IS BEN CARSON SOMEONE TO WATCH

10/31/13
We as a nation need to focus significant emphasis and resources on providing good health care for all of our citizens. My question is this: Can we provide this without turning over control of our most important possession to the government? Published October 22, 2013
The Obamacare battle is not politics as usual with the expected partisan bickering to which we have grown accustomed. When it comes to ascribing blame for the current shutdown, we the people must be wise and should resist being led like sheep by members of the political class and the media. Published October 9, 2013
The grown-ups have gone AWOL from U.S. politics. The direction of our country is not good, and “we the people” — not we the Democrats or we the Republicans — are in desperate need of courageous leadership, guided by an understanding of our Constitution.
Before taking the risk in Syria, Critical decisions require preoperative clarity.
Politics as usual is illogical Spacey ideologues are alien to the American way
CARSON: MLK would be alarmed by black-on-black violence, lack of family values
It is hard to believe that 50 years have elapsed since the famous “I have a dream speech” of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was an 11-year-old child in Detroit languishing in the midst of poverty. I was quite optimistic that things were getting better for black people in America. Published August 28, 2013
CARSON: When servants behave as rulers The Founders of our nation toiled long and hard to establish a government that was representative of the people.
CARSON: Honoring the right of the ballot, I have had the opportunity to visit many countries, and I have taken it upon myself to inquire how people in other nations prevent voter fraud. Even those from Third World countries tell me that everyone has some type of official voting credential that is nationally recognized.
CARSON: Proportional taxation works because it’s fair to everyone,
The recent Internal Revenue Service scandal should be a great cause of alarm for every thinking American.
Obamacare fight is the new Alamo; no reinforcements comingA tactical defeat would unleash the power of righteous indignation
COMAPARE THE ALAMO TO BENGHAZI—Gen. Santa Anna and his army, which was 10 times greater in number than the defenders under the command of Lt. Col. William Barret Travis. Not all of the 200 defenders were Texans. Many of the civilian defenders, including some Mexicans, were more loyal to Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, who fell ill prior to the battle.The defenders who had captured San Antonio just months earlier had retreated to the well-fortified Alamo and had sent for reinforcements, fully expecting to be able to hold on until help arrived. There was tension between the troops of Travis and the followers of Bowie, but once they realized that they faced a greater enemy, they presented a united front of legendary fortitude.However, Col. James Fannin, who was just 90 miles away in Goliad, concluded that the cause was hopeless and refused the request for help. The brave men who died fighting for freedom at the Alamo thought that help was on the way, just like the brave men who died defending the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
Leaders of the Obama administration and the United States Senate have tried to convince the defenders of individual freedom in America that their fight is futile and that it is impossible for them to win. Members of Congress who largely oppose Obamacare but are unwilling to join their compatriots in the battle to defund this ill-conceived and economically detrimental law must remember the lesson from the Alamo: Defeat can unleash the power of righteous indignation. Even if the battle is lost, the courageous act of presenting a united front in defense of the U.S. Constitution and individual rights will inspire tens of millions of Americans who feel disenfranchised to join the cause.
Those representatives and senators who insist on pushing through Obamacare against the will of the people should be clearly identified so they can be appropriately dealt with by their constituents. By replacing those who do not represent the interest of the people with individuals who cherish our Constitution and our traditional values, we can initiate logical measures that can provide truly affordable health care for every American. Those measures would include a return of decision-making to patients and their health care providers, tort reform and the placement of electronic medical records under the control of the patient and not the Internal Revenue Service.
Genuine representative government would also allow us to enact logical tax reform, policies that foster energy independence, a rejuvenated space program and other programs that have led to amazing innovations that have improved our lives. Responsive governance would rid Americans of unwarranted regulations that stifle economic growth, provide parents with choice in education, establish an understandable foreign policy that recognizes the role of true leadership in a troubled world, return fiscal responsibility to its rightful position, and establish social policies that help people move up the economic ladder, rather than just survive.We have an opportunity to re-establish a government in which freedom of speech is cherished. As Thomas Jefferson once famously said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” We must remember that our representatives work for us; we don’t work for them. Whenever they forget that, we must act to re-establish proper order.
We must never give up.

The Obama administration is shaking America’s faith in government, Now because so many people see the United States government as dishonest and untrustworthy, Mr. Snowden is viewed as a whistleblower worthy of praise for having the courage to expose secretive behavior by the government that involved spying on all Americans. The larger question is, do we have an honest government that is transparent and trustworthy, or is there a legitimate cause for concern on behalf of the citizens of our nation? It is certainly not too late for our government to come clean about the many scandals that have been characterized as “phony” by the executive branch. Government officials say there is just a misunderstanding of the facts. If this is the case, why not just answer some basic questions and clear things up for the sake of transparency and trust? It should not be all that difficult to answer some simple questions. We have never deserted our men and women in combat despite the danger or difficulty in attempting to save them. troops have never had reason to doubt the commitment of our government to use all available resources to ensure their safety. Given this past commitment, why did the administration abandon our forces in Benghazi, Libya? Why is our government using the National Security Agency to spy on the telephone and email records of the American people, and who knows what else, without first informing them? Will officials commit to at least informing us in the future of their decisions to disregard the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits illegal and inappropriate searches and seizures? Why isn’t this kind of activity just another version of what happened in Watergate, but at a much higher technical level?
America was supposed to be a place where you can confidently voice disagreement with the government without fear of retribution. Now it has been shown without doubt that the Internal Revenue Service has been intentionally harassing perceived opponents of the current administration. Why isn’t this a constitutional violation, and why shouldn’t “we the people” be outraged that freedom of expression is being suppressed by the very people who are supposed to protect it? Since public trust in the IRS has been so badly compromised, why should this agency be placed in charge of compliance with Obamacare. Rationalization is a very powerful mental tool for assuaging the conscience. In light of this, how can members of the administration accused of wrongdoing think they can investigate themselves in a manner that will prove objective and credible to the public?
Why does the administration continue to characterize the deadly Fort Hood shootings as “workplace violence” when virtually everyone else — including the suspect himself — says it was an act of terrorism? The current administration doesn’t have to be the most transparent one in history, as was promised, but a little transparency would certainly be helpful at this time.
Source—washington times,

TED CRUZ—I’M STARTING TO LIKE THIS GUY

10/31/13
His fight to stop the Continuing Resolution which funds the entire government and does not spend our hard earned tax dollars on Obamacare.

Obamacare was rammed through without any debate in 2010. Despite the fact the majority of Americans voiced serious concerns about the impact of Obamacare, we were ignored. Now in 2013, everything that we predicted – higher premiums, loss of coverage, a stagnant economy, loss of doctors – is coming true. It’s time to have the debate in Congress that we were denied in 2009 and 2010!
Congressmen, and their staff want to force us to pay for and live under this law yet they have exempted themselves from Obamacare. As we were watching the debate in the Senate you could see body language change in the Senate Chamber as soon as the exemptions and the Ruling Class is mentioned.)
Cruz and Lee are not accepting the failure of a tactic as the rejection of an issue, the same way Democrats don’t behave as if their defeat in a gun-control debate means the Second Amendment is now “the settled law of the land.” Do you ever see them castigate themselves for wasting time and effort on a strategy that didn’t pan out? Of course not. They just try again, and keep trying until they win… at which point they declare all future dissent impossible, if not illegal.

The worst thing Republicans, as a group, could do right now is behave in a way that tells voters they lack the conviction necessary to keep fighting. “We know it’s going to cost a lot more than they promised — and, unfortunately, it’s going to lead to a lot of people losing their jobs.”

The House of Representatives voted 230-189 last week to defund the healthcare law in approving the resolution that would keep the government operating.
But Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the upper chamber would back the resolution but not strip funds for Obamacare. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has said that he would not sign any legislation that would not provide funding for the healthcare law.
. “All it takes is 41 votes to stop Harry Reid from increasing spending and also adding the spending for Obamacare, which doesn’t make any sense since the president has delayed large parts of the implementation.
“He’s given waivers to Congress and some of the other groups that are his friends,” he adds. “The more the American people know how much this is going to change their lives and hurt their healthcare, endanger our economy and our culture — we’re just hoping that Americans are informed enough to inform their representatives.”
“This is a fight that’s going to continue.” Aren’t those the exact words liberals use after every political setback? Do you ever see them castigate themselves for wasting time and effort on a strategy that didn’t pan out?
Sen. Ted Cruz was greeted like a rock star Friday at a major gathering of social conservatives, exhorting the audience at the eighth annual Values Voter Summit to stand firm against President Obama’s health care law. .”It seems President Obama’s paid political operatives are out in force today,” he said. “And you know why? The men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them.”
While House Republicans kept passing stopgap spending bills with restrictions to the health care law, Senate Democrats refused and insisted on a bill without conditions.Cruz’s message of religious liberty and freedom — echoed by fellow Tea Party.
He called Obama’s “feckless foreign policy.””We have a couple of years to turn this country around … or we go off into the oblivion,” Cruz said. “I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Cruz, R-Texas, said Thursday on ABC’s “World News Tonight.”
He repeatedly declared he didn’t want a shutdown, and repeatedly voted to reopen the government.
Blame, he said, lies with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama for their refusal to negotiate or compromise. Cruz led the effort to tie defunding of Obamacare to the continuing budget resolution.
Republican leadership blasted Cruz, saying that while they agreed with his argument, his tactic wouldn’t work. Polls showed the public blamed Democrats, Republicans and Obama for the impasse, but Republicans took the biggest hit, seeing their approval ratings hit a record low.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who along with Reid hammered out the final deal that ended the shutdown took a different view, saying there would be no further shutdowns. “I’m curious, is anybody left at the Organizing for America headquarters? Cruz asked at another point, referring to Obama’s political action committee.
“I’m actually glad that the president’s whole political staff is here instead of actually doing mischief in the country.”
“He is what people are looking for,” Perkins told CNN.”[This is] somebody who will stand up and say ‘This is what I stand for, this is what I believe.’
Perkins said House Speaker John Boehner is “in trouble” for not listening to his membership, reports Politico. “The Republican establishment has lost touch with where conservatives are,” said Perkins. “The GOP has become a big tent in some respects. You’ve got some libertarian-minded people in there. You’ve got social conservatives. You’ve got fiscal conservatives. There is a pretty big overlap between those two in many cases”

“You have probably 80 percent, 75 percent of the tea party [who] are also social conservatives,” Perkins said. “But they are organized in ways that they haven’t been in a long time. And that’s hard for the establishment to handle.”
“Some people would say if members of Congress don’t like you that will help you,” the member said. “I’ve never been of the theory that making enemies is helpful ever, really, in a campaign. “

The criticism of Cruz erupted into view after he issued a statement that flatly said Senate Republicans are powerless to stop Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) from preserving funds for ObamaCare.
“Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so. At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people,”
House Republicans reacted with indignation.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) said Cruz was “waving the white flag,” while Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called him “a fraud.”
Political observers agree that Cruz’s brand could be tarnished if the ObamaCare fight results in a government shutdown on Oct. 1 that is blamed on the GOP.
“Only if there is a shutdown does this come back to really hurt him, and that’s an unlikely scenario. Either he’s going to win, or [House leadership] is going to cave,” Mackowiak said.
But overall, the heat Cruz is taking from Republican leaders is only endearing him to Republican primary voters, strategists said. “The idea that base Republican primary voters care about John Boehner’s feelings is laughable.” That some Republican agreed that the dust-up with House leaders could serve Cruz well in 2016, however.

Sources stated above plus, john Hayward, heritage, todd beamon, john bachman, newsmax, gopusa, pittsburg tribune, yellowbix.inc, greg richter, sandy fitzagerald, the hill,

SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS—“NOT”

10/30/13
The cost of food stamps has increased 30% this year
While Social Security has gone up 1.3%
In KY there has been 82% of those signing up for OBC going on Medicaid
16 of 19 million insurers will NOT be grandfathered into OBC
16 million people are estimated to lose HC insurance due to OBC—“townhall.com”
Aetna, blue cross re the daily caller and cobs and the Washington post saying the current plans will cease because they cannot meet the OBC regulations.
Most are finding that their premiums are going up along with their deductibles
All plans don’t meet OBC standards are the reason for many of the increases
CBO—16-20 million will lose insurance.
Florida Blue to cancel 80% of their policies because they don’t conform to OBC.
REID—“everybody is willing to pay more taxes” and the republicans are the only ones against it.
There has been no mention of any spending cuts
There are an estimated 22 million young people still living at home and only 10% are paying rent at home.
Obama didn’t know about the Glitches with the System—the smartest President of our history didn’t know of the problem?
He also didn’t know about—fast and furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA, AP, verizon and no shovel ready jobs?
The liberals are blaming the economy for the Glitches. Oregon is considering a tax on mileage—1.5 cents a mile—could replace the gas tax in the state???
Walmart building 110 stores in China
37% of Americans don’t expect to be able to retire.
852,000 have stopped looking for jobs
New jobs ’09-558k, 10-565k, 11-543k and 2012-514k
Those still in the work force—09-66%, 10-65%, 11-64%, 12-63%, 2013-63% see any growth there?
Reasons given, higher taxes, more regulations, health care, shortage of lenders
There have been 883,000 part time jobs created since June
Remember Biden promised 250,000 jobs a WEEK!
18-35 year olds now on food stamps—in 2008 was 6.1 million and in 2011 it’s 10.6 million
JFK—“the best welfare program is a JOB”.
Non profit insurance co-op’s are getting a $2.2 billion loan for OBC, 23 are selling insurance on state exchanges—1 already has gone bankrupt, 10 more are close to filing ($1 billion in total loses with this program)
91% default rate—white house of business management said.
We are spending $400,000 for a study of Mexican male Prostitutes
$1 million for disability benefits for imamates
$4.2 billion in tax breaks for illegals immigration
$8 million to redesign the Marine Corps HATS
$138,000 per taxpayer is now what is owed to pay off the national debt.
National endowment for the Humanities awarded grants to study— what is the meaning of life—$25,000, way are we interested in the past—$25,000, what is the good life and how do I like it–$25,000, and why are bad people bad–$23,000.
The cost of frivolous lawsuits in the US is $264.6 billion a year

Source—fox news 10/26/13

Going Postal

(52H)
Claim: The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein chairs a company that brokers sales of USPS facilities.

TRUE

Example: [Collected via e-mail, April 2013]
It was recently learned that the United States has entered into a contract with one firm to sell 56 buildings that currently house U.S. Post Offices. The government has decided that it no longer needs these buildings (many of which are located on prime land in towns and cities across the country).

The sale of these properties will bring in billions of dollars and, with that, millions of dollars in commissions for the one Company that is in charge of handling the sale and negotiation of the new leases.

What makes this such a matter of concern is that the company that the Government has contracted with to conduct the sales (and the corresponding leases for the new locations of the displaced post offices) is owned by Richard Blum.

Does that name mean anything to you? Maybe it should re-phrased and say that the person who owns the company that is solely in charge of this multi-million-dollar transaction is Richard Blum the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Origins: Facing a deficit of billions of dollars in recent years, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has floated a number of number of proposals to reduce that deficit, including selling off hundreds of post office properties in order to gain cash flow and reduce expenses. According to the Postal Service’s 2012 report to Congress, more than 600 buildings nationwide have been “earmarked for disposal,” and the “USPS Properties for Sale” web site currently lists 40 buildings and land parcels for sale across the U.S.

In 2011, the CB Richard Ellis Group (now CBRE Group, Inc.), the world’s largest commercial real estate

services firm, was awarded an exclusive contract to market USPS facilities which provides CBRE with a commission of 2 to 6 percent on the sale of those properties. This award has been the subject of some controversy, as CBRE’s Chairman of the Board is Richard C. Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who represents the state of California in the U.S. Senate.

It isn’t accurate to say that Richard Blum is “solely in charge” of CBRE or that he “owns” the company, as CBRE is headed by President and Chief Executive Officer Robert E. Sulentic is a public company whose shares are owned by many different individuals and institutional stockholders. However, it is indeed true that Richard Blum is both CBRE’s chairman and the husband of a U.S. senator, and that Blum Capital, a private equity firm founded by Richard Blum, is one of CBRE’s larger institutional stockholders.

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Andrew S. Ross quoted a representative of Senator Feinstein as asserting that she was not involved in her husband’s business dealings, and that the contract between the USPS and CBRE was not initiated or influenced by Congress:
As for accusations of a conflict of interest and suspicions that Feinstein may have influenced the awarding of the contract to her husband’s firm, Feinstein’s office strongly denies the charges.

“Sen. Feinstein is not involved with and does not discuss any of her husband’s business decisions with him. Her husband’s holdings are his separate personal property. Sen. Feinstein’s assets are held in a blind trust. That arrangement has been in place since before she came to the Senate in 1992,” said Brian Weiss, Feinstein’s communications director.

In 2012, Feinstein voted for an amendment to a postal reform bill that would have temporarily halted post office closings. The amendment was defeated in the House.

Both the Postal Service and CBRE insisted the 2011 contract was competitively bid. The Postal Service is an independent agency that reports to Congress, but there is no indication Congress plays any role in the awarding of contracts.

While CBRE handles the transactions, it does not advise the Postal Service which facilities to put on the market, I was told by both sides.
In June 2013 the USPS’ Office of Inspector General issued an audit report which noted that “outsourcing real estate management services to one supplier is a fundamental change from how the Postal Service previously managed its real estate portfolio” and was critical of several aspects of the contract between USPS and CBRE, but Richard Blum’s marital relationship with Senator Feinstein was not among the conflict of interest issues cited in that report:
Specifically, there are conflict of interest concerns and no maximum contract value. In addition, the contracting officer did not properly approve contract payments, appoint contracting officer’s representatives to monitor contract performance, or ensure services were provided. As a result, it is difficult for the Postal Service to determine whether the outsourcing effort has been or will be effective in reducing costs.

Conflict of interest concerns exist because the contractor provides a range of property values to negotiate a lease and receives a commission from the lessor based on the property value negotiated. Further, the contractor acts on behalf of the Postal Service in negotiating leases and the contractor can also represent the lessor. The Postal Service established a targeted incentive for reduced lease rates but in the first year of the contract did not meet the target. In addition, Facilities officials did not establish a maximum contract amount, which poses the risk of escalating contract costs. Officials increased contract funding from $2 million to $6 million and, as of February 2013, contract payments exceeded $3 million.

Lastly, in fiscal year 2012, employees not appointed contracting officer’s representatives certified $1.7 million for invoices, including $1.1 million for services requested and certified by the same individual, which presents an increased risk of fraud. Ineffective contract oversight poses an increased risk to the Postal Service’s finances, brand, and reputation.
Last updated: 23 October 2013

Read more at http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/blum.asp#J5tvPXAKCM1aulh8.99
Verified on Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/blum.asp

IS OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY CONSISTENT

10/22/13
In the wake of his dizzying reverses over chemical weapons in Syria, President Obama has been blasted as inconsistent, impulsive and amateurish in his conduct of foreign policy. In 2009, when Iranians rose in rebellion against the mullahs in Tehran, Obama gave their ill-fated “Green Revolution” rhetorical support. But he also went on negotiating with the Tehran government, because his first priority was making a deal over Iran’s nuclear program. In 2011, when Egyptians rebelled, Obama gave that uprising rhetorical support too, and even urged Hosni Mubarak to step down. But he maintained a strong relationship with the Egyptian military, because his first priority was keeping peace with Israel.
Later that year, when Syrians revolted, Obama gave the rebels more rhetorical support and declared that Bashar Assad had to go. But he balked at sending the rebels military aid, and this month, he made a deal that could help Assad stay in power, because Obama’s first priority was eliminating chemical weapons. What’s the common thread? That Obama’s rhetoric tends to outrun his willingness to use U.S. power, and that’s a problem, because it can lead to dangerous misunderstandings.
Obama may like the idea of promoting democracy, but his first priority has been reducing U.S. commitments around the world, especially in the Middle East. Benghazi. The experience only reinforced Obama’s skepticism about military intervention. Since then, the president has returned to resisting new military commitments abroad, but his rhetoric has remained ambitious and idealistic. And in the case of Syria, that gap turned into a self-constructed trap for Obama. Obama’s reversals made it difficult for anyone — allies and adversaries alike — to know what he might do next. Most of the time, that’s a defect in a foreign policy, because it shakes allies’ confidence and makes it easier for adversaries to misjudge our intentions.
Obama still hasn’t quite reconciled the two faces of his policy for American voters or anyone else, including Syria’s disappointed rebels and Iran’s ruling clergy. Obama wants the mullahs to believe that if they cross his “red line” of building a nuclear weapon, they will face a U.S. military strike — unlike Syria’s Assad, who crossed Obama’s “red line” with chemical weapons but was spared.
“I think what the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue,” he said. “They shouldn’t draw a lesson that … we won’t strike Iran.” Instead, he suggested, “what they should draw from this lesson is that there is the potential of resolving these issues diplomatically.”
Sources—la times,

CBO—THE GOVERNMENT FINANCES WILL BE IN DIRE STRAITS BY 2038

10/22/13
Federal taxes will go up, but spending will rise even faster over the next 25 years, leaving the national government in dire fiscal straits, according to projections the Congressional Budget Office released Tuesday In one key finding, the CBO figures show that in order to keep Social Security solvent without cutting projected benefits, the government would have to impose an immediate and permanent 3.4 percent payroll tax increase. Overall, as the population ages, the government will bleed red ink, with spending — which is about 21 percent of gross domestic product right now — reaching 26.2 percent of GDP by 2038.
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said spending on basic government — defense, schools, criminal justice and other programs — is slated to drop to its lowest level since the Great Depression, when measured against the size of the economy. Instead, he said the pressure is coming from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — the big entitlement programs enacted to help the elderly and the poor — which will become more expensive as people retire and health care costs rise. “So we as a society have a fundamental choice of whether to cut back on those programs or to raise taxes to pay for them. And so far, we’ve chosen to do very little of either. Deficits will bottom out at $378 billion in 2015, as long as Congress and President Obama leave this year’s spending cuts and tax increases in place. But they will begin to rise again after that. Much of the grim picture is the result of the tax deal Mr. Obama and Congress struck at the beginning of this year, which let payroll tax rates rise across the board and saw income-tax rates go up for the wealthiest, but permanently lowered the income-tax rates on most Americans.
That changed projections dramatically, the CBO said: Debt, which just last year had been projected to drop to 52 percent of gross domestic product over 25 years, will now be 100 percent of GDP in 2038. The government will bump up against its borrowing limit next month. Mr. Obama says that he will not negotiate with Congress on the debt limit, and that he will veto any effort to defund his health care law as part of the yearly spending debate.
“Republicans have demonstrated leadership in tackling this problem, passing a budget that balances over 10 years,”
sources—cbo, Washington times, gop usa,

STICKER SHOCK—THE OBAMACARE DEDUCTIBLES

10/22/13
Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner, considers himself better informed than most when it comes to the inner workings of health insurance, the 33-year-old single father wants the same level of coverage next year as what he has now with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals, his monthly premium of $233 will more than double. If he wants to keep his monthly payments in check, the Carpentersville resident is looking at an annual deductible for himself and his 7-year-old daughter of $12,700, a more than threefold increase from $3,500 today.
I have to change my plan?” Many Illinoisans buying health coverage on their own next year will face a similar dilemma spurred by the health care overhaul: pay higher monthly insurance premiums or run the risk of having to shell out thousands more in deductibles for health care if they get sick. Obama administration and Illinois officials touted the lower-than-expected monthly premiums that would make insurance more affordable for millions of Americans. But a Tribune analysis shows that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered on the Illinois health insurance exchange for Cook County have annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage.
Those deductibles, which represent the out-of-pocket money consumers must spend on health care before most insurance benefits kick in, are higher than what many consumers expected or may be able to stomach, benefit experts said. By comparison, people who buy health insurance through their employer have an average individual deductible of just more than $1,100, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Although millions of Americans will be eligible for federal assistance to help offset some of those costs, millions will not. “I’m telling (clients) that everything they know historically about health plans has changed. They either have to pay more out-of-pocket or more premiums or both. It’s an overwhelming concern.” Plans with the least expensive monthly premiums. — highlighted by state and federal officials as proof the new law will keep costs low for consumers — have deductibles as high as $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families, the highest levels allowed under the law.
One insurer, Coventry Health Care, did not have plans available on its website last week but provided data to the Tribune. Insurers say the price and cost hikes result from new benefit mandates, additional taxes levied as part of the law and a requirement that they can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The vast majority of insurance plans for 2014 must include a list of 10 essential health benefits, some of which, like maternity care, weren’t necessarily included in all health plans a year ago. The law also includes mandatory coverage of mental health and substance-abuse treatment, prescription drugs and rehabilitative care. All preventive care, including annual physicals and routine immunizations like flu shots, must be covered at no cost.
Further, insurers are required to take all applicants, regardless of whether they have pre-existing medical issues that may have locked them out of coverage in the past. And they’re prohibited from charging their oldest, sickest members any more than three times as much as their youngest, healthiest members, causing premium prices to rise for many younger people. Costs associated with those mandates are passed along to all members of a health plan. Under the law, most of the estimated 15 million Americans who bought plans individually this year, like Weldzius, will have to choose new insurance coverage that meets federal guidelines.
Because of the myriad changes to most plans, “it’s hard to know whether you’re really going to be able to compare like policies” from year-to-year, said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. The health care law established four broad categories of coverage — platinum, gold, silver and bronze — for which premiums vary based on the amount of out-of-pocket health care expenses consumers are required to pay. Bronze plans have the lowest monthly premiums, but they cover only 60 percent of projected medical costs. Platinum plans have higher premiums but cover 90 percent of medical costs.
Land of Lincoln Health, a new nonprofit insurer, opted to design most of its bronze and silver plans with lower annual deductibles in exchange for higher monthly premiums. All of its plans also offer a broad range of providers, though certain discounts are available for using a selection of them.
Meanwhile, the state’s dominant insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, was able to offer plans with lower monthly premiums by crafting narrower networks of doctors, specialists and hospitals.
The least expensive “Blue Choice” plans offered by Blue Cross, which carry the lowest monthly premiums in Cook County, contract with 4,100 primary care providers in the Chicago metro area. That compares with about 15,775 providers in its largest preferred provider network, according to company data. The “Blue Choice” network includes 57 acute-care hospitals versus 213 in the larger network. In addition, two of the region’s five large academic medical centers — University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System and Loyola University Medical Center — are in network, while Northwestern Memorial Hospital, University of Chicago Medical Center and Rush University Medical Center are out.
People who choose to go to an out-of-network hospital or physician will foot the entire bill, in most cases, and those expenses typically are not applied toward annual deductibles. Some plans offered by Humana Inc. and Coventry also have narrow networks. “You have to be very careful about choosing a plan with a smaller network … or there will be some big surprises,” Fahn said. Insurance brokers and health care experts also urge caution for consumers who choose plans with higher deductibles.
Fahn calls the bronze plans “smoke-and-mirrors catastrophic plans,” which don’t provide benefits until and unless something bad happens. The vast majority of the uninsured — an estimated 80 to 90 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office — who buy coverage on the exchanges will qualify for federal subsidies in the form of tax credits. Those who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $46,000 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for the subsidies to help offset the cost of premiums. Further, people with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (about $28,700 for an individual and $58,900 for a family of four) will qualify for cost-sharing subsidies that will reduce deductibles, in some cases substantially. Those with more modest incomes might not have enough in savings to pay for medical expenses. They “could get slammed if they get sick,” said Pollitz, of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They just won’t have the money. They just won’t.”

Sources—chicago tribune, Kaiser family foundation, adam weldzius