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Billionaire Swindlers Line Up for ObamaCare Cash

July 17, 2013
By Michael Volpe 

An information technology (IT) company in line to bid on billions in new contracts as a result of ObamaCare is the subject of a growing list of scandals and investigations in which its alleged that, among a number of abuses, the company has produced low ball bids in order to win Medicaid related contracts, only to create overages that balloon the expense of the project as it is implemented.

The name of the company is Client Network Services, Inc (CNSI) and it’s headquartered in Maryland. The company will be able to bid on billions in new ObamaCare-related IT contracts because, in order for states to receive new grants for expanded Medicaid rolls, ObamaCare requires states to have IT systems that are able to share data at so-called finger-tip access. Because most states have antiquated systems, such overhauls will often require the assistance of companies like CNSI.

In March, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal canceled one such contract between CNSI and his state after it came to light that a federal grand jury was investigating the relationship between one of his top aides and CNSI.

Front Page Magazine interviewed Tom Aswell, a blogger and author from Louisiana with more than three decades of news experience. Aswell has been writing about the case from the beginning.

Aswell said he first became aware something was amiss in June 2011, when Bruce Greenstein went before the Louisiana Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to be confirmed as the secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), the equivalent of the US Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary.

During the proceedings, things became contentious and confusing when Greenstein refused to divulge the recipient of a contract to upgrade the State of Louisiana’s antiquated computer system, which electronically processed Medicaid health care claims.

Greenstein went back and forth with lawmakers for quite a while before he finally admitted it was CNSI, his own former employer. He assured the state legislators at that hearing that he created a firewall between himself and his former employer during the contractual process.

That turned out not to be true, and, instead, in March 2013, news was leaked that a federal grand jury was investigating the potentially illegal relationship between Greenstein and CNSI during the process in which this contract was awarded.

Once that came to light, not only did Jindal cancel the contract, but Greenstein resigned shortly after. Aswell said that all sorts of issues were raised with CNSI’s bid ($194 million), and a number of people in the media raised concerns that CNSI would not be able to achieve the contract for the pre-arranged price.

In 2012, Southeast Michigan Healthcare Information Exchange (SEMHIE), a multi-stakeholder initiative trying to integrate a health information exchange throughout southeast Michigan, sued CNSI for breach of contract after CNSI allegedly failed to provide SEMHIE with prior agreed upon software. An email was left unreturned by SEMHIE for this story. Jennifer Bahrami, press secretary for CNSI, also didn’t respond to an email for comment for this story.

In 2011, CNSI was accused of lowballing a contract in South Dakota, only to have expenses increase exponentially as the project wore on. A local story on the affair explained:

The South Dakota Department of Social Services has paid $49.7 million so far for a new Medicaid processing system that at this point remains inoperable.

The original contract was for $62.7 million, but the new system is now expected to cost far in excess of $80 million to complete and will take two to three more years to get running, according to court documents filed as part of a lawsuit between the contractor and the department.

The most in-depth investigation of CNSI occurred in Maine in 2006, and it was conducted by the magazine CIO, a journal for IT professionals. In that piece, CIO concluded that not only did CNSI’s system end up costing 20% more than the company’s originally bid, but its implementation was a logistical nightmare.

The department’s Bureau of Medical Services, which runs the Medicaid program, was being deluged with hundreds of calls from doctors, dentists, hospitals, health clinics and nursing homes, angry because their claims were not being paid. The new system had placed most of the rejected claims in a ‘suspended’ file for forms that contained errors.

Tens of thousands of claims representing millions of dollars were being left in limbo.

About 15 IT staffers and about 4 dozen employees from CNSI, the contractor hired to develop the system—were working 12-hour days, writing software fixes and performing adjustments so fast that Hitchings knew that key project management guidelines were beginning to fall by the wayside. And nothing seemed to help.

Because CNSI is a private company, their financials aren’t published, and thus, the exact amount of business it does with our government isn’t known. Furthermore, because most IT-related Medicaid contracts are done on the state level, tracking the amount of IT business that ObamaCare will create is also very difficult to do. It is clear that one company that should be happy with the implementation of ObamaCare is CNSI because it is without a doubt a boon to a company like it. The company’s behavior before and during the implementation of ObamaCare should therefore be watched very carefully and Front Page Magazine intends to do so.

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Saving Seniors from ObamaCare

By John C. Goodman

Two things about the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) are increasingly clear: (1) seniors have been singled out and forced to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of a new entitlement for young people and (2) the states are administratively just not ready to implement the new program in time for its January 1, 2014, start date.

So here’s a simple proposal that will not affect the federal deficit: Delay the scheduled cuts in Medicare spending by five years and pay for that expense by delaying the 2014 start date of ObamaCare by two years.

That would give everyone time to find a better way to reform the health care system. It would also impact this fall’s election. Every member of Congress would be asked to vote up or down on a single question: Who do you care more about: senior citizens or ObamaCare?

Over the next 10 years, ObamaCare will reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion. The Obama administration had hoped to achieve these spending reductions through increased efficiency, based on the results of pilot projects and demonstration programs. The problem: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said in three consecutive reports that these projects are not working as planned and are unlikely to save money. As a fallback device, the health reform law set up a bureaucracy, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), that will have the power to reduce doctor and hospital fees to such an extent that access to care for the elderly and disabled will be severely impaired.

In fact, the Medicare actuaries tell us that squeezing the providers in this way will put one-in-seven hospitals out of business in the next eight years, as Medicare fees fall below Medicaid’s. Harvard health economist Joseph Newhouse predicts senior citizens may be forced to seek care at community health centers and in the emergency rooms of safety net hospitals, just as Medicaid recipients do today.

Consider people reaching age 65 this year. Under ObamaCare, the average amount spent on these enrollees over the remainder of their lives will fall by about $36,000 at today’s prices. That sum of money is equivalent to about three years of benefits. For 55 year olds, the spending decrease is about $62,000—or the equivalent of six years of benefits. For 45 year olds, the loss is more than $105,000, or nine years of benefits.

In terms of the sheer dollars involved, the planned reduction in future Medicare payments is the equivalent of raising the eligibility age for Medicare to age 68 for today’s 65 year olds, to age 71 for 55 year olds and to age 74 for 45 year olds. But rather than keep the system as is and raise the age of eligibility, the reform law tries to achieve equivalent savings by paying less to providers. This will decrease access to care for seniors dramatically, and ultimately create a two-tiered health care system—with the elderly getting second class care.

A five-year delay in Medicare payment cuts can be paid for by pushing back the start date of ObamaCare from 2014 to 2016. The reason: Beginning in 2014, state health insurance exchanges are supposed to be up and running for individuals and families who lack access to employer-provided health coverage and do not qualify for Medicaid. But more than one-third of states (16) have done almost nothing to prepare for the exchanges. Another 20 states have made some progress but not enough. Further, health insurance exchanges will require significant investments in information technology that states simply cannot afford.

The delays contemplated here will give Congress time to replace ObamaCare’s command-and-control approach to health care with reforms that will empower patients, free doctors and allow competition in the marketplace.

In the meantime, delaying the start of these two major provisions will protect seniors, save taxpayers money and allow lawmakers time to enact health reforms that actually work.

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Do-Nothing Democrats

Senate Democrats set to reject Ryan, Obama budgets

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BY: Andrew Stiles – May 16, 2012 5:00 am

Senate Democrats are poised to continue their impressive streak of budgetary negligence on Wednesday by unanimously rejecting as many as five different budgets, including the one offered by President Obama. Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping that voters will pick up on the disturbing trend.

The Democratic-led Senate has not formally proposed a federal budget resolution in more than three years, and is not expected to offer one Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) have made explicitly clear that they have no intention of doing so before the November election.

Senate Republicans plan to offer four GOP budgets—authored by Sens. Mike Lee (R., Utah); Rand Paul (R., Ky.); Pat Toomey (R., Pa.); and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.)—as well as the president’s budget. None of them are expected to draw any support from Democrats.

It would mark the second year in a row that Senate Democrats have unanimously opposed the White House budget proposal. The House of Representatives has already voted to reject Obama’s budget 414-0.

In total, members of Congress have cast more than 500 votes in favor of what is widely seen as the official Republican budget (Ryan’s) and zero in support of the president’s plan.

It is a sign, Republicans say, that Democrats are not serious about solving what experts have called “the most predictable economic crisis in history.”

“They simply don’t want to be held accountable,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) told the Washington Free Beacon. “Either they don’t have a plan, or they are totally unwilling to tell the American people what their plan is.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said he thought the latter was true. “I actually think they do have a plan,” he told the Free Beacon. “Their goal is to increase spending and increase taxes. But that plan will be rejected by the American people.”

“If they believed their plan was popular, they’d want to put it out in front of people, vote on it, and brag about it,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “That’s not what they’re doing. They’d rather run for reelection without the American people knowing what their vision of the budget would look like. It’s one thing for me to say their plan is unpopular. That’s what they’re saying.”

Democrats have been particularly reticent to propose a credible plan to reform federal entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, despite the fact that these programs are the primary drivers of the national debt. Medicare’s trustees project that the program will be insolvent by 2024.

Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admitted that, even if Congress were to enact President Obama’s latest budget, “We would still be left with … what are still unsustainable commitments in Medicare and Medicaid.”

Obama pledged to make entitlement reform a priority as a candidate in 2008. “We’re going to have to take on entitlements, and I think we’ve got to do it quickly,” he said during a debate moderated by NBC. “I can’t guarantee that we’re going to do it in the next two years, but I’d like to do it in my first term as president.”

Nearly four years later, the closest thing to Medicare reform the president has offered is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a council of appointed “experts” given sweeping power to reduce federal reimbursements to healthcare providers. Medicare’s chief actuary, Richard Foster, has raised doubts about the board’s ability to control costs.

Ryan’s budget, on the other hand, proposes to save trillions of dollars by gradually transitioning Medicare from a “fee-for-service” model to a market-oriented “premium support” plan modeled after a bipartisan proposal co-authored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.).

Democrats have countered by accusing Republicans of trying to “end Medicare as we know it”—a charge the nonpartisan fact-checking site PolitiFact rated “Lie of The Year” in 2011—and in one case by portraying Ryan as literally throwing the elderly off a cliff.

Geithner summed up the Democratic position on entitlement reform during a House Budget Committee hearing in February when he told Ryan, “we’re not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”

President Obama and his Democratic allies have been far more resolute in their determination to raise taxes. Obama’s most recent budget calls for nearly $2 trillion in tax increases over the next decade. Conrad, the Senate budget chairman, has indicated that a similar amount would be appropriate.

Raising taxes is not something on which many politicians are eager to base their re-election campaigns. Studies have also shown that it is a particularly ineffective way to solve a nation’s debt and deficit problems. One report produced by the American Enterprise Institute examined data from a variety of countries between 1970-2007 and found “strong evidence that expenditure cuts outweigh revenue increases in successful consolidations.”

The findings echo those of a recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which concluded: “International experience shows expenditure-based fiscal consolidation tends to be more successful.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently concluded that the president’s budget, if enacted, would have a negative impact on long-term economic growth.

Ryan’s budget, on the other hand, simplifies the notoriously complex federal tax code by eliminating various loopholes and tax shelters while lowering tax rates.

Wednesday’s vote encapsulates what ought to be central issue in the 2012 campaign, Republicans say.

“This is an opportunity for the American people to assess the differences between the two parties,” a GOP budget committee aide told the Free Beacon. “We’re headed for financial disaster, and Senate Democrats are making no effort to take us off that path.”

“Republicans are actually putting forward proposals that are serious, that address the major challenges—on tax reform, entailment reform, spending reductions,” said another Republican aide. “Democrats have punted on all these issues.”

Few things better illustrate this lack of leadership more than unwillingness of Democratic lawmakers to support the president’s plan, Republicans say. Senate Democrats in all likelihood will vote in lockstep against every budget proposal, including Obama’s, and quickly move to change the subject.

“It’s a tear-off-the-Band-Aid kind of moment for them,” the GOP budget aide said. “They want to get it over with quickly so they can avoid a serious conversation about the budget.”

Even though Ryan’s budget, or any other GOP plan, has no chance of passing the Senate, Republicans want to use the moment to lay the groundwork for a winning political agenda.

“This is preparation for a Romney presidency,” Norquist said. “Republicans can line up and vote for an actual, written down budget. If Romney wins, they can turn and say, ‘I was elected to do this.’ That’s not something Obama could say about anything he did.”

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Side Effects: Obamacare Adds $17 Trillion to Long-Term Unfunded Government Spending

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Last week, the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff released a report revealing that, over the next 75 years, Obamacare will add an additional $17 trillion in unfunded obligations—i.e., the benefits promised by the federal government that haven’t yet been paid for.

Before Obamacare, federal programs were already responsible for racking up 75-year unfunded obligations of an astounding $65 trillion. According to the report, Medicare accounted for $38 trillion, Medicaid was responsible for over $20 trillion, and Social Security added $7 trillion.

With the enactment of Obamacare, projected federal unfunded obligations have increased by $17 trillion, now totaling $82 trillion. Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion and new exchange subsidies are largely to blame.

The number was deduced from the Administration’s own estimates, the report explains:

The $17 trillion figure…is based on the long-term model used by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Service to estimate federal health expenditures over a 75-year period. The assumptions and methodology used to build the model is from [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] Office of the Actuary. Data on the cost of the Medicaid expansion and the premium subsidies in the 10-year window is from the Administration and the Congressional Budget Office.

Clearly, Obamacare is not just bad health care policy; American taxpayers can’t afford it. As Senator Jeff Sessions (R–AL), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said, “President Obama told the American people that his health law would cost $900 billion over ten years and that it would not add ‘one dime’ to the debt.… This health law adds an entirely new obligation—one we cannot pay for—and puts the entire financing of the United States government in jeopardy.”

Obamacare may have been passed under a cloak of fiscal responsibility, but the facts continue to show otherwise. At a time when $1 trillion-plus deficits have become the norm and the United States faces ever-increasing debt, we simply cannot afford an unpopular government overhaul of health care that exacerbates our financial crisis.

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