Beltway Insider: Obamacare Site Fails; Obama, VP Host Foreign Leaders; White House Denies Spying; Sandy Hook Demolition Begins

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President Obama, who championed the legislation that would provide affordable health care to millions of uninsured Americans, is now facing a firestorm of scrutiny as the rollout for the online health marketplace has suffered repeated disruptions and outages.

According to Gallup, President Obama’s job approval, over the past week, remained at 43% of those polled approve of his effectiveness as President and those who disapprove of his effectiveness as President also remained the same at 50%.

Affordable Care Act Site Failure Sparks Concern

President Obama spent the week defending the Health Care Marketplace website that has recently come under fire for repeated outages and service disruptions due to higher than anticipated traffic.

The Affordable Care Act, still a contentious issue between parties, with both Democrats and Republicans pointing out the fundamental flaws and potential problems and issues with both the new law and the website.

With over 20million website views, opponents argue the website glitches, due primarily to overload, are short sighted or a lack of vision on the part of the White House.

President Obama admitted in a released statement “the site isn’t working the way it’s supposed to yet.” And they need to “boost capacity” of the Health Insurance Marketplace website.

“And that’s why,” he said, “In the coming weeks, we are going to get it working as smoothly as it’s supposed to.  We’ve got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and address these problems, every single day.”

Site analytics indicate 20million visitors have already visited the site with over 700,000 enrolling.

With approximately 40-60% of 316million Americans, roughly 126 to 189 million Americans, needing in some way to access the site it is concerning that this early in the implementation fundamental problems, glitches, and the disruption of service has already become the focus of media attention.

As Democrats rejoice in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama continues to reiterate the Republican opposition to affordable health care.

Affordable Care Act, initially called Obamacare, guarantees every American the right to affordable health care by mandatory enrollment, or proof of employer provided enrollment, in government regulated insurance care.

Republicans are as vocal as President Obama in pointing out the initial flaws in the system, which could be indicative of problems further down the road.

The way the Affordable Health Care Act operates is that all insurance providers are located under the umbrella plan, one stop shopping. Not unlike most other compare and save options for online purchases. Those vendors now have to compete with one another, forcing them to drive down the cost.

The consumer is, allegedly, the driver and able to shop, without discrimination through multiple plans that meets the consumer’s needs.

Insurers, now, cannot discriminate and should, in a perfect world, stop any price gouging by insurance companies who look at pre-existing conditions as an opportunity to elevate premiums.  AHC act stops insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

Insurers once dominated the playing field. There were no options and no regulations that mandated a set criterion for fair business practices. Insurers were free to operate under any guideline, denying anyone, charge differently based on race, gender or pre-existing condition.

The premise behind Obamacare law is that it is allegedly affordable. The facts are certain percentage, more than originally expected will pay nothing for healthcare and still must be enrolled.

For households that use any type of tax preparer, even software of any of the popular do it yourself tax preparation brands will provide, now, a print out of the obligations the household must adhere to before a Federal  Taxes are filed in April 2014.

For any household who does not receive employer provided medical benefits, no matter the level of financial affluence or recovery, every household must enroll.

For the 40million Americans, who at this point are receiving some subsidy from the U.S. government, a solid percentage of that number will be exempt from coverage, although they will be eligible for Medicaid which is mandatory. If the household does not sign up a first year penalty of 95.00 will be assessed. Second year penalty jumps to 324.00. The penalty is not noted for additional years.

While the individual is responsible for the fine for non-compliance, the Internal Revenue Service does not have the authority to file a lien against the taxpayer for non-payment.

The Affordable Health care Act does exempt certain groups and religious organizations recognized by the IRS such as The Amish. American Indians and Alaskan Natives receive special consideration and conditions under the Affordable Care Act.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Health Care Act closes March 31, 2014. If an individual is insured through a employer there is no need to purchase additional healthcare through the marketplace website. Almost all employer sponsored plan meets the criteria.

Whitehouse Denies Spying Allegations

The National Security Agency has been hit with another round of spying allegations this time including the monitoring of leaders from Germany and France, two of the strongest allies of the United States.

According to an article written in the French publication Le Monde and quoted in the Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald who co-wrote the original articles detailing the NSA allegations leaked by Edward Snowden “found that when certain numbers were used, the conversations were automatically recorded. The surveillance program also swept up text messages based on key words, Le Monde reported, based on reports gathered from Dec. 10 to Jan. 7,” the Washington Post reported.

President Obama has been on the offensive since the reports leaked that the NSA has also been accused of spying on other allies, including Italy, Brazil and Japan.

The President contacted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as President Hollande of France. Vice President Biden has also been running interference during his talks with Italian Senate President Pietro Grasso.

President Obama denied the allegations that the National Security Agency has participated in any monitoring activities during his conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The President in a released statement said “that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.” He continued, “The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges and is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

The President relayed the same message to President Hollande of France and as with German Chancellor Merkel, all agreed to “further the cooperation between our intelligence services with the goal of protecting the security of both countries and of our partners, as well as protecting the privacy of our citizens.”

Vice President Biden reiterated to the Italian Senate President, President Obama’s position on the allegations as well as the importance of privacy.

Vice President Biden Continues Italian Bi-lateral Meetings

Vice President Biden continued Bi-lateral discussions with Italian Senate President Pietro Grasso picking up where President Obama and Italian Prime Minster Letta ended.

With the meetings severely overshadowed by the revelations of spying by the NSA, Biden and Grasso focused on counter-terrorism measures, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as well as the allegation of NSA monitoring of allied officials.

During President Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Letta the two discussed several key issues in the region, including strengthening the economy and unemployment, both important to our countries. As well as the ongoing and continued necessary support of allies in dealing with Syria.

Biden continued the discussion with the Italian Senate President as the two remained committed to The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and counter-terrorism measure.

The media revelations, reminiscent of the Cold War, that the National Security Agency has maintained major spying programs on allied leaders which included Italy was left to Biden to explain to the Italian Senate President that the President’s commitment to all allies of the United States. 

President Obama Hosts Pakistani Prime Minister

President Obama welcomed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the White House for three days of economic meetings strengthening and confirming the diplomatic ties and support of the two countries.

Leading the three day bi-lateral President Obama focused on evaluating existing ties and developing a new agenda for U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif each agreed the meetings went well and brought many existing issues to the forefront and reaffirmed the mutual respect and alliance of the two nations.

Pakistani Prime Minister Sarif echoed the same concerns all nations are experiencing since the global economic collapse in 2008 that has not loosened its grip on many nations Pakistan included. President Obama expressed support for ideas to increase economic growth and stimulate employment.

The two leaders compartmentalized the key factors necessary for continued allied support and growth resulting in an enduring partnership which included Shared Democratic values, Defense, Economic and Social Sector Growth, Education, Regional Cooperation, Energy, and Counter Terrorism.

Secretary of State Kerry will be hosting the Prime Minister along with high level delegations for both countries in March 2014 for the Ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue. The two nations will continue discussions on these key issues.

President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with their delegations will visit Houston, Texas in November to meet with high level corporation leaders as Pakistan continues to develop energy options.

Energy deficiencies has been a continual issue as the United States has repeatedly assisted in rebuilding or  constructions of dams which provided 1000 more megawatts to Pakistani energy grid providing power to an additional 16million homes.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Demolition Begins

Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of one of the worst school shootings in American history, is in the early stages of demolition.

Less than one year after twenty, five and six years old, students and six educators were massacred the leaders of Newtown, Connecticut have begun to raze the school in favor of rebuilding after public hearings that allowed parents of those slain and other citizens to voice their wishes.

President Obama, in response to the mass killing at Sandy Hook, signed 20 executive orders into law, designed to begin the process for common sense gun control reform. That has escaped politicians.

Ironically, another school shooting occurred this week in Nevada killing two and wounding two other students. A 12 year old, who by all accounts was repeatedly bullied, carried his parent’s gun to school and began shooting on the playground. After killing a classmate, he shot and killed former math teacher Mike Landsberry, a master sergeant in the Air National Guard who served as a cargo specialist in Afghanistan and Kuwait. The child then turned the gun on himself.

To date, no common sense gun reform laws has been enacted.

For more information on President Obama: www.whitehouse.gov 

For more information on the Affordable Care Act: https://www.healthcare.gov/

 

Sources: Gallup, Wikipedia, Whitehouse.gov, Washingtonpost.com

 

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