Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016



Obama sorry some are losing health insurance


WASHINGTON — President Obama is apologizing that some Americans are losing their insurance — and referenced assurances that he gave the American people during his reelection campaign that they could keep their health plans.

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama said.

“We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this,” Obama told NBC News at the White House on Thursday.

It’s the most personal expression of regret yet from the administration, which for weeks has been acknowledging the failures of the botched Obamacare web site that was created so that Americans can buy insurance.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney apologized that the web site wasn’t providing needed information to people getting notices that they were losing private insurance. “That’s on us and I accept that,” Carney said Tuesday.

The administration has been battered by press reports pointing out that millions of Americans have been getting notices from their insurance carriers stating that because of Obamacare, their plans weren’t being offered and they must select a new one.

Some of the new plans are more expensive, and some carriers didn’t mention the new health exchanges – which are extremely difficult to access right now anyway.

During the 2012 campaign, Obama said: “If you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan” under Obamacare.

Obama walked back his statement somewhat this week when he said: “If you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) accused Obama of sounding like a lawyer with that statement.

The law set up numerous restrictions on what kinds of plans could and couldn’t be offered, requiring certain services be covered free of charge, and prohibiting bans on preexisting medical conditions – which has raised the costs of some coverage, particularly for bare bones plans and to people buying insurance on the individual market.

House Republicans scheduled a vote for next week on the Keep Your Health Plan Act – in a move...

Obama Apologizes To Americans Losing Insurance Due To Healthcare Law


Looking to do damage control over the troubled rollout of his signature healthcare reform law, President Barack Obama offered a personal apology to individuals losing their health insurance coverage as a result of the legislation.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Obama said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.

He added, "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."

The apology comes on the heels of news that millions of Americans could see their insurance canceled if the plans don't meet the standards set by Obamacare.

Obama has been accused of lying to the American public by previously stating that those that liked their plan would be able to keep it.

In the interview with NBC, the president argued that his pledge is still true for the vast majority of Americans and said many in the individual insurance market will ultimately be better off.

Obama also addressed the ongoing problems with the health insurance exchange website, expressing confidence that a majority of Americans will be able to successfully use the site by the end of the month.

"I'm confident that it will be even better by November 30th, and that the majority of people are going to be able to get on there," Obama said.

He added, "They're going to be able to enroll. They're going to be able to apply. And they're going to get a good deal."

Despite the problems with the rollout of Obamacare, the president also remained steadfast in his defense of Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius.

While a number of Republicans have called for Sebelius to resign over the problems with the website, Obama noted, "Kathleen Sebelius doesn't write code. She wasn't our IT person."

Obama also had high praise for another member of his cabinet in the interview with NBC, describing Vice President Joe Biden as "one of the best vice presidents in our history."

"He also happens to be a friend" Obama said of Biden "He also happens to be one of my most important advisors on domestic foreign policy. I like him. When my back's up against the wall, he has my back."

He added, "He is a personal friend and adviser. It's one of the best decisions that I've...


Obama Defends Health Care Law in Dallas


U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to Dallas, Texas on Wednesday to urge more uninsured Americans to enroll in the federal government's health care coverage plan, also known as Obamacare.

He thanked volunteers from the Dallas Area Interfaith Coalition for helping uninsured Americans to sign up for the government's health care coverage.
"We're on the right side of history. It is the right thing to do. It is the right thing for our economy, our businesses and our families," said Obama.
As problems continue with the government's health care enrollment website, the president assured Americans the site will be working as it is supposed to by the end of the month.
"Nothing drives me more crazy than the fact that right now, there's great insurance to be had out there, choice and competition, where people can save money for a better product, except too many folks haven't been able to get through the website," Obama told the crowd.
The state of Texas has the highest ratio of uninsured Americans. It's also a Republican-controlled state that hasn't set up its own health care exchange, nor has it accepted federal funding under Obamacare to expand health care for the poor.
Political science professor Steven Greene at North Carolina State University thinks the president's decision to speak in Texas highlights some of the difficulties Obamacare has faced amid a lack of cooperation from a number of Republican-controlled states.
"They were simply not prepared for the volume of work they were going to have to do to set up these so-called exchanges for all of these various states which refused to do it on their own," said Greene.
The president has been criticized for earlier statements that people who liked their current health care plan could keep it. Those statements have since proven untrue, as health insurance companies have dropped some people's coverage plans that don't meet the new government requirements. Greene says the administration needs to get a handle on this "political problem," as he calls it.
"It seems that it probably would have been politically better to be more forthright with people and make it clear that, yeah, there are going to be some losers in this change, and some people are going to have to pay significantly more for their health care insurance," said Greene.
For now, Obamacare's...

Obama Struggling With Fallout From Health Law


The troubles hampering the Affordable Care Act may linger before they subside.

On Wednesday, it was hard to miss the hazard signs.

More than a dozen Senate Democrats vented frustrations about the administration’s website and communications bungles during a two-hour meeting with President Obama at the White House. The bull session lasted so long, the president was late for a flight to Dallas.

Once on the ground in Texas, the president’s script called for him to castigate Republican Gov. Rick Perry for declining to expand Medicaid to 1 million eligible uninsured Texans. But instead of lingering over the image of Perry as the Grinch, the president was forced to race through his remarks in 13 minutes, including a rapid-fire rebuttal to criticisms that the health law forced millions of Americans to lose the insurance coverage they liked.

Then he headlined two fundraisers in Dallas for Senate Democrats.

The administration’s implementation troubles dominated a Senate hearing Wednesday at which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was again in the docks over the flawed website. Instead of celebrating the law’s expanded benefits, Obama has been tasked to explain to millions of Americans why they can’t keep their coverage when he once assured them they could.

“More people are losing their insurance than are signing up on the website, and they are being directed to a website that doesn't even work,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told Sebelius before he asked her to resign her Cabinet post.

The secretary did not respond, but spokesmen for her department later confirmed to reporters that at least one manager involved in the project would leave the government next week. Tony Trenkle, the chief information officer in charge a billion-dollar information technology budget at HHS, will head to the private sector after Nov. 15 and be replaced by a colleague serving in an acting capacity, according to an email distributed at HHS and confirmed by officials. A spokeswoman declined to say if Trenkle was fired or had resigned.

At the White House, the president and his top aides tried to calm Democratic senators facing re-election next year who are feeling pummeled by the GOP and concerned that the president’s team appears slow to steady all that they’re tasked to manage. They “admitted they have a messaging problem, but not yet a way to fix it,” an aide to one...


Why so many face shifts in medical insurance

One of last week's big stories was the flood of cancellation notices being delivered to people who have individual health insurance policies.

Despite President Obama's oft-stated promise that you can keep your insurance if you like it, most people with individual policies will have to get a new one in 2014 because their existing one does not comply with the myriad requirements of the Affordable Care Act and therefore must be terminated. Companies that discontinue a policy must offer customers a new one that complies.

One exception: If a person had a policy before the act was signed in March 2010, and that plan has not changed, that person is considered grandfathered and can keep the existing policy as long as the company offers it.

In California, no existing policies comply with the act, according toJanice Rocco, the state's insurance commissioner.

The same is probably true in other states. Christopher Stenrud, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente, said "all of our products (nationwide) had to be redesigned."

Under the act, a person can keep a non-grandfathered, noncompliant plan until its renewal date in 2014, which means people in other states will be getting cancellation notices well into next year.

In California, however, most notices have already gone out. That's because Covered California, the state's health care marketplace, required companies selling policies on its exchange to terminate all non-grandfathered policies by Dec. 31. Most of the big insurers who are active in the individual market in California are part of the exchange.

Insurers who are not part of the exchange can replace California policies when they renew.

Insurers who cancel a policy must give customers 90 days' notice and offer them a new one.

Kaiser started notifying non-grandfathered customers in July, Stenrud says.

Complaints about cancellations have been surfacing for a while, but reached a crescendo last week when Peter Lee, head of Covered California, disclosed that 800,000 to 900,000 Californians would face policy terminations this year. That was higher than previous estimates.

Other states are also reporting hundreds of thousands of cancellations, with more to come.

In Massachusetts and Oregon, all noncompliant, non-grandfathered policies must end no later than March 31, says Edwin Park, vice president for health policy with the National Center on Budget...

Obama: 'Shop around' if you lose your health insurance plans


President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years. our sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC News that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”


None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered.

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”  

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”

“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t...


7 reasons why Terry McAuliffe is going to win


new Washington Post-SRBI poll on the Virginia’s governors race shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent among likely voters with just a week left before Election Day.  Barring some sort of political catastrophe, McAuliffe will win — and could well sweep Democrats into the other two top statewide offices on the ballot as well.

There are lots of reasons for McAuliffe’s expected victory — GovBeat’s Reid Wilson hits on a number of them, including the Democrat’s massive spending edge – but the new WaPo poll is chock full of data points that provide a roadmap for how the race got to this point. We combed through the poll — it’s like Christmas morning for us when a new poll comes out — and came up with seven reasons that McAuliffe is almost certainly going to be the next governor of the Commonwealth.

1. People don’t like Cuccinelli. Roughly six in ten likely voters (58 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of the state Attorney General including 43 percent who have a “strongly” unfavorable view of him.  In fact, more people are strongly unfavorable toward Cuccinelli than are either strongly  (17 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) favorable about him.  You almost never win races when you unfavorable ratings are so high and/or when the intensity behind those unfavorables is so strong.

2. People think Cuccinelli is too conservative. A majority (54 percent) of likely voters said that Cuccinelli’s views are “too conservative” for them while 36 percent said his stances were just about right. (Forty percent said McAuliffe’s views were too liberal while 50 percent said they were just about right.) When more than half of the electorate believes you are well outside of their political beliefs — to the right or left — it’s bad news.

3. Women, especially, think Cuccinelli isn’t their candidate. McAuliffe is beating Cuccinelli 58 percent to 34 percent among women voters in Virginia. (By way of comparison, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by eight points among women in 2009.) Asked which candidate would do a better job handling “issues of special concern to women”, McAuliffe leads by 27 points. On which candidate would do a better job handling abortion, McAuliffe’s edge is 17 points.

4. Cuccinelli is losing the values fight...

Running scared? McAuliffe tells supporters he may lose as pro-life Cuccinelli surges in polls


RICHMOND, Va., November 1, 2013 ( – With just over three days to go before Virginia picks its next governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe – long considered the front-runner for the job – is worried. As his pro-life Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cucinnelli, has enjoyed a late surge in the polls, McAuliffe is warning supporters that his election is far from a sure thing.

“No matter what pollsters are reporting, newspapers are writing, and your friends might be telling you,” the former Clinton fundraiser and onetime DNC chairman warned in an e-mail to his financial contributors, “we're facing two hard truths.”

One of those “hard truths,” according to McAuliffe, is that “Tea Party” conservatives turn out in higher numbers during off-year elections than liberal voters do.

The other is a long-established Virginia voting trend: “For 45 years,” wrote McAuliffe, “the political party that controls the White House has lost our governor's race the next year. In 2009, fewer than 40 percent of Virginia voters cast a ballot for governor, despite the fact that nearly 70 percent voted in the presidential election the year before.”

“If we allow ourselves to be complacent for any part of the next five days, Election Day will not be pretty,” McAuliffe said.

Two recent polls have put Cuccinelli within easy striking distance of an upset win. A Quinnipiac pollreleased Wednesday showed him just four points behind McAuliffe, who had previously enjoyed a double-digit advantage, and a Wenzel Strategies survey gave McAuliffe just a single point lead over Cuccinelli.

“State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is nipping at Terry McAuliffe’s heels as the race to be Virginia’s next governor enters the final week of the campaign,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It goes without saying that turnout is the key to this race, and the harshly negative tone of the campaign is the kind that often turns off voters.”

In recent weeks, McAuliffe has outspent Cuccinelli 10-to-one on advertising designed to paint the attorney general as an “extremist” mounting a “war on women” because of his opposition to abortion-on-demand and the controversial HHS mandate. Cuccinelli was the first state attorney general to mount a...