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As Obama Prepares For Vacation, Questions He May Face On His Way Out The Door

- December 20, 2013

After Having The "Worst Year In Washington," How Does Obama Recover?

The Washington Post 's Chris Cillizza In Naming Obama As Having The Worst Year In Washington: "When Historians Write The Story Of Barack Obama's Presidency, 2013 Will Be His Lost Year." "When historians write the story of Barack Obama's presidency, 2013 will be his lost year. It opened with great promise and closed with equally great disappointment. In a year that could have been about building his legacy, the president was instead reduced to salvaging the signature accomplishment of his first term." (Chris Cillizza, Op-Ed, "Worst Year In Washington," The Washington Post, 12/13/13)

  • Obama Wasted A Year "Torpedoing" His Legacy. "But 2013 is almost gone and with it the president's best chance for a lasting legacy. The damage done to Obama's brand will linger well beyond this calendar year. There are no second chances in presidential tenures. Barack Obama, for wasting a year torpedoing your legacy, you had the worst year in Washington. Congrats, or something." (Chris Cillizza, Op-Ed, "Worst Year In Washington," The Washington Post, 12/13/13)

MSNBC's Chris Matthews: Obama Is The Political Loser Of The Year. SCARBOROUGH: "Let me ask you, losers, political losers of the year. Who--" MATTHEWS: "Terrible, terrible year for the president." SCARBOROUGH: "Can you go back a year, one year ago, the president was getting ready for his second inauguration, so much hope." MATTHEWS: "There's another piece of it, which is getting out. It's not just a bad year in terms of the rollout. There's an erosion in interest. It feels like a very long presidency now. It feels like the seventh or eighth year of a presidency. It doesn't feel like the fifth. There wasn't that rejuvenation that comes with re-election. Certainly there never was going to be a honeymoon from the other side, but, there was no sense of wow and I think that's hurt him a lot." (MSNBC's " Morning Joe," 12/20/13)

Obama Previously Praised The Individual Mandate - Why Is He Backtracking From One Of The Main Components Of His Signature Law?

In September, Obama Extolled The Virtues Of The Individual Mandate And Said "What We've Said Is You've Got To Take Responsibility, And So There's A Small Penalty If You Don't Get Health Insurance." PRESIDENT OBAMA: "To the individuals, what we said was we're going to make health insurance so affordable, so cheap for you, so heavily subsidized if you're not making a lot of money, that if you're not getting health insurance then it's because you just decided you don't want to, you don't need to. And in that circumstance, what happens when you get hit by a bus, heaven forbid, or somebody in your family gets sick, and you hadn't had them covered? Well, we're going to end up having to pay for you anyway because we're not going to just let somebody bleed in front of the emergency room. So what we've said is you've got to take responsibility, and so there's a small penalty if you don't get health insurance." (President Obama, Remarks, Clinton Global Initiative Health Care Forum, New York, NY, 9/24/13)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney In October: "The Individual Mandate Timing Has Not Changed. The Deadline For Signing Up For Insurance Was And Is March 31st." JAY CARNEY: "I appreciate the question because I know there was some confusion last night. The individual mandate timing has not changed. The deadline for signing up for insurance was and is March 31st. What I also said on Monday is that the administration has been working on basically aligning the deadlines for enrollment and enforcement -- February 15th and March 31st. And today, if there is no course correction, individuals who have bought insurance on the marketplaces by March 31st could nevertheless be penalized for not having their insurance start by March 31st, and we are working to issue guidance that would make sure that doesn't happen." (Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, Washington, DC, 10/24/13)

The Obama Administration Has "Temporarily" Exempted Individuals Who Had Their Insurance Cancelled Due To ObamaCare From The Law's Individual Mandate. "Today, the Obama administration announced that people whose insurance plans were canceled this year will 'temporarily' be exempted from the law's individual mandate." (Ezra Klein, "The Individual Mandate No Longer Applies To People Whose Plans Were Canceled," The Washington Post , 12/19/13)

Is Obama Concerned About His Signature Law Collapsing After So Many Delays And Punts?

"The Obama Administration Opened A Last-Minute Loophole In Its Health Insurance Overhaul" By Allowing People Who Had Plans Cancelled To Claim A Hardship Exemption From The Mandate. "The Obama administration opened a last-minute loophole in its health insurance overhaul, offering one-year hardship exemptions from tax penalties to Americans whose private coverage was cancelled because it did not meet the new law's benefit requirements." (Steven R. Hurst, "Obama Opens Insurance Law Loophole, Hardship Exemption Delays Penalties 1 Year," The Associated Press , 12/20/13)

  • The Latest ObamaCare Delay "Poses Problems For Insurers" And Could "Disrupt Insurance Pools." "Making catastrophic health plans more broadly available also poses problems for insurers. It could disrupt the insurance pools, since insurers and actuaries had assumed that people shifting from the old individual market would go into the new bronze, silver or gold plans on the Obamacare exchanges." (Jennifer Haberkorn and Carrie Budoff Brown, "White House Broadens Obamacare Exemptions," Politico, 12/19/13)
  • New Regulations Come Just Four Days Before The December 23 Deadline For Coverage That Begins On January 1. "The surprise announcement, four days before the Dec. 23 deadline for people to choose coverage that begins on Jan. 1, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised new fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage." (Amy Goldstein, "Obama Administration Relaxes Rules Of Health-Care Law Four Days Before Deadline," The Washington Post, 12/19/13)
  • The Health Insurance Trade Group Warned The Individual Mandate Exemption Would Cause "Tremendous Instability In The Marketplace." "'This type of last-minute change will cause tremendous instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,' said Robert Zirkelbach, spokeman for American's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's main trade group." (Amy Goldstein, "Obama Administration Relaxes Rules Of Health-Care Law Four Days Before Deadline," The Washington Post, 12/19/13)
  • The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein: "This Puts The First Crack In The Individual Mandate. The Question Is Whether It's The Last." (Ezra Klein, "The Individual Mandate No Longer Applies To People Whose Plans Were Canceled," The Washington Post , 12/19/13)
  • NBC News Chuck Todd: "If You Put Together All The Different Ways That They Have Delayed Or Grandfathered Certain Things In… I'm Starting To Wonder If Anyone Is Ever Going To Pay The Penalty In The First Year." (Tal Kopan, "Chuck Todd: Will Anyone Be Fined?," Politico, 12/20/13)

The Obama Administration Asked Insurers To Accept Consumers Past The December 23 Enrollment Deadline. "Last week, the administration appealed to the insurance industry to accept people who sought benefits past the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for Jan. 1, and to consider approving retroactive coverage for consumers who signed up during the month of January." (Caroline Hunter and Lewis Krauskopf, "Insurers Wary Of New ObamaCare Fix For January Health Plans," Reuters, 12/18/13)

  • Insurers Are Now "Struggling" To Fill The Administration's Most Recent Request. "Insurance companies are struggling with a new request by the Obama administration to make sure people receive medical benefits under health care reform come Jan. 1, even if they miss a sign-up deadline set for next Monday." (Caroline Hunter and Lewis Krauskopf, "Insurers Wary Of New ObamaCare Fix For January Health Plans," Reuters, 12/18/13)
  • Insurers Are Worried That Allowing Retroactive Coverage Would Lead To Consumers Signing Up For Coverage After Running Up Huge Medical Bills. "So far, the answer has amounted to a big 'maybe.' Insurers are worried that some consumers will sign up for retroactive January plans only if they have incurred a hefty medical bill. It is unclear what the costs of that would be or how many shoppers might take advantage of the policy." (Caroline Hunter and Lewis Krauskopf, "Insurers Wary Of New ObamaCare Fix For January Health Plans," Reuters, 12/18/13)
  • Insurance Spokeswoman: "It's Like Calling For Homeowners Insurance When Your House Is Already On Fire." "'It creates a situation where someone might be able to apply for insurance when they have already had services' such as in the emergency room, said Mary Beth Chambers, spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. 'It's like calling for homeowners insurance when your house is already on fire.'" (Caroline Hunter and Lewis Krauskopf, "Insurers Wary Of New ObamaCare Fix For January Health Plans," Reuters, 12/18/13)

"With Only Days Before The Monday Deadline To Sign Up For Coverage That Starts Jan. 1, Insurers Are Facing A Much Smaller, And Sicker, Pool Of Customers Than Hoped For." "While enrollment has risen this month after a series of fixes to the site, problems bringing customers back to the site could stanch those gains. With only days before the Monday deadline to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1, insurers are facing a much smaller, and sicker, pool of customers than hoped for. (Timothy W. Weaver And Christopher Martin, "Timothy W. Weaver And Christopher Martin," The Wall Street Journal, 12/20/13)

After Exempting Potentially Millions Of People From ObamaCare's Individual Mandate, Will President Obama Say If A Single Person Will Be Subjected To That Mandate In 2014?

This Morning, White House Deputy Senior Advisor David Simas Refused To Answer If A Single Person Would Be Subject To ObamaCare's Individual Mandate In 2014. CHUCK TODD: "Is there going to be a single person in 2014 that's going to pay the penalty? A single uninsured American that is going to end up paying the penalty in 2014 at this point?" DAVID SIMAS: "Chuck, I can't talk to you about how many people are going to be subject to the penalty." (MSNBC's " Daily Rundown," 12/20/13)

The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein: "This Puts The First Crack In The Individual Mandate. The Question Is Whether It's The Last." (Ezra Klein, "The Individual Mandate No Longer Applies To People Whose Plans Were Canceled," The Washington Post , 12/19/13)

  • Klein: "It's Hard To Argue That [The Individual Mandate Is] Right For The Currently Uninsured But Wrong For People Whose Plans Were Canceled." "But this puts the administration on some very difficult-to-defend ground. Normally, the individual mandate applies to anyone who can purchase qualifying insurance for less than 8 percent of their income. Either that threshold is right or it's wrong. But it's hard to argue that it's right for the currently uninsured but wrong for people whose plans were canceled." (Ezra Klein, "The Individual Mandate No Longer Applies To People Whose Plans Were Canceled," The Washington Post , 12/19/13)

State Officials Have Resigned Amidst Ongoing Questions About Their Leadership - Why Hasn't Obama Fired Anyone In His Administration?

This Week, The Head Of Oregon's "Troubled Health Insurance Exchange" Resigned. "Carolyn Lawson, the embattled state technology executive who oversaw much of the development of Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange, has resigned for personal reasons. It was Lawson, chief information officer at the Oregon Health Authority, who decided the state could manage the complex exchange project itself, rather than hire a private-sector systems integrator, a decision since criticized by her superiors. Lawson also was close to Oracle Corp., the California technology giant that has been blamed for doing shoddy work and repeatedly missing deadlines." (Jeff Manning, "Cover Oregon: Official Who Oversaw Development Of Health Exchange, Carolyn Lawson, Resigns," The Oregonian, 12/19/13)

The Maryland Official In Charge Of The State's Health Insurance Exchange Resigned "Amid Continuing Technical Problems That Have Hampered The State's Online Enrollment Efforts." "The Maryland official who directly oversaw the rollout of Maryland's health insurance exchange resigned Friday amid continuing technical problems that have hampered the state's online enrollment efforts. After an emergency session Friday night, the board of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange accepted the resignation of Rebecca Pearce, its executive director, and thanked her in a statement for working 'tirelessly and with tremendous dedication' for more than two years." (John Wagner And Lena H. Sun, "Rebecca Pearce, Director Of Maryland's Ailing Health Insurance Exchange, Resigns," The Washington Post , 12/6/13)

The "Embattled" Director Of MNsure, The Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange, Resigned "Amid Mounting Criticism Of Her Leadership And The Troubled Rollout Of The New Health Care Program." "The embattled director of the state's fledgling health insurance exchange resigned Tuesday amid mounting criticism of her leadership and the troubled rollout of the new health care program. MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov left her $136,000-a-year post during a closed-door meeting with the program's executive committee. The board named Scott Leitz, the state's assistant commissioner of health care, to the newly created position of interim CEO while it conducts a national search for a permanent chief executive. 'MNsure must do better,' Leitz said. 'If there are problems or mistakes, we will acknowledge them and fix them.'" (Baird Helgeson And Jackie Crosby, "Embattled Mnsure Director Resigns Amid Increasing Criticism," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/18/13)

Despite Assurances From Obama's Administration, The Health Care Website Still Has Major Security Risks - When Will It Be Fixed?

Two Major Security Risks Have Been Discovered In The HealthCare.gov Website Three Months After Its Launch. "There have been 'two high findings' of risk - the most serious level of concern - in testing over the past few weeks, the top Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cybersecurity official told the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday in a private transcribed interview." (Devin Dwyer, "Exclusive: Security Risks Seen At HealthCare.gov Ahead Of Sign-Up Deadline," ABC News, 12/20/13)

  • The Two "High Findings" Are Classified As A Risk Of "Significant Political, Financial And Legal Damage." "The federal contractor, MITRE Corporation, that oversees security of the website defines a 'high finding' as a risk of 'significant political, financial and legal damage' if the technical vulnerability is exploited. One high finding was reported in November, the other earlier this week, Fryer said." (Devin Dwyer, "Exclusive: Security Risks Seen At HealthCare.gov Ahead Of Sign-Up Deadline," ABC News, 12/20/13)

Parts Of HealthCare.gov Were Shutdown Due To The Security Risks Being A "Vulnerability In The System." "It's a 'vulnerability in the system,' CMS chief information security officer Teresa Fryer told the committee of one of the issues. 'They shut the module down, so this functionality is currently shut down.'" (Devin Dwyer, "Exclusive: Security Risks Seen At HealthCare.gov Ahead Of Sign-Up Deadline," ABC News, 12/20/13)

Previously, Top CMS Officials In Charge Of HealthCare.Gov Testified That A Lack Of "High Findings" Meant The Website Was Safe And Secure. "While administration officials insist there have been no known breaches of HealthCare.gov security or misuse of personal information, the acknowledgement of high-risk issues in recent testing is significant. Top CMS staff had previously testified to Congress that the absence of such findings meant the site is safe and secure." (Devin Dwyer, "Exclusive: Security Risks Seen At HealthCare.gov Ahead Of Sign-Up Deadline," ABC News, 12/20/13)

CMS' Top Cybersecurity Official Recommended Twice To CMS And Health And Human Services (HHS) Officials That The Website Be Delayed. "Portions of the CMS cybersecurity chief's testimony provided to ABC News show that she recommended that HealthCare.gov not launch on Oct. 1 because of serious security concerns."It was during the security testing when the issues were coming up about the availability of the system, about the testing in different environments. I had discussions with [CMS technology chief Tony Trenkle] on this and told him that my evaluation of this was a high risk," Fryer told the committee of her assessment days before the portal was to go live. Fryer said she gave the same warning on Sept. 20 - 10 days before launch - to two other top HHS officials. She says all three expressed an awareness of her concerns, but proceeded against her advice." (Devin Dwyer, "Exclusive: Security Risks Seen At HealthCare.gov Ahead Of Sign-Up Deadline," ABC News, 12/20/13)

FLASHBACK: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Last Month: "No One, I Would Say, Suggested That The Risks Outweighed The Importance Of Moving Forward." (Devin Dwyer, "Exclusive: Security Risks Seen At HealthCare.gov Ahead Of Sign-Up Deadline," ABC News, 12/20/13)


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