Hawaii’s Healthcare Exchange Could Shut Down Next Year

Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange is in danger of shutting down by next year, despite a $205 million investment. The governor’s office has sent a proposal to try and salvage it.

Officials with the Hawaii Health Connector said in a report last week that the state will not “provide sufficient support” for the exchange through FY 2016, which ends on June 30, 2016, according to Insurancenewsnet.

Because of that, “the Connector can no longer operate in a manner that would cause it to incur additional debts or other obligations for which it is unable to pay,” said the report, which was prepared by officials with the nonprofit.

“Staff reductions will commence immediately, with the executive director (Jeff Kissel) exiting once the bulk of operational activities end,” the report said.  “If the state cannot facilitate an orderly transition, the Connector’s operations will abruptly end, as the Connector does not have the resources to continue operations.”

Of the roughly $204 million in federal grants the program has received to establish an exchange, all but about $70 million has been spent, according to Pacific Business News.

Fox News pointed out that Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico, and Nevada have already shut down their state-based exchanges, despite a federal investment of $4.5 billion. The network notes another staggering fact:

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has already restricted grant funds to the Hawaii Health Connector, after telling officials in March it was out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act because of fiscal instability and ongoing IT issues.

Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, submitted a contingency plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier this week to save the exchange, Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong told Pacific Business News Wednesday:

The CMS will review the draft and provide feedback to assist the state in finalizing the plan. No dates have been set for further action. As we discussed, the plan is in draft form and therefore will not be released at this time.

The plan would affect about 37,000 to 40,000 people currently on the exchange.

“There are other states that are using the federal healthcare.gov website on a temporary basis while they build on their own technology,” Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Kissel said. “That option is open to us, but whether or not we do the same has not been decided yet by the administration.”

h/t: Americans for Tax Reform

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Nearly Two-Thirds Of Businesses Changing Coverage To Avoid New Obamacare Tax

A new survey finds that nearly two-thirds of businesses facing a new Obamacare tax will change their coverage to avoid it.

The survey, conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, finds that 62 percent of the nearly 600 companies polled have already taken action or plan to take action to avoid the so-called “Cadillac tax.”

The tax on higher premium plans is set to take effect in 2018 and impacts those plans costing businesses over $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. For every dollar spent over that threshold, employers will be hit with an excise tax at a punishing 40 percent rate.

Only 2.5 percent of businesses that would be affected by the tax plan to pay it.

Robert W. Wood, writing for Forbes, notes:

The theory of the [Affordable Care Act] is that health insurance should be the great leveler. The [law] included the Cadillac tax as a tool to cut health care costs. It puts direct and forceful pressure on employers to offer less-generous health insurance plans.

Some of the steps businesses are taking to avoid the Cadillac tax include shifting to higher deductible plans (which has been a common trend under Obamacare generally), reducing benefits, or dropping the higher cost plans altogether.

One-quarter of the respondents opting for higher deductible plans are coupling the move with establishing tax-free Health Savings Accounts for their employees, while an additional 14 percent are considering do so.

The Cadillac tax is unpopular with many Democrats, labor unions, and Republicans alike. House Democrats introduced a bill last month to repeal it.

Regarding Obamacare overall, three-in-five respondents reported the law has had a negative impact on their organization; and among those who reported that their perception about the law has changed since its enactment, three quarters said it has become more negative.

Image Credit: International Foundation of Employment Benefits

Image Credit: International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Businesses identified administrative (55.7 percent) and disclosure, reporting, and notification costs (37.5 percent) as their top cost drivers in complying with the law.

As businesses look towards the future, they report the greatest cost associated with Obamacare will hit next year with the “employer mandate.” The mandate requires all businesses employing 50 or more full-time employees to provide government-approved coverage to their employees or pay a penalty.

Image Credit: International Foundation of Employment Benefits

Image Credit: International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

The good news for employees is, despite the lower cost in paying the penalty and sending their employees to the Obamacare exchange, over 98 percent of businesses that provide health care coverage for their full-time workers intend to keep doing so.

The top reasons businesses listed for providing coverage included attracting future talent (79 percent), retaining current talent (75 percent), and maintaining/increasing employee satisfaction (53 percent).

h/t: The Hill

Do you think Obamacare is hurting businesses? Please comment below. 

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Obamacare Exchanges On Life Support

At a recent White House science fair celebrating inventors, a Girl Scout who helped design a Lego-powered page-turning device asked President Obama what he had ever thought up or prototyped. Stumbling for an answer, he replied:

I came up with things like, you know, health care.

Ah, yes. “Health care.” Remember when the president’s signature Obamacare health insurance exchanges were going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, the remote control, jogger strollers, Siri, the Keurig coffee maker, driverless cars, and Legos all rolled into one?

The miraculous, efficient, cost-saving, innovative 21st-century government-run “marketplaces” were supposed to put the “affordable” in Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Know-it-all bureaucrats were going to show private companies how to set up better websites (gigglesnort), implement better marketing and outreach (guffaw), provide superior customer service (belly laugh), and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse (LOLOLOL).

You will be shocked beyond belief, I’m sure, to learn that Obamacare exchanges across the country are instead bleeding money, seeking more taxpayer bailouts, and turning everything they touch to chicken poop.

Wait, that’s not fair to chicken poop, which can at least be composted.

“Almost half of Obamacare exchanges face financial struggles in the future,” The Washington Post reported last week. The news comes despite $5 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies for IT vendors, call centers, and all the infrastructure and manpower needed to prop up the showcase government health insurance entities. Initially, the feds ran 34 state exchanges; 16 states and the District of Columbia set up their own.

While private health insurance exchanges have operated smoothly and satisfied customers for decades, the Obamacare models are on life support. Oregon’s exchange is six feet under — shuttered last year after government overseers squandered $300 million on their failed website and shady consultants who allegedly set up a phony website to trick the feds. The FBI and the U.S. HHS inspector general’s office reportedly have been investigating the racket for more than a year now.

In the People’s Republic of Hawaii, which has been a “trailblazer” of socialized medicine for nearly four decades, the profligate state-run exchange demanded a nearly $30 million cash infusion to remain financially viable after securing $205 million for startup costs. The Hawaii Health Connector accidentally disconnected hundreds of poor patients’ accounts and squandered an estimated 8,000 hours on technological glitches and failures. Enrollment projections were severely overinflated like a reverse Tom Brady scandal. After failing to secure a bailout, Hawaii announced this week that its exchange would be shut down amid rising debt.

In Maryland, a state audit found that its health insurance exchange “improperly billed the federal government $28.4 million as former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration struggled to launch what would become one of the most troubled websites in the nation,” The Baltimore Sun reported in late March. That’s in addition to the $90 million the state blew on technical problems. The state scrapped its junk website and forced enrollees to resubmit to the tortuous sign-up process all over again.

Last week, federal prosecutors subpoenaed the Massachusetts Obamacare exchange after whistleblowers there exposed what a “technological disaster” its “Health Connector” program was. Boston’s Pioneer Institute’s senior fellow in health care, Josh Archambault, released a report on Monday detailing the “complete incompetence” of the state’s health bureaucrats from Day One. But taxpayers would be lucky if incompetence were the only sin.

After firing the tech boneheads of CGI, the same company behind the federal healthcare.gov meltdown, Massachusetts officials “appear to have lied to the federal government to cover up mistakes” made by both the state and the IT company. “In at least two instances we uncovered,” Archambault revealed, what the state told the feds “was either in direct conflict with internal audits or highly improbable given what was being said in the audit and what whistleblowers said was happening at the time.”

As health care analyst Phil Kerpen of the free market group American Commitment points out, Massachusetts “already had a functioning state health exchange,” but “after receiving $179 million from federal taxpayers” to reconstitute it under Obamacare, “they were able to break that existing exchange beyond repair.” An amazing feat.

Lesson for inventive Scouts and students wondering about what people in Washington, D.C., prototype: Government bureaucrats don’t make things, kids. They break things.


The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Five Republicans Join With Dems To Shoot Down ObamaCare Exchange Subpoena

Five Republican senators joined with nine Democrats recently to vote down Small Business Committee Chairman David Vitter’s subpoena to determine which members of Congress may be responsible for defrauding the government through the District of Columbia’s Obamacare exchange.

Vitter sought an un-redacted copy of the Obamacare application to determine who listed the number of employees as 45, which qualified congressional staff members for special small business employee subsidies.

What information Vitter could see from the application indicated it was clearly fraudulent: some of the employees listed on the application include “First Lady” and “Congress”

Not surprisingly, none of the nine Democrats on the committee offered support for the subpoena; however, all the Republicans on the committee, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., whose office was unresponsive, indicated they would vote with Vitter to issue the subpoena.

Vitter’s staff reached out multiple times to Paul’s office; but they were stonewalled, which was a mystery to the Louisiana senator. Paul has been vocal about his opposition to Obamacare and defrauding the taxpayers.

Michael Cannon, director of health-policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told National Review, “We deserve to know who signed that application, because they are robbing taxpayers,” adding that we also deserve to “know who was directing them to do this. And so we have to follow the trail of breadcrumbs. This is the next breadcrumb, and whoever is farther up the trail wants to stop Vitter right here.”

Four Republicans senators–Mike Enzi (Wyo.), James Risch (Idaho), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), and Deb Fischer (Neb.)–indicated they would be supporting Vitter’s subpoena and then pulled their support before the vote, which ended up being 5 in favor of the subpoena and 14 against. Paul voted against the subpoena, as well. The National Review reports:

Senate staffers, according to a top committee aide, reported seeing Missouri senator Roy Blunt make calls to at least two Republican committee members, lobbying them, at Mitch McConnell’s behest, to vote no on subpoenaing the exchange. By the time the committee was called to quorum, Enzi, Risch, Ayotte, and Fischer voted no.

Some have speculated whether McConnell put the pressure on Paul to withhold his support or vice versa, because it would be embarrassing to one of their offices what the un-redacted copy of the Obamacare exchange application would reveal.

Mark Levin told his listeners last week, he believes blackmail was afoot and Paul was doing McConnnell’s dirty work.

“The answers he has given do not make sense,” Cannon added regarding Paul’s vote. “And when someone with his principles does something that is so obviously against his principles, and does not give an adequate explanation, you begin to think that politics is afoot. It would have to be someone very powerful that made him a powerful pitch — or threat — to keep him from doing this.” Paul’s press secretary told National Review that the senator “examines every opportunity to [oppose Obamacare] individually, and does not base his vote on requests made by other senators, including the majority leader.”

Republican senators Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), and Joni Ernst (Iowa) voted with Vitter to subpoena DC Obamacare exchange to obtain an un-redacted copy of the application.

Regarding those who voted against Vitter, a senior GOP committee aide said, “The people who signed these documents perpetrated a fraud on the taxpayers, and the senators who just voted to kill this subpoena are now complicit ‎in that fraud.”

“The message is clear: Congress should be able to lie so that members can get a special Obamacare subsidy unavailable to anyone else at that income level,” Vitter said. “Designating the House and Senate as ‘small businesses’ with 45 employees is not right. And we owe it to our constituents to find out how this was permitted to happen.”

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Exposed: Rand Paul’s Hypocrisy On Illegal Congressional ObamaCare Benefits

It doesn’t take a lot of politicians very long to become captured by Washington, D.C.’s sense of aristocratic entitlement; but given Rand Paul’s “outsider” image, his recent committee vote to protect illegal Congressional ObamaCare benefits was stunning. And disappointing.

The Senate Small Business Committee, chaired by Louisiana Senator David Vitter, voted recently on whether to issue a subpoena to the officials in charge of the District of Columbia’s ObamaCare Small Business Exchange. They wanted to know who from Congress (both the House and Senate) signed the applications swearing that Congress is a small business.

These applications opened the conduit for the federal government to give Members of Congress and their staffs ObamaCare benefits that are heavily subsidized by taxpayers. This is in direct contravention to what the Affordable Care Act unambiguously states. The law enacted by Congress included an amendment that requires Congress to live under ObamaCare just as any citizen who lost the insurance they liked has.

But then, Congress realized that they, like millions of other Americans, were facing far higher costs, narrowed networks, and the headache of actually signing up. Worse, the law only provides subsidies to those below certain income limits. So, Congressional leaders from both parties quickly and quietly worked out a deal with the Obama Administration’s Office of Personnel Management that illegally put legislators and their staffs above the law.

Under this “aristocrat’s waiver,” legislator and staff salaries were simply not counted. Every applicant gets Gold level coverage with a 75% subsidy toward the cost. The DC Small Business Exchange even set up a dedicated line so Congressional applicants wouldn’t have to suffer the same frustrations as average Americans. It was a gold-plated bribe by the White House to quell Congressional anger that might have seen even Democrats cross the aisle to repeal or heavily modify what citizens–and they–were suffering.

But why were Congressional Obamacare benefits handled by a “small business” exchange? That’s the very question posed by Senator Vitter. In fact, the applications for Congress have congressional personnel administrators swearing to the complicit DC exchange that Congress has no more than 45 employees! In fact, more than 13,000 staffers and legislators now receive benefits through a small business exchange that cannot, by law, accept any business with more than 50 employees. “Fraud” is the word used by Vitter and many others.

To their credit Senator Vitter and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson passionately disagreed with the backroom deal to put Congress above the law they enacted. Johnson sued (and was denied standing), and Vitter is investigating. When Vitter first obtained the documentation allowing the benefits to pass through the DC Small Business Exchange, he saw that the names of the officials who signed the applications had been blacked out. Thus, he proposed a subpoena to force answers about who made these fraudulent assertions—which would then lead to the Congressional leaders (think Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell, and Reid) who authorized such a fraud.

Going into the committee meeting, it was expected that every Democrat would vote against issuing the subpoenas; and that’s exactly what happened. But Republicans enjoy a majority on the committee, and the widespread expectation was that they would prevail. Unfortunately, Rand Paul turned the tide against the motion.

When the vote was taken, five Republicans, led by Paul, voted to stop the subpoena. Together with the nine Democrats, the motion failed. Paul, who vows to “stop the Washington machine” as President, just derailed an effort to at least throw a wrench into the “machine’s” works.

He now says that he just didn’t want to put Congressional staffers on the line. Instead, he says, he’s introduced a measure to amend the Constitution to require Congress to obey all laws passed by Congress. But he knows full well that such a measure will never leave the Senate. It’s the very thing that drives voters mad—a pose without any substance that is designed to deceive.

The “Washington Machine” includes putting legislators above the laws that citizens must suffer under. It now includes Rand Paul who ran, won, and came to Washington an outsider and who now appears to be just like so many others—another insider who will willingly break ranks with those he represents.

Ken Hoagland is an author and long-time grassroots advocate who raised and delivered 2.2 million petitions to repeal ObamaCare in its entirety.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth