As Illinois Obamacare sign-ups jump 60%, top exec heads for exit

Crain’s Chicago Business,

By ,

As Obamacare enrollment in Illinois soars, the executive director of the Illinois agency that manages the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange is stepping aside.

Jennifer Koehler, who led the online exchange, dubbed Get Covered Illinois, for two years, has resigned. She said she is volunteering her services to the Rauner administration to ensure a smooth transition until enrollment ends Feb. 22.

“Launching and growing GCI has been a great honor,” Koehler said in a statement. “In two short years, we have created a culture of coverage across Illinois, connected over 900,000 residents to health care coverage and as a result changed many peoples’ lives for the better. . . .I leave knowing that we have laid the foundation for a healthier state for years to come.”

WHAT DROVE THE ENROLLMENT SURGE?

A more informed public and a bolstered relationship with insurance brokers helped fuel Obamacare sign-ups in Illinois, jumping 60 percent so far this year compared with last year’s debut.

“We just had more momentum going into 2015,” said Barbara Otto, CEO of Health and Disability Advocates, a Chicago nonprofit that has educated consumers about the exchange.

During 2014, the first year of the exchange, some consumers mistakenly thought that the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was only for people living in poverty, she said. But in 2015, “more and more people were hearing about friends, neighbors and others getting access to coverage.”

There was a gap in public awareness in 2014 not only in that the exchanges existed, but that subsidies were available for consumers who qualified, said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy.

“Illinois is one of the states with the biggest increase from 2014 enrollment,” Pearson said. “In terms of having a boost this year, I think they’re definitely doing well.”

Enrollment totaled 347,300 in Illinois as of Feb. 15. Of those, an estimated 172,000 people renewed coverage in 2015 and 175,000 people are new to the exchange, according to an Avalere Health analysis of federal data.

Of the total Illinois enrollees, 81 percent are from an area that spans from west suburban Naperville to Chicago to northwest suburban Elgin, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

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House Oversight Committee Demands FCC Turn Over Unredacted Net Neutrality Emails With White House

Daily Caller –

The House Oversight Committee on Friday ordered Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to hand over unredacted versions of emails discussing net neutrality with the White House, which the FCC asked for input on redactions prior to disclosure.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to Wheeler on Friday asking the FCC head to turn over unredacted communications between his office and high-level White House employees discussing net neutrality, which were first obtained by Vice News via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Those emails, which Chaffetz requested from Wheeler earlier this month in order to assess whether the White House exerted inappropriate influence over the FCC’s new net neutrality proposal, were reportedly “heavily…redacted at the behest of the White House.”

“I requested, among other things, all communications between and among FCC personnel and the White House, the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration relating to net neutrality, the open Internet proceeding, the classification of broadband, or the regulation of broadband Internet access service between January 14, 2014, and the present,” Chaffetz wrote.

 

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Obama’s DHS Report Warns Of The Real Threat To America: Right-Wingers

Daily Caller –

by Derek Hunter,

ISIS is marching across huge swaths of land in the Middle East, crucifying, beheading and burning alive untold numbers of human beings, and making direct threats against the United States.

But the Department of Homeland Security is making sure the government doesn’t take its eye off the real enemy – right-wingers.

CNN reports:

A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists.

The report cites “24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010,” or as ISIS calls it, “a slow Tuesday morning.”

Without naming names, or citing any sources, CNN declares:

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​

While anyone committing crimes is an issue law enforcement should be concerned with, the threat from lunatic fringe “sovereign citizens” — people who reject government — pales in comparison to an organized and well-financed group of jihadi terrorists excited at the prospect of their own death in the course of killing “infidels.”

A White House official said President Obama is concerned with all “violent ideologies.” How this is squared with the president personally meeting with leaders of anti-police groups in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, was not addressed. Nor were violent attacks on police in the name of “social justice,” like the execution of two New York City police officers by a member of the anti-police groups.

For clarity and comment on the report, CNN turned to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that by some estimates, there are as many as 300,000 people involved in some way with sovereign citizen extremism. Perhaps 100,000 people form a core of the movement, he said.

The federal government’s focus on the domestic groups waxes and wanes, Potok said, in part because the threat from foreign groups like al Qaeda and its affiliates.

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HHS Messed Up 800,000 Obamacare Tax Forms

National Journal –

About 800,000 people received tax forms with incorrect information about their Obamacare coverage, officials from the Health and Human Services Department said Friday.

The errors occurred on a new form that helps Obamacare enrollees figure out whether they qualify for a subsidy that would pay all or part of their premiums, and how big that subsidy should be. Information used to calculate those subsidies was wrong on about 20 percent of tax forms, HHS officials said. The errors would cause some taxpayers to claim too large a subsidy and others to claim less than they’re actually eligible for.

Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency is already notifying taxpayers of the mistake and will be sending out revised forms. The “vast majority” of Obamacare enrollees haven’t filed their taxes yet, and can simply use the new, corrected information when they do, Slavitt said. But, of the 800,000 people who received inaccurate forms, about 50,000 have already filed their taxes, Slavitt said.

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Race for Chicago mayor splitting Democrats apart over economic issues

Washington Post –

By Sean Sullivan,

The crowd at the Irish American Heritage Center was subdued, some quietly sipping beers. The moderator reminded mayoral hopeful Jesus “Chuy” Garcia that the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, had a much bigger campaign war chest.

“And more fear of me than I of him,” Garcia, a mustached Mexican American upstart, snapped back, and the audience was subdued no more.

President Obama returned to his home town Thursday, where he sought to propel Emanuel, his former chief of staff, to a second term. The race remains surprisingly competitive, and it has crystallized some of the deep internal divisions in the Democratic Party as it prepares for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Garcia has emerged as a nothing-to-lose dissenting liberal voice who has channeled frustration with Emanuel’s rocky first term into an aggressive campaign against the mayor. The Chicago fight has become the latest front in a simmering nationwide battle between the establishment governing wing of the Democratic Party and a more restive, populist wing that is demanding a more openly liberal agenda.

 

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Tax Day Shocker: Obamacare ‘Clawback’ To Hit Some Subsidy Recipients With Huge Tax Bill

Daily Caller –

Anyone who receives Obamacare subsidies could be in for a rude awakening this tax season.

Four in ten low-income Obamacare participants will face sticker shock this April 15 when they discover they owe a great deal of money to the IRS because of a little-known “clawback” provision in the health-care law.

A family of four could owe the government as much as $11,200, according to a 2013 prediction by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The idea that struggling, low-income Obamacare enrollees would have to repay the government for subsidies has been a dirty little secret that has always been part of the Affordable Care Act.

 

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Don’t Extend the Dead Hand of the FCC to the Internet

Reason –

On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a proposal to regulate companies that provide Internet access as public utilities. Spearheaded by President Obama and reluctantly embraced by FCC chief Tom Wheeler, this plan is undoubtedly the U.S. government’s most brazen effort yet to police the Internet—which, until now, has thrived thanks to the absence heavy-handed federal mandates.

If the FCC’s Democratic majority approves Obama’s rules, Internet providers will invest less in their networks, hurting Americans who appreciate faster Internet speeds at lower prices. In turn, these providers won’t compete as vigorously, setting up the FCC to justify further encroaching on the Internet in years to come. This vicious cycle might not end until the government effectively controls the wires that connect Americans’ homes and mobile devices to the Internet.

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Roskam and Ryan Introduce Bill to Stop Political Targeting by IRS

WASHINGTON — Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced H.R. 599, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2015.

The bill would prohibit the IRS from changing the way it handles applications for 501(c)4 status. And it would require the IRS to apply the standard it used before the agency started targeting applicants because of their political beliefs. These requirements would expire at the end of 2017, so the IRS could make any necessary adjustments only after ongoing investigations were complete. Upon introduction, Roskam and Ryan released the following statements:

“Americans should never feel silenced or threatened by their own government,” said Chairman Roskam. “And yet the IRS regulations targeting tax-exempt organizations would clamp down on political engagement, impeding even non-partisan efforts like voter registration drives and candidate forums. This legislation will stop IRS abuse and protect the American people’s fundamental right to speak out on the issues they care about.”

“Everyone deserves a fair standard fairly applied,” said Chairman Ryan. “And for too long, the IRS has targeted people because of their political beliefs. This bill will send a clear message: We won’t tolerate the agency’s shenanigans. And I want to thank Chairman Roskam and Senators Flake and Roberts for their work on this issue.”

Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Pat Roberts (R-NE) have introduced the bill’s counterpart in the Senate, and the two offered the following statements:

“I’d put the IRS’s ability to preserve free speech on par with its ability to preserve emails,” said Senator Flake. “This bill would not only prevent this administration’s IRS from targeting nonprofits, it would protect those groups’ First Amendment right of free speech, regardless of ideology.”

“While the President is proposing more taxes on college savings, family farms, and middle class Americans, the Obama Administration’s tax collectors at the IRS remain mired in scandals,” said Senator Roberts. “As a result, our legislation is very simple – we halt further action on the IRS’ proposed targeting regulations until the Justice Department and congressional investigations into the IRS’ previous targeting are complete. We cannot allow the IRS to regulate constitutionally guaranteed free speech.”

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Ways and Means Press Office
www.WaysandMeans.House.gov

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Illinois Tea Party message to Illinois Republican Congressmen Schock, Kinzinger, Roskam, Davis, Shimkus and Hultgren

You were sent to DC by Republican voters to fight for limited government, begin reducing the debt, defund Obamacare, and stand up against the President’s over-reach with illegal Executive Actions and massive new legislation.

Year after year, you vote to bankrupt our children and grandchildren without even reading bills. This year the legislation actually funds President Obama’s unilateral, unlawful, unconstitutional Executive Action (as confirmed by each of YOU and the President himself!) that includes granting quasi-legal status, work permits, Social Security numbers, and access to virtually our entire social ‘safety net’ to those who are in the country illegally.

In a new position of strength, all Congress had to do was pass a short term CR and let the new Congress take a new direction towards fiscal sanity.

Instead, you voted for a massive omnibus bill filled with ‘Christmas goodies’ which will continue to bankrupt our nation, open the door for banks to repeat the same irresponsible mistakes of the past with derivatives, and fund Obamacare and the President’s Executive Action.

With a newly elected Republican Governor, THIS was your opportunity to stand united and show Illinois voters the benefits of conservative values!  You have failed Illinois, and your constituents again.

Will your new campaign finance rules for near-limitless donations from the Chamber of Congress and big business really be able to provide the votes each of you will need to be re-elected? All we asked you to do was defend the constitution, which you were sworn to do. 

Posted in National Debt/Deficit, Tea Party News | 6 Comments

Roskam Secures Key Watchdog Post on Ways and Means Committee

Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06) was named House Ways and Means Committee Oversight Chair for the 114th Congress.  The Oversight Subcommittee is a key watchdog over the spending and operations of programs within the tax-writing and healthcare jurisdiction of the full committee.

“In an era of big government, federal agencies have grown larger, gained more power and have become unaccountable to the taxpayers they are supposed to serve.  The long trail of IRS abuses–from targeting individuals for their political or religious beliefs– to the dozens of agencies involved in Obamacare implementation that’s placing bureaucrats in the middle of individual’s healthcare choices with little transparency or recourse for Americans requires diligent oversight and action from the people’s representatives in Congress.

“I am honored to be named to this key oversight role in the 114th Congress, where my focus will be vigilant, fact-based and fair investigations into the Administration and its sprawling bureaucracy.  These last few years have shown us the real dangers of agencies run amok, and frankly it’s become all too common for citizens to be in the cross-hairs of their own federal government.  But in this moment of both a Republican House and Senate, we have an incredible opportunity to shine a light into the dark corners, and restore the checks and balances that the founders intended.

“Chairman Paul Ryan has a big vision on how to move our country forward and I look forward to working alongside him and my fellow Ways and Means Members to advance bold, conservative solutions and work to uncover and fix what isn’t working in government to better serve the American people.”

Roskam already has a long track record of defending taxpayers from government overreach in his work as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, passing through the House a series of bills aimed at reining in an out of control IRS.

  • The Stop Playing on Citizens Cash (SPOCC) Act, stopped wasteful IRS spending on conferences in the wake of a series of lavish IRS conferences that featured spoof videos and costly employee gift bags.
  • The Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act requires the IRS to alert taxpayers when their information is shared with other federal agencies. The bill also puts the onus on the IRS to correspond with taxpayers substantively within 30 days, and complete audits within a one-year of their start date.
  • The Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act, cracked down on IRS targeting of individuals, baring the IRS from inquiring about a taxpayer’s religious, political or social beliefs.
  • Roskam’s push for a Taxpayer Bill of Rights was recently adopted by the IRS and now hangs in every agency office throughout the country.

Roskam has also led the effort to increase Obamacare transparency and accountability through the creation of a Special Inspector General for Monitoring the Affordable Care Act (SIGMA).  Currently at 103 cosponsors, Roskam’s SIGMA legislation would enable a non-partisan, independent watchdog to reach into the myriad agencies responsible for Obamacare implementation and submit quarterly reports and audits on every aspect of the law, from the impact on out-of-pocket costs, to shrinking provider networks, contracting, and Healthcare.gov’s data security in a way that no single oversight official currently can.

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