Tag: Kathleen Sebelius

Scandal Week

With Benghazi revelations and IRS abuses dominating the headlines, the Obama Administration is releasing details on a couple of additional scandals, hoping they will slip under the radar.

No dice, guys:


Last week, The Washington Post reported that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had “gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law.” According to the Post, an HHS source and an industry official have affirmed that over the last three months, “Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law.”

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that two organizations expected to be supporting the law are The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is expected to give $10 million, and H&R Block, which will give a “donation” of $500,000. The Post and the Times reports also indicate that Secretary Sebelius has made contact with insurers, asking them to support the health law’s implementation.

One of the things I’ve noticed about this Administration is that they are very devoted to finding ways to violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law. They are constantly searching for loopholes and excuses for behavior that is supposed to be forbidden.

In this case, Sebelius is strictly forbidden from fundraising or soliciting funds in an official capacity. She can do so as a private citizen, but not with her official title and not with companies she regulates. The White House’s answer is that “Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can” with is Orwellian doublespeak. There is no question about how industry saw this shakedown and I doubt that the Obama Administration is under any delusions either. They’re hoping that they’ve skirted the law. But the ultimate result is just the same.

But wait, there’s more!

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

And, just like that, the press suddenly becomes aware of the gigantic surveillance state that Barack Obama has built up over the last four years.

The government is not saying why they tapped the phones. They have previously hinted that they were investigating a leak of classified information. But even if that’s the case, this was a massive sweep of AP journalists. It crosses that line from investigating a specific criminal action into engaging in broad unwarranted surveillance for any potential criminal action. It’s the difference between having Constitutional safeguards on our liberty and not having them at all.

What we are seeing is apotheosis of an Administration that has had far too little checking and balancing from the media. No matter what Obama has done, the media has been on his side, either ignoring it for finding excuses for it. And they have kept pushing and pushing the boundaries until, perhaps, they have finally crossed a line that even liberals might notice.

With the AP scandal especially, a lot of scales are falling from a lot of eyes. Better late than never, I guess. But we’ll just see how enthusiastically they cover the next revelation.

Sebelius Doesn’t Know What Insurance Is

One of the problems that I encounter in the debate over healthcare reform is that a lot of people simply do not understand what insurance is. Insurance is not a magical money tree that gives you free stuff. It is a way of spreading out risk. It has a secondary function in aggregating purchasing power so that insurance can negotiate prices. But, in the end, insurance will always cost the average person more than paying for things on their own.

The primary purpose of insurance is prevent catastrophe. We buy home insurance hoping that we will lose money on it but knowing it’s there if our house burns down. We buy car insurance hoping we will lose money on it but knowing it’s there if we get in a big accident.

But health insurance, at least by the Left, is seen differently. Rather than being seen as a way to spread out risk or combine our purchasing power, it is seen as a way to get free healthcare. I’ve mentioned this before but it remains a perfect illustration of the problem. When I was in graduate school, the students were pushing for birth control pills to be covered by insurance. And they were shocked and angered to find out that this coverage would increase health insurance rates by … the cost of the pills (actually, very slightly less since the insurance negotiated a slightly lower price). They couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that insurance is a device to mitigate risk, not a machine for dispensing handouts.

I and many other critics of Obamacare have pointed out that it is actually going to make healthcare utilization higher and costs higher by mandating first dollar coverage. When going to the doctor for every sniffle only costs $10, what do we think is going to happen? When you’re only paying 10% of the cost of an MRI, what is going to happen? Catastrophic plans or plans with high deductibles have been proven to keep healthcare costs down without compromising care. When their own money is at astake, people forgo unnecessary procedures and save up for real health problems. As David Goldhill pointed out, you could get every uninsured person a high-deductible plan, give them a $5000 voucher and you’d still save money over government-issued comprehensive coverage. And not compromise health.

Ladies and gentlemen, our Secretary of Health and Human Services:

But Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS, thinks that catastrophic insurance isn’t really insurance at all.

At a White House briefing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said some of what passes for health insurance today is so skimpy it can’t be compared to the comprehensive coverage available under the law. “Some of these folks have very high catastrophic plans that don’t pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus,” she said. “They’re really mortgage protection, not health insurance.”

She said this in response to a report from the American Society of Actuaries arguing that premiums are going to rise by 32% when Obamacare kicks in, as coverage gets more generous and more sick people join the insurance market. Sebelius’ response is apparently that catastrophic insurance isn’t really insurance at all–which is exactly backwards. Catastrophic coverage is “true insurance”. Coverage of routine, predictable services is not insurance at all; it’s a spectacularly inefficient prepayment plan.

I want you to sit back and let the roll over you. Our HHS Secretary does not know what insurance is. She really thinks it’s a magical money machine that can give free care to everyone without prices going up. The only reason premiums would go up is because what they had before wasn’t “real insurance.”

Oh, yeah. Obamacare is going to go just fine. It’s totally going to cut healthcare costs when it’s run by people who have no understanding of insurance, medicine, economics or markets. Nothing to see here!

The Day After

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” – Chief Justice Roberts

Yesterday was one of the most important days in American political history. Over a million people tuned into SCOTUSblog to find out what was happening. I read more and posted more in comments sections and on Twitter than I ever have.

Let’s be clear: I think Obamacare is a bad bill. What few cost controls it attempts are ineffective and misguided. It massively expands the horrible Medicaid system. It will blow up the deficit. It does nothing to increase competition or consumer involvement. Its model — Romneycare — has controlled insurance prices and increased coverage. But that has come with an exploding state budget and increasingly ham-fisted efforts to clamp down on costs.

But the ultimate impact of yesterday’s decision may be different than what we think. Allahpundit has a roundup of some of the more interesting commentary, including must-reads from Orin Kerr, George Will and Ezra Klein. The gist is that while we may have lost the battle, we may also have put ourselves on track for winning the war. The Decision does several critical things:

  • It set limits on the use of the Commerce Clause, which has long been the duck blind for liberal activism. This is now Constitutional law.
  • In doing so, it reverted Obamacare to a tax, which means it can be repealed with 51 votes (same as when it was passed). And yes, the bill did originate in the House, technically.
  • It set the first limits in American history on the ability of the Federal government to use its spending power against the states. This limit was upheld by two of the liberal justices.
  • It reaffirmed the idea of judicial restraint. Roberts’ opinion goes to great lengths on this, reaffirming the idea that if there are multiple interpretations of a statute, the Court should go with the one that complies with the Constitution. This is the kind of judicial restraint we’ve wanted for decades.
  • It did all this without appearing to be a partisan decision.
  • Think about what happens if the GOP wins the election and actually — and this is by no means a certainty — repeals or massively repairs Obamacare. The Left will lose Obama’s signature achievement and the only legacy will be a firm precedent set for restraining the power of the federal government. This possibility is almost enough to make me consider voting for Romney, something I was incredibly dubious about just 24 hours ago.

    We shouldn’t be rending garments. We should be seeing this as the long game — the slow move toward a more restrained federal government. In the long run, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius — actually, let’s just call it Sebelius so that she will always be tied to this — may turn out to be one of the most important conservative decisions in history. But it’s up to us to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Your Tax Dollars At Work

    Much like a sub standard employee who every time the boss walks by he shuffles papers around on his desk to portray the mere appearance of industry, our government representatives just completed their orchestrated jihad on smokers, showing all the folks back home that they are johnny on the spot with doing the people’s business:

    I know, it is their job to protect us from ourselves, that is what nanny states do.

    I guess the old warning label of ,”Don’t smoke, it will kill you” was not clear enough. For those that either can’t read or can’t parse the meaning, pictures will certainly dumb the message down to even the stupidest of folks, and that is all they need, just the facts placed in front of them,now watch those smoker numbers disappear.

    “President Obama is committed to protecting our nation’s children and the American people from the dangers of tobacco use. These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “President Obama wants to make tobacco-related death and disease part of the nation’s past, and not our future.”

    Is anybody else bugged by this crass attempt at campaigning? Are not their motives pure enough without the injection of Obama, a chain smoker btw, into the mix? Is every new law, bill, or policy now going to have a preamble attached ,”President Obama wants to do this and we think it is a good idea”?

    And how delusional, to think that pictures of dead bodies on the pack will somehow dissuade teens from lighting up, if anything it accentuates the risk making it more daring and appealing.

    Smoking is a filthy habit, it is expensive and comes with a high risk of death and disease, duh, but can’t the same thing be said about being fat, drinking too much alcohol, parking your fat butt on the couch for prolonged periods, even being outdoors in the sun? I think the government should mandate that all fast food establishments have a life size photo of a 400lb naked woman on all means of entry. All beer bottles/cans must have a still smoldering picture of Ryan Dunn’s car crash (what a Jackass). Couches should also have warning labels, for our protection of course.

    It’s not that I begrudge them for looking out for the folks, but don’t we have bigger fish to fry? And how much money did this whole thing cost? Maybe another congressional hearing into the use of steroids in baseball, anything to get attention off of this congress that can’t even manage producing a budget, put a warning label on that.

    America the Beautiful

    Just remember, friends. It’s only Republicans who run vile ads against Democrats.

    What this ad tells me is that Democrats are worried. The House passed a Medicare privatization bill and the country did not erupt in riots, like it was supposed to. So they’re resorting to their usual scare tactics. Even Sebelius got called out by the WaPo for claiming people would die faster under the Republican plan.

    There’s hope that we may turn back from the abyss. A little bit — I’ll put up a post on the debt ceiling shenanigans this weekend. But hope.