the-cap spending for purposes such as disaster and emergency declarations and program integrity initiatives.

The bill includes $7.1 billion in disaster spending, which funds responses to presidential declarations for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, among other purposes.

The omnibus also provides $1.5 billion for program integrity initiatives that aim to combat Medicaid waste, fraud, and abuse. An additional $698 million is also appropriated to the Department of the Interior for emergency declarations. While some of these may be worthwhile and necessary purposes, these expenses (which recur almost every year) should be accounted for in the base budget. Funds in excess of the discretionary cap should be appropriated only when a true emergency or unforeseen disaster occurs. They should not be used as another gimmick to circumvent the spending caps.Propaganda Alert BS Alert

The omnibus also relies on Changes in Mandatory Programs (CHIMPs) to bust through the (already inflated) spending caps. These are changes to mandatory spending and entitlements that affect current-year budget authority and are treated as changes in discretionary spending for the purpose of scoring appropriations bills.

Sometimes these are real savings and may be used as an acceptable offset, but most of the time they are simply a way to increase discretionary spending in the current year with no real savings ever being realized.

The FY2016 Conference Budget Resolution took a first step in reining in CHIMPs spending by limiting the total amount that could be used as an offset over the each of the next four years. However, the agreement still allows for over $19 billion in additional spending this fiscal year. This is purely additional discretionary spending over the agreed upon budget caps. Moving forward, the use of CHIMPs should be eliminated completely.

—Justin Bogie, senior policy analyst, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Sanctuary Cities Spared

The omnibus does not restrict Department of Homeland Security or Department of Justice grants to cities that resist the enforcement of federal immigration law, also known as sanctuary cities. Federalism gives local governments some latitude in choosing to oppose or not assist the federal government in enforcing immigration law, but the federal government does not have to reward or pay for the results of such policies.

No Additional Assurances on Vetting RefugeesDo you want

The omnibus also does not request additional assurances, intelligence assessments, or risk-based plans for the refugee process. If Congress is genuinely concerned about the vetting of refugees, then it should have requested additional information with which to oversee such vetting programs.

Similarly, while the bill makes small improvements to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), it also adds largely unhelpful and even counterproductive restrictions to the program by denying Visa Waiver Program to individuals who have travelled to Iraq, Syria, or other countries. Importantly, it also does not expand the program in order to reap additional security benefits.

—David Inserra, policy analyst for homeland security and cybersecurity, Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Risk Corridor Bailouts Avoided

The bill also continues a provision to prohibit the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Program Management funds from being used to make payments under Obamacare’s risk corridor program. This will prohibit the administration from using undedicated funds to bail out unprofitable qualified health insurance plans in the individual and small group markets.Complete Message

Planned Parenthood Affiliates Still Fundedhow many body parts

The trillion-dollar budget deal would continue to allow hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, from both discretionary funding under Title X and from Medicaid reimbursements, to flow to Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates—despite recent disturbing videos showing Planned Parenthood officials haggling over the price of body parts of aborted babies.

No federal funds should be going to Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its affiliates or health centers. Disqualifying Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving Title X family planning grants, Medicaid reimbursements, and other federal grants and contracts should not reduce the overall funding for women’s health care. The funds currently flowing to Planned Parenthood affiliates should be redirected to health centers that offer comprehensive health care without entanglement in abortion on demand. Members of Congress had the opportunity with the year-end funding bill to end both mandatory and discretionary federal funding of Planned Parenthood and end taxpayer entanglement with the largest abortion provider in the country, but they failed to do so.

Failure to Protect Conscience Rights

While long-standing pro-life riders are included in the omnibus, a much-needed policy to address serious conscience violations is missing from the spending bill.

In August 2014, the Department of Managed Health Care in California mandated that almost every health plan in the state include coverage of elective abortions, including those plans offered by religious organizations, religious schools, and even churches. The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal, state, and local governments that receive certain federal funds from discriminating against health care entities, including health care plans, that do not “provide, pay for, provide coverage of or refer for abortions.” While that policy has been included in appropriations bills since 2004 (including the current omnibus), enforcement of the conscience policy is left to the discretion of officials in the Department of Health and Human Services, which has a poor track record of moving quickly (if at all) on complaints. The Obama administration has so far effectively ignored requests to HHS for help obtaining relief from California’s mandate.Picture2

In response to this urgent problem, Congress should provide victims of discrimination the ability to defend their freedom of conscience in court, not leave them to wait on bureaucrats in the Obama administration. The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act would do just that. The act is currently part of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, H.R. 940, a bill that would address other conscience issues in Obamacare.

—Sarah Torre, policy analyst, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society

More Bad Than Good on Energy Provisions

If you were to put a jelly bean for each energy provision on a two-sided scale, one side being good free-market provisions and the other being corrupt energy provisions, the bad side of the scale would be hitting the floor.

The good provision is a very good provision, indeed. Lifting the crude oil export ban would generate more jobs for Americans, supply the United States and the world with more affordable energy, and provide important geopolitical benefits for Washington and its allies.

But the numerous bad provisions waste taxpayer money and provide targeted tax credits to politically connected companies. They include:

  • A five-year extension of the wind production tax credit (PTC). The wind PTC, which has been around since 1982, artificially propped up an industry, advanced special interests, and allocated labor and capital away from more competitive uses in the marketplace.
  • A five-year extension of the solar investment tax credit (ITC), which companies can now take when they begin construction rather than when they start producing power. Solar companies would be better off in the long run without the ITC. They would understand their true price point to be competitive in the short and long run.
  • A ramp up in Department of Energy spending for renewables, energy efficiency provisions, fossil fuels, and nuclear. The Department of Energy has ballooned by subsidizing and forcing energy technologies into the marketplace. The private sector has demonstrated countless times that it is far better equipped than government to allocate resources and develop commercially viable technologies.
  • A handout for the oil industry. The legislation would provide a targeted tax credit for small, independent refiners and allow independents to exempt 75 percent of transportation costs when calculating their Section 199 manufacturing deductions. This is nothing more than obvious compensation for lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Further, the energy tax provisions in the omnibus speak to the need for the federal government to stop using the tax code to pick winners and losers for all energy sources and technologies.
  • A three-year extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The massive amount of land owned and managed by the U.S. government has resulted in land mismanagement, stifled opportunities for recreation and resource production, and poor environmental stewardship. Reauthorizing the LWCF is a recipe for prolonging mediocre and often poor federal control of America’s land. Permanently eliminating the LWCF is recognition that improved economic growth and environmental quality are born not out of Washington, but in the states.

Absent from the text are provisions that would block the Obama administration’s climate change regulations, regulations that will drive up energy costs no climate benefit. Instead, the federal government has hundreds of millions of dollars to dole out internationally through the Climate Investment Fund and Strategic Climate Fund. Notably missing from the omnibus spending bill is a provision prohibiting spending on the Green Climate Fund.

This is no compromise, but instead a large extension of government intrusion in energy markets where it does not need to be.Ponzi Scheme

—Nick Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Failure on WOTUS (EPA Water Rule)

The omnibus bill fails to prohibit funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps’ controversial “waters of the United States” rule, which would greatly expand the types of waters that could be covered under the Clean Water Act, from certain man-made ditches to so-called waters that are actually dry land most of the time.

In addition to this rule being an attack on both property rights and the states’ role in protecting the environment, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) just ruled that the EPA broke the law in developing it.

The policy problems and the agency overreach should have been more than enough to block funding for the rule. Both the House and the Senate have already passed different bills that would repeal the rule (the same bill still needs to be passed by both chambers). Attorneys general and agencies from at least 31 states are suing the federal government regarding the rule. Even environmental groups are suing.

If it somehow wasn’t a no-brainer to block funding for the water rule before, then it certainly should have been after the GAO’s opinion. The GAO found that the EPA violated the law when developing the rule by trying to inappropriately gin up support for the rule through improper lobbying activities and covert propaganda. Their illegal actions, according to GAO, were focused not just on the regulatory process, but also on encouraging opposition to legislation that would have blocked efforts to undermine the rule. The legislative process itself, and the work of many members of Congress, was itself being undermined by EPA’s actions. Yet Congress still allowed the rule to go forward. If Congress won’t use the power of the purse to block this rule, when will it ever use the power of the purse to block any rule?

Funding Barred for Unrelated Dietary Guidelines

Every five years, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services issue dietary guidelines to advise the public on healthy eating. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) submitted its scientific report, which helps to inform the final guidelines, in February. Throughout the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee process, there has been a focus on non-dietary issues such as sustainability, climate change, and other environmental factors.

The omnibus bill does prohibit funding for guidelines that are not limited to nutritional and dietary information (Division A, Sec. 734). It would also direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with the National Academy of Medicine to study the Dietary Guidelines process (Division A, Sec. 735). The problem, though, is that any new Dietary Guidelines, even if claimed to be based on nutritional and dietary factors alone, will have no legitimacy, because the process was dominated by environmental concerns, not dietary concerns.

Repeals Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling

The mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for certain meat products has been the subject of significant controversy. Both Canada and Mexico have correctly alleged that COOL has a discriminatory effect on their livestock exports to the United States, violating trade obligations. COOL is merely a non-tariff trade barrier, having nothing to do with health or safety, which is supposed to provide consumers information.

Yet the government doesn’t need to impose such a requirement if consumers value such information; the market will respond accordingly. As it turns out, consumers don’t value this information. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has repeatedly agreed with Canada and Mexico. After just receiving WTO authorization, Canada and Mexico are about to impose over a billion dollars in retaliatory tariffs on the United States. The omnibus bill would repeal COOL before this costly retaliation is imposed on a wide range of industries (Division A, Sec. 759).

—Daren Bakst, research fellow in agricultural policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Small Steps on School Lunch Funding

The omnibus continues funding for the USDA’s new school lunch standards, which were implemented as part of the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

However, these standards have been burdensome to schools and should not be funded. For example, a January 2014 report by the GAO shows that since the implementation of the new standards, participation in the school lunch program has declined, there has been an increase in food waste among students, and some schools have dropped out of the program at least partially due to the new standards.

The new standards have also imposed greater costs on schools, such that some have even have had to draw from their education funds to cover them.

The omnibus takes small steps in the right direction by

1) allowing states to exempt schools from the whole grain requirement if a state can “demonstrate hardship, including financial hardship, in procuring specific whole grain products which are acceptable to the students and compliant with the whole grain-rich requirements,” and by

2) prohibiting funds to go toward rules that would require a reduction in sodium in school meals until scientific research can establish that such a decrease is beneficial to children.

The decision of what children eat is best left to parents, not bureaucrats in Washington. Congress should prohibit any funding from going toward these costly and heavy-handed standards.

—Rachel Sheffield, policy analyst, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society; and Daren Bakst, research fellow in agricultural policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

Congress Is at It Again With Tax Extenders

The tax extenders are a yearly exercise that Congress is long overdue to end. Lawmakers should go through the various policies in the package, extend those that are sound policy, and eliminate those that are not, all in a revenue-neutral manner. Once again, Congress did not follow this sensible approach.

To its credit, Congress made several policies permanent. Importantly, it made the Research and Development Credit, section 179 expensing for small businesses, and the exemption from subpart F income of active financing income permanent. These are all necessary policies, given the dilapidated state of the tax system. It will be a relief in future years that they are no longer set to expire.

The price of these permanent extensions was steep. Congress also made permanent the stimulus’ expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Credit. These permanent expansions increase spending by nearly $160 billion over the next 10 years. Congress should have offset this spending with spending cuts in other areas.

The bill also extends bonus depreciation, better called 50 percent expensing, for five years. It would have been better had Congress made it permanent, too, but a five-year extension is better than a two-year continuance.

Disappointingly, Congress also included a five-year extension of other policies that are not sound, including the New Markets Tax Credit and the Work Opportunity Credit. These policies are examples of Congress using the tax code to pick winners and losers. They should have been among the first extenders to be permanently excised instead of receiving an expanded extension.

The rest of the extenders get the at-this-point standard two-year extension. Since the extenders were expired for 2015, the two-year bill extends them retroactively for 2015 and through 2016. Congress will be back at this game either in the lame duck session at the end of 2016 or sometime in 2017.

Obamacare’s Taxes

A two-year moratorium on Obamacare’s medical device tax, for 2016 and 2017, is also included in the tax bill. It is a bad tax, but suspending it should not be confused with repealing Obamacare.

Strangely, the omnibus spending bill includes a two-year delay of the beginning of the Cadillac tax on high-cost health insurance plans from 2018 to 2020, as well as the delay of the tax on health insurers, and an extension of various alternative energy credits, including the production tax credit. The policies should not have been extended, especially since Congress did not adopt equivalent Obamacare spending cuts.

Delaying the start of the Cadillac tax was the wrong approachespecially since Congress did not adopt equivalent Obamacare spending cuts. Congress should instead use it as a pivot to capping the tax exclusion of employer-provided health insurance.

Even though it is long past time for Congress to end its practice of dealing with the extenders semiannually, it did make certain important policies permanent. That will make the extenders easier to deal with next time and lowers the revenue baseline for tax reform. These are steps in the right direction after years of standing still.

Curtis Dubay, research fellow for tax and economic policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

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Why 6 Government-Funded Insurance Companies Created Under Obamacare Collapsed


waving flagPosted by Melissa Quinn / / October 15, 2015

A government watchdog overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services delivered the grim financial state of nearly all of the co-ops—that collectively received $2.4 billion—created under Obamacare several months ago.

Now, following the collapse of six of the 23 that launched in 2013, the co-ops, or consumer oriented and operated plans, face an uphill battle to solidify themselves as competitors in the health insurance market.Complete Message

To assist the co-ops in getting off the ground, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services disbursed $2.4 billion in start-up and solvency loans to the 23 co-ops created under Obamacare.

However, over the last 10 months, six co-ops, which collectively received nearly $762 million from the federal government, announced they’re closing their doors and pulling out of the insurance market for 2016.The Lower you go

As a result, more than 420,000 Americans who enrolled in health insurance coverage through the nonprofit insurers will lose their insurance and have been instructed to select new plans next year.

Additionally, an analysis conducted by The Daily Signal in February, along with a July report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, found that 22 of the 23 co-ops lost money in 2014.

Thirteen of the 23, meanwhile, enrolled far fewer consumers than projected.

Industry experts predicted that some of the co-ops would struggle to survive, as the nonprofit insurers lacked the financial flexibility and deep pockets of their larger, more established competitors. The collapse of the two biggest co-ops, Kentucky and New York, as well as the most recent closure‚ Tennessee, has brought into the question the viability of the remaining 17. “If you can make it through for long enough, and if this market continues to grow, you can see a world where some [co-ops] become viable and profitable in future years,” Chris Sloan, a manager at Avalere Health, told The Daily Signal. “But they have to make it through now, the lack of risk corridors payment, a slower enrollment than expected. These are brand new companies, and it’s a brand new market, so you have to make it through the initial early years.”

“There’s been a lot of factors that have happened that have really blown the winds back at [the co-ops] that no one really expected.”

In a statement to The Daily Signal, Aaron Albright, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency recognizes that not all of the co-ops will succeed. However, he said they have increased competition in the health insurance market. As co-ops across the country continuously review their financial and operational positions heading into the next open enrollment period, we will work closely with state departments of insurance and co-ops to provide the best possible outcome for the consumer,” Albright said. “If a co-op has solvency issues, and we cannot rule out that others may this year, we will work with the states so that consumers have affordable options on the marketplace.” (This statement was added after publication)

Creating the Co-Ops

Co-ops, or nonprofit insurance companies, were created during the Obamacare debate in 2009 as a compromise between Republicans and Democrats, who wanted the health care law to include a public option, or a federal health insurance plan.

The Obama administration originally requested $6 billion from Congress to fund start-up and solvency loans for the co-ops, but lawmakers cut the funding to $3.8 billion in 2011 after members on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about the requested amount. Then, Congress further lowered the funding for the co-ops to roughly $2.4 billion, the majority of which has been allocated to the 23 co-ops. In addition to receiving federal dollars to launch, six co-ops requested and received additional money through solvency loans, which assisted the nonprofit insurers in meeting state solvency and reserve requirements.

Graphic: Kelsey Lucas/Visualsey

The co-ops were designed to inject competition into areas where few companies provided coverage, and in their first year participating in the market, some saw higher than expected enrollment as they offered the cheapest plans available to consumers. For example, CoOportunity, a co-op that received $145 million in loans from the government, expected to enroll just 12,000 consumers in Iowa and Nebraska during its first year on the exchange. By the end of the first open enrollment period in 2013, the co-op ended up enrolling 120,000—far exceeding its projections.

The co-op offered the cheapest plans available to consumers in the two states, and as a result of the influx of consumers, officials learned they didn’t make enough from premium costs to cover their customers’ medical claims. CoOportunity announced in January it would be liquidated, leaving more than 100,000 customers to find new plans.B2A_FvyCMAE14px

At the time the co-op announced its liquidation, it was not yet known if CoOportunity would be able to repay the $145 million it received in start-up and solvency loans.

In the months since CoOportunity announced it would be closing its doors, three more—Louisiana Health Cooperative, Health Republic Insurance of New York, and Nevada Health Cooperative—revealed they would follow suit.

Louisiana Health Cooperative received $65.8 million in loans, Health Republic Insurance of New York got $265.1 million, and Nevada Health Cooperative earned $65.9 million in loans. Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said in July that Obamacare’s “onerous burdens” have made it difficult for start-ups in the insurance market, such as the Louisiana Health Cooperative, to succeed. Similarly, Stacey Hatfield, a member of Nevada Health Co-Op’s board, said in August the co-op was “winding down” operations because of “challenging market conditions.”

“We talk about the co-ops as an overall program,” Hatfield said. “They are, in fact, 17 different health plans. They’re co-ops because they were seeded with the co-op loans from the ACA, but they are, in fact, plans run by different people and different orgs and things like that. And there’s pretty big diversity in terms of who is running the co-ops. Part of it comes down to if they were able to make decisions, and pricing decisions, that were viable for the market.”Complete Message

Photo: Screenshot/Tennessee Community Health Alliance

Coming Up Short

In addition to adjusting to new market conditions, Obamacare’s co-ops may face additional financial uncertainty due to payments expected under the health care law’s risk corridor program. Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that insurance companies would receive a significant amount less than expected through the program.

The risk corridor program, which is in place until 2017, was implemented to provide stability in the market. Under the initiative, companies that profited above a specified threshold shared a portion of the profit with the federal government. Those that lost more than a specified threshold, meanwhile, received assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services.

However, insurance companies that lost money—and thus expected to receive assistance from the government—learned earlier this month that they would receive just 12.6 percent of their requested risk-corridor payments. “A lot were counting on that money,” Sloan said.

In the wake of the announcement, two co-ops—Tennessee Community Health Alliance and Kentucky Health Cooperative—announced they would be winding down operations and no longer offering plans in 2016. Kentucky Health Cooperative received $146.4 million in loans, and Tennessee Community Health Alliance received $73.3 million. “In plainest language,” Kentucky Health Cooperative interim Chief Executive Officer Glenn Jennings said, “things have come up short of where they need to be.” Jennings said that the change to its risk-corridor payment led to “an unavoidable outcome.”

Kentucky’s co-op requested $77 million from the Department of Health and Human Services but will receive just $9.7 million.

Similarly, Jerry Burgess, president of Community Health Alliance, pointed to the lower than expected risk corridor reimbursement in a release notifying consumers that the co-op would no longer offer plans. “Last week’s announcement of a risk corridor reimbursement of just 12.6 percent cast doubt on the collectability of over $17 million of CHA’s risk corridor receivable and led to an unavoidable outcome,” Burgess said.

Tennessee’s Community Health Alliance froze enrollment in January. The co-op planned to offer insurance on the federal exchange in 2016, but the Obama administration’s guidance about the risk corridor program “raised concerns” about Community Health Alliance’s future.

Sloan, the manager for Avalere Health, told The Daily Signal the reduced payments “dealt a pretty big blow” to the co-ops. “I don’t think anyone expected that every single one of them was going to be successful. Obviously, the risk corridor payment was going to be the biggest thing you could change that could’ve led to improved viability for them,” he said. “If these organizations got their full risk corridor payments, that would’ve made a lot of their balance sheets look a lot better for this year.”

Sloan warned that the co-ops could be in for a similar surprise next year, as the program must be revenue-neutral, and payments could differ from their expectations next year, too.

In discussing the challenges the co-ops face, Sloan also pointed to the Department of Health and Human Services’ enrollment projections for 2016, which were announced today. The agency said it expects to enroll 10 million Americans in health insurance through Obamacare next year—far less than the 21 million projected by the Congressional Budget Office in March. “Co-ops, for the most part, they’re all only in exchanges,” Sloan said. “They’re designed for that market. That was the idea of the co-ops. … When you’ve got a market of that size—and 10 million isn’t that big for an insurance market—there’s inherently more risk, inherently more volatility in a small market.”

“It’s the only market they’re in, and it’s not a market that’s expected to grow significantly next year,” he continued. “Those are the two main things: one, the risk corridors may face a similar situation next year, and two, it doesn’t look like there are going to be significant enrollment changes next year. Put those two things together, and those are some forces working against the co-ops.”

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Georgia House Votes to Nullify Obamacare


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http://freedomoutpost.com/2014/03/georgia-house-votes-nullify-obamacare/#eLXiD56fw8OpMUVj.99

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Only Democrats

Late Monday evening, the Georgia State House of Representatives passed HB707, which bans the state participating in significant portions of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.  The vote was 115-59.

Representative Jason Spencer introduced HB707, The Georgia Health Care Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act.  Spencer also had five co-sponsors to the bill.

According to Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin, “While Georgia can’t fully stop Obamacare on its own, it can serve as a pretty major roadblock to implementation,” he said. “And as more states get on board with this strategy, it will pull the rug out from under it. Bills like this will end Obamacare from the bottom up.”

HB707 specifically provides the following bans:

  1. Prohibits any state agencies, departments or political subdivisions from using resources or spending funds to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid. This provision works hand-in-hand with HB990 to make it more difficult to expand Medicaid. HB990 would require legislative approval for expansion of the program, barring the governor from doing it by executive order.
  2. Prohibits the state of Georgia from running an insurance exchange.
  3. Refuses and federal grant money for the purpose of creating or running a state insurance exchange.
  4. Ends the University of Georgia Health Navigator Program.
  5. Prohibits the Commissioner of Insurance from investigating or enforcing any alleged violation of federal health insurance requirements mandated by Obamacare.

Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said, “While Georgia can’t fully stop Obamacare on its own, it can serve as a pretty major roadblock to implementation.  And as more states get on board with this strategy, it will pull the rug out from under it. Bills like this will end Obamacare from the bottom up.”

Judge Andrew Napolitano agrees.  Regarding South Carolina’s push to remove Obamacare from being implemented in the Palmetto state, Napolitano said, “If Enough States do this, It will Gut Obamacare.”

The Tenth Amendment center also points out:

The provision prohibiting the Georgia insurance commissioner from investigating or enforcing violations of federally mandated health insurance requirements will prove particularly problematic for the feds. Insurance commissioners serve as the enforcement arm for insurance regulation in the states. The federal government has no enforcement arm. It assumed the state insurance commissioners would enforce all of the provisions of the ACA. So, when people have issues with their mandated coverage, they will have to call the feds. At this point, it remains unclear who they will even call. Issues the Georgia insurance commissioner will not address include prohibiting a denial of insurance for preexisting conditions, requiring dependent coverage for children up to age 26, and proscribing lifetime or yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits.

Rep. Spencer said, “Disputes over these mandates arise under federal, not state law.  The federal Department of Health and Human Services can be expected to seek to commandeer the machinery of Georgia’s commissioner of insurance to enforce them or to investigate alleged violations because at present there is no federal health insurance agency and Congress is not likely to create one given the substantial opposition to Obamacare. Under HB707, the feds won’t be able to do that. They’ll have to figure out how to do it themselves.”

The legislation rests on a little known ruling by the Supreme Court referred to as the anti-commandeering doctrine.

Georgia is one of eleven states engaged in some form of nullification of Obamacare.

As I have pointed out before, nullification is a good thing, but it requires more, should the federal government seek to show a use of force and make an example of one state.  That would require interposition, or the state stepping in and making it a crime to enforce federal laws that are deemed unconstitutional by the state.  For nullification with teeth, I suggest taking a look at Albany, New York’s nullification of NDAA.

The bill will now move to the Senate.

Death and Taxes

About Tim Brown

Husband to my wife. Father of 10. Jack of All Trades. Christian and lover of liberty.  Residing in the U.S. occupied Great State of South Carolina. Follow Tim on Twitter.

Read more at http://freedomoutpost.com/2014/03/georgia-house-votes-nullify-obamacare/#eLXiD56fw8OpMUVj.99

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