Editors’ Note: We receive lots of responses to Lane Solutions articles and opinions. Because we’ve been so concerned with the unintended consequences of Cover Oregon we were particularly touched by the story below. It’s from “Angie,” a Lane County resident who experienced firsthand the effects of this $248 Million disaster.
My brother is living with me and he is on SSI and also receives Medicare. He called the 1-800 number to see about getting help with supplementary insurance due to his health and income.
I wanted someone to know that whoever is answering the phones needs to be a little more considerate of the elderly that are calling. The guy that my brother talked to was very rude and told him he was not going to take him off of Medicare in order for him to get free health care and hung up on him. My brother was very upset. My brother was not looking for a handout and was not asking to be taken off Medicare.
I would like you to pass along this information to whoever takes charge of the employees answering the phones.
If you would like to talk to my brother his name is “John” and his phone number is (withheld).
I just thought maybe someone should know about this incident.
Lane Solutions responds: “Angie” – Now a lot of people know about your predicament. And like them, our hearts go out to you and your brother.
If any of our readers have ideas that could help Angie and her brother, please email Lane Solutions at Lane@HealthyCommunitiesOregon.com
The last two issues of Lane Solutions told the story of local dentist Cedric Hayden, DDS. He spent $200,000 of his and his brother’s money to outfit a mobile dental clinic, which they wanted to park in rural areas of Lane County and offer free dental care to low income residents.
But not a single rural city wanted it. Why? Most thought it was a great idea – just not in their towns.
Connecting the dots, Dr. Hayden saw a sad pattern emerging among the “public servants” who profess to care so very much about their less well off constituents and found a place where his skills and compassion would be welcome.
The place? Chuuk, Micronesia, where around 55,000 people have not one dentist.
Chuuk welcomed Dr. Hayden, offered him a place to park his mobile clinic and a six month license to practice.
His first team of volunteers spent their Christmas vacation filling cavities in Chuuk. Dr. Hayden plans to spend three months each year there offering dental care.
We say, “Dr. Hayden – Thanks for your generosity. Too bad it wasn’t welcome here.”
By Dusty Lane, KATU.com Staff Jan 10, 2014
KATU’s Investigators spent weeks digging through thousands of pages of audits conducted by Maximus, the company the state hired to provide quality-control assessments of the project beginning in its early days….
…there are already red flags about the scope of the project – namely Oracle’s future support for the aging software the state has decided on…
Maximus notes that staff members are quitting faster than they can be hired…
The IT team has gone through multiple iterations of the software, and there are serious worries about security…
…Maximus portrays a project that’s dangerously close to out of control…
With less than a year to go until the deadline, the progress that’s been made is insignificant in comparison with what’s left to be done…
Security issues are getting worse…
Cover Oregon begins to change its message, suggesting the task was impossible to begin with…
Our Response & Your Comments
Yes, we do look like fools. But we suggest a slight change of title to “All You Clowns Look Like Fools.” And liars. And finger pointers. And whiners. We could go on, but you get the point. And any of our readers who actually needed health insurance could add more colorful adjectives.
Cover Oregon has indelibly stamped itself as the prototypical government program: expensive, beaurocratic without anyone really being in charge, over budget, non functioning, and nobody’s to blame except the company (Oracle) that took advantage of the poor “public servants” who cooked the program up and then cocked it up beyond all recognition.
Maybe it’s appropriate that it’s Gov. “Hands off” Kitz’s signature program.
Remember that old bumper sticker – “If you think health care’s expensive now, just wait til it’s free”? Well, folks, you’re now seeing it in real life!
Cover Oregon is our state’s implementation of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare. Oregon’s proactive development and huge investment in rolling out the ACA in our own way along with other new health care policies has often resulted in our state being heralded as a national leader in health care reform.
Certainly no politician in Oregon has aligned and attached themselves more closely to all of this than Governor John Kitzhaber. Dr. Kitzhaber has been working hard to be just that…the Doctor Governor. Numerous other politicians have put their names next to “health care reform” as well—need we even mention President Obama?
But with Cover Oregon now trailing the rest of the nation in ACA enrollments and with difficulties plaguing the national system, will there be significant fallout in next year’s elections and who will be the target of the blame?
Let’s start with 8 facts about the state of the ACA Rollout:
1) When we say Oregon is trailing the rest of the nation in health care signups through its new insurance exchange, what we really mean is that no one has signed up yet. Cover Oregon has yet to enroll any Oregonians and is likely only accepting paper applications for the rest of 2013, making its website useless for signing people up for coverage that will be starting on January 1st.
3) Some 145,000 Oregonians who currently have individual health plans will lose those plans by the end of next year because they don’t comply with ACA requirements. Originally, these plans had to expire by the end of this year. Now, Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner has allowed insurers to extend health plans through next year, if they choose to. The delay still leaves a lot of uncertainty in the system but makes up for the fact that there is no easy way to sign-up for compliant insurance plans on the exchange right now. The only way to do that is with a paper application that will take weeks at least to process. For those who try, they cannot easily know in advance what subsidies they are eligible for, which means they may end up paying more for the new policies that provide more coverage than they previously had. And all of this is not to mention the promises numerous politicians made—from the President to members of Congress—that current health insurance plans would not change.
4) The President announced last week that these existing health insurance plans can be extended through next year, followed by a similar decision here in Oregon. However, it’s not clear whether health insurance companies can or will keep the plans available for consumers at the same price.
5) There are countless anecdotal reports of people with existing plans that are not being canceled because they meet the ACA’s requirements but are going to become much more expensive starting next year. We were not able to find conclusive data on the number of Americans in this situation though there are many individual cases that are examples.
6) For those of the 145,000 Oregonians who will eventually lose their current insurance but do find new plans on the Cover Oregon exchange, many are discovering the plans cost more. One reason is because there is now less flexibility in what kind of coverage level you can choose. Many younger people are not quick to sign up on the exchanges for fear that their insurance will cost more in order to subsidize older and sicker people—one of the primary purposes of the ACA in the first place. And of course, if younger, healthier people do not sign up on the exchanges the result may be the financial collapse of the entire system.
7) Then there are some of those whose health care plans were cancelled but can afford a new plan on the exchange because of a provided subsidy. Take a couple in Vancouver,Lindsey and Jesse McChesney. Through Washington’s new “Healthplanfinder” (which seems to actually work, unlike Cover Oregon), the couple can find a new plan that is only $30 more per month due to a federal subsidy of $230 each month. The problem is not the cost but rather the shift away from market-based prices on the supposed marketplace. Here’s Lindsey’s take on it: “Before this law goes into effect, I was paying for my health care myself. Now, I have to get help from the federal government to pay for it. So I’m just another person on welfare, basically.” How big of a welfare state are we talking about? “About 55 percent of the Oregonians who must buy insurance from Cover Oregon will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay their monthly premiums….” About 17 million people nationwidecould qualify for federal subsidies.
8) Lastly, the economic impact of the new system appears to be significant. A survey of businesses that have 40-500 employees found that “Health care reform already is leading many businesses to cut workers’ hours, hire part-timers or stay below the employer mandate’s 50-employee threshold.” Additionally, “more than 30 percent of franchise businesses have reduced workers’ hours because of the law, which counts anyone working more than 30 hours a week as a full-time employee. The survey found that 12 percent of non-franchise businesses have cut employees’ hours due to the law.”
Besides those needing insurance, who else does a failure of Cover Oregon hurt?
Now that we’ve looked at the facts about the Cover Oregon and ACA rollout, let’s look at who may be impacted now or on Election Day, 2014:
1) Governor John Kitzhaber: In a previous post about a possible matchup between Kitzhaber and Republican Representative Dennis Richardson in next year’s gubernatorial election, we wrote the following:
While Kitzhaber is popular amongst voters and does not seem to have lost his likability, his last year of governing has not been his best. Representative Richardson’s challenge in this area is to introduce himself to voters and show how his style of leadership will serve them better than Kitzhaber’s.
A continued failure of Cover Oregon may be a significant blow to Dr. Kitzhaber’s reputation because of how much he has personally staked on health care reform.
2) Members of the Oregon Legislature: You can check out the voting records of legislators on Senate Bill 99 (2011), the implementation of Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange Corporation. Whether Cover Oregon will be a major election issue in legislative elections next year remains to be seen. But many incumbents will not be able to run from this and other votes on their records.
3) Members of Congress: Politicians are now running from Obamacare as if it were on fire. Or at least some members of Congress who are up for reelection next year are distancing themselves from the law and from the President. Two recent examples are Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon’s 5th District who said that Obama was “grossly misleading to the American Public” about the health care law and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley—who is attracting a lot of Republican challengers after his first term—who surprised many by signing onto a bill modifying the ACA.
4) Government in general: Polling shows that “dissatisfaction with government” has beenthe most important problem facing the country, according to voters, for the last two months—a first since the question was first asked in the 1930s. Furthermore, only 19% of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing most or all of the time.
5) President Obama: The President is not up for election again but he does face the challenge of pushing his agenda during the rest of his second term. This only becomes more difficult as the health care debacle drags down his presidency. The same polling mentioned above shows he is at the lowest approval rating of his presidency—39%. He is beingespecially lampooned over his endlessly repeated campaign promise that Americans could keep their health care plans and doctors if they so desired. This promise, of course, has since been broken.
A union representing health care workers on Monday filed five ballot measures with the Secretary of State’s office targeting hospital pricing, executive salary and transparency.
Local 49 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the measures for the November 2014ballot after years of trying to make progress in the Legislature…
The ballot measures cover separate topics:
Executive compensation caps limiting hospital chief executive salary to 15 times the salary of the lowest-paid employee…
Price limits for larger hospitals…
The Oregonian, October 22, 2013
Lane Solutions Responds and Your Comments
We don’t often tip our hats to the SEIU, but today we just can’t resist it.
Because it takes special gall, guts, chutzpah or whatever you call it to ask Oregonians to vote for a measure whose backer has absolutely no intention of applying to himself.
The SEIU wants hospital CEO salary limited to 15 times the salary of, say, a dishwasher or janitor working there. Sounds good – right? It’s just so “fair.”
So, what does the SEIU pay its CEO? Former chief Andy Stern pulled down a cool $306,388 all in. Poor Mary Kay Henry, his replacement, is forced to live on only $256,065. Do you suppose that the lowest paid janitor or window washer whose dues fuel these salaries make one fifteenth of these amounts? That would be $20,426 of Handy Andy’s loot and $17,071 of Poor Mary Kay’s.
And did you notice that Poor Mary Kay’s salary is $50,000 less than Andy’s? Maybe she needs a union to fight for “equal pay for equal work?”
And did we mention that the SEIU, that tireless champion of equal pay, has nine union headquarters sub-bosses banking more than $200,000 per year?
Then there’s the measure to put price controls on “larger” hospitals. Larger than what? MASH units? Yeah – price controls are turning Cuba and Venezuela into economic power houses. Remember gas lines?
It’s Your Money And We Don’t Give a Flip
Rarely do we cross an Oregon border to find a Golden Fleece. Heaven knows that Salem turns out a new fleecing or two most weeks.
But for this 50th issue of Lane Solutions we award a Golden Fleece with a Rancid Bologna Sandwich to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services – which gives us neither health nor services human or non human.
Here’s why: They created an Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) website and blew upwards of $634 Million of your dollars doing it!
And did we mention that it was budgeted at $93 Million?
And did we mention that the site doesn’t work and will require rewriting up to 5 million lines of code?
And from what we hear, insurance through the Affordable Care Act is about as “affordable” as the website!
Accounting Error Causes 16.2 Million Shortfall to Implement Oregon Healthcare Exchange…Before it Even Starts—Expect Millions More in Shortfall Before it is Done
State officials organizing a new health insurance exchange are planning to ask for more federal grant funding to plug a projected $16.2 million shortfall.
The shortfall stemmed from an accounting error that caused state budget and fiscal analysts to misproject when the state would use up funding from a grant to partially launch a computer system for the exchange.
Oregon’s exchange, called Cover Oregon, is an online marketplace where individuals and small business owners can comparison shop for health insurance and apply for financial assistance.
Lane Solutions Responds…
We’re shocked! We just don’t believe it…a government program short $16 Million because of an “accounting error”? Has this ever happened before? Surely not for the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”), of which Cover Oregon is a part!
What’s that, Dear Readers? You say that it has? That the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan for “uninsurables” – people with serious illnesses like cancer – has nearly run through a cool $5 Billion and needs big bucks from the states?
That Obamacare itself, originally set to cost $898 Billion over 10 years, is now projected to ring up $1.85 Trillion in costs?
But there’s no need to worry…because the government can always reach into your wallet to make up for its shortfalls, cost overruns or just plain ol’ “accounting errors.”
The authors contend that people on Medicaid could be harmed by treating patients with a particular illness the same way, which will occur with the rules adopted by the Health Evidence Review Commission.
By: Debbie McCabe and Lorren Sandt, The Lund Report
Imagine walking into your doctor’s office and seeing someone else standing there, telling you they get to make the final decision about your healthcare. Instead of doctors and patients making important health decisions, they make the final call.
For those in Oregon’s social safety net, that day is coming. The Health Evidence Review Commission, or HERC, is designed specifically to cut healthcare costs by overriding decisions made by doctors and their patients.
Lane Solutions Replies:
This is the essence of The Progressive Movement. It rests on the assumption that average citizens (or even private doctors) just aren’t smart enough to make the decisions that affect their lives. Because they “just don’t get it,” all government has to do is collect a bunch of “experts” who can make the decisions for them. After all, it’s “For their own good.” Most of the time it’s “For the children.”
So these self-appointed gurus decide what kind of bags we need for our groceries and light bulbs for our houses. They tell us how much water should flow into our toilets and out through our shower heads. They tax us for foods and drinks they say are bad for us. And they give us the medical treatments that are best for us. That’s because they care so much about us.
But with each intrusion of the “Experts” into our lives a bit of freedom disappears. With each decision “For our own good” we have less control of our own lives. Even if it is always “For our own good.”
Tell us what you think below in the comment section