Friday, May 16, 2014

Healthcare premiums under Obamacare continue to climb, as healthcare "cost curves" maintain their upward trajectory -- both for the federal government and within the private market. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Employer healthcare costs are expected to rise nearly 9% in 2014, a slight improvement over recent years, according to a new survey. However, that modest decline doesn't offer much relief to companies and their employees, who are seeing health insurance costs take a bigger bite out of their paychecks. "Even though the decline is good news, most [health] plan sponsors still find 8% to 9% cost increases unsustainable," said Harvey Sobel, a principal at Buck Consultants, a benefits consulting firm that surveyed 126 insurers and health plan administrators nationwide...The report released Thursday found that costs for preferred-provider organization, or PPO, plans are expected to rise 8.7% this year. That's down from 9% last year...Some insurers surveyed cited patients' lower use of medical care as the primary reason for the decreases...Overall, U.S. healthcare spending has been growing at historically low levels from 2009 to 2012, federal data show. Many health economists and industry officials have attributed the slowdown primarily to lingering effects of the Great Recession, when millions of Americans cut back on medical care...Even with the slowdown, the rise in health premiums continues to outpace inflation and wage growth.
As we've addressed many times over, the administration's attempts to claim credit for the recent deceleration in health spending increases have been debunked by the government's own actuaries. As the piece above indicates, economists cite the economic downturn as the driving force behind that phenomenon -- which may now be coming to a close. Imagine how sharply spending would be rocketing up if we were in the midst of a robust economic recovery, in which case the combined effects of Obamacare's newly insured and economy-related usage increases would blast spending into the stratosphere. Indicators appear to suggest the US economy actually contracted in the first quarter of 2014. And again, this year's expected maintenance of last year's rate of cost increases is not the same thing as significant cost decreases, which is what we were promised. The arrow is still inexorably pointing in the same direction. NPR, which earlier this week put a cheerful spin on the trend of employers dumping and changing coverage plans due to Obamacare, follows up with a more straightforward report about the impact of the law on a company in Ohio:
AmeriMark, like most businesses, has been coping with rising health insurance premiums for years. This year, the company's initial estimate from a broker was a 30 percent increase in the price of premiums if they stayed with the same insurance provider. Lyons says they shopped around, chose a new company and changed some of the policy's benefits — such as increasing the deductibles and copays that employees pay as their contribution to their own health coverage. Such changes in plans have become increasingly common nationally in recent years as annual increases in health care premiums have become normal. For many medium-sized companies, like AmeriMark, the new costs of the Affordable Care Act are an added burden on top of the health insurance premiums that have been rising for years. The largest of the new Obamacare costs is the health insurance provider tax, or HIT. It's a tax that the federal government charges insurance companies, and the size of the fee depends on how many people the insurer is covering. Insurers then pass that cost on to employers. And employers, in turn, pass some or all of the cost on to their workers...Giesler says the company debated dropping health insurance for its employees — a step that, beginning in 2015, would result in an expensive penalty. In the end, the firm decided to keep providing insurance. But that decision may change in the future, he says, if costs continue to climb.
Let's count the broken promises in this excerpt alone: Facing a hefty double-digit premium increase (1) because of Obamacare's various mandates and taxes (2) AmeriMark was forced to drop its existing plan (3) in favor of a cheaper option that shifts more out-of-pocket costs onto workers (4).

And if costs continue down the current path, the company is holding open the possibility of ceasing to offer health coverage altogether (5) -- which it has done since the 1960's. As overall spending lurches upward for the Uncle Sam, healthcare bills rise for companies, and rates plus other costs climb for individuals and families, you'll be pleased to know that the government continues to waste taxpayer money on Obamacare -- and not just through insanely wasteful broken website boondoggles. Watch this investigative report from a news station in Missouri, where employees at a company awarded a $1.2 billion federal Obamacare contract were paid, quite literally, to do nothing:

Click on link for video:

At least 40 American veterans are dead thanks to bureaucratic delays at Veterans Affairs clinics. But you wouldn't know it from VA Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki's bland and bloodless demeanor at a Senate hearing Thursday. He droned on like an apathetic office manager fielding complaints about the copier being jammed.

Shinseki told the Senate panel he "can't remember" getting warnings from federal watchdogs last fall about ghost clinics and double-scheduling schemes. He said he was "not aware" of explosive book-cooking allegations like the ones at a Fort Collins, Colo., VA facility, where employees were ordered to make their records show that veterans got appointments within 14 days of the day requested, whether or not it was true.

In response to bipartisan disgust with the VA's serial incompetence and fatally long wait times, oblivious Shinseki blathered about "customer satisfaction surveys." And when it came time to deliver his calculated sound bite about being "mad as hell" at mounting allegations of criminal fraud and neglect, Shinseki's perfunctory tone echoed a jaded 411 operator: "City and state, please?"

Asked whether VA employees who alter records should be fired, Shinseki's deputy Robert Petzel said he didn't know "whether that's the appropriate level of punishment." Shinseki interjected that a whopping 3,000 VA workers, including senior managers, had been "involuntarily removed" for misconduct last year -- only to admit that an unknown number of those had simply been reassigned or allowed to retire.

In true paper-pusher form, the VA's top brass have ordered yet another study to assess how and why the VA ignored years of other studies, reports and audits of the department's waste, fraud and abuse. 

Showing even more tone-deafness, Shinseki bragged openly about his close friendship with top White House aide Rob Nabors, who is now overseeing the kabuki "review" of his department's failures.

Can you spell crony whitewash?

Pressed on why he hadn't reported illegal data falsification to the FBI, Shinseki demurred that it was the inspector general's call, not his.

In other words: The buck stops somewhere else.

Attorney General Eric Holder hid behind the VA inspector general, too. There are no plans for a DoJ probe into the secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA hospital, where scores of sick vets languished for months before perishing. Question: Why is activist zealot Holder so content to wait for the IG?

Given this administration's shady record of crushing whistleblowers, railroading IGs and replacing them with dirty lapdogs, Shinseki's vow to "get to the bottom" of this latest deadly scandal while Holder and the FBI sit on the sidelines stinks to high hell.

Taking care of the nation's war veterans is an obligation that has existed since the days of the Continental Congress. But for decades, under both GOP and Democratic administrations, the men and women who served our country have been literally left to die by government caretakers.

Fifteen years ago, I reported on VA bureaucrats who took better care of administrative buildings and vacant hospitals than their own patients. Back then, an independent General Accounting Office found that the agency was spending more than $1 million a day to sustain unneeded hospital buildings.

Another $35 million was squandered annually to perform upkeep on empty space, including unused lots and warehouses, while vets were forced to file malpractice suits over substandard care.

We "have created the damnedest country club in America," one VA watchdog activist I quoted said at the time. "Whatever toys they want, they get. Nobody is watching what they spend these millions of dollars on, and obviously, no one cares."

Fifteen years later, it's the same old, same old. More empty excuses, feckless denials and deadly red tape. The names change, but the game's the same: "Support the troops" platitudes and photo-ops at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "Screw the troops" in the bowels of the VA bureaucracy, where book-cookers were busy collecting bonuses instead of saving lives. And everyone at the top refuses to resign.

It's self-serving government as usual. I'd ask how "hope and change" is working out for the affected veterans. But they're not around to answer. Their chilling silence speaks volumes.

Devout Muslim group calls on Muslims in the West to strap on homicide vests and slaughter non-Muslims

Pamela Geller / Atlas Shrugs

They speak the universal language of jihad — no matter what part of the world they are in, the ummah all understand. It’s the same religious imperative that attracts Muslims from across Europe, the US, and Canada to Syria.
“Al Shabaab Video Calls for Lone-Wolf Attacks in the West,” By Anthony Kimery, Executive Editor, Homeland Security
The Somalia-based Al Qaeda affiliated jihadi group Al Shabab Al Mujahideen’s media wing, Al Kataib Foundation, in a video released Tuesday called for Muslims living in the West to “take your Istishhadi [suicide] vest” and carry out a lone-wolf attack.
“The video features a masked jihadi delivering a brief message in English. In it, the man speaks to Muslims living in the West, and asks them to choose from three options,” the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) said.
Aside from carrying out a suicide bombing, the man in the video calls for Muslims living in the West to leave everything behind and make hijra to join Al Shabab’s ranks or to stay in the West and be “deceived by the devil,” while living among “them” (non-Muslims).
The following is the message that was delivered by the masked individual in English:
“All praises are due to Allah, the only one. We praise Him and thank Him for all He has done. Peace and blessing be upon the one who was sent before the time, the last man sent as a message to mankind. This is a message to the youth in the West. A caring brother send[s] you a friend request. Allah is full of struggle, complete the test. So choose the following options, which is the best: You put your trust in Allah and take your Istishhadi vest. A lone-wolf mission, you know the rest. Second option: You leave it all. Your whole dunya [world], and your backpack.
What you need more? Hijra and jihad is the smart call, just like the brothers in Westgate Mall [men shouting Allah Akbar]. Last option: deceived by the devil, you live amongst them, same job, same school. You befriend them. Judgment Day is near.
What you’ve prepared then? Wake up from the dream and revive the deen again.”
“I know you, lion of this ummah, supported by the truth, you make a fine troop,” the message concluded. “So next flight Mogadishu, [and] who’s missing is you! [men shouting Allah Akbar].”
MEMRI Executive Director Steve Stalinsky told Homeland Security Today, “It should be pointed out that Al Shabaab is very active in its propaganda and recruitment efforts on social media; in addition, over the past year it has released multiple videos aimed at Somali youth abroad, particularly in the West, stressing lone-wolf attacks.”
“The latest video specifically addresses Somalis in Minnesota, as can be seen in the image of the ‘airline ticket,’ he said.
Stalinsky pointed out that, “Al Shabaab has been successful in its efforts to recruit Westerners from the US, Canada and the UK to come fight for their cause in Somalia.
However, up until now, what they are calling for now, and have been calling for in the past year — that is, attacks in the West — have not been carried out.”
It should also “be noted,” Stalinsky said, “that Al Shabaab is promoting and following the message of Al Qaeda Central, which emphasizes lone-wolf attacks as announced in the June 3, 2011 video by Adam Gadahn titled, ‘Do Not Rely on Others, Take [the Task] Upon Yourself,’ and vigorously promoted by Inspire magazine.”
Photo top: Message delivered by masked individual in English.
Photo bottom: Al Shabab “Airline ticket” from Minnesota to Mogadishu.
The post Devout Muslim group calls on Muslims in the West to strap on homicide vests and slaughter non-Muslims appeared first on Pamela Geller
/ Jihad Watch
Boko Haram claimed that their rights had been violated by the Nigerian government, after the pattern of Islamic supremacists everywhere, who always claim that they are the wronged and aggrieved party. The Obama Administration, as clueless and Islam-sympathetic as ever, bought it.

“Obama Administration Threatened Nigeria with Sanctions in 2013 for Fighting Boko Haram,” by Fred Dardick, Canada Free Press, May 14, 2014 (thanks to Pamela Geller):
Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Obama administration official who went to bat for Boko Haram over the past few years.
Soon after John Kerry took over as Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence P. McCulley, accused the Nigerian government of butchery during a confrontation with Boko Haram terrorists in Baga, a Nigerian town on the shores of Lake Chad, and in May 2013 threatened to withdraw U.S. military aid from the West African nation.
Boko Haram militants attacked a Nigerian military outpost in April 2013 outside Baga, killing one soldier. Following the three-day battle human rights activists, including the George Soros-funded and liberal aligned Human Rights Watch, which is not exactly known for its impartiality when it comes to reporting on Islamic issues, claimed the Nigerian military wantonly slaughtered 183 civilians and burned down over 2,000 homes and businesses.
The Nigerian government denied the claims saying the death toll and destruction had been vastly overstated by its enemies, and in fact 30 Boko Haram terrorists, 6 civilians and one soldier, had died in the fighting. Reports from the Baga clinic, which treated 193 people following the battle, but only 10 with serious injuries, seemed to back up the Nigerian government claim that no large-scale massacre had occurred.
The U.S. Nigerian Ambassador, blindly believing any Islamist sob story that crossed his path, responded in a May 2013 meeting with human rights activists by defending Boko Haram:
Mr. Terrence announced to the activists that the US congress had previously passed a law that bars the United States from rendering military assistance to any government that violates basic rights of citizens. He said the Obama led US government has therefore ceased to assist Nigeria militarily in obedience to the law.
The threat of military sanctions, and whether or not they were actually implemented, is an open question as there has been zero coverage of this issue in the mainstream media, may have had a chilling effect on Nigerian military operations against Boko Haram. Since Ambassador McCulley’s proclamation the Nigerian civilian death toll by Boko Haram Islamic militants has skyrocketed over the past year.
No wonder the Nigerian government was initially reluctant to accept U.S. assistance with finding the more than 200 Christian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month.
Emboldening Nigeria’s Islamic terrorist enemies and having been already accused by the Obama administration of crimes against humanity for fighting militants who were responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths since 2010, they likely felt that Obama’s belated support was more a product of diplomatic CYA than actually caring about the fate of kidnapped Nigerian children.

The IRS scandal...all roads lead back to D.C.
By: Diane Sori

“These documents also confirm the unprecedented pressure from congressional Democrats to go after President Obama’s political opponents. The IRS scandal has now ensnared Congress.”
- Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton

Surprise, surprise...Lois Lerner...the newly found in 'Contempt of Congress' Lois Lerner...NOT only LIED but overstepped her bounds...actually abused her new documents surface courtesy of the watchdog group Judicial Watch and their FOIA lawsuit filed after the IRS refused to respond to four of their requests from as far back as May 2013. Giving added credence to those who call for a special prosecutor or Congressional select committee, these newly released unredacted documents now prove that the IRS targeting of TEA Party, conservative, and pro-life groups came directly out of D.C. and was NOT the fault of two 'supposedly' rogue agents in the IRS office in Ohio. In fact, these documents clearly show beyond a shadow of a doubt that NOT only were the documents coming out of D.C. but that 'officials' in D.C. actually instructed the Cincinnati, Ohio office on how to handle all TEA Party applications.

Like we patriots didn't know that from the get-go.

Adding to the already hot water he was in at the time concerning Benghazi and ObamaCare, remember Obama went on national television and in yet another teleprompted speech said that the IRS targeting scandal had nothing to do with either the election or with targeting opponents of his administration, but that IRS officials were confused about how to implement the law governing those kinds of tax-exempt groups, and that there was “Not even mass corruption...not even a smidgen of corruption" within the IRS. Well the now exposed e-mails just added another LIE to Barack HUSSEIN Obama's ever-growing list of LIES.

The IRS scandal first came to light last year and involved applications received between April 2010 and April 2012 when they basically put a hold on the processing of said applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exemption status from organizations and groups with TEA Party, patriots, or 9/12 in their names. And while none of these hundreds of applications were actually denied only four were approved, and when this came to light, faster than you can blink an eye, bought and paid for officials in D.C. immediately blamed the lowly Cincinnati office for the lack of processing of 'certain' applications.

However, now with this new email emanating directly from Lois Lerner showing how the BOLO lists (be on the lookout) were specifically created and criteria developed to target TEA Party groups; 9/12 groups; conservative groups; pro-life groups; groups with issues related to government spending, debt, and taxes; groups trying to educate the public through advocacy and/or legislative activities "to make America a better place to live;" and groups criticizing "how the country is being run;" you just know that more trouble is on the horizon for the ever-lying Lois Lerner.

And this damning evidence starts with an email dated July 6, 2012, when former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance, Holly Paz, sent said email to IRS Attorney Steven Grodnitzky asking for an explanation of how applications of TEA party groups were being handled....and Grodnitzky's response was that said applications were being handled in Washington.

Note Grodnitsky said 'handled in Washington' NOT in Ohio as was claimed.

And adding into the mix, the emails also show that Lerner failed to report some of her activities to Treasury in lies of omission...and that she was in direct contact with Eric Holder's Department of Justice about possible criminal prosecution of conservative groups. In her emails Lerner actually stated that putting one person from a conservative organization in jail would create an example and "shut the whole thing down."

Creating an other words 'selective enforcement' solely for the sake of Barack HUSSEIN Obama's re-election campaign...period.

And much to Lerner's horror, these tell-all emails expose that she was in direct contact with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) who is now directly tied into the scandal as an up to this point unindicted co-conspirator. In fact, Levin, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, wrote several letters in 2012 to the IRS demanding that the agency look into the political activities of 'certain' nonprofits and if said nonprofits took part in any political activity that did NOT support Obama's re-election that they should be excluded from tax exempt status, and that “extensive pressure” by the IRS must be put on them in order to shut them down.

By the way, if you ask me, Carl Levin should be immediately removed from the Senate for his part in this scandal.

In other words this was all about putting TEA Party and conservative groups under the microscope throughout the entire 2012 election cycle so that any and all groups NOT bowing down to and supporting the re-election of the traitor-in-chief or his leftist agenda were targeted for both non-approval for tax-exempt status as well as for a potential shutdown. 

But the bottom line in this most grievous of a never ending list of scandals is that this targeting of 'certain' groups and organizations appears to be the handiwork of Democratic politicians, is backed by anti-TEA Party leftist groups, and controlled out of Washington. So if I was Lois Lerner I would be afraid...very afraid...for jail possibly awaits...and if I was her I'd start 'singing' and give up her know the boss I mean as in Barack HUSSEIN Obama...because we all know ground zero for all things NOT in America's best interests...for all things NOT in the best interests of 'We the People'...emanate from the Obama administration...the most corrupt administration in U.S. history.