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“Rick Scott’s Hissy Fit”: Impatiently Snapping His Fingers At Sylvia Burwell Won’t Do Him Any Good

Rick Scott’s clearly a man who expects others to snap to it when he asks for something. But his demand that the Obama administration instantly give him assurances they’ll agree with his construction of an incredibly technical interplay between the Medicaid expansion option he’s now flip-flopped a second time to oppose, and an existing Low-Income Pool program who’s beneficiaries overlap with Medicaid’s, is now turning into a hissy fit, per this report from The Hill‘s Peter Sullivan:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Wednesday demanded an answer from the Obama administration “right now” on the renewal of federal funds for hospitals in his state, amid a showdown over ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

“I’ve let them know our timeline and we need an answer right now,” Scott told reporters outside the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington after meeting with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

According to HHS, Burwell gave Scott the “preliminary view” that the state’s current proposal falls short of the administration’s requirements.

At issue are federal funds to reimburse hospitals in Florida for treating uninsured people, known as the Low Income Pool (LIP). Scott is suing the Obama administration, alleging that the administration is withholding the funds in an effort to force the state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.

The administration counters that Florida is free to expand Medicaid or not, and that the decision on LIP funding will be made “regardless” of whether the state expands Medicaid.

You don’t have to go all the way down into the weeds to understand this; the administration obviously does want to keep the pressure up on Scott to do the right thing, and Florida hospitals are probably giving their Governor holy hell for not only rejecting the cornucopia of dollars from a Medicaid expansion, but jeopardizing their existing federal funds while he’s at it. But in any event, HHS has a good excuse for delaying any final decision on Scott’s proposal for a larger LIP program than would normally be the case:

HHS pointed out that the proposal is still in the middle of a 30-day public comment period in Florida, a step before its final decision on the proposal.

“HHS is continuing to engage with Florida on the state’s LIP proposal, even as the period for public comment in Florida is underway,” the readout said. “HHS heard the Governor’s request for a timely response to help the state meet its budget timeline. HHS believes completion of the public comment period, on-going discussions with the state, and the state’s submission of its proposal to CMS are the next steps in the process.”

That doesn’t meet Scott’s politically driven timetable, of course, so he’s impatiently snapping his fingers at Sylvia Burwell.

Don’t think it will do him any good.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 7, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, Rick Scott | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative Crybabies Lose Again”: The Right’s Laughable New Obamacare Conspiracies, Officially Debunked

If you click through a few conservative news websites, you’ll learn all about the latest and most nefarious bit of lawless chicanery from the Obama administration as it tries to paper over the Affordable Care Act’s obvious failures. Jumping off from a New York Times report that the Census Bureau “is changing its annual [healthcare] survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report,” conservatives have put two and two together and come up with CONSPIRACY.

Megan McArdle asks, “Is Obama cooking the Census books for Obamacare?” Townhall’s Guy Benson suspects this change was implemented to boost Democratic fortunes for the midterms: “The brand new survey questions will unquestionably ‘reveal’ a dramatic decrease in the uninsured population, bureau experts say, which will deliver Democrats a super handy talking point. And oh-by-the-way, the artificially improved numbers will be released … this fall.” Mediaite’s Noah Rothman writes that the conservatives who argle-bargled in 2009 about the White House politicizing the census now look prescient. “The fears of some that the Census Bureau could be corrupted by the imperatives of the political operatives in the White House was today proven accurate.”

Nonsense. The timing of the switch is obviously not ideal, though, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff notes, the new methods will be used to collect data for 2013, before the state marketplaces went up and the Medicaid expansion took effect. The suggestion of political interference from the White House, however, is a bombshell accusation that, despite Rothman’s insistence, is nowhere near being “proven.” Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed talked to a census official who said that the White House had precisely zero involvement in the changes implemented, and that the bureau had been discussing the shift “way before the ACA was an idea.”

Regardless, it’s a big story on the right, and not just because conservatives love a good conspiracy. In the past week or so, conservatives have seen their reliable avenues for attacking the Affordable Care Act evaporate right in front of them.

The announcement that Kathleen Sebelius was stepping down as Health and Human Services secretary sparked a brief round of schadenfreude and some enthusiastic sand-kicking at Ezra Klein, but ultimately Sebelius’ departure means that Republicans and conservatives have lost one of their favorite ACA punching bags. Her successor-in-waiting, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is an experienced administrator and the rarest of rare things: an Obama administration official who is actually on good terms with key Republicans in Congress. They’ll have a tough time painting her as controversial, and (assuming she’s confirmed) Burwell will assume control of Obamacare as it swings upward from its functional and political nadir.

Speaking of which, as conservatives are trying to suss out White House manipulation of the Census Bureau, Obamacare keeps on doing exactly what it was intended to do. This week the Congressional Budget Office found that Obamacare will cover more people for less money than initially estimated, and that insurance premiums likely will not spike next year, thus driving a stake through three core conservative attacks on the health law.

Health insurers, who just last month were floating anonymous warnings of massive premium increases, are now starting to warm to the state health exchanges. “At least two major national insurers intend to expand their offerings,” reported Politico on April 16, “although a handful of big players like Aetna, Humana and Cigna, are keeping their cards close for now. None of the big-name insurers have signaled plans to shrink their presence or bail altogether after the first rocky year. And a slew of smaller health plans are already making moves to join more states or get into the Obamacare business for the first time.”

And, in a development that should shock no one, Gallup found that in states that embraced Obamacare (i.e., set up their own health exchanges and expanded Medicaid) the rate of uninsured adults declined three times faster than in those states that rejected the Medicaid expansion or had the feds set up their insurance marketplace. All told, Gallup’s findings translate to about 10 million newly insured Americans.

Obamacare works in states that want it to work, and the tangible benefits of that success are putting pressure on Republicans who have to date been antagonistic toward the law. As Greg Sargent observed, Republican Senate candidates are now suddenly reticent when it comes to discussing the Medicaid expansion. Most notable among them is Tom Cotton in Arkansas, where Medicaid was expanded under a compromise measure in which federal dollars are used to purchase private plans. Cotton supports the full repeal of Obamacare, but won’t comment specifically on Arkansas’ “private option” for Medicaid, amusingly dismissing it as “a state-based issue.”

I certainly don’t want to leave the impression that the Affordable Care Act has been neutralized as a political issue or that it won’t face problems down the road – a looming increase in healthcare costs, for example. But for now Obamacare is shoring up some of its biggest political vulnerabilities, leaving conservatives to sputter about census conspiracies.

 

By: Simon Maloy, Salon, April 17, 2014

 

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Obamacare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“She Surely Paid Her Dues”: Will Kathleen Sebelius Win In The End? Legacy Tied To Obamacare’s Outcome

Yes, there was utter failure, but there was also one hell of a recovery. As time goes on, she’ll get less blame for the former and more credit for the latter.

It was always going to be a tough job, Health and Human Services secretary under this president. Even so, I’d bet Kathleen Sebelius was plenty shocked at the whole business.

True, she was only a second-string nominee, after Tom Daschle had to bow out because of those tax problems. But Sebelius still should have had little to fear. After all, she’d been the Democratic governor of a ruby-red state, Kansas. In a state where Republicans outnumbered Democrats roughly two-to-one, she won reelection in 2006 with 57 percent of the vote. She got one of the state’s prominent Republicans to switch parties and run with her for lieutenant governor.

So yes, it must have shocked when only eight Republicans voted to confirm her, while 31 voted against. Four-to-one against?! What had she done that was so bad? The answer was: nothing. Oh, Republicans invoked her “ties” to a Wichita doctor who performed abortions. But really, it was what she was going to do. She was going to be a point person on health-care reform, and they needed to ding her.

Today, and in the near future, she will have to endure being associated with the massive fiasco that was the launch of healthcare.gov. And that’s deserved. It’s hard to imagine what she was doing last summer instead of spending every waking minute ensuring that the initiative for which this administration will be remembered, the one thing that will color and even determine its historical legacy, was going to launch well. But it happened.

I don’t know how many times she got dragged up to the Hill and asked the same questions by all those Republican solons, striving to win the “let’s use this guy!” competition for the cable nets and NPR and the nightly newscasts, but it seemed like she was up there almost every day for a spell. On the surface, it all looked disastrous.

But I will say this. Behind the scenes, they did get to work. I could tell just from the way people talked, the things they said were happening there, that it really was getting better. They were (and I guess still are) sitting on this battery of IT stats about response times and how long a person had to wait to be logged in and so on and so forth, and those were being cut quickly. So Sebelius and the rescue team really did do their jobs once they were up against the wall.

Think of it this way. Did you think, last fall, that they’d actually hit the 7 million? Did you think they’d even come close? In a year-end column I wrote with my 2014 predictions, I said they’d make 5.8 million. And I thought that would be respectable. The latest report is that they’re approaching 7.5 million. So yes, there was utter failure. But there was one hell of a nice recovery. As time goes on, I think Sebelius will start getting less blame for the former, and more credit for the latter.

But her fate will be forever tied to Obamacare. If it succeeds, she’ll share the credit as the secretary who helped bring it to life. If it fails, she’ll share the blame. It’s about that simple. And I think it’ll probably succeed.

Meanwhile, there’s the question of getting a new HHS secretary installed. Obama’s nominee is Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who heads the Office of Management and Budget. Chief of staff Denis McDonough told The New York Times that “the president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there,” which is both praise of Burwell and a little slap at Sebelius.

But will the Republicans let her through? Actually, forget the Republicans: Six Democratic senators are seeking reelection in red states. Are they going to vote for a new Obamacare point person during an election season? It never ends. Except it is now for Sebelius, who’s surely paid her dues.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 10, 2014

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Kathleen Sebelius | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“As Dumb As It Is Predictable”: The Dumbest Thing The Right Is Saying About Sebelius’ Replacement

President Obama may have had troubles with the Healthcare.gov rollout, but he’s rolling out a replacement for departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius nicely. Appointing Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was confirmed last year to head the Office of Management and Budget 96-0, virtually insures he’ll get someone into Sebelius’ seat before midterm politics heat up.

That doesn’t mean the right won’t try to throw garbage at the centrist and well-respected Burwell. On PJ Tatler today they’re calling her “the person who shut down the veterans’ memorials,” because as OMB chief, she signed the memo telling agencies “to execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” when Sen. Ted Cruz and the GOP shut down the government last year.

You’ll recall that Cruz and the right had the audacity to blame Obama and the Democrats for the shutdown, which backfired on them spectacularly. But not before Cruz, Sarah Palin and a Confederate-flag-waving moron challenged the closure of the World War II veterans’ memorial with a protest that moved to the White House, where Larry Klayman told President Obama “to put the Quran down … and come out figuratively with your hands up.” Good times.

So yeah, they’re going to try that whole thing again, but it’s not going to work. (An aside: this NBC News story calls Burwell “the woman who ordered the government shutdown,” which at the time probably seemed like a feature writer’s flourish to pull people into a dull story about the OMB director, but in hindsight didn’t accurately describe the way the mess unfolded.)  Sen. John McCain immediately tweeted, “Sylvia Burwell is an excellent choice to be the next #HHS Secretary.” While righties are hoping that red state Democrats will turn on the woman who supposedly ordered the shutdown of veterans’ memorials, Sen. Joe Manchin praised Burwell’s appointment, too. (It probably helps that she’s from West Virginia.)

On the larger question of Sebelius’ legacy, we can only say that millions of people got health insurance, and millions more still need it. Ezra Klein trolled the right by declaring that it means “Obamacare has won,” which is pretty funny given that he helped lead the national freak-out over Healthcare.gov’s troubles back in October. Jonathan Cohn has a more balanced take in the New Republic. He acknowledges Sebelius’ management mistake in letting the federal exchange website’s troubles mount without letting the president know – there’s evidence she herself didn’t know – but he appropriately notes she’ll be remembered for the millions newly insured, particularly because she worked hard with Republican governors who bucked conservative constituencies to expand Medicaid.

Of course, confirming Burwell won’t mean the GOP stops trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. They had mostly stopped blaming Sebelius, because the new talking points say nobody could have made the law work, because by definition it can’t work. Having done everything in their power to insure it can’t work, which is literally costing American lives, they blame Obama for its shortcomings. However brilliant an HHS pick she may be, Sylvia Burwell can’t change that.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 11, 2014

April 12, 2014 Posted by | DHHS, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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