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CBO Blows Up “Savings” in Health Care Bill

So much for that campaign talking point about the Health Care law was going to save taxpayer dollars.  Of course, most government programs always have overruns.  Anyone telling you otherwise, is pretty much full of it.

Congressional Budget Office estimates released Tuesday predict the health care overhaul will likely cost about $115 billion more in discretionary spending over ten years than the original cost projections.

The additional spending — if approved over the years by Congress — would bring the total estimated cost of the overhaul to over $1 trillion.

Republicans pounced on the news, which they called another sign that the Obama administration makes promises it cannot deliver.

“The American people wanted one thing above all from health care reform: lower costs, which Washington Democrats promised, but they did not deliver,” said House Minority Leader John A Boehner (R-Ohio). “It was clearly irresponsible for Washington Democrats to force this legislation through Congress without being truthful about its full impact on the nation’s finances. Republicans are fighting to repeal this job-killing health care law and replace it with reforms focused first on lowering costs and protecting American jobs.”

But a Democratic leadership aide on Capitol Hill said the Congress will have to stay within the budget.

“Just like other authorized programs, the discretionary programs in health reform will need to compete for funds within set budgetary limits,” the aide said. “Republicans fighting to repeal reform can say what they want, but the bottom line is that CBO says reform will reduce the deficit and slow the growth of health care costs – period.”

The Congressional Budget Office expects the federal agencies to spend $10 billion to $20 billion over 10 years on administrative costs to implement the overhaul. The CBO expects Congress to spend an additional $105 billion over 10 years to fund discretionary programs in the overhaul.

Recall that during the lead-up to the vote on the health care bill, it was the CBO’s “estimate of cost-savings” on the bill which was seen as the floodgate opening for many of the so-called “Blue Dog Democrats” who claimed to care about deficit spending to get on board with the bill.  As these newer numbers from the CBO seem to indicate, the initial estimates from CBO were gamed; an excuse for cover come the November midterms.

That cover’s now been blown it would seem.

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White House/HHS Buried Medicare Actuary Report Before HCR Vote

As I was reading this at the American Spectator, I kept asking myself one thing: How would the MSM be reacting if the Bush White House even dreamed of doing this?

The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama’s health care “reform” law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius’s staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.

“The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote,” says an HHS source. “Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think.”

The analysis, performed by Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which in the past has been identified as a “nonpolitical” office, set off alarm bells when submitted. “We know a copy was sent to the White House via their legislative affairs staff,” says the HHS staffer, “and there were a number of meetings here almost right after the analysis was submitted to the secretary’s office. Everyone went into lockdown, and people here were too scared to go public with the report.”

In the end, the report was released several weeks after the vote — the review by the secretary’s office reportedly took less than three days — and bore a note that the analysis was not the official position of the Obama administration.

Here’s pretty much what we now know after this report:

1) The White House and HHS knew the bill was going to blow up costs, and couldn’t release this report to the public because its facts would have derailed their legislative agenda.  This is actually worse than the whole “WMD” meme from the Left in the lead-up to the Iraq War.  At least with the WMD intelligence, other nation’s had similar facts and findings that the CIA and NSA had.  In this case, they actually had the counter-intelligence telling them otherwise, and acted anyway.

Maybe those suggesting Health Care Reform was Obama’s Iraq War were truly on to something after all…

2) Everything the White House and other Democrats said in the final week up to passage was a lie.

3) Any Democrat who parroted the White House talking points like a Champion, is either a) Ignorant, b) A Puppet, c) An Ideologue d) Also Lying, e) All of the Above.

The act of burying the report; for short-term legislative gain, is going to end up costing many Democratic Congressmen and Senators their jobs in the long-term.  The Obama White House must be so proud.

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Congress Fines Itself Millions With Health Care Bill

The “things being uncovered, now that it’s passed” just keep getting better and better.

Congress may be fined tens of millions of dollars a year under its own health-care law, in part because the bill dumps members of Congress and their staffs from their current health-care plans.

But no one really knows for sure what the bill does, not even the experts. For instance, exactly who qualifies as an “employer” — and therefore is subject to fines up to $3,000 per employee — is undefined in the bill.

If Congress were subject to a $3,000 fine for each of its employees, it would need to shell out approximately $50 million each year to Uncle Sam. Congress’s research arm, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), informally confirmed the possibility to Republican aides.

Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s top health-care cabinet official, will be responsible for establishing most of the details of how the law is implemented. Many Republicans who have raised the issue of Congress’s fining itself believe Sebelius likely will exempt Congress with a regulation narrowly defining “employer,” for instance.

Still, the possibility of the fines, and the uncertainty surrounding them, are drawing heckles from the health-care law’s critics.

“That’s the irony — here we may be the first major employer in the country to be fined for not providing proper health insurance for our employees,” Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, told The Daily Caller while laughing. “Isn’t that contrary to the very premise of the bill?”

State and local governments may be on the hook for the fines, but unlike for members of Congress and their staffs, the health-care bill doesn’t specifically dump them from their health-care plans.

If HHS Secretary Sebelius does indeed exempt Congress while the private sector takes a hit, oh what insanity will surely follow.

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New York Times Catches Up to AP

I’ll admit, when I saw a bunch of lefties I follow on Twitter talking about this last night (Film Critic Roger Ebert was the most clueless), I had to wonder what planet these guys were on.  Most conservatives knew about this on Tuesday or Wednesday when the AP first mentioned it. Apparently, it’s not news until the New York Times mentions it.

In case you weren’t aware, the Health Care Reform Law has a giant “Oops!” in it.

While supporters were touting that insurance companies could no longer deny parents insurance for their children with pre-existing conditions starting in six month’s time, the bill was not structured as such.  What most attorneys who’ve looked at the language of the law have said, is that in actuality insurance companies are not bound to sell parents anything until 2014 — like much of the rest of the bill.  So parents with children with asthma and other medical ailments won’t be able to get coverage for their children; and more important for Democrats, politically, they can’t use the talking point when they truly need it this November.

The White House has brought in its own team of lawyers, and has sworn it will regulate the change in; but if they do, expect a court challenge from the insurance industry which will claim the administration is over-reaching from the language of the law.

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

Congressional Democrats were furious when they learned that some insurers disagreed with their interpretation of the law.

“The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate commerce committee, said: “The ink has not yet dried on the health care reform bill, and already some deplorable health insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions. This is outrageous.”

The issue is one of many that federal officials are tackling as they prepare to carry out the law, with a huge stream of new rules, official guidance and brochures to educate the public. Their decisions will have major practical implications.

Insurers say they often limit coverage of pre-existing conditions under policies sold in the individual insurance market. Thus, for example, an insurer might cover a family of four, including a child with a heart defect, but exclude treatment of that condition from the policy.

The new law says that health plans and insurers offering individual or group coverage “may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage” for children under 19, starting in “plan years” that begin on or after Sept. 23, 2010.

But, insurers say, until 2014, the law does not require them to write insurance at all for the child or the family. In the language of insurance, the law does not include a “guaranteed issue” requirement before then.

Consumer advocates worry that instead of refusing to cover treatment for a specific pre-existing condition, an insurer might simply deny coverage for the child or the family.

“If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place,” said Karen L. Pollitz, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

Experts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners share that concern.

“I would like to see the kids covered,” said Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas. “But without guaranteed issue of insurance, I am not sure companies will be required to take children under 19.”

A White House spokesman said the administration planned to issue regulations setting forth its view that “the term ‘pre-existing’ applies to both a child’s access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in a plan.” But lawyers said the rules could be challenged in court if they went beyond the law or were inconsistent with it.

Naturally, most liberals are blaming the insurance companies for ‘exploiting a loophole,’ and not the Democratic members of Congress who wrote (and allegedly read) the law in the first place.

So, just so you know, most liberals will not know the world is over when the meteor strikes, but if the New York Times survives long enough to report it.

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Clear, They Have to Make This Stop

Democrats in Washington, DC are not taking the drip, drip, drip coming from corporate America announcing they’ll be taking charges from their profit margin after the passage of the Health Care Reform well.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporting that California’s Henry Waxman; Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Michigan’s Bart Stupak; Chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Panel, are calling for hearings and will call the CEOs of Caterpillar, John Deere, Verizon, and others to make them explain (who explain what is of course, up for interpretation) the hits their taking from the law.

Even before AT&T Inc. said Friday that it will take a $1 billion charge in the first-quarter because of the new health-care law, the issue was front-and-center with key lawmakers.

Earlier this week, Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Co., and AK Steel Holding Corp. announced their own hefty one-time charges.

Almost immediately, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations panel, announced plans to hold an April 21 hearing on “claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company’s ability to provide health insurance to their employees. These assertions appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”

The committee wants the companies’ CEOs testify and provide evidence of the law’s projected impact.

The companies have said they are compensating for the expected loss of a tax deduction on tax-free government subsidies they receive when they provide retirees with prescription drug reimbursement under Medicare Part D. The current tax structure won’t change until 2013, but company executives say they’re preparing for the higher costs now.

The White House had no immediate comment on the matter, but administration officials said they believe the announcements are meant to underscore the businesses’ displeasure with the law.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce condemned the health-care law as expensive and disruptive to health-care delivery. The Business Roundtable, composed of top CEOs, offered a bland statement that called the legislation’s passage “just the first step in reforming our nation’s health care system.”

Admittedly, I’m looking forward to this hearing.  Maybe by then Waxman (or his staff) will have read the bill by then.  Because it seems a lot of attorneys and accountants outside of Washington have.

Plus, Stupak getting more attention…someone’s not putting their thinking cap on are they?

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Van Hollen Askes to Join Health Care Reform Lawsuit

Just breaking…

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he is asking Governor Jim Doyle and the state legislature to allow him to bring legal action against certain parts of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“We have now had enough time to review the law and to review the law that exists that applies to this new law to determine that we believe that there are constitutional violations that exist, and we have requested the authority of our state government to sue,” said Van Hollen on Newsradio 620 WTMJ’s “Midday with Charlie Sykes.”

However, he says that if the legislature and Doyle do not approve, they cannot act.

“If they say no, we cannot proceed,” said Van Hollen.

Both the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion are in the hands of Democrats.  Van Hollen is a Republican.

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That Talking Point/ High Point Didn’t Last Long

One of the talking points Democrats where hoping to campaign on as a benefit for the just signed Health Care Reform bill was the idea that within six months parents could finally get policies which could cover their children with pre-existing conditions.  The talking point was out quick, repeating continuously, and heralded by the media since Sunday.

One problem: That’s not how the bill is structured.

Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

However, if a child is accepted for coverage, or is already covered, the insurer cannot exclude payment for treating a particular illness, as sometimes happens now. For example, if a child has asthma, the insurance company cannot write a policy that excludes that condition from coverage. The new safeguard will be in place later this year.

Full protection for children would not come until 2014, said Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, another panel that authored the legislation. That’s the same year when insurance companies could no longer deny coverage to any person on account of health problems.

Obama’s public statements have conveyed the impression that the new protections for kids were more sweeping and straightforward.

So basically, any Congressman — say an allergist who bought himself a primary in 2006 and then rode two waves to Congress — who’s talking about this part of the bill like it happens, like say now, is lying.

OR, as the NRCC correctly points out, never read the freaking thing.

“Just one day after his government healthcare takeover was signed into law, it’s already clear that Democrat rubber-stamp Steve Kagen was walking the party line when he signed off on a 2,700-page bill without even knowing what was in it,” said NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain. “After touting coverage for children as a reason to pass their runaway healthcare agenda, Democrats are just now finding out that this key provision isn’t actually in the bill. Wisconsin families are now left wondering how much more taxpayer money will be wasted on Washington’s incompetence. Kagen is probably searching for excuses, but he should be searching for a new job because voters aren’t likely to forget this ineptitude on Election Day.”

There’s also word there’s some confusion about the “Slacker Provision” for “children” covered by their parents until they are 26 years old as well.  Seems current policies are exempted from this change; it’s a loophole the reconciliation bill may or may not fix.  Makes you wonder if there’s an amendment by someone in the Senate to correct these errors.

Then it makes you wonder if Senate Democrats will vote to have them tabled so they don’t have to send the bill back to the House for their approval…

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“Great and Historic Legislation” Doesn’t Need PR

But this one apparently seems to be on the verge of getting one.  A very big one in fact.

President Obama is set to begin an immediate public relations blitz aimed at turning around Americans’ opinion of the health-care bill.

Planning inside the West Wing for the post-vote period has proceeded quietly, even as the president and his allies on Capitol Hill were fighting for the measure’s passage.

Reshaping the legislation’s image will take place in three phases, White House aides said: the immediate aftermath; the seven months until the November midterm elections; and the several years that follow, during which many provisions in the measure will gradually take effect.

Driving the message during those periods is the belief among Obama’s top advisers that Republicans have boxed themselves into a corner with unanimous opposition to the legislation and talk of a repeal.

“The Republicans have way overshot the runway in their criticism of health reform,” said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer.

If history is any indication, that White House sales job may be lacking.  President Obama has continually shown that the only thing he’s good at selling the American people is “Candidate Obama” not his policies.  You don’t have the display of legislative gymnastics — and at the level to which we just saw them — if your top salesman did his job.

I mean, there are orders from the White House Press Shop not to call “The Stimulus,” “The Stimulus” for a reason.  No one believes it worked, and as the think tanks, the policy groups, and the Senatorial and/or Congressional find out what’s actually in the reconciliation bill the Senate is set to take up that too will de-legitimatize the “greatness” of this bill.

Now, is a full-out repeal possible?  I question that.  Both on a sheer numbers game and if the GOP has the stomach and political will to go through what would be a media gauntlet of attempting repeal.  No; in the end, my overall guess is the Democrats will lose many seats this November as they try (and fail) to explain away the deals, the costs, and the lack of any real substantial reform in the bill taking place.

The GOP, will then be forced to work on a series of reforms to the package over the next legislative cycles as they make it more market-friendly and less government-heavy.  In a series of little pills, broken up, so the patient can handle it. (and the irony of that strategy no doubt won’t lost on Steve Kagen next year as he treats patients again in Appleton).

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