Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.
U.S. officials told NBC News that President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office and Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius, 65, the former governor of Kansas, who was an original member of the Cabinet that Obama appointed when he took office in January 2009.
No reason for Sebelius’ departure, was immediately available, but she came under sustained criticism as head of the agency in charge of the controversial rollout of Obama’s health care reform initiative.
Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White official said, but she didn’t tip her hand when she told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage under the new law — a figure that exceeded the original expectations despite the months of problems.
Sebelius has apologized numerous times for the glitch-prone website, which initially blocked many Americans from comparing and enrolling in health insurance plans. Testifying before a House committee in October, she conceded that the website, healthcare.gov, was “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”
By Alex Wayne, Julianna Goldman and Drew ArmstrongApr 10, 2014 6:14 PM CT
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a Senate..
Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary who steered the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, will resign just as the program topped its first-year enrollment goal, according to two people familiar with the decision.
The resignation of Sebelius, 65, is expected to be announced tomorrow, said the people who asked not to be identified because the decision is still private. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 48, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated to succeed Sebelius, one of the people said. White House officials had no immediate comment on the report.
A former Democratic governor of Kansas, Sebelius was an early backer of Obama’s campaign for the president. She spent five years running the Health and Human Services Department, presiding over the largest change to government health programs since Medicare and Medicaid began almost 50 years ago.
Sebelius’s resignation closes the first major chapter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 2010 law is projected to eventually offer health insurance to 25 million more people in the U.S., paid for with changes to Medicare, taxes on health-care providers and a requirement that all Americans have insurance.
Sebelius’s departure was unexpected by at least one person close to her, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican who has worked with her since 1991. Praeger said she was at a dinner where the health secretary spoke last week and that “she seemed like she was in it for the long haul.”
Assessing Sebelius’s work, the number of people who signed up for coverage through Obamacare may trump the difficulties in getting there when the new online insurance marketplaces started with flawed technology last October. In total, 7.5 million Americans signed up for private health plans through the exchanges, half a million more than the government’s most optimistic estimates.
The secretary “played a key role that enabled the Affordable Care Act to become the law of the land, and she worked tirelessly to implement it successfully,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based health advocacy group that supports the law, said in an e-mail. “We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her excellent work in improving health care for families across America.”
Medicare Advantage plans could see payment reductions of 1.9 percent next year under proposed rates announced Friday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Insurers, who have led a fierce lobbying campaign against payment reductions, have said the combination of the health law’s lower payment rates, new fees on health plans and other factors, including automatic federalspending cuts known as “sequestration,” mean that Medicare Advantage plans will see their Medicare payment rates drop by 6 percent – or even more — in 2015.
CMS said Friday its preliminary estimate is “the combined effect of the Medicare Advantage growth percentage and the fee-for-service growth percentage.”
America’s Health Insurance Plans said they are reviewing the details of the announcement to determine the total impact of the federal payment rates. In a statement, AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni was critical of the proposed rates, saying, “The new proposed Medicare Advantage cuts would cause seniors in the program to lose benefits and choices on which they depend.”
The Obama administration, in an abrupt about-face, said on Monday it would drop proposed changes to Medicare drug coverage that met wide opposition on grounds they would harm health benefits for the elderly and disabled.
Late last week, more than 370 organizations representing insurers, drug makers, pharmacies, health providers and patients urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw changes it had proposed for Medicare Part D.
One of the federal government’s most successful and cost-effective healthcare programs, Part D provides drug benefits for the elderly and disabled through private insurers to 36 million enrollees.
Critics said the changes, if adopted in coming months, could not only undermine Part D benefits but impact drug benefits available through Medicare Advantage, a program that allows Medicare beneficiaries to obtain their major medical coverage through private insurers.
“Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time. We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner advised in a letter sent on Monday to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The proposals were opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The Republican Party had already begun to look for ways to leverage popular anger over the changes into campaign attacks on Democratic incumbents who could be vulnerable in November’s election showdown for control of Congress.
Elated critics of the proposed changes said the government had effectively agreed to start over in the face of broad, bipartisan opposition.
The Obama administration’s proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans — the private insurance plans that cover almost 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries — are fair and reasonable. As it happens, they are also mandated by law. Yet Republicans, sensing a campaign issue, are telling older and disabled Americans that the administration is “raiding Medicare Advantage to pay for Obamacare.” The health insurance industry, for its part, is warning that enrollees will suffer higher premiums, lower benefits and fewer choices among doctors if the cuts go into force.
Some of this could in fact happen, although the industry has cried wolf before and continues to thrive. But the key point is this: Over the past decade, enrollees in Medicare Advantage have received lots of extra benefits, thanks to unjustified federal subsidies to the insurance companies. Now they will have to do with somewhat less, unless the insurers are willing to absorb the cuts while maintaining benefits. Enrollment in these private plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, has more than doubled since 2006, in part because of lower premiums and extra benefits, like gym memberships, that are not included in traditional fee-for-service Medicare.
What made these perks possible was, in effect, a subsidy from taxpayers and other Medicare beneficiaries. The federal government paid the private plans, on average, 14 percent more in 2009 than it would cost to treat the same people in traditional Medicare. The insurers used this extra money to reduce enrollees’ costs and add benefits.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act rightly required that these subsidies be reduced, although it stopped short of completely eliminating them. The reductions began to take effect in 2012, and have not, so far, visibly harmed beneficiaries or the plans. Since enactment of the law, Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent, the opposite of what some expected, and enrollment has increased by nearly 33 percent, according to the administration. But as the law intended, federal payments to the private plans dropped — from 7 percent more than services under traditional Medicare in 2012 to 4 percent more last year. The administration now proposes to further reduce the payments to Medicare Advantage plans in 2015. The loudest criticism has come from Republicans, but plenty of Democrats have chimed in.
Soldier’s ‘Courageous Act’ Remembered as Fort Hood Begins Healing
In a final heroic act, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson threw his body against the entryway of a door as a fellow soldier-turned-gunman blasted away in a terrifying rampage at Fort Hood.
Ferguson, 39, was fatally hit in the moment he became a human shield — a sacrifice remembered in a news conference Saturday.
Ferguson’s “courageous act of blocking the door with his own body prevented further bloodshed,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas.
Also killed in Wednesday’s shooting were Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, and Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38. Sixteen others were wounded. Gunman Spc. Ivan Lopez died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.
Rep. Williams, along with Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, met some of the wounded soldiers Saturday, and commended them on their valor. Among the victims was Maj. Patrick Miller, who was shot in the stomach with Lopez’s .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
Miller had called 911 as he tended to his own wounds.
Timothy Wayne Owens, a counselor at Fort Hood, was known to friends as a stand-up guy who triumphed over a hardscrabble upbringing to become an empathetic military man, one who helped people and defused conflicts.
So, it was no surprise to residents in his home town of Effingham, Ill., to hear that Owens lost his life trying to calm the shooter in Wednesday’s Fort Hood killings.
“He was a brave man,” said Owens’s mother, Mary Muntean, 77, who said she learned that her son had been killed as he tried to talk with Ivan Lopez, who has been identified as the man who killed three people and injured 16 in the shooting on the Army post.
Muntean said she received a call at her Effingham home from her son’s wife, Billy Owens, on Wednesday evening telling her that he had been shot five times after trying to calm Lopez in a post parking lot. Military officials have not released the names of those killed or injured or confirmed reports of how the violence unfolded. But friends of Owens said the account provided by his family fits the man they knew.
Among Fort Hood Victims, a Sergeant Is Killed, and a Major Is Wounded
By ASHLEY SOUTHALL and STEVEN YACCINOAPRIL 3, 2014
The names of the victims of the shooting in Fort Hood began to come out on Thursday, released by relatives and by officials offering their condolences.
In Effingham, Ill., family members told The Associated Press that Army Sgt. Timothy Owens was one of the three soldiers killed Wednesday in a mass shooting by Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez. Sixteen others were wounded in the shooting. The Army has not released a list of the victims, pending notification of relatives.
The mother of Sergeant Owens, Mary Muntean, 77, of Effingham, told The Associated Press that she had learned of her son’s death in a telephone call with her daughter-in-law.
Unable to reach her son, she called his wife, Billie Owens, who first said he was in the hospital. Before long, Sergeant Owens’s wife called back, and Mrs. Muntean had her worst fears confirmed. “She said, ‘Mom, I want to tell you how sorry I am. Tim’s gone,’ ” Mrs. Muntean said, according to The A.P. “I broke down.”
Sergeant Owens dropped out of high school in 1995. But his mother said he earned his high school equivalency after joining the Army in 2004.
A friend and former roommate, Paul Eatherton, said Sergeant Owens, whose family moved back to Effingham from Missouri in the mid-1990s, worked at Pizza Hut and studied tae kwon do at a local gym. Mr. Eatherton, a martial arts instructor at the time, said Sergeant Owens got his black belt and started teaching at a gym in Effingham.
“He was the best student I’d ever seen or known,” Mr. Eatherton said. “We’d go to tournaments, and he’d bring first places home every time.”
He said Sergeant Owens, who was in his mid-30s, had recently signed up for another six years in the Army. “I think he was going to be a lifer,” he said. He said he had not talked to Sergeant Owens for several months, but when he heard news of the shooting, he texted him immediately. He got no reply. “That really worried me,” he said.
The commander of Fort Hood, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, said in an afternoon news conference, that nine of the 16 people wounded in the attack were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Tex., for treatment. Three were upgraded to serious condition on Thursday. Hospital officials said doctors had operated on two patients, a man and a woman, who had been shot in the abdomen and neck. The third person had an abdominal wound. The other victims taken there were discharged.
Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez had seen a military psychiatrist as recently as last month. He was being treated for depression and anxiety, and had been prescribed Ambien to help him sleep. He had come back from a four-month deployment to Iraq in 2011 and told superiors he had suffered a traumatic head injury there. But military officials said he had never seen combat, and there was no record of any combat-related injury. He was being evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder.
Still, military officials said, they had seen nothing to indicate that Specialist Lopez, 34 — who killed three people and himself and wounded 16 others on Wednesday in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex. — was violent or suicidal.
“He had a clean record,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Thursday morning in testimony before a Senate panel in Washington. “No outstanding bad marks for any kinds of major misbehaviors that we’re yet aware of.”
Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Fort Hood commander, said Thursday at a news conference that there were “very strong indications” that there had been a “verbal altercation” between Specialist Lopez and one or more other soldiers in the minutes before the shooting started, but the authorities were still investigating what role, if any, that played in the attack.
“We have very strong evidence looking into his medical history that indicated an unstable psychiatric condition,” General Milley said.
Friends from his hometown in Puerto Rico said that Specialist Lopez was angry with the Army when he returned home for his mother’s funeral in November. Ismael Gonzalez, a former schoolmate who had kept in contact with Specialist Lopez on Facebook, said the soldier was very upset that he had initially been given only 24 hours to attend the funeral.
In addition, Mr. Gonzalez said, Specialist Lopez, who was earning $28,000 a year, told him that he was “in a precarious economic situation” trying to support his family in Texas and two children in Puerto Rico from his first marriage. And he was angry that the Army would not allow him to move his family onto the base at Fort Hood, Mr. Gonzalez said.
None of this had found its way into Specialist Lopez’s official record, though.
“This was an experienced soldier,” said Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff. “He spent actually nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard before coming on active duty, so he’s a very experienced soldier.”
Those who knew Specialist Lopez as a young man, obsessed with the high school band, were even more stunned to learn what he was suspected of doing.
“I cannot believe you are speaking about the same guy,” said Sgt. Maj. Nelson Bigas, one of Specialist Lopez’s superiors in the National Guard. “He was the most responsible, obedient, humble person, and one of the most skillful guys on the line.”
For a year beginning in 2006, Specialist Lopez was deployed with his guard unit on the Sinai Peninsula, watching the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
But, the authorities say, it was Specialist Lopez who went into Guns Galore in Killeen, Tex., near Fort Hood on March 1 and bought the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was used in the shootings on Wednesday.
It was the same gun store where Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major, had bought at least one of the weapons used in a 2009 mass shooting on the base.
So information was emerging slowly on Thursday about Mr. Lopez. He was raised in the small fishing village of Guayanilla on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. While there, he attended the School of Asunción Rodríguez de Sala, where he was active in the band and an enthusiastic drummer.
In 1999, he joined the National Guard, where he also played in the band. Later, he joined the Puerto Rico Police Department and became a member of its band. Officials said his record with the force was clean, with no disciplinary or behavioral problems.
His main job for the police was visiting schools and hospitals around Puerto Rico to give demonstrations on his percussion instruments. After he finished, other police officers would speak to the students or patients about gun violence, drugs and bullying, said Jeann Correa, the director of the unit for which he worked. His pay was $2,400 a month.
In 2010, getting a special leave from the police force, he shifted into the Army as a private first class and was quickly promoted to specialist and stationed with the First Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Tex. He was an infantryman there but his military record shows that in November, because of a medical condition identified as plantar fasciitis, a painful foot ailment, he moved to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where he trained to become a truck driver. In February, he was posted to Fort Hood in that capacity.
Vets, Docs Worry Fort Hood Shootings Will Deepen PTSD Stigma
By Bill Briggs
The word “PTSD” had barely left the mouth of Fort Hood’s commander late Wednesday when, across the nation, many veterans with those symptoms and doctors who treat the malady understood they faced a renewed battle: a resurgence of the stigma that comes with that diagnosis.
The Fort Hood tragedy –- 16 wounded and four killed, including identified shooter Ivan Lopez, a soldier being evaluated for PTSD –- is precisely the type of event that makes combat veterans cringe. Many worry they’ll be further mislabeled as dangerous time bombs, as the next to snap, and that post-traumatic stress will again be misrepresented and misunderstood as a condition that sparks public, violent outbursts.
“That is not what post-traumatic stress is or what it does,” said Ingrid Herrera-Yee, a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area who treats veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues as well as their family members and civilians. Her husband, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Ian Yee, spent three combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Yes, there is anger and irritability (associated with PTSD), but it’s usually internalized. You’re more likely to see it as someone who is withdrawn, anxious and numb, who’s lost interest in life. Some veterans explain it to me this way: ‘The last thing you want is to go out and lash out,” said Herrera-Yee, adding: “Just like any victims of a trauma –- rape or domestic violence -– they can become fearful of their surroundings, but they’re not going to react angrily toward their surroundings. For them, it’s all about avoidance.”
“You’re more likely to see it as someone who is withdrawn, anxious and numb, who’s lost interest in life. Some veterans explain it to me this way: ‘The last thing you want is to go out and lash out.’”
For years, Pentagon brass and branch commanders have urged troops and veterans to seek mental-health help if they feel the need, while repeating the message that, if they do see a doctor, they will not be viewed as weak but as strong. That campaign seems to have finally dented the macho-military mantra that every soldier can handle his or her own business. Many veterans are turning to doctors to begin addressing post-service anxiety issues, often fueled by repeated or long deployments.
An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a sprawling Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.Many basic details about the shooting remained unclear in the chaotic hours after the first calls for help around 4 p.m., but senior U.S. law enforcement officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to any foreign terrorist organizations. The shooter was among those who died, the officials said.
The officials identified the shooter as Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, 34, a military truck driver, who was dressed in his standard-issue green camouflage uniform. Lopez opened fire in two locations on the vast central Texas post, inside a building housing the 1st Medical Brigade and in a facility belonging to the 49th Transportation Battalion.
Police spent Wednesday night searching his apartment in Killeen, the city that abuts the Army facility. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, said the soldier, whom he did not identify by name, served four months in Iraq in 2011.
Milley said the shooter “had behavioral health and mental health issues.” He said the soldier, who self-reported a traumatic brain injury and was taking anti-depressants, had been under examination to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder. “We are digging deep into his background,” Milley said.
Milley said the soldier opened fire with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was purchased recently but was not authorized to be brought on the post. He was eventually confronted by a female military police officer. He put his hands up but then pulled out a gun from under his jacket. “She engaged,” Milley said, and then the soldier put the gun to his head and shot himself.
The shooting was the third major gun attack at a U.S. military installation in five years, leaving the nation grappling with the prospect of yet more flag-draped funerals for troops killed on the homefront. A government contractor went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard in September, leaving 12 people dead. In 2009, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.
Doctors at the Scott & White hospital in Temple, Tex., said Wednesday that they have treated eight of the wounded and that one more was on the way. Three of the patients were in critical condition in the ICU, and five were in serious condition. Seven of them were male, and one was female. Their injuries ranged from mild to life-threatening, a majority of them caused by single-gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen.
President Obama said he was “heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.” Speaking during a fundraising trip to Chicago, he pledged “to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
The gunman, identified by multiple government sources as Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, took his own life, officials said.
Lopez, 33, of Kileen, Tex., was wearing an Army uniform at the time of the shooting, Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters.
Four people were taken to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Tex., and another two are being brought there, said Glen Couchman, the facility’s chief medical officer. Their injuries that “range from stable to quite critical,” he said.
The installation was locked down for much of the afternoon and into the evening after the shooting before being lifted shortly before 9 p.m. local time.
Speaking in Chicago, President Obama said his administration was following the shooting closely.
“I want to just assure all of us we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he said. “We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again.”
SHOOTING SITUATION STILL ACTIVE, Multiple Gunned Down
FORT HOOD (April 2, 2014) At least one person is dead after a shooting late Wednesday afternoon on Fort Hood, a post spokesman confirmed.
Others were injured in the shooting, but the spokesman didn’t say how many.
The gunman is still at large and the spokesman said the incident is being treated as an active-shooter situation.
Warning sirens sounded late Wednesday afternoon at Fort Hood because of the incident.
A man who said he was a witness told News 10 that about 20 shots were fired in a post motor pool in the area of Motor Pool Road and Tank Destroyer Boulevard.
He said at least three people were hit.
He said the three victims were taken to a hospital.
The post was on lockdown as a result of the shooting, which occurred at around 4:25 p.m.
People on post were told to stay indoors.
A message that scrolled across the top of the post’s website said, “Shelter in place immediately. This is not a test.”
The 1st Calvary Division, which is based at Fort Hood, sent a Twitter alert telling people on base to close doors and stay away from windows.
Texas A&M Central Texas in Killeen canceled evening and night classes Wednesday at Fort Hood and at its Fairway building because of the situation on post.
First responders from surrounding communities were headed to the post.
Bell County sheriff’s deputies and Department Public Safety troopers were also responding, sheriff’s Lt. Donnie Adams said.
Media were being directed to the post’s Visitor’s Center.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian and wounding 29 others before two Fort Hood civilian police officers shot him.
What We Believe from the CCHRCCHR/YouTube & MorgueFile/Freephoto
March 29, 2014
There is a little known bill in the works which would force people in crisis into forced psychiatric treatment. Mad in America reported on March 28, 2014 that mental health advocates are urging protest against a forced treatment addition to a new Medicare bill. Many national mental health and disability advocacy groups have joined together to urge people to contact their senators in order to protest a section of a bill which was rushed through the House of Representatives by voice vote this week. This bill, Section 224 of HR4302, is up for a vote in the Senate on Monday.
Raymond Bridge, public policy director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery has said: “In its rush to fix a problem with Medicare, the House passed a bill including a highly controversial program, involuntary outpatient commitment, with no debate and no roll call vote.” It appears to Bridge that the Senate may pass a version of the House bill which includes this troublesome provision on Monday. Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. has commented about this bill, saying: “It would bring America back to the dark ages before de-institutionalization, when people with mental health conditions languished in institutions, sometimes for life.”
Mental Health Advocates Decry Forced Treatment Provision in “Doc Fix” Bill
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The bill rushed through the House of Representatives by voice vote yesterday to patch Medicare regulations includes a highly controversial provision that has nothing to do with Medicare, and that would subject people in crisis to forced treatment. Studies have shown that such force causes trauma and drives people away from treatment, mental health advocates warned.
Today, an array of national mental health and disability advocacy groups joined together to decry this provision, which they view as a regressive attack on hundreds of thousands of Americans with serious mental health conditions.
“In its rush to fix a problem with Medicare, the House passed a bill including a highly controversial program, involuntary outpatient commitment, with no debate and no roll call vote,” said Raymond Bridge, public policy director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), a coalition of 32 statewide organizations and others representing individuals with mental illnesses. “And it seems that the Senate may pass a version of the House bill including this troubling provision on Monday,” Bridge added.
The 123-page Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, H.R. 4302, includes a four-year, $60 million grant program (Sec. 224) to expand involuntary outpatient commitment (IOC) – also called Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) – in states that have laws authorizing IOC. The laws allow courts to mandate someone with a serious mental illness to follow a specific treatment plan, usually requiring medication. The facts show that involuntary outpatient commitment is not effective, involves high costs with minimal returns, is not likely to reduce violence, and that there are more effective alternatives.
Assisted Outpatient Treatment is central to the controversial Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), proposed by Rep. Tim Murphy in December 2013.
“This legislation would eliminate initiatives that use evidence-based, voluntary, peer-run services and family supports to help people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses to recover,” said Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist and an NCMHR founder. “It would bring America back to the dark ages before de-institutionalization, when people with mental health conditions languished in institutions, sometimes for life.”
The provisions of H.R. 3717 would exchange low-cost, community-based services with good outcomes for high-cost yet ineffective interventions, according to the NCMHR; the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the non-profit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities; and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), which advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities through consumer-driven advocacy.
It’s not that HealthCare.gov is a nightmare. Instead, it’s the fault of incompetent Americans.
That’s the jist of what Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) said today, when asked by a reporter about the Obama administration’s decision, which was reported on last night, that people could claim they had tried to sign up before the March 31st deadline and still enroll in Obamacare in April.
“There’s no hiccup or delay,” Reid said. “We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up and they didn’t get through.”
As the White House scrambles to get people signed up for health insurance before the March 31 deadline, many uninsured Americans say they are still planning to take their chances and remain without coverage.
A new study by Bankrate.com shows that about one third of uninsured Americans are going to remain without coverage and opt to pay the penalty.
The survey results suggest that the administration’s outreach to uninsured people may be falling short, with more than half of people without insurance unaware of the March 31 deadline—and even more unaware of subsidies that could make their policies more affordable.
Bankrate surveyed 3,005 people and found that 41 percent of those who were uninsured said they plan to stay uninsured because they think that health insurance is too costly. Meanwhile, about 70 percent said they were unaware of subsidies available under the new law that could make their health plans more affordable.
The study’s findings are worrisome for the Obama administration since the key goal of the president’s health care law was to extend access to health coverage for the uninsured.
A separate study by the McKinsey consulting firm found just 27 percent of Obamacare enrollees were uninsured. That means that the majority of those signing up for Obamacare had previous insurance of some kind—whether they were kicked off their old policies, or they found a better deal on the exchanges. Though not confirmed by the White House, if accurate, that could mean the law is failing to meet its intended goal.
With the deadline to sign up for Obamacare having come and gone, many Americans have decided to “opt out” of President Obama’s signature health care reform law, choosing instead to pay the $95 penalty for sidestepping the individual mandate.
“For many Americans opting out of Obamacare is the best decision they can make, but it’s important that they do it the right way—just refusing to buy health insurance and not having another way to pay for catastrophic medical expenses is a mistake,” Sean Parnell, author of the newly-released The Self-Pay Patient, told Breitbart News. “People who want to opt out should be looking at alternatives to conventional health insurance, such as joining a health care sharing ministry or purchasing a fixed benefits policy.”
Parnell also strongly advises Americans against opting out and simply paying the “list” price for medical visits and prescription drugs without shopping around, or by relying solely on the local hospital emergency room for routine medical care.
“This approach leaves people who opt out vulnerable to sky-high medical expenses at inflated ‘list’ or ‘chargemaster’ rates, and can result in an inability to obtain needed care because of cost,” Parnell writes on his blog, selfpaypatient.com.
Instead, Parnell recommends the following eight options for those who have opted out of ObamaCare:
1. Join a health care sharing ministry, which are voluntary, charitable membership organizations that share medical expenses among the membership.
Healthcare sharing ministries “operate entirely outside of ObamaCare’s regulations, and typically offer benefits for about half the cost of similar health insurance,” says Parnell. “Members are also exempt from having to pay the tax for being uninsured.”
When Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to quell concerns about rising premiums under ObamaCare last week, she said: “The increases [we’re seeing] are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act.” This was an echo of a representative of Sebelius at HHS, Joanne Peters, who told Fox News, “Since the Affordable Care Act became law, health-care costs have been slowing and premium growth has slowed to the lowest rate in years … making it easier for [small] businesses to offer coverage.”
These claims surprised health insurance company officials, who have been wrestling with the massive takeover by the government and trying to charge enough to stay solvent. Said one official, on conditions of anonymity: “[These comments are] pretty shortsighted … everybody knows that [ObamaCare] is going to lead to higher costs.” Privately, the same official said that his company, located in a large swing state, expects to triple its rates next year.
Another insurance company official stated: “We’re exasperated. All of these major delays on very significant portions of the law are going to change what it’s going to cost.” Bill Hoagland, a former executive at health insurance company CIGNA, agreed: “My gut tells me that, for some people, these increases will be significant.”
Analysts have been trying to estimate precisely what those cost increases are likely to be. Three economists with the Manhattan Institute made their first estimate last September, expanded it later that month, and issued a further broader report in November. Writing in Forbes, one of them said the average increase will be more than 40 percent over current premiums, with some insureds seeing their premiums double:
This nearly-complete analysis finds that the average state will face underlying premium increases of 41 percent.
Men will have the steepest increases: 77, 37, and 47 percent for 27-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and 64-year-olds, respectively….
The eight states that will face the biggest increases in underlying premiums are: Nevada (+179 percent), New Mexico (+142 percent), Arkansas (+138 percent), North Carolina (+136 percent), Vermont (+117 percent), Georgia (+92 percent), South Dakota (+77 percent) and Nebraska (+74 percent).
The reason young men will suffer the biggest increases under ObamaCare is because they are the healthiest and, under the program, will be expected to carry most of the burden for the others, including women who use more healthcare services than men. ObamaCare requires insurers to charge them the same as men. And older people, who consume up to six times the services that young people do, may not, under those rules, be charged more than three times their premiums.
There’s also the matter of subsidies, which, because oldsters pay more, will qualify them for higher subsidies. Wrote one of the authors of that study, Avik Roy:
Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.
The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.
The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past.
“The increases are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act,” the secretary said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.
Her comment baffled insurance officials, who said it runs counter to the industry’s consensus about next year.
“It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out … is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity.
The insurance official, who hails from a populous swing state, said his company expects to triple its rates next year on the ObamaCare exchange.
The hikes are expected to vary substantially by region, state and carrier.
Areas of the country with older, sicker or smaller populations are likely to be hit hardest, while others might not see substantial increases at all.
Several major companies have been bullish on the healthcare law as a growth opportunity. With investors, especially, the firms downplay the consequences of more older, sicker enrollees in the risk pool.
Much will depend on how firms are coping with the healthcare law’s raft of new fees and regulatory restrictions, according to another industry official.
Some insurers initially underpriced their policies to begin with, expecting to raise rates in the second year.
Others, especially in larger states, will continue to hold rates low in order to remain competitive.
After this story was published, the administration pointed to some independent analyses that have cast doubt on whether the current mix of enrollees will lead to premium hikes.
ObamaCare also includes several programs designed to ease the transition and stave off premium increases. Reinsurance, for example, will send payments to insurers to help shoulder the cost of covering sick patients.
But insurance officials are quick to emphasize that any spikes would be a consequence of delays and changes in ObamaCare’s rollout.
Republican lawmakers cried foul Friday night over an Obama administration proposal to cut payment rates to private insurers who administer Medicare Advantage, a popular alternative to the government-run health program for seniors.
Although not a surprise, the proposed cuts come after an intense lobbying effort by the insurance industry against slashing rates, citing the potential for higher costs to seniors, and GOP lawmakers this year are sure to use the cuts as further ammo against the Affordable Care Act and its Democratic supporters.
“The health law cut more than $300 billion from the popular Medicare Advantage program, potentially forcing hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries to find new health care plans, despite the president’s promise,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of a House panel on health. “The cuts announced today will only exacerbate the effect this will have on the health care of millions of our nation’s seniors, leaving them with higher costs and fewer choices.”
About 15 million people, or slightly less than a third of all Medicare recipients, are enrolled Medicare Advantage plans, while the rest rely on the government’s fee-for-service model to reimburse doctors.
CMS officials insisted late Friday that the program is on the right course. It said Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, while enrollment has increased to an all-time high 15 million enrollees.
“We believe that plans will continue their strong participation in the Medicare Advantage program in 2015 and beneficiaries will continue to have a wide array of high quality, high value, low cost options available to them while at the same time we are making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers,” said Jonathan Blum, CMS’s principal deputy administrator.
The Hunger Site – Your click helps to feed the hungry
Discount School Supply
Dog Houses . com
Chicken Coop Source . com
Compost Bins . com
FAIR USE NOTICE
Due to the social nature of this site, it may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit, to those who have expressed a prior interest in participating in this community for educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Any materials (ie. graphics, articles , commentary) that are original to this blog are copyrighted and signed by it's creator. Said original material may be shared with attribution. Please respect the work that goes into these items and give the creator his/her credit. Just as we share articles , graphics and photos always giving credit to their creators when available. Credit and a link back to the original source is required.
If you have an issue with anything posted here or would prefer we not use it . Please contact me. Any items that are requested to be removed by the copyright owner it will be removed immediately. No threats needed or lawsuit required. If there is a problem and you do not wish your work to be showcased then we will happily find an alternative from the many sources readily available from creators who would find it amenable to having their work presented to the subscribers of this feed.
Thank you for your time and attention, blessings to all :)