Friday, August 14, 2015
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
President Obama’s top healthcare official defended federal funding for Planned Parenthood at a hearing on Tuesday as Republicans zeroed in on cutting off its money.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell focused her comments on how the federal funding for Planned Parenthood provides mammograms and other services for women.
“What I think is important is that our HHS funding is focused on issues of preventative care for women, things like mammograms and cancer prevention screenings,” Burwell told the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
“We do not fund abortion,” she added, though Burwell noted there are some exceptions to the Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funding of abortion.
Planned Parenthood has often been a GOP target, but the political storm surrounding the nonprofit has reacheda fever pitch following the release of a series of undercover videos showing officials candidly discussing the donation of fetal tissue for medical research.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the chamber will vote to cut off funding for the organization before leaving next week for the August recess.
Lawmakers, including a group of 49 senators last week, have called on HHS to investigate Planned Parenthood.
“I would like some commitment from you here today on when your department will conduct an investigation on this very, very serious matter,” Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) said Tuesday.
Burwell resisted those calls, deferring to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
She noted that Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said that Justice is conducting a review.
Planned Parenthood had apologized for an official’s “tone and statements” in the first video but said it has broken no laws and argued that the released videos had been heavily edited to inflict political pain on the organization.
Even then, Planned Parenthood said officials in the videos made it clear they were looking for legal compensation for expenses, not profit.
Still, the videos inflicted a toll on the group. It has turned to the public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker to help in its defense. The firm sent a memo on Monday night that discouraged the media from covering the videos.
“The extremists who entered Planned Parenthood labs under false pretenses violated research protocol, and, worse, violated the privacy of patients involved,” the memo stated. “Those patients’ privacy should not be further violated by having this footage shared by the media.”
Most Democrats have come to the defense of Planned Parenthood.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Religious groups that refuse abortion counseling no longer can get grants to help trafficking victims unless they ensure the counseling is provided by a third party, under new guidelines by the Department of Health and Human Services.
In guidance quietly posted online in June, the agency said groups competing for grants must offer "the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care," which includes abortion counseling and referrals. If groups don't offer the services, they must propose an alternative approach to remain competitive for a grant.
That has at least one anti-abortion advocate contending the new policy may violate the federal Weldon Amendment, a law saying federal money can't be awarded if it's being used to discriminate against healthcare entities that won't provide or refer women for abortions.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, which stages a big anti-abortion march in Washington every January, called the policy change legally questionable.
"We need to ask if this is legal," Mancini said. "I think it is terrible the Obama administration is willing to put abortion policy ahead of good, loving services to these women who have already gone through the mot undignified treatment of people that could happen."
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Guess which ObamaCare case will be headed to the Supreme Court next? At least, that’s the option open for the Little Sisters of the Poor and their defense team at The Becket Fund for the restoration of a temporary injunction against compliance with the HHS mandate. The 10th Circuit handed the nuns a defeat this morning, vacating the earlier temporary injunction ordered by a lower court:
Moments ago, in a departure from the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of the Little Sisters of the Poorlast year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Little Sisters must comply with the government’s HHS mandate. This mandate forces religious ministries to violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties …The Tenth Circuit heard oral argument in this case December of last year, when for the first time since the case began, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, delivered a public statement on the case (see statement here).Today the Tenth Circuit ruled that government can force the Little Sisters to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties. The court held that participating in the government’s contraception delivery scheme is “as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax for, or registering to vote” and that although the Sisters sincerely believe that participating in the scheme “make[s] them complicit in the overall delivery scheme,” the court “ultimately rejects the merits of this claim,” because the court believes the scheme relieves [the Little Sisters] from complicity.”The Little Sisters and their attorneys are closely reviewing the court’s decision and will decide soon whether they must seek relief from the Supreme Court.“We will keep on fighting for the Little Sisters, even if that means having to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Daniel Blomberg, Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.The Court’s order similarly harms Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic ministries through which the Little Sisters obtain their health coverage.
This means that the Little Sisters of the Poor will be forced to comply with the mandate or face ruinous penalties, even while appealing their denial of religious exemption by HHS. The idea that Catholic nuns are somehow required to provide contraception through their insurer to their employees — who had to know that Catholic nuns would be the last group one would ask for contraception — demonstrates just how ridiculous this mandate is.
The decision, which is very lengthy, was unanimous on the issues for the LSP nuns. The sole dissent in part addresses the way this decision broadly addresses the impact on self-insuring non-profits:
Today the Court holds, among other things, that the ACA contraceptive Mandate’s accommodation scheme does not substantially burden religious non-profits that object to facilitating contraceptive or abortifacient coverage because opting out does not cause, authorize, or otherwise facilitate such coverage.1 The Court’s opinion provides perhaps the most thorough explanation of the accommodation scheme’s nuanced mechanics that I have yet read. And for argument’s sake, I follow its holding as to the insured plaintiffs’ and Little Sisters plaintiffs’ RFRA claims.2 But I cannot join the Court’s holding as to the other self-insured plaintiffs’ RFRA claims, as that holding contradicts the Court’s own reasoning and thorough explanation of the accommodation scheme.In reality, the accommodation scheme forces the self-insured plaintiffs to perform an act that causes their beneficiaries to receive religiously objected-to coverage. The fines the government uses to compel this act thus impose a substantial burden on the selfinsured plaintiffs’ religious exercise. Moreover, less restrictive means exist to achieve the government’s contraceptive coverage goals here. I must therefore dissent in part.
The difference demonstrates a well-known weakness in the LSP case, which is how their insurance was structured. The LSP organization has less direct control over its insurance thanks to its use of a kind of co-op, and that was apparently enough for the 10th Circuit to rule that compliance with the HHS accommodation does not actually facilitate the use of contraceptives. Politically, this case is embarrassing for the Obama administration, but HHS has a somewhat stronger case here than with other religious organizations.
The Becket Fund had success in getting the Supreme Court to order a temporary injunction for LSP under the previous accommodation. It appears that they’ll have to try that path again to keep the nuns on the job providing hospice care as part of their exercise of religious liberty.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Despite repeatedly losing its cases over the Obamacare contraceptive mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that it will continue to force religious organizations to distribute contraceptives – including the “week-after pill” – to their employees.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Massachusetts welfare officials promised the federal government that they will take steps to correct problems with the state's food stamp program, including hiring more staff. However, the food stamp program just lost around 11 percent of its staff to an early retirement incentive.
"You have truly a brain drain with a system that's extremely new and extremely flawed," said Patricia Baker, senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.
Michelle Hillman, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said, "We continue to assess the positions vacated due to early retirement and will prioritize based upon need and compliance with our corrective action plan."
The state has the authority to use up to 20 percent of the savings from the retirement incentive to hire new employees to fill critical jobs. It has not yet determined which positions will be filled.
The problems date back to a modernization of the food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, instituted in 2014, in response to reports of welfare fraud. The Department of Transitional Assistance created a new electronic management system that checked multiple sources of data to determine a recipient's eligibility, then began to automatically cut off benefits based on the results of online checks. The department instituted a new phone system. It centralized case processing, replacing a regional system.
As The Republican / MassLive.com previously reported, the modernization resulted in a huge drop in food stamp caseloads. Advocates for the poor said people were being needlessly kicked off the program and were having trouble reaching caseworkers to reinstate their benefits.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Monday, June 22, 2015
[VIDEO] MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber Had Bigger Role in ObamaCare Than Previously Believed, Emails Show
The ObamaCare consultant who once mocked the “stupidity of the American voter” had a bigger impact on the healthcare law than previously known, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.
Jonathan Gruber frequently contacted Obama administration officials via email while crafting ObamaCare, according to the newspaper.
The Journal said that previously unreleased messages show that Gruber repeatedly messaged the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) between January, 2009 and March, 2010.
He offered advice on healthcare policy and informed officials about media and lawmaker interviews concerning ObamaCare, the report added.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told the newspaper that the communications disprove Gruber’s past assertions that he was a limited participant in creating the healthcare law.
The House Oversight Committee chairman added that his committee had obtained 20,000 pages emails after working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where Gruber is an economist.
“His proximity to HHS and the White House was a whole lot tighter than they admitted,” Chaffetz said of Gruber’s relationship with the Obama administration, according to the Journal.
“There’s no doubt he was a much more integral part of this than they’ve said,” he added.
Chaffetz also said on Sunday he has sent HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell a letter for additional information over Gruber’s contract with her agency.
Outrage erupted last year when video footage emerged of Gruber insulting the American electorate over ObamaCare.
He was filmed in 2013 reportedly praising “the stupidity of the American voter” for helping pass President Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform law.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Newly uncovered audio sheds light on the state of mind of the White House during the Clinton administration toward a “right-wing conspiracy” years before Hillary Clinton ever uttered the phrase.
Former Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Donna Shalala, interviewed in 1994 by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Haynes Johnson, shed light on the early attitudes of the Clinton White House. “They’ve become paranoid. Paranoia. They think people are out to get them – this right-wing conspiracy stuff,” Shalala said at the time.
The audio, which you can listen to below, was first acquired by The Washington Free Beacon from the Wisconsin Historical Society at the University of Wisconsin. Quotes from the interview were featured in the 1996 book, The System, written by Johnson with David Broder, which focused on the 1990s health care debate, but were not attributed to any specific person until now.
“There is a feeling in the White House,” Shalala said, “and I don’t know whether it’s [James] Carville or [Paul] Begala or who’s giving them the materials. But sitting on the desks of their staff there’s these materials on this right-wing conspiracy. My reaction to that is, ‘So what? So what’s new?'”
“[The Clintons are] feeling sorry for themselves. They talk about [conspiracies] all the time,” she added. “That there really is a conspiracy out there to get us. That we don’t have a chance, people don’t understand how much good we’ve done. Our message isn’t getting across because these people are beating us up.”
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