The press continues its disinterested fiddling while the royal mess known as Obamacare burns through money and exhausts the patience of those attempting any kind of oversight.
One of the more obvious examples of this is how the Washington Post's May 17 story on errors in calculating Obamacare subsidies has gone absolutely nowhere. About one-third of the 20 results returned in a Google News search on "healthcare subsidies" (not in quotes) at 11 p.m. ET Friday evening were partial reprints or rewrites of the original story by WaPo reporters Amy Goldstein and Sandhya Somashekhar. Most of the remaining results were from center-right outlets, while a few came from medical sites. The results didn't change much when searching on "health care" instead of "healthcare." What the WaPo pair reported is a breathtaking cacophony of incompetence which, as Heritage noted last year, won't even "solve" itself when Obamacare enrollees file their 2014 tax returns. Goldstein and Somashekhar also missed an opportunity to make a fundamental point, which is that everyone who has enrolled has some exposure.
Retiring West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller recently slandered Republicans as racist, including, by implication, his colleague from Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson. The Morning Joe crew on MSNBC tackled the controversy today, with host Joe Scarborough livid at Rockefeller's remarks and for the wealthy liberal politician's refusal to apologize.
“That’s one of the stupidest, most offensive things I’ve heard a sitting senator say. He owes Ron Johnson an apology,” Scarborough exclaimed. The former Florida Republican congressman, however, was alone in that assessment, with liberal panelist Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post defending Rockefeller, and Ezra Klein of Vox.com trying to stake out a middle ground between Robinson and Scarborough.
PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland -- President Obama Wednesday replayed a familiar scenario when dealing with scandal, in this case delays for treatment, deaths, alleged cover-ups and other acts of malfeasance reported at Veterans Administration hospitals in the United States: first express outrage, next announce an investigation and then say he won't comment on the scandal until the results of the investigation are in, promising people will be held "accountable," if they violated the law. Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, critics are using the VA scandal to indict Obamacare. They believe what is occurring at VA hospitals is a preview of coming destruction should the U.S. government move beyond meddling in health insurance into a full-scale takeover of the entire health care system.
These critics need only look across the Atlantic at the United Kingdom's crumbling National Health Service (NHS) as a glaring example of the dysfunction that results when government runs health care. For years, as is the case with VA hospitals, NHS horror stories have abounded, reported dutifully by the British press. These include neglect of elderly patients, long waiting times (like the VA) to see a doctor and longer waits for necessary surgery, which the government in some cases denies based on cost, age of patient and unusually high numbers of deaths at some hospitals.
The VA could learn from what occurred at Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire, England. As reported by the Daily Mail, as recently as two years ago, Hinchingbrooke had a deficit of $16.8 million a year; it ranked 102nd in the country in admission waiting time; charged $67 to park, with fines for overstaying, and in what sounds like the punch line to a joke, took one week to change a light bulb.
Today, the hospital is due to break even. A surplus is expected next year. Hinchingbrooke has zoomed up in ranking to number 20 in the country in waiting time. Parking now costs $4.21 with fines scrapped. Minor maintenance problems are dealt with in one day.
How was Hinchingbrooke, an NHS hospital, miraculously transformed? It was turned over to a private firm. Once described as a "basket case," the hospital is now ranked number one in patient satisfaction.
A key to its healing, reports The Daily Mail, was "loosening the grip of managers and accountants." A majority of board members, once bean counters and bureaucrats, are now clinicians. "Doctors, nurses and admin(istrative) staff have also been put into small groups which have representatives who meet senior managers twice a month" to discuss problems. Patients are promised any complaints will be resolved within three weeks.
The Hinchingbrooke example should teach the VA something about privatization and what can happen when government tries to run a nation's entire health care system. Veterans who face long waits, or suffer from life-threatening conditions, should receive vouchers so they can be treated at private hospitals. Since, according to the White House, President Obama only "learned about" the VA scandal from TV news reports (though he spoke about them during the 2008 presidential campaign and was critical of President Bush for not fixing them), Congress must take the lead in offering treatment alternatives to veterans. Again, lack of money isn't the problem. Bureaucracy and incompetence are the problems.
Reforming VA hospitals should be a 2016 campaign theme all presidential candidates must address and they must then offer specific solutions. A quasi-government-private approach might work. It couldn't be worse than the current system.
The phrase uttered by President Abraham Lincoln, which is the motto of the Veterans Administration, must always be uppermost in our minds: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."
Sadly, that goal is not being met. It must be. We owe veterans (and those we memorialize next Monday) our freedom. Perhaps what happened at Hinchingbrooke Hospital can guide the VA and veterans to a better future.
The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson reported yet another black mark against Maryland's rollout of ObamaCare. It seems the "board that oversees Maryland's troubled health insurance marketplace repeatedly violated a state law that requires such groups to fully explain their reasons for meeting behind closed doors" according to a ruling issued Tuesday by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.
The ObamaCare boosters in the mainstream liberal media are once again avoiding negative news on the health care law’s unintended consequences. According to a study released Wednesday by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), emergency room visits are on the rise, in spite of promises to the contrary by supporters of ObamaCare.
Not a single second was devoted to this news by either the Wednesday evening newscasts or morning news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Stephanie Armour and Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal broke the story in the Wednesday edition of the paper, having gotten a sneak peek at the study.
During the Obama administration, the Associated Press has annually gone through the motions of noting its lack of transparency in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. In March, its coverage of 2013 FOIA results led with the following sentence: "The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data." Then everyone went back to work defending the administration against the information seekers.
Part of that defense includes mischaracterizing the legal hurdles those who file FOIA requests must overcome to get the administration to do what it is legally required to do right off the bat. Three sentences from recent coverage of Judicial Watch's attempts to pry information out of the State Department will make my point.
Red Alert at the White House! How bad is the VA scandal? Bad enough to make even such as Sam Stein question liberalism. The VA scandal is getting so grievous for the Obama admin and for the liberal project at large that it has led even liberals to reconsider their most cherished ideological beliefs.
On today's Morning Joe, Sam Stein of the Huffington Post wondered "is liberalism, is progressivism, in this instance the right thing" given that the additional money the Obama admin spent on the VA has not yielded results? View the video after the jump.
At first liberals were blaming Republican governors for "sabotaging" Obamacare as an excuse for its failure. However as Obamacare failure reports poured in from liberal states with liberal governors such as Oregon, Massachusetts, and Maryland, a new excuse was desperately needed. And now Sarah Kliff of General Electric Vox reports on the latest Obamacare failure excuse: lousy management.
According to this excuse, the incredibly complex 2000 plus page Obamacare law along with its nearly 11000 pages of regulations are not at fault. No, the real problem as Kliff reports lies in the management. This latest liberal talking point comes to us via one of the usual suspects, the Center for American Progress:
During a four-minute interview with Athena Health CEO Jonathan Bush on Thursday's CBS This Morning about his new book, Where Does It Hurt?, suggesting reforms to the health care system, none of the hosts bothered to bring up ObamaCare or its failures. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Bush, nephew of former President George H.W. Bush and cousin of former president George W. Bush, even provided the perfect opportunity to bring up President Obama's health care law, warning against "another great top-down fix" of the industry and instead wanting to "invite entrepreneurs to come into health care."
"Faith first, government second for GOP candidate," blares a teaser headline on MSNBC.com. They say that like it's a bad thing.
Of course, to MSNBC it is, when religious freedom objections stand opposed to ObamaCare, so MSNBC.com writer Morgan Whitaker sought to explain to Lean Forward partisans all the ways that Ben Sasse is supposedly a danger to civil society, including a ludicrous suggestion that his views could allow for establishment of Sharia law (excerpt below; emphasis mine):
The government is paying private contractor Serco $1.2 billion over five years — and likely more, as will be seen later — to process paper Obamacare applications. In turn, according to a report by television station KMOV, Serco has hired and continues to pay a reported 1,800 workers who have virtually no work to do.
Massive waste like this should develop into a national story and create a journalistic swarm. If it does, it will be unusual, because the press has been avoiding stories which make President Barack Obama's "signature accomplishment" of state-controlled health care look bad like the plague. We'll see if it's different this time. The KMOV report follows the jump (HT Gateway Pundit's Progressives Today blog):
It's really baffling. How could a 2000 plus page complex law which makes no economic sense known as Obamacare possibly fail?
Sarah Kliff of General Electric Vox is also baffled but specifically about the utter failure of Obamacare in Massachusetts. Of course, just about everything except the kitchen sink and Obamacare itself is blamed. So let us now watch Kliff play the blame game with the notable exception of you-know-what:
On Wednesday’s PoliticsNation, host Al Sharpton trotted out a pair of red-framed glasses, a podium, and the image of a chapel’s interior on the green screen behind him. The reverend was pretending to preside over a funeral for what he called “another bogus GOP talking point on the Affordable Care Act.” As somber organ music played in the background, Sharpton announced, somewhat inarticulately, “We're here tonight to celebrate the life of the people are paying not their premium's talking point.” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
He was referring to House Republicans’ contention last week that only 67 percent of ObamaCare enrollees had actually paid their premiums as of April 15. After a few minutes of funeral minister theatricality, the MSNBC host finally explained why he was pronouncing this particular talking point dead: “A new report shows most who signed up under health law have paid. 80 to 90 percent of enrollees paid their bills on time.” Conveniently, however, Sharpton left out another nugget from that very same report that undercut one of his own favorite ObamaCare talking points.
However, four polls were released during the past week that resulted in the same message: ObamaCare isn't getting any more popular -- and probably won't in the future, according to an article published in Tuesday's edition of the Washington Post by reporters Scott Clement and Aaron Blake.
Claiming that the District of Columbia's ObamaCare exchange is just too darn small in size to pay for itself, Mayor Vince Gray (D) is proposing the city council "approve legislation granting the District's exchange board broad new power to tax any health-related insurance product sold in the city -- regardless of whether it's offered on the exchange," Washington Post staffer Aaron Davis reported this morning.
"If Gray and exchange officials get their way," Davis noted, a new "1 percent tax on more than $250 million in insurance premiums paid annually" by D.C. resident. Of course, Davis's story was buried on page four of the Metro section and slapped with a snoozer of a headline, "Council to vote on new tax power for health exchange,"* rather than something which would arrest the readers attention like say, "Mayor calls for new tax on health plans."
House Republicans determined that just two-thirds of ObamaCare enrollees paid their first month's premium in the federal marketplace, but the broadcast networks ignored their finding on Thursday evening, while FNC's Special Report with Bret Baier devoted a full story. If true, the report would drastically undercut the White House's number of ObamaCare enrollees.
A report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that, according to data from all insurance providers, "only 67 percent of individuals and families that had selected a health plan in the federally facilitated marketplace had paid their first month’s premium and therefore completed the enrollment process."
When several members of Congress set out in the early 1990s to improve fiscal reporting and internal controls in the federal government, one thing they certainly had a right to expect is that the press would report on lapses as embarrassments, and that otherwise nonchalant or reluctant bureaucrats would figure out that it would be in their best interest to tighten their ships. It hasn't happened, largely because the press quickly got bored, enabling the bureaucrats to thumb their noses at those who called them out for weak reporting or control violations.
To name just one glaring example: Concerning the Internal Revenue Service, in August of last year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration happily reported "the downgrade of the information security material weakness to a significant deficiency during the Fiscal Year 2012 financial statement audit," and that "the IRS removed it from the December 31, 2012, remediation plan" (that's bureaucratese for "finally solved the problem") — 19 years after it was first identified in 1993. In that context, let's look at an outrageous situation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The White House Director of Progressive Media needs to send out an emergency response team to Sarah Kliff of General Electric Vox to get her "mind right" again for going off-message on ObamaCare since the debate is "over." Got that? The debate is OVER! Except that the debate is not quite over when one of the biggest ObamaCare cheerleaders is beginning to cast aspersions upon her formerly beloved program. This is starting to become something of a "disturbing" pattern for our Miss Kliff who recently underwent a rapid response mind change when an administration official quickly turned her around on her initial condemnation of a politically motivated change in the way the supposedly non-political Census Bureau gathers insurance information. Her quick turnaround became a source for much mirth and mockery on the Web. However, it now seems that Citizen Kliff has relapsed and is in dire need of another mind fix as you can see by the very title of her recent article, If you like your health plan, you might lose it. Again. Here are some excerpts from Temporary Apostate Kliff's heresy:
Greg Gilman at The Wrap has the details on how actor George Clooney fiercely came to the defense of his "longtime friend" Barack Obama in an argument with Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn two weeks ago.
Wynn told the Las Vegas Review Journal that Clooney “got drunk” from downing tequila shots and stormed off after delivering an F-bomb. Clooney "stood up and threw a hissy fit” when one of two CAA executives also seated at the table told a joke about former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev. Wynn says he rubbed Clooney the wrong way when the actor “sat down and started talking about the Affordable Care Act.”
At Politico Magazine, writer and physician James Hamblin tried to answer the question "Who is Dr. Ben Carson?" After describing how he became a "darling of the right-wing media" after calling out President Obama at a prayer breakfast, Hamblin tried to explain how he speaks in "over the top" language about America in decline.
But Hamblin really let loose when he insisted that despite Dr. Carson's surgical talent, his opposition to Obamacare is based on "sentiment," not a "rational pespective. His talent "does not imply an elevated or even rational perspective on health-care policy."
If there's a prize for most words spent in Obamacare avoidance, NBC News's Martha C. White is definitely in the running.
White managed to burn through almost 40 paragraphs and nearly 1,600 words in a report carried at CNBC on the all-time record number of workers employed by temporary help services. But she somehow managed to completely avoid mentioning Obamacare, which used to be known as the Affordable Care Act until President Obama and his Health and Human Services regulators made 40 changes to the law originally passed by Congress, some of which directly contradict the original law's language. The closest she came was noting that using temps "lets companies avoid the cost of providing benefits like health insurance" — which has always been the case, except that health insurance is and will continue to be a lot more expensive, giving companies even more incentive to avoid adding to their own payrolls. Excerpts follow the jump.
Apart from gutting America's military, our standing in the world, our fiscal stability, the economy, the office of the presidency, conventional energy sources, the free market and religious liberty, Obama has little to boast about other than Obamacare, so let him go for it.
Yes, let him gloat, because the more he bloviates in defense of the indefensible — the more he spins the unspinnable — the more damage he'll do to the cause he's trying to promote: the election of Democratic congressmen in November.
Some liberals refuse to believe any bad news about ObamaCare, and MSNBC contributor Angela Rye is clearly one of those people. On Saturday’s Weekends with Alex Witt, Rye got into a heated argument with Republican strategist Joe Watkins about the nature of Watkins’ own health insurance coverage, which he says is worse under ObamaCare than prior to the law going into effect. [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
It all started after Watkins commented that some people have to “pay more money a month for less coverage” under ObamaCare. When Rye got her turn to speak, she ripped into Watkins:
On the Sunday, April 20, Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC, as host Harris-Perry chastised Democrats for not bragging about ObamaCare for the year's midterm elections, she at one point mocked Americans angry about having their health insurance plans cancelled, which she referred to as "crappy plans," as she lamented that Democrats are not boasting about ObamaCare or declaring, "Yeah, you can't keep your crappy plans. Just deal with that!" [See video below.]
On the Saturday, April 19, Disrupt, as MSNBC's Karen Finney hosted a discussion of ObamaCare noting that President Obama has started encouraging Democrats to brag about the program, guest Dana Milbank of the Washington Post blamed Republican governors for hurting Democratic Senators in red states as he charged that in some states "ObamaCare isn't going very well because of those Republican governors."
A bit later, Zerlina Maxwell of The Grio asserted that 10,000 people a year will die because of Republican governors who have refused to expand Medicare.
After Finney played a clip of President Obama boasting about ObamaCare, Milbank responded:
David Nather at the Politico apparently wanted to make sure that those who don't follow the news closely see a triumphant headline ("Obama Spikes the Football") and a congratulatory opening paragraph at their computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Sure, the Politico reporter gradually threw in all kinds of qualifications after that, but his mission is largely accomplished: Cause those who don't click through to believe that Obamacare is functioning as intended, and — especially in the headline — communicate the message that the debate about the statist health regime's existence is really over. He can say that he did his job while at the same time keeping most people away from the more complicated reality. In that sense, Nather is right there with reporters at ABC and CBS who claim without verifiable evidence, as Rich Noyes at NewsBusters noted earlier this afternoon, that the program has achieved "a major milestone." Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):
Both ABC and CBS carved out a few seconds on their Thursday evening and Friday morning newscasts to boost President Obama’s claims of success for his ObamaCare program. Filling in for Diane Sawyer, ABC World News anchor David Muir cheered the “major milestone” of an alleged eight million enrollees, while CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley said the enrollment figures were a “recent success” for the health care law.
Gone was the skepticism that some reporters, like ABC’s Jon Karl, showed at the end of March when ObamaCare was nearing seven million sign-ups, as he threw cold water on the official White House stat: “How many of those have signed up were previously uninsured....We don’t know how many people signed up here were simply – had their previous plans cancelled. Also, we don’t know how many have actually paid their premiums.”
The morning of April 15 had an indication that it would contain an historic moment. Sarah Kliff, formerly of the Washington Post Wonkblog and now with General Electric Vox, appeared to be finally breaking through her liberal coccoon. Yes, she tweeted some actual Obamacare criticism of the administration over the suspicious changes in the way the Census Bureau measures the uninsured. Alas, it was not to be. With startling speed, Kliff got her "mind right" with a correctional tweet in less than an hour after a Ministry of Truth talk with an administration offical.
Let us now go back to that bright moment on April 15 when our Miss Kliff appeared to be awakening from her long liberal stupor: