Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Obamacare Website Drops Section on 'How to Keep Your Doctor'

    "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" was President Obama's primary catchphrase he used to sell the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to the American people. Now Obamacare's flagship website, Healthcare.gov, no longer even addresses the issue.
    Ironically, the section in question was the first public (if indirect) admission by the Obama administration that the president's promise was less than a "guarantee." As THE WEEKLY STANDARD first reported in July 2013, the website told consumers that they "may be able to keep your current doctor," in contrast to the president's unequivocal statement: "Here is a guarantee that I've made.If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. If you've got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor."
    The original website contained a section entitled "Can I keep my own doctor", later revised to "How to keep your doctor." A version of the website as of last October can be seen here:

    Just before open enrollment began last year, however, this section was dropped. Now the same link takes users to a section entitled "How to pick a health insurance plan". (The internet address that contains the words "keep-your-doctor" redirects to an address ending with "plan-types".)

    The closest the website comes to mentioning the president's "keep your doctor" commitment is, "To be certain your doctor is included in your plan’s network, contact the plan or provider for the most up-to-date information."
    Earlier this year, the White House also removed the "Reality Check" from its own website where "Linda Douglass of the White House Office of Health Reform debunks the myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors."

    The Reality Check link now directs visitors to a more generic "Health Reform" page that includes no mention of the promise regarding keeping your doctor. An August 2009 blog post called "Facts are stubborn things" can still be found on the website, but is not linked from the new Health Reform page. In that post, the White House asserted, "For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them."
    Open enrollment for the 2017 coverage year under the Affordable Care Act begins on November 1, 2016. New enrollees with questions keeping their doctors will face their own reality check with little in the way of answers.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Iran Received $1.3B Balance Within Two Months of Initial $400M Cash Payment

    Less than two months after Iran received $400 million in foreign currency in January, the top state sponsor of terror in the world acquired another $1.3 billion in cash from the United States, based on statements of US government officials. A state department official confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD via email that the payment occurred before March 17, and President Obama, while addressing the initial $400 million payment, acknowledged on August 4 that payments to Iran must be made in cash because "we don't have a banking relationships with Iran... We could not wire the money."
    Until last week, the Obama administration would not even confirm that the $1.3 billion balance had been paid. However, once the Wall Street Journal broke the story that the initial $400 million cash payment had coincided with the release of five American detainees by Iran, more details were revealed. But the State Department continued to decline to provide the "tick-tock" on the payment schedule.
    As it turns out, the State Department had already revealed back on March 17 that the $1.3 billion payment had been made at that time. On February 4, Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding a detailed explanation of the entire $1.7 billion agreement including the timing of payments.
     On March 17, Julia Frifield, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, replied to Royce's letter (a month after Royce's requested deadline.) Frifield wrote, "Iran received the balance of $400 million in the Trust Fund as well as roughly $1.3 billion representing a compromise on the interest.”
    Monday, a state department official responded to THE WEEKLY STANDARD via email, saying "I can confirm that the payment was made before Assistant Secretary Frifield’s letter on March 17, 2016, in which she said the payment had been made."
    Though the official would not confirm the "mechanics" of the payment, the August 4 statement of President Obama leaves no other alternative than that the $1.3 billion was also paid in cash.
    Assistant Julia Frifield also wrote in her March 17 latter that “[t]he payment for the compromise that was reached on interest, of approximately $1.3 billion, has been provided out of the Judgment Fund.” A search of the Treasury Department's Judgment Fund website, however, lists no such payment. The Treasury Department had not yet responded to a request for an explanation of the missing information.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hillary Supporter Calls Her 'The Devil We Know'

    Under the category "with friends like these", Jack Moss, founder of the Black Hat and DefCon hacking conferences, called Hillary Clinton "the devil we know" while headlining a Las Vegas fundraiser for the Democratic candidate for president Wednesday night. Moss's comments echoed remarks Donald Trump made earlier this week when he used the expression "deal with the devil" in connection with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
    Jack Moss's comments came in an interview with NPR where he gave his take on the Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump matchup:
If Hillary is sort of almost status quo and the devil we know versus complete crazy unknown, I'm not will to risk the country on complete crazy unknown.
    THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported the "cybersecurity fundraiser" on Monday. Though the Clinton campaign said this was not an "official" campaign event, tickets could be purchased through the campaign website.

    Donald Trump drew widespread attention earlier this week when he suggested Bernie Sanders "made a deal with the devil" when Sanders threw his support to Hillary Clinton. "He made a deal with the devil. She's the devil," Trump said.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard on August 4, 2016.

2015 Flashback: State Claimed No 'Big Suitcase Full of Cash' in Iran Deal

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the transfer of $400 million in cash for Iran in January coincided with not only the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, but with the release of American detainees as well. The cash came not from sanctions relief, but from the settlement of a decades-old dispute over cancelled arms shipments in the 1970s. The Journal says the money was delivered via cargo plane:
Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.
    Although the administration announced the settlement at the time, including the amount of $400 million, the timing and details of the delivery were not publicly revealed until now. In fact, the administration downplayed the immediate benefits that Iran would enjoy. When the state department was pushing for the Iran deal in September 2015, a state official pooh-poohed the idea that Iran would get a "big suitcase full of cash":
[T]here’s a common misperception that on implementation day a big suitcase full of cash shows up in Tehran and all of a sudden they have all this money, which I think is really – does a disservice to what actually is going to happen.
    Just days before the deal was implemented, state department spokesman John Kirby remarked that "nobody is handing [Iran] some sort of windfall of cash", though he was specifically addressing sanctions relief and not the arms dispute settlement. Administration officials on a conference call on January 17 also skirted the issue of the cash delivery when describing the timing of the Iran deal, the dispute settlement, and the Americans' release.
    Some Republican lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, are accusing the Obama administration of trading hostages for cash.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard on August 3, 2016.