Obama Admin Exempts US Territories from Obamacare

Via Townhall:

Good news for the residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, et. al: according to a memo quietly posted on the HHS website last Thursday, Obamacare’s coverage provisions no longer apply in these areas.

After a careful review of this situation and the relevant statutory language, HHS has determined that the new provisions of the PHS Act enacted in title I are appropriately governed by the definition of “state” set forth in that title, and therefore that these new provisions do not apply to the territories. This means that the following Affordable Care Act requirements will not apply to individual or group health insurance issuers in the U.S. territories: 1 guaranteed availability (Act section 2702), community rating (PHS Act section 2701), single risk pool (Affordable Care Act section 1312(c)), rate review (PHS Act section 2794), medical loss ratio (PHS Act section 2718), and essential health benefits (PHS Act section 2707). Specifically, under this interpretation, the definition of “state” set forth in the PHS Act will apply only to PHS Act requirements in place prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, or subsequently enacted in legislation that does not include a separate definition of “state” (as the Affordable Care Act does).

 Naturally, this is a complete 180 from the rhetoric espoused by the HHS last year. Under Obamacare, insurance companies operating in America’s territories had to accept every insurance applicant, but residents of the territories were not subject to the individual mandate and did not have to actually purchase insurance while still healthy. Additionally, subsidies were not available to residents of territories; only for people living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a result of the law, insurance companies threatened to stop selling new plans altogether in American territories.

When territory officials asked for government leniency last year, they were told that there was nothing possible to remedy this problem:

“HHS, at the request of and with full support from territories, confirmed the Affordable Care Act’s market reform provisions that are incorporated into the PHS Act, including the guaranteed availability provision, are applicable to the territories,” Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight director Gary Cohen wrote in a July letter to territorial governors.

“However meritorious your request might be,” Cohen continues, “HHS is not authorized to choose which provisions…might apply to the territories.”

While it is certainly a good thing that the insurance market in these areas isn’t going to be completely destroyed, it is somewhat troubling that the administration is continuing to pick and choose its definition of a state depending on the situation. Congress is supposed to write and change laws–not the Department of Health and Human Services.

SNAP Program Made $2 Bil in Fraudulent Payments in 2012; Spending Up 115% Under Obama

Via CNS News:

(CNSNews.com) – The nation’s food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provided a record $74.6 billion in benefits to needy Americans in Fiscal Year 2012 — paying out $2 billion too much, according to the annual quality control report for FY 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

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Federal Appeals Court Rules Obamacare Subsidies Illegal

Via CNBC:

In a potentially crippling blow to Obamacare, a federal appeals court panel declared Tuesday that government subsidies worth billions of dollars that helped 4.7 million people buy insurance on HealthCare.gov are illegal.

The 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia—not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov. The ruling relied on a close reading of the Affordable Care Act.

“Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states,” wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith.

“We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.”

In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards, who called the case a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” Obamacare, wrote that the judgment of the majority “portends disastrous consequences.”

Indeed, the 72-page decision threatens to unleash a cascade of effects that could seriously compromise Obamacare’s goals of compelling people to get health insurance, and helping them afford it.

However, the ruling does, and will not ultimately affect the taxpayer-fund subsidies the federal government issued to 2 million or so people through the 15 exchanges run by individual states and the District of Columbia,

The Obama administration is certain to ask the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse the panel’s decision, which for now does not have the rule of law.

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All Increases in US Per Capita Disposable Income Due to Government Subsidies

Via Zero Hedge:

While it is now undisputed by even the Federal Reserve itself, that all the “benefits” of QE have accrued exclusively to the wealthiest segment of society, those 0.01% whose wealth is mostly invested in financial assets which have inflated in direct proportion with the Fed’s balance sheet, some have tried to suggest that because the disposable income of the average American has also increased in the past few years, then QE has been a success. There is one problem with that statement: it isn’t true.

As Eric Sprott points out in his latest letter, “if one looks past headline figures, things are not really getting better. As shown in Figure 1, real disposable income per capita in the U.S. has increased only modestly since the Great Recession. However, all of this increase is due to Government Transfers, not from an improvement in the real economy. If we exclude those transfers from the numbers, disposable income per capita is actually lower than it was at the end of 2005 and has been painfully flat since 2011. Also, those numbers assume that the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) accurately represents people’s purchasing power.”

Presenting our chart of the day: disposable income with and without government transfers.

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Inconvenient Fact: Zero Refugees Admitted to US from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico in 2013

Via CNS News:

(CNSNews.com) – According to refugee data from the U.S. Department of State, the federal government did not grant refugee protection to a single person from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador or Mexico in fiscal year 2013.

Now, almost all of the unaccompanied children illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico are coming from those nations, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats have described these illegal aliens as “refugees.”\

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Honduran Government Demands Ransom to Stop Illegal Aliens

Via the Reuters:

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduran officials on Wednesday called for U.S. aid to Central America to reduce violence that has fueled a surge of child migration to the United States, with the foreign minister calling for a “mini-Marshall plan” to attack the broader underlying problems.

Honduran President Juan Hernandez said Washington should help Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras fight gangs with a plan similar to U.S. anti-drug programs in Colombia and Mexico, as well as funds to lift growth in the impoverished region.

“One has to recognize that our countries can’t do it alone,” he said at a conference about the unaccompanied minors fleeing for the United States. “We need help from the United States, from Mexico, because this is everyone’s problem.”

Honduran Foreign Minister Mireya Aguero told the conference that efforts to step up security at the U.S. border were not working and that U.S. aid would be better spent in Central America.

“It’s much more practical for the United States to launch a mini-Marshall plan, as they did after World War Two, to create opportunities and really get to the root of the problem in Central American countries that is fueling migration,” she said.

Named after top U.S. General George Marshall, the Marshall plan was a U.S. aid program to help rebuild shattered European economies after the destruction wrought by World War Two.

Hernandez, who took office in January after pledging to crack down on crime, said U.S.-backed battles against cartels in Colombia and Mexico have pushed drug traffickers into Central America, increasing violence, which is causing the exodus.

Yet he underlined the success of U.S. efforts in Colombia.

“Today, for example, Plan Colombia is showing major success. It was worked on together, those generating demand for drugs in the north and those producing drugs in the south assumed joint responsibility and it was effective,” he said.

Honduras now has the highest murder rate in the world.

Gang-related killings have increased in recent years since Mexico’s drug cartels expanded into Honduras, enlisting local street gangs and using the country’s Caribbean coast to transport South American cocaine to the United States.

Thousands of Central American migrants have been streaming into the United States through Mexico, and those caught are being held in overcrowded detention facilities.

The United States deported a planeload of women and children to Honduras on Monday. The country’s first lady, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, said another U.S. charter flight containing 80 families would arrive in San Pedro Sula on Friday.

President Barack Obama has asked lawmakers for $3.7 billion to pay for more border security, temporary detention centers and additional immigration court judges to process asylum cases and speed up deportations.

A local U.N. official who also spoke at the conference in Honduras said that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “deeply concerned” about the child migrants. He urged the governments involved “to urgently protect the human rights of migrant children.”

Berkeley to Give Out Free Marijuana to Low-Income

Via the National Review:

Berkeley, Calif., will now require medical-marijuana dispensaries to give away free cannabis to very low-income patients, CBS reports.

The city council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that mandates the dispensaries hand over 2 percent of their total inventory to low-income folks and homeless people. They won’t get away with giving out their leftovers, either, as the ordinance requires that the pot must be good quality. The ordinance reads: ”Medical cannabis provided under this section shall be the same quality on average” as marijuana “dispensed to other members.”

“Basically, the city council wants to make sure that low-income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine,” Berkeley City Council member Darryl Moore told CBS. “We think this is the responsible thing to do for those less fortunate in our community.”

The Berkeley Patients Group, which is one of the city’s marijuana dispensaries, has already been giving out free marijuana to the poor for the past 15 years. Sean Luse, a spokesperson for the group, explained, “We’ve found out over the years that one of the cruel realities is that when you do get sick and you have a serious illness is that it’s often hard to keep a job, can be hard to keep your income up, so those people really need the help the most.”

The measure will receive final approval next week.

Tucson Councilman Wants to Give Cops Authority to Seize Guns from People Without Due Process

Via the Arizona Daily Star:

Councilman Steve Kozachik wants to give Tucson police the ability to take away suspects’ guns if a judge deems that they pose a threat to others or themselves.

Right now, police can’t confiscate guns even if they consider a suspect dangerous, Kozachik said.

Kozachik wants to change that.

“I want the police to be able to petition a judge to seize someone’s guns if they pose a danger,” Kozachik said. “Once a guy goes through the system and the mental health professionals sign off that’s he’s no longer a threat” then the person can get his guns back.

He said it’s an important tool for police and the judicial system to have at their disposal to prevent a future mass shooting.

“After every gun tragedy, everybody says somebody should have known to stop it,” Kozachik said. “Police and the judicial system ought to be able to seize their guns to prevent a tragedy from happening.”

He said police wouldn’t trample anybody’s rights because it would require a judge’s assent before anyone’s guns are taken.

Kozachik is waiting for an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office before placing it on a future agenda.

Obama Regime to Open $50 Mil Resort for Illegal Aliens

Via KRGV:

WESLACO – A center for unaccompanied minors set to open in Weslaco later this year will be the first of its kind in the nation, officials with a network of non-profits said.

BCFS Health and Human Services secured a multi-million federal contract to house young illegal immigrants at the site of the current Palm Aire Hotel and Suites on FM 1015.

Representatives with BCFS said the Palm Aire will undergo a multi-million dollar transformation.

BCFS runs a temporary detention center for young illegal immigrants at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

BCFS began as an orphanage for Hispanic children in San Antonio in 1944

“Children … who weren’t able to go into other orphanages. They weren’t allowed at the white orphanages, they weren’t allowed at the African-American orphanages,” said Krista Piferrer, with BCFS external affairs.

The agency has grown into a multi-national network of health and human service non-profit organizations.

“We lead efforts that range from emergency management and disaster response to serving teens and youths who are aging out of the foster care system to serving impoverished communities and expectant mothers in the colonias,” Piferrer said.

BCFS said the Weslaco facility will be completely self-contained.

“Our central intake facility at Weslaco will be licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as a child residential center,” Piferrer said.

Piferrer said medical staff will be on hand so children with diseases or injuries will not be transferred to local hospitals.

BCFS has a facility in Harlingen where they employ about 340 people.

The agency applied for a conditional-use permit with the city of Weslaco. City Manager Leo Olivares said the request has to go through the regular planning and zoning process. If approved, it will go to the city commission for a final vote.