The director of the new agency created to oversee the government takeover of the nation’s healthcare system was the Chairman and Executive Officer of a Maryland company that cheated taxpayers out of more than $74 million in Medicaid overpayments.One can only imagine what he will do in his new role as Obamacare’s top dog in charge of regulating and controlling the lucrative, private insurance market. At the president’s new Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), Steve Larsen will have an incredible amount of power and influence in a number of areas with no oversight.As head of the agency, Larsen, the one-time CEO of Amerigroup Maryland and the state’s former insurance commissioner, will oversee four divisions with widespread power; the Office of Oversight, the Office of Insurance Programs, the Office of Consumer Support, and the Office of Health Insurance Exchanges. The divisions are responsible for everything from “crafting and enforcing new insurance regulations” in the private market to overseeing state-based insurance exchanges for individuals and businesses.When Larsen ran Amerigroup Maryland, the company was embroiled in a huge corruption scandal for billing Uncle Sam for medical services that about 90,000 low-income residents never received in the District of Columbia. Amerigroup was one of three healthcare contractors involved in the $100 million scheme, which was exposed in 2007 by D.C.’s Office of the Inspector General.Larsen’s Deputy Director at the CCIIO is Liz Fowler, the former vice president of health benefits giant WellPoint, which serves around 33 million people. As a top staffer for the U.S. Senator (Max Baucus) who drafted and helped pass Obamacare, Fowler played a key role in crafting the bill’s language.What better way to reward her than to put her in charge of consumer issues and oversight of the nation’s entire healthcare system?The CCIIO also has four deputy directors that each runs a main office, but no one is really sure who they are or their qualifications. The agency’s organizational chart only lists Larsen and a Timothy Hill, who evidently has left because the position is currently vacant, according to the CCIIO’s website.The entire process surrounding the Obama Administration’s hostile takeover of the nation’s healthcare system has been veiled in secrecy. Judicial Watch has sued the administration to make the information public. Last year JW obtained documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding closed-door healthcare meetings between union officials and Vice President Joe Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then-Obamacare Czar Nancy-Ann Min DeParle.This week JW obtained thousands of pages of additional documents involving the administration’s secretive process in granting waivers exempting companies and unions from inconvenient provisions of Obamacare. As of July 2011, 1,472 one-year waivers and 106 three-year waivers were granted, covering some 3.4 million enrollees, more than half of which belong to unions. Yet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, union members account for only about 12% of the total workforce.
3,497 Pages of Documents Include HHS Correspondence and Internal Emails Regarding Obamacare Waivers
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Obama HHS Spends Millions of Taxpayer Dollars on “Guerrilla Campaign” to Track Search Engine Web Traffic and Push Internet Search Engine Users to Government Website Promoting Obamacare; Propaganda Campaign Targets Key Obama Campaign Voter Demographics
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- The Obama HHS launched a campaign to track Internet searches and to use online search engines such as Google and Yahoo to drive traffic to a government website promoting Obama’s healthcare overhaul. Using “pay-per-click” advertising tools, such as Google Adwords, HHS purposely targeted for influence people searching the term “Obamacare,” a word that has been described as “disparaging” by political agents of the president. One HHS email details:
A few keyword groups continue to be top performers, and have subsequently driven most of the traffic to the campaign websites:
- Affordable Care Act, including such terms as health care reform, government health insurance, Obamacare, and affordable care act.
- Health Insurance Group, including terms as health insurance.
- Health Care Group, including terms as health care.
While other keyword groups have not performed as well, and are not driving significant traffic to the campaign websites:
- Health Insurance, Health insurance options, Medical Insurance, and Insurance companies
- According to a budget summary prepared by Ogilvy, from October 2010 through February 2011, the Obama administration spent $1,435,009 on these online advertisements alone, including advertising campaigns with Google and Yahoo, almost $300,000 per month.
- According to a December 10, 2010, email from Margo Gillman, Senior VP of Ogilvy Public Relations to Jenny Backus, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and the Principal Deputy for Strategy and Planning for HHS, the Obama White House was involved in coordinating the HHS propaganda campaign:
Just a quick note to see if you have any feedback/direction on how we should proceed with the radio and TV concepts that were presented a few weeks ago. You mentioned on our last call that you were planning to discuss them with the White House on either Friday or yesterday. We would appreciate any guidance that you can provide, so we can determine immediate next steps and a production schedule. Also, we are awaiting your feedback on the overarching strategic campaign plan.
Another HHS internal email dated December 1, 2010, from then-HHS official Jaime Mulligan to agency colleagues references the need to present recommendations to the White House regarding a number of components of the Obamacare campaign, including “a big guerilla campaign splash…” (Mulligan is currently the White House New Media Analyst for Public Health.)
- A number of documents address the need to target the Obamacare propaganda campaign to Hispanics, blacks, and women. For example, according to an email from Chris Beakey, Vice President of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, to HHS officials on December 16, 2010, summarizing a conference call, “You want to utilize the bulk of their paid media efforts (which would include expenditures for Radio One and Univision) on media that reaches African Americans and Hispanics. The money will go farther and these audiences continue to be a top priority.” A January 18, 2011, email from Ogilvy to HHS New Media Communications Director Julia Eisman notes with respect to a Spanish banner ad campaign, “I realize we really can’t use the blond mom and child for this audience.”
- An October 25, 2010, email from Julia Eisman to Imani Green, Senior Vice President and Director of Paid Media for Ogilvy Washington suggests changing the online advertising campaign to accommodate web traffic patterns caused by the mid-term elections: “Given the high performance, we’re wondering if we should we consider reallocating resources from the lesser performing words and put more $$ to ‘Obamacare’ – at least for the next 7 days,” she suggests.
In previous documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, HHS describes in detail the key to success of the propaganda campaign in a “Statement of Work” accompanying the agency’s Acquisition Plan: “Health and program-related messages are processed by the target audience according to a particular reality, which he or she experiences. Attitudes, feelings, values, needs, desires, behaviors and beliefs all play a part in the individual’s decision to accept information and make a behavioral change.” [Emphasis added.] These documents suggest the total cost of the Obamacare propaganda campaign could reach as much as $200 million.“The Obama administration is using taxpayer dollars to manipulate public opinion regarding his socialist healthcare overhaul while also trying to get a leg up in the 2012 presidential campaign,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The American people should be disturbed that the Obama administration is using taxpayer funds to try to brainwash people simply searching the Internet for information on health care. This Big Brother campaign is underhanded, potentially unlawful, and it must be stopped. As the congressional ‘super-committee’ begins negotiations to cut the deficit, this wasteful Obamacare propaganda campaign is the first place they should look.”
- Full document production (2300 pages, ~250MB) – August 5, 2011
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We are pleased that the House Judiciary Committee has followed Judicial Watch’s lead and is investigating Justice Kagan’s role as Obama’s solicitor general in crafting a defense of Obamacare.The stakes are high regarding Kagan’s participation in Obamacare litigation. The U.S. Supreme Court is all but certain to decide whether or not Obamacare passes constitutional muster.Justice Kagan suggested during her confirmation testimony that she was merely a disinterested bystander during legal discussions about Obamacare. However, the documents Judicial Watch pried loose from the Obama Justice Department suggest otherwise. Justice Kagan and her key deputies were heavily involved in crafting a legal defense for Obamacare.
Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit has been consolidated with a similar FOIA lawsuit that had been first filed against the Department of Justice by the Media Research Center. The lawsuits are now both before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The documents were first produced in the Media Research litigation. Both the Media Research Center and Judicial Watch continue to seek additional documents.
Legislative “power grab” has “overstepped the Commerce Clause’s boundaries…”
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…the Supreme Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence requires that Congress regulate an activity, as opposed to not engaging in an activity…. Common sense alone compels the conclusion that an individual who does not purchase health insurance has not taken an action or exerted effort. The individual does not even need to take a “mental action.” The individual does not need to make a decision not to purchase health insurance; the individual simply will not purchase health insurance.Since Congress has regulated this passivity, Congress has overstepped the Commerce Clause’sboundaries in attempting to regulate Appellants. Indeed, it seems that Congress has put the cart before the horse. In an effort to regulate Appellants, Congress is attempting to compel them into action through the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).
Recognizing the “weak underpinnings” of its conclusion that those who do nothing are performing an activity, the lower court attempted to bolster its argument by reasoning that Congress can regulate individuals today because someday everyone will seek medical treatment and this will have an effect on interstate commerce. However, as Judicial Watch noted, in United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), the Supreme Court dismissed this approach as “pil[ing] inference upon inference.” The Supreme Court reasoned, “If we were to accept [such] arguments we are hard pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate.”“Obamacare represents an unprecedented government power grab. And if Obamacare is allowed to remain the law of the land, the federal government’s ability to run our lives will be virtually unlimited,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Obamacare is seen by many a fundamental threat to our nation’s constitutional order. We hope this court abides by the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent and rules Obamacare unconstitutional.”As Judicial Watch noted in its brief, by current count, at least 20 lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare, with the “individual mandate” representing the main point of contention. Two courts have ruled this mandate unconstitutional, while three other federal courts, including the lower court in this case, have upheld the constitutionality of the mandate.
Kagan Directs Staff to “Be Involved” in Crafting Defense of Obamacare; Scolds Justice Colleague on the Issue of Her Participation: “This Needs to be Coordinated…You Should not Say Anything about This before Talking to Me.”
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Subject: Re: Health Care Defense:Brian, Elena would definitely like OSG [Office of Solicitor General] to be involved in this set of issues…we will bring in Elena as needed. [The “set of issues” refers to another email calling for assembling a group to figure out “how to defend against the…health care proposals that are pending.”]
On March 21, 2010, Katyal urged Kagan to attend a health care litigation meeting that was evidently organized by the Obama White House: “This is the first I’ve heard of this. I think you should go, no? I will, regardless, but feel like this is litigation of singular importance.”In another email exchange that took place on January 8, 2010, Katyal’s Department of Justice colleague Brian Hauck asked Katyal about putting together a group to discuss challenges to Obamacare. “Could you figure out the right person or people for that?” Hauck asked. “Absolutely right on. Let’s crush them,” Katyal responded. “I’ll speak with Elena and designate someone.”However, following the May 10, 2010, announcement that President Obama would nominate Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, Katyal position changed significantly as he began to suggest that Kagan had been “walled off” from Obamacare discussions.For example, the documents included the following May 17, 2010, exchange between Kagan, Katyal and Tracy Schmaler, a DOJ spokesperson:
Shmaler to Katyal, Subject HCR [Health Care Reform] litigation: “Has Elena been involved in any of that to the extent SG ]Solicitor General’s] office was consulted?…Katyal to Schmaler: “No she has never been involved in any of it. I’ve run it for the office, and have never discussed the issues with her one bit.”Katyal (forwarded to Kagan): “This is what I told Tracy about Health Care.”Kagan to Schmaler: “This needs to be coordinated. Tracy you should not say anything about this before talking to me.”
Included among the documents is a Vaughn index, a privilege log which describes records that are being withheld in whole or in part by the Justice Department. The index provides further evidence of Kagan’s involvement in Obamacare-related discussions.For example, Kagan was included in an email chain (March 17–18, 2010) in which the following subject was discussed: “on what categories of legal arguments may arise and should be prepared in the anticipated lawsuit.” The subject of the email was “Health Care.” Another email chain on March 21, 2010, entitled “Health care litigation meeting,” references an “internal government meeting regarding the expected litigation.” Kagan is both author and recipient in the chain.The index also references a series of email exchanges on May 17, 2010, between Kagan and Obama White House lawyers and staff regarding Kagan’s “draft answer” to potential questions about recusal during the Supreme Court confirmation process. The White House officials involved include: Susan Davies, Associate White House Counsel; Daniel Meltzer, then-Principal Deputy White House Counsel; Cynthia Hogan, Counsel to the Vice President; and Ronald Klain, then-Chief of Staff for Vice President Biden. The DOJ is refusing to produce this draft answer.The Vaughn index also describes a March 24, 2010, email exchange between Associate Attorney General Beth Brinkmann and Michael Dreeben, Kagan’s Deputy Solicitor General, with the subject header, “Health Care Challenges:” “…I had a national conference call with the Civil Chiefs. A memo also went out the day before. I am forwarding right after this. Let’s discuss if you have more ideas about what to do.”As reported by CNS News:
In the questionnaire she filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation process, Kagan said she would abide by the “letter and spirit” of 28 U.S.C. 455 in deciding whether she felt compelled to recuse herself as a Supreme Court Justice from any case that came before the High Court.According to the law, a ‘justice … shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be reasonably questioned.’ It further says any justice ‘shall also disqualify himself … [w]here he has served in governmental employment and in such capacity participated as counsel, adviser or material witness concerning the proceedings or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy.’
“Any reasonable person would read these documents and come to the same conclusion: Elena Kagan helped coordinate the Obama administration’s defense of Obamacare. And as long as the Justice Department continues to withhold key documents, the American people won’t know for sure whether her involvement would warrant her recusal from any Obamacare litigation that comes before the High Court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
More than $100 million in Obamacare grants to “reduce health disparities” between minorities and whites will also go to projects that help meet the First Lady’s goal of bringing healthy foods to the inner city.In fact, the agency that’s dishing out the cash, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is encouraging groups that can help eliminate “food deserts” in urban areas to apply for the recently announced “community transformation grants.” The goal is to reduce chronic diseases—such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease—disproportionately seen among poor and minority populations.The administration has already dedicated another federal agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to revolutionize the inner city diet by providing affordable healthy fare such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk in neighborhoods determined to be “food deserts” or poor census tracts with “low access” to a large grocery store. The agency even created an internet mapping tool (Food Desert Locator) that identifies areas with “limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.”Created by Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare grants “will empower communities with resources, information and flexibility to help make their residents healthier,” according to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. As a result the government will save millions in healthcare costs because chronic diseases are mostly caused by tobacco use, obesity, poor diet and lack of physical activity, according to the Health Department.This is why the administration is dedicating more than $100 million to help “population groups experiencing the greatest burden of chronic disease” (poor minorities) become tobacco free, more physically active and better nourished.As an example of a qualifying grant recipient the Health Department specifically lists “eliminating food deserts” and bringing healthier food to “corner markets in urban areas.”
Among the more clever provisions of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul is a billion-dollar initiative the administration guarantees will “save lives” by putting an end to “millions of preventable injuries and complications in patient care.” This, in turn, will improve care and lower costs.How exactly will this be accomplished? The administration isn’t offering those sorts of details, but this week it proudly announced that it has allocated the first half—$500 million—of the funding for the innovative project (Partnership for Patients) that will end up saving $50 billion in healthcare costs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.The taxpayer dollars will be distributed through the Community Based Care Transitions Program (CCTP), a quasi agency created to help execute Obama’s hostile takeover of the nation’s healthcare system. The other $500 million will go directly to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center. Both chunks of cash will be used to accomplish the same goals, according to Obama’s Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.“Americans go the hospital to get well, but millions of patients are injured because of preventable complications and accidents,” Sebelius said in a press release announcing Partnership for Patients this week. “Working closely with hospitals, doctors, nurses, patients, families and employers, we will support efforts to help keep patients safe, improve care, and reduce costs. Working together, we can help eliminate preventable harm to patients.”Around 60,000 lives will be saved by stopping millions of preventable injuries and complications in patient care, she said. The money will keep hospital patients from getting “injured or sicker” and help patients heal “without complication.” Already more than 500 hospitals as well as doctors and nurses groups and even employers and consumer groups have pledged their commitment to the new initiative, the Health Department points out.After reading the government’s lengthy announcement, it’s still quite difficult to grasp what exactly this costly program will do and how it will accomplish its rather vague goals. What is crystal clear from reading the Health Department’s information packet is that it will cost U.S.taxpayers a huge chunk of change, $1 billion.