"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Tax Season Compounds Obamacare Problems & Screwups; AP: “As Cover Oregon Dissolves, It Leaves Behind Costly Legacy”

March 9th, 2015 by Mark Truman ·

With tax season in full swing, Americans are beginning to see many new frustrations thanks to Democrats’ unpopular health care law.

The AP wrote last week, “It’s not uncommon to feel some trepidation around tax-filing season. But there’s an added hassle this year for nearly a million consumers who got financial help with health insurance premiums under President Barack Obama’s law. The government sent consumers erroneous information on forms that they need to complete their 2014 tax returns. . . .

“‘It’s been a comedy of errors from the start,’ said K.C. Crafts, a freelance financial writer from South Berwick, Maine. The mistake the government made affected 800,000 customers receiving subsidized health coverage through the federal insurance market. Some states running their own insurance exchanges also have had tax-form troubles. In the federal case, 2015 premiums were substituted for what should have been 2014 numbers on new tax forms called 1095-As. Those forms are like W-2s for people who got subsidized health insurance – building blocks for filing an accurate tax return. . . .

“Crafts said her form has another error as well, potentially more serious. The coverage dates are wrong, and the result makes it appear as if she and her husband got much more in subsidies than they actually received. . . . ‘This is not just an aggravation, it’s a financial issue, because I could end up paying for a clerical error,’ she said. . . .

“Asked for an explanation at a recent House hearing, HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan put it this way: ‘It appears there was an unfavorable interaction between two pieces of software code.’ Translation: The administration still is technologically challenged by health insurance programs.”

Another way to translate that might be, “A law reordering 1/6th of the American economy to align with a massive new government program is unsurprisingly running into the bureaucratic screw-ups and snafus that are the predictable hallmarks of a large government undertaking.”

Meanwhile, The Hill reports, “A majority of ObamaCare customers, 52 percent, are being forced to pay back some of their subsidies during this year’s tax season, according to new data from H&R Block. Customers are paying back an average of $530, which has caused a 17 percent drop in the average return so far this spring, according to the analysis by the tax services giant. The Obama administration had warned that people could end up paying back some of their subsidies because many were relying on previous years’ income when applying for the tax breaks. H&R Block has predicted that ‘most filers’ would owe some of their subsidies back to the federal government because they were relying on 2012 income.”

And then there are the frequently troubled state health care exchanges, the worst of which have come from states dominated by Democrats who rushed to embrace Obamacare. According to a report in last week’s Seattle Times, “About 13,000 people with accounts in the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange were sent emails . . . that indicated a payment of their monthly health insurance premium had been made automatically. There was one problem. In many cases, many of them saw three times the correct amount deducted from their bank accounts. To make matters worse, some consumers who tried to log in to their Healthplanfinder accounts to check on the payment could not get in. And those who tried to call the exchange’s call center had to endure hold times as long as 79 minutes. . . . According to Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for the exchange, this latest glitch was caused by a coding error that affected accounts in which a change or correction had been made in the amount to be invoiced.”

When it comes to problems with the state health care exchanges, though, one can reliably find the bottom of the barrel in Oregon’s latest struggles. The AP writes, “A bill dissolving the independent corporation that runs Cover Oregon is on its way to the Gov. Kate Brown. But even when it is gone, Cover Oregon will leave a legacy of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on a health exchange that failed — with even more millions in legal fees and other expenses still to come. Cover Oregon spent $300 million in federal funds, much of it to have Oracle America Inc. build an exchange for Oregonians to buy health insurance. The health exchange web portal failed to launch in October 2013.The state spent at least $26 million of its own money on Cover Oregon-related projects. Last spring, Oregon scrapped the web portal and switched to HealthCare.Gov, a federally run website.”

The AP then tallies all the money that the failure of Cover Orgeon cost both federal taxpayers and Oregonians from Bend to Eugene to Portland:

  • “$240 million — amount Oregon paid to Oracle for developing both the exchange for individuals and small businesses and for public assistance modernization projects. This was funded in part by a $300 million federal grant. The remainder of the federal grant went for salaries, marketing, communications, community grants and other administrative costs.
  • $23 million — additional state money spent on the failed modernization technology project.
  • $9.1 million — spent through the end of 2014 to hire hundreds of temporary workers to manually process paper applications.
  • $6.6 million — amount Cover Oregon paid Deloitte to assess glitch-filled exchange and provide future options for the state, as well as to transition the state to HealthCare.gov.
  • $1 million — amount paid for independent assessment of Cover Oregon project by First Data, and for services of turnaround expert Clyde Hamstreet and his team who took over Cover Oregon’s reigns at the height of its failure last spring.
  • $1.9 million — attorney’s fees for legal fight against Oracle and federal criminal investigation into exchange failure.”

But that’s not all, the AP notes, because Oregon will still have to pay $30 million to adapt another state’s Medicaid system, though “[t]he federal government has promised to pay 90 percent of it,” which translates to taxpayers in other states picking up the tab. And then there are all the yet to be determined costs, such as the “amount Oregon will pay Oracle to host the Medicaid system until December 2015,” the “amount it will cost Oregon to build a website for small businesses to obtain health coverage for employees, the “amount it will cost Oregon to modernize the state’s legacy social services computer systems,” and of course, the “additional legal fees for Oregon-Oracle lawsuits and criminal investigation.”

When Democrats insist in the face of all this evidence that “the law is working,” it’s clear they haven’t paid attention to any of the news reports about people losing coverage, unable to see doctors, struggling with higher premiums and skyrocketing deductibles, and it’s obvious they haven’t talked to anyone tussling with tax forms or Oregonians paying for that state’s disastrous health care exchange.

 Related:

CBS: “Insured Through Obamacare? Prepare For A Tax Headache”

IG Report: IRS Rehired Hundreds Of Ex-Employees With Troubled Records‏

“If You Like Your Obamacare Plan, It’ll Cost You”, “Doctors Weigh Whether To Accept Obamacare Plans”‏


Tags: Healthcare · Uncategorized

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Mo State Auditer Thomas A. Schweich (October 2, 1960 – February 26, 2015

February 26th, 2015 by J. Jonah Jameson ·

We extend our sincerest condolences and heartfelt prayers to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Schweich. RIP


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Obama’s Choice On Keystone: American Workers Or Rich One Percenters?

February 24th, 2015 by Mark Truman ·

Politico reports, “Top Republicans in Congress are sounding off once more against an expected presidential veto on the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday, emphasizing economic and energy benefits and arguing that the only winners of the veto would be ‘bureaucrats, extremist environmentalists and the Chinese.’ And they say they’re ‘just getting started.’

“In an op-ed published by USA Today, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Americans deserve an explanation for President Barack Obama’s likely veto and the lengthy approval process since the filing of the pipeline application — more than 2,300 days, they wrote.”

In their op-ed, Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner state, “Tuesday, as promised, the new Congress is sending the White House legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. This project will support tens of thousands of American jobs. It will bolster the nation’s infrastructure and energy security. And it enjoys a broad base of support from Republicans and Democrats, labor unions and small business owners, not to mention an overwhelming majority of Americans. Keystone is a no-brainer in every way, but the White House says the president will veto this jobs bill. Americans deserve to know why, and what a veto would mean.”

They explain the president’s endless delays: “What makes Keystone different? Just politics, really. Since 2009, liberal extremists have used the project as an environmental litmus test for the president. And he has repeatedly aimed to please, moving deadlines until after elections and stalling the project to near-death. The snag in their plan was, Keystone just kept on clearing hurdles, including every environmental test, leaving behind all the excuses for delay. A veto now would be the ultimate sop to these extremists at the expense of the greater good.”

And sure enough, National Journal reports today, “Now that the Oscars are over, Hollywood is turning its attention to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. A slate of actors and musicians, including Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Robert Redford, Willie Nelson, and Neil Young called on President Obama on Tuesday to put an end to the oil-sands project once and for all. . . . The cadre of celebrities has a history of opposing the pipeline. But the latest Hollywood push arrives ahead of an expected presidential veto of legislation approved by the GOP Congress to build Keystone XL, a pipeline that would haul crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. . . . Others who signed the letter include Bill McKibben, the founder of the environmental group 350.org, Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat and self-described climate hawk.”

President Obama faces a choice. The American public “favors building the pipeline” “[b]y nearly two-to-one,” as a Pew poll found in January; trade unions and workers including prominent labor leaders and Democrat supporters like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka support building the pipeline. On the other side is, essentially, the oft-cited 1%. Liberal billionaires like Tom Steyer. The Wall Street Journal noted last year that “Mr. Steyer and the [Democrat] party’s liberal financiers … have made killing Keystone a non-negotiable demand.” And now rich Hollywood celebrities are lining up to oppose the pipeline, too.

Will President Obama pick the one percenters over American workers and the vast majority of the American public?

Related:

Republican Congress Signs Keystone XL Jobs Bill; “Everyone Is On Board, Except For The President”‏

Senate Passes Keystone Pipeline Bill With Bipartisan Vote


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Democrat: Giving Poor Missourians Free ID’s Gets “Between People And Their Votes”

February 23rd, 2015 by Mark Truman ·

The argument against voter ID gets more and more ridiculous!

Call Newspapers:

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-St. Louis County

“The bill was amended Wednesday to include Missouri paying for birth certificates for those who do not have one. Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-St. Louis County, said he was glad the amendment was added and therefore, could support the bill. “We’re providing those state IDs to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Missourians for free,” Dogan said. “We’re allowing them access to vote, in many cases, for the first time when they haven’t been able to vote before.”

Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis City

However, the amendment was not enough for Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis City, to support the bill and he attacked Republicans for their governing philosophy. “This bill is placing a government-issued ID in between the people and their votes,” Butler said. “This bill shows that some of members in this body are not being consistent about their message, are not being consistent about what they believe the state should be.” Read more…

Related:

Voter ID Controversy Returns; AG Koster a Supporter in ’06

Quote of the Day: “It’s Amazing How Many Missourians Come to Illinois on Election Day”

Video: Al Sharpton Speaks on Voter Fraud (Snicker) & ID’s at Harris-Stowe University

Video: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver on Voter ID Laws


Tags: MO Legislature · Uncategorized · Voter Fraud

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CBS: “Insured Through Obamacare? Prepare For A Tax Headache”

February 23rd, 2015 by Mark Truman ·

CBS News reports today, “If you’re among the roughly 20 million people affected by the Affordable Care Act — either because you bought insurance through health exchanges or will be subject to penalties or exemptions for failing to get coverage — filing a tax return just got a lot harder. Indeed, potentially millions of people who never before had to file tax returns will now need to file as the result of the health law. . . .

“[T]he subsidies that may appear to simply lower the cost of insurance premiums are actually ‘advance premium tax credits’ that are paid directly to health insurers. Because those credits are made on each taxpayer’s behalf, it’s up to individual taxpayers to determine whether the ‘advance payment’ was too much or too little. Though many of these individuals have never had to file before — they simply earned too little to be required to file — they will now need to complete tax returns to reconcile the Obamacare subsidies they got with what they owe, according to the IRS.

“Meanwhile, those who didn’t buy insurance or had a lapse in coverage that exceeded three months will need to determine whether they’re subject to a tax penalty. Both situations involve slogging through new forms and dozens of pages of instructions.

“‘If you didn’t have any changes in your situation over the course of the year — everyone was covered under the policy and your income is exactly the same as it was in 2013 — it might not be that bad,’ said Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst with Wolters Kluwer, Tax & Accounting U.S. ‘But if you had a change in circumstances or don’t have a perfectly straightforward situation, the amount of time it takes to handle this will increase exponentially.’

“Why? If you received discounted insurance through a health exchange, you’ll need to fill out the mind-boggling Form 8962. Although this two-page form officially has just 36 lines, there are actually 90 spaces on just the first page that need to be filed in — up to six spaces for each official ‘line.’ . . . To put the correct figures in several of these spaces, you’ll need to complete charts and worksheets found elsewhere in the 20-page instruction booklet. . . .

“The IRS says it does not have an estimate of the time it will take taxpayers to fill out this form. Experts estimate that someone with a complex situation will spend more time on the 8962 than they will filling out all of their other tax forms combined. . . .

“The IRS estimates that about half of the roughly 6 million individuals who got subsidy payments for Obamacare got too much; the rest may actually get additional subsidy payments through boosted tax refunds. . . .

“What if you didn’t get insurance through an ACA exchange? If you are covered elsewhere, either through an employer or a individual plan, you only need to check a box this year, tax officials say. (Next year, additional documentation will be required of everyone.) But if you have no coverage or had a lapse in coverage that lasted more than three months, you’ll need to fill out the form 8965 to determine whether you owe a penalty or can qualify for an exemption.”

After seeing all that, yesterday’s report in The Washington Post makes perfect sense. The Post wrote, “The Obamacare window technically just closed this weekend, but a new round of political headaches could just be beginning for the administration. That’s because it’s tax season, and many Americans could soon be getting an unwelcome surprise that they owe the government a penalty for skipping health insurance coverage. Up to 6 million Americans are expected to pay a penalty for not having coverage in 2014, according to recent Obama administration projections.”

Even more worrying, “it’s likely that a lot of people who will have to pay don’t know it yet,” The Post explains. “Despite the unpopularity of the individual mandate and the high-stakes Supreme Court case over it three years ago, there’s still limited awareness of the penalty among those who could risk triggering it. Nearly half of uninsured Americans weren’t aware of the penalty . . . .

“That means millions of people won’t learn they’ll have to pay the penalty until they file taxes this year, and at that point, it will have been too late to buy 2015 coverage since the enrollment deadline was Feb. 15. The minimum individual mandate penalty more than triples this year, rising to $325, or to 2 percent of income. ‘It’s the fact that if you didn’t apply by Feb. 15, you have no way of escaping the penalty in 2015,’ said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. ‘It’s not something that a lot of people have necessarily thought through.’”

Of course, the story notes, “To head off the potential backlash, Democratic lawmakers and groups supporting the health-care law in the past few days have urged the administration to keep the enrollment period open for people who won’t figure out they owe a penalty until it’s too late. . . . The administration seems to be exploring the idea of extending the enrollment period for those dinged by the individual mandate. ‘You’re going to hear from us, one way or another, within the next two weeks on whether that’s something that we would do,’ Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Friday, according to Bloomberg.”

Would this mean another unilateral change to yet another deadline in the law by the Obama administration?

Related:

“If You Like Your Obamacare Plan, It’ll Cost You”, “Doctors Weigh Whether To Accept Obamacare Plans”‏

IG Report: IRS Rehired Hundreds Of Ex-Employees With Troubled Records‏


Tags: Healthcare

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Kander Challenges Blunt

February 19th, 2015 by Mark Truman ·

After much national speculation, Secretary of State Jason Kander has stepped up to the plate to challenge freshman Senator Roy Blunt. A former Army captain, Kander talks about that experience and what motivated him to enlist in an announcement video. His opponent, Senator Roy Blunt,  currently sits on the powerful defense appropriations committee.

Washington Times:

“Mr. Kander, a former Army captain, was elected to his current post in 2012 after previously serving as a state legislator and volunteering to serve in Afghanistan.

“Eight years ago, I was here, at the Kansas City Airport,” he says in an announcement video. “I hugged my wife and parents, said goodbye, and left on a journey that would change my life. I’m Jason Kander, and I was an Army Intelligence Officer at U.S. Central Command’s Intelligence Division. But they needed more soldiers in Afghanistan, so I volunteered to go. Today, I’m Missouri’s secretary of state. But back then, in 2006, I was a soldier.” Read more...

Related:

Roll Call: Democrat Announces Bid to Challenge Roy Blunt


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