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Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing the agency’s massive taxpayer-funded multimedia campaign designed to promote the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and other HHS policy initiatives. According to the records obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a March 23, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 11-608)), the total cost of the campaign, which targets Obama’s electoral coalition, could reach as much as $200 million.

Among the highlights from the documents:

  • An April 27, 2010 Department of Health and Human Services Acquisition Plan entitled “National Multimedia & Education Campaign & Grassroots Outreach,” details a comprehensive five-year communications program covering a variety of HHS policy initiatives, including “health care reform.”
  • According to a section of the Acquisition Plan entitled, “Independent Government Cost Estimate,” the Health and Human Services ASPA (Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs) states: “ASPA is unable to provide a definitive government cost estimate. Campaigns vary is [sic] size and scope. Some campaigns involve radio, some TV, and some print. Other campaigns may involve all of those avenues plus on ground events, website, bus tours, etc.” However, ASPA “is letting this contract in order produce three to four campaigns per year through the life-cycle of the contract. We are requesting a contract with a $200,000,000 maximum.”
  • According to a subsequent March 14, 2011, contract included among the documents, HHS hired The Ogilvy Group “to provide services to design, develop, and execute a multiplatform educational media campaign to promote the new website Healthcare.gov, including the new Spanish language version of the website.” The total amount of the contract award: $3,998,928.
  • The Ogilvy contract “task order” describes the purpose of the Healthcare.gov website: “To accompany such a monumental piece of legislation (The Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare), the law charged the Department of Health and Human Services with the creation of a website to aide Americans about the health insurance coverage options available to them.” (U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has deemed the HHS online program “state-sponsored propaganda.”)
  • The Ogilvy contract also describes the “audiences” that will receive “targeted messaging” during the campaign: “Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Young People, Women/Mothers,” all considered key target demographics for the Obama reelection campaign.
  • According to the Ogilvy contract, HHS sought to receive “media training” in the following areas, among others: “controlling your message,” “handling hostile interviews,” “artful repetition,” “identifying loaded questions” and “being persuasive.”

HHS describes in detail the key to success of the propaganda campaign in the “Statement of Work” accompanying the 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. It is by understanding the importance of these characteristics that health and program-related messages can be targeted to the beneficiary in effective ways.”

“There is nothing educational about this Obamacare propaganda campaign to force ‘behavioral changes’ on Americans. These records prove the administration is using taxpayer dollars to manipulate public opinion. It also appears the Obama administration is trying to get a leg-up in the reelection campaign by targeting key Obama constituencies with positive and misleading messages about the president’s ‘signature’ policy initiative,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This Big Brother campaign is most certainly underhanded, potentially unlawful, and it must be stopped. If Congress is looking for a place to trim the deficit, this is a good place to start.”

In November 2010, Judicial Watch obtained documents from the Obama HHS regarding a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith. The Obama Administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October 2010 to educate “Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.” However, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, the advertisements intentionally misinformed the American people.

Lawsuit Marks One Year Anniversary of Obamacare Bill Signing; Previous Documents Uncovered by Judicial Watch Indicate HHS Spent Millions on “Misleading” Obamacare Advertisements Featuring Actor Andy Griffith

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Washington, DC — March 24, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain records related to the creation and funding of advertisements pushing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Case No. 11-608)). Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 23, 2011, which marked the one year anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law.On December 15, 2010, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with HHS seeking the following information: “All records concerning the creation and/or funding of advertisements on the Affordable Care Act.” On December 17, 2010, Judicial Watch received confirmation from HHS that its request was received. Judicial Watch received additional confirmation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a component of HHS, on January 14, 2011. By law, a response to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request was due no later than February 14, 2011. However, to date, no documents have been produced. Moreover, HHS has failed to indicate when a response is forthcoming.In November 2010, Judicial Watch separately obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services regarding a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith. The Obama Administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October 2010 to educate “Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.”However, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, the advertisements intentionally misinform the American people:

Would the sheriff of Mayberry mislead you about Medicare? Alas, yes. In a new TV spot from the Obama administration, actor Andy Griffith, famous for his 1960s portrayal of the top law enforcement official in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., touts benefits of the new health care law. Griffith tells his fellow senior citizens, “like always, we’ll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits.” But the truth is that the new [Obamacare] law is guaranteed to result in benefit cuts for one class of Medicare beneficiaries — those in private Medicare Advantage plans.

“The first year of Obamacare has been marked by lies, secrecy, and contempt for the rule of law. In light of the millions of dollars we know the Obama administration spent on misleading Andy Griffith advertisements, American taxpayers deserve to know just how much of their money has been used to fund Obamacare propaganda,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Today the courts have put Obamacare in legal limbo and the last thing the Obama administration should be doing is using taxpayer dollars to run an Obamacare misinformation campaign.”

As if government wasn’t bloated enough, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will hire more than 1,000 new employees to monitor the implementation of Obamacare and the agency will spend an extra $93 million just to promote compliance in the first year.That’s because Obama’s hostile takeover of the nation’s healthcare system has created a “major challenge” for the IRS and the “largest set of tax law changes in more than 20 years.” At least that’s how the agency is justifying the costly additions in its 2012 budget request to Congress.The healthcare law will require additional resources to, among other things, build new information technology systems, modify existing tax processing systems and provide taxpayer outreach and assistance, according to the IRS budget request. There will also be other expenses for things such as resolving taxpayer “issues” in a timely and accurate manner and conducting “focused examinations to encourage compliance.”If this seems a bit murky, the detailed budget request provides some examples of what some of these things mean. For instance, the agency needs $34.4 million to hire 100 full-time staffers that will perform “new health coverage information reporting” and $22.2 million so that 150 employees can assist taxpayers in understanding the new provisions. It seems that these new divisions fall under taxpayer outreach or perhaps the innovative issue resolution department.A staff of around 84 will be hired at a cost of $9.9 million to “strengthen oversight of exempt hospitals” and $11.5 million will help create a tanning salon taskforce with 81 employees. Under Obamacare indoor tanning businesses must pay a 10% excise tax and the new division will assure that 25,000 facilities around the nation are complying. These appear to fall under “focused examinations to encourage compliance,” though it’s hard to say.The IRS also needs to hire more than 200 new agents to handle other tax law changes related to Obama’s catastrophic $787 billion stimulus, according to its budget request. As for Obamacare compliance requests, they can expect to grow since the law won’t even be fully implemented for several more years.

A top Democratic adviser convicted in a major political scandal as a legislative aide will help lead a new initiative to defend President Obama’s highly unpopular healthcare overhaul.Despite her shady past, the consultant (Tanya Bjork) was hired by Obama to head his 2008 presidential campaign in Wisconsin. Now she’ll join forces with another one of the president’s top campaign strategists (Paul Tewes) to fend off Republican criticism of Obamacare through the 2012 elections.Although the president has filled many sound bites chastising special-interest money in politics, funding for the new group is being kept secret. It’s fair to assume however, that the payroll will be quite exorbitant considering the players involved in the new Obamacare defense initiative are high-profile Democratic “political consultants” who command big bucks for their work.Organizers assure they’ll operate independently of the White House and Democrats in Congress, though they acknowledge that they will “be in communication with them.” This may be difficult to swallow considering the cause and who’s running the momentous new enterprise, which is expected to be headquartered a stone’s throw from the Oval Office.The healthcare law defense initiative will be largely headed by Tewes, a key figure in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and the man credited with his shocking Iowa Caucus victory. In fact, Tewes is touted by his Washington D.C. consulting firm (New Partners) as the guy who launched “Obama’s historic campaign” by building the “largest grassroots organization in caucus history.”Bjork is also expected to be an important player Obamacare’s defense, despite her corrupt past which has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media. In 2005 she was convicted for her role in the largest political scandal in Wisconsin history. As chief of staff to a state senator from Milwaukee, Bjork altered records and illegally solicited campaign funds in the capitol. The senator, Brian Burke, eventually got convicted as part of a widespread investigation into the illegal use of taxpayer resources for political campaigning.After working on Obama’s presidential campaign Wisconsin’s former governor, Democrat Jim Doyle, awarded Bjork with a six-figure job to lead the state’s federal lobbying effort. The move ignited fury among government watchdog groups that claimed corruption was still prevalent in state politics.

In the latest of many scandals to rock the administration that promised change and a new level of transparency, a disproportionately high number of Obamacare waivers are being granted to the president’s allies in a secretive process.Essentially, the administration is exempting its financial supporters from some of the more burdensome provisions of the healthcare reform law, which President Obama touts as a “new set of rules that treats everybody honestly and treats everybody fairly.” Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services decide which companies are off the hook and Americans are being kept in the dark.In early October Judicial Watch filed a public records request to obtain information on the shady deals, but the Obama Health Department flipped the finger and Judicial Watch was forced to sue a few weeks ago. The agency blew off its legally required deadline to produce the records without providing any sort of justification for withholding them, a common occurrence when the government wants to keep damaging information from the public.A senior White House adviser under George W. Bush sheds light on what that could be in this particular case. In a story (“ObamaCare Rewards Friends, Punishes Enemies”) published this week by a mainstream newspaper, Karl Rove reveals that most of the 222 waivers granted so far have gone to administration allies.Over a third of the more than 1.5 million employees covered by the waivers are union members even though unionized workers make up only 7% of the private workforce, Rove points out. So far 43 union organizations have been granted Obamacare waivers and the number could easily keep growing, although the true extent won’t be known until the process becomes transparent.Obama is also shamelessly helping those who supported his hostile takeover of the nation’s healthcare system. For instance, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a key player in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is exempt from many of the law’s most costly provisions. Among them are mandates and rate reviews on its lucrative health plans and hefty new taxes on insurance companies. AARP will also be exempt from a $500,000 cap on executive compensation for insurance executives.It’s the president’s way of thanking the influential and politically-connected national group for spending tens of millions of dollars on ads and lobbying on behalf of his healthcare overahaul.

Judicial Watch Investigates Charge HHS is Unlawfully Rationing Healthcare by Targeting FDA-approved Medical Treatment Based on Cost

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Washington, DC — January 5, 2011
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a lawsuit on January 3, 2011, against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding a controversial decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to undertake a one-year review of the prostate cancer treatment Provenge to determine if the treatment is “reasonable and necessary” and should therefore be reimbursed (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Case No. 11-002)).
Provenge, the first ever therapeutic vaccine cancer treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was shown to have extended life spans by an average of four months in clinical trials with few side effects. It costs $93,000 to administer the three necessary treatments. Medicare and the FDA are legally prohibited from denying approval of a medical treatment based solely on cost.
Yet multiple press reports suggest that cost is the major factor in the unusual decision by CMS to undertake a review of the treatment which could signal a move by the Obama administration to begin implementing healthcare rationing based on the cost of treatments.
Judicial Watch’s original FOIA request, filed on November 9, 2010, seeks the following information: “All records concerning CMS’s national coverage analysis of the vaccine Provenge, including but not limited to the criteria being used to analyze Provenge.”Health and Human Services was required by law to respond to Judicial Watch’s request by December 15, 2010. However, to date, the agency has failed to provide any documents or indicate why documents should be withheld. Nor has it indicated when a response is forthcoming.CMS Administrator Donald Berwick is on record supporting the idea of rationing healthcare based on cost. Berwick said the following in a June 2009 interview with Biotechnology Healthcare: “The social budget is limited — we have a limited resource pool. It makes terribly good sense to at least know the price of an added benefit, and at some point we might say nationally, regionally, or locally that we wish we could afford it, but we can’t…
The decision is not whether or not we will ration care, the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”Owing to the controversy surrounding Berwick’s statements, President Obama bypassed Senate confirmation and made Berwick a “recess appointment,” a decision criticized by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.“The Obama administration claims there is no merit to the charge that the Provenge decision is the first step in implementing healthcare rationing so why not release these records? What does the Obama administration have to hide? Provenge is an FDA approved drug that has a proven track record and the Obama administration has no legal right to deny this treatment based on its cost. But the American people are right to be concerned about this Provenge review, given the fact that a man dubbed ‘Death Panel Donald’ Berwick is in charge of Medicare and Medicaid,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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Washington, DC — January 4, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a lawsuit on December 30, 2010, against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain records regarding the agency’s decision to grant “waivers” to companies and unions seeking to be exempt from requirements of Public Health Services Act Section 2711, President Obama’s healthcare reform law (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Case No. 10-2328)). According to HHS’s own estimate, at least 222 companies and unions have received waivers from the law, commonly known as Obamacare.With its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, Judicial Watch seeks the following information:

A. All records concerning the decision to grant waivers of the Annual Limits Requirements of PHS Act Section 2711; andB. All communications between McDonald’s Corp. and HHS concerning Annual Limits Requirements.The time frame for this request is from March 2010 to the present.

Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on October 7, 2010. HHS was required by law to respond by November 8, 2010. However, to date, HHS has failed to produce any records or to provide a justification for withholding responsive records. Nor has the agency indicated when a response is forthcoming.In September 2010, McDonald’s corporation announced it would have to eliminate a health insurance program for nearly 30,000 low wage employees due to an Obamacare requirement that 80 to 85% of all insurance premium revenue be spent on patient care. Due to the high administrative costs associated with this type of health coverage program (known as a mini-med plan), McDonald’s insurer indicated it could not possibly meet the Obamacare requirement. HHS provided McDonald’s a one-year waiver concerning the Obamacare mandate and has been deluged with waiver requests from hundreds of other companies and unions since.The Wall Street Journal deemed the McDonald’s waiver request, “one of the clearest indications that new [Obamacare] rules may disrupt workers’ health plans as the law ripples through the real world.”President Obama’s healthcare reform law does not specify which companies or unions should receive waivers for its requirements and under what circumstances. Critics of how HHS has chosen to handle these waiver requests highlight the haphazard nature of the approval process and the fact that companies able to secure these coveted Obamacare exemptions are given an unfair competitive advantage over their rivals.“The Obama administration is the most secretive in modern times. The Obamacare waiver fiasco is exactly the type of chaos that ensues when the federal government attempts to seize control of a large sector of the private economy. And Kathleen Sebelius’s HHS is willing to violate the Freedom of Information Act to keep Americans in the dark about this Obamacare failure. Secretary Sebelius might want to begin her implementation of Obamacare by obeying federal law regarding public records. The Obama administration’s slapdash handling of these waiver requests has created an enormous potential for political favoritism and influence peddling. The Obama administration must make this waivers completely transparent to the American people so they can be assured, in the least, that the process is not infected by corruption,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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