Errors Could Plague Twenty-Five Percent of HealtCare.gov Enrollments Before December
Approximately one out of every four people who signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.Gov in October and November may not have been properly enrolled due to the errors in files that the site is supposed to send to insurers to confirm coverage. Errors in these forms could keep people from getting coverage when 2014 begins. “The problems center around three types of enrollment reporting errors,” notes McClatchy, “the failure to generate an 834 form; issuance of duplicate forms and forms with incorrect data.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency in charge of the troubled website, gave estimates of errors, saying that they now affect only 10 percent of enrollee files. That certainly marks a substantial improvement but it still means tens of thousands of people could be affected. These latest figures illustrate how the administration is being selective about the data it releases on ObamaCare, making it difficult to know whether the revamped website is meeting the White House goals.
Although it’s common practice for politicians to only outline numbers that helps make their case, “strategists cautioned that the administration’s approach could backfire as the public remains skeptical about the healthcare law,” notes the Hill. In the latest example, CMS only gave estimates about problems on the back end of the website after stonewalling journalists for weeks on the issue.
Officials insist they’re working on resolving any errors in the forms but say those who are unsure about whether they were able to successfully sign up should get in touch with their insurer and pay the first premium in order to make sure coverage begins Jan. 1, 2014.
North Korea Frees 85-Year-Old U.S. Korean War Veteran
Merrill Newman is going home. North Korea freed the 85-year-old U.S. veteran of the Korean War on Saturday and he flew to China in the morning to transfer a few hours later to a United Airlines flight to San Francisco, reports the Washington Post. Newman had traveled to Pyongyang in October on a 10-day tour but as he was getting ready to return home he was pulled off the plane. Pyongyang released Newman a week after he released—and read—an oddly-worded four-page apology in which he apologized for his supposed crimes during the war.
When Newman was dragged off his flight home nearly seven weeks ago, many wondered why Pyongyang took issue with this particular veteran, considering many like him had returned to North Korea on organized tours in recent years. The answer may lie in what Newman actually did during the war, when he helped train guerrillas fighting behind enemy lines against the North, which called him a war criminal, notes Reuters. And the New York Times notes Newman worked with a unit “that was particularly despised by Pyongyang for its daring raids on North Korean territory.” It is easy for Americans to forget that what they often refer to as “the forgotten war” lies at the very “foundation of North Korean national identity,” an expert tells the Associated Press.
Vice President, who is in South Korea, welcomed Newman’s release, saying he had offered the retired veteran a ride home on Air Force Two, but he declined, noting he could get a direct flight to San Francisco from Beijing. “I don’t blame him,” Biden said. “I’d be on that flight too.”
Although Biden said it was “positive” that North Korea released Newman, he also emphasized the United States would continue pushing for the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean American who worked as a Christian missionary and has been held for more than a year, serving a 15-year hard labor sentence. Yet getting him released may be a tougher challenge. Bae is being accused of trying to spread Christianity, which North Korea sees as a particular threat, notes the New York Times.
Slatest PM: Mississippi's Looming Intra-GOP Fight
Mississippi Primed For Intra-GOP Fight: New York Times: "Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who was first elected to the Senate in 1978, set up a generational and ideological clash in the state’s Republican primary when he announced Friday that he would seek a seventh term in 2014. ... While Mr. Cochran, who turns 76 on Saturday, has the support of many leading Republicans in the state, he is already facing opposition from Chris McDaniel, 41, a state senator aligned with the Tea Party, who announced his candidacy in October and has won the support of some conservative groups. ... The primary could be the toughest race of his career. Mr. Cochran has faced little opposition in his 34 years in the Senate, routinely winning re-election by large margins over little-known Democrats. But the primary could offer insight into fundamental questions about the Republican Party: whether longevity and clout in a Deep South state that has venerated such qualities are enough to overcome national trends toward limited-government conservatism."
Keeping Secrets: Politico: "Cochran guarded his decision on whether to seek reelection so closely that even Senate leaders and top officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee didn’t know what he was planning until he shared it with the press. He kept the political world waiting for his decision throughout the fall: he originally said he’d make his decision by the end of November, but that deadline passed with no word from Cochran. ... State insiders largely expected Cochran to step down: campaign finance records show he raised just $53,000 in the third quarter of this year, not the kind of sum expected for a senator the fall before a reelection battle. Cochran had $804,000 on hand at the end of September. But Cochran also was reportedly getting pressure from state and national Republicans to stick around for one more term because, if the GOP were to take back the Senate next fall, Cochran could reclaim his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee."
Dems Watching and Waiting: Associated Press: "Republicans need to gain six seats in the Senate to regain control after the 2014 elections. Democrats would welcome a polarizing Republican primary in Mississippi because it could help the party compete in a state that has long backed Republicans in federal elections, but even they acknowledge Cochran would be difficult to beat. The last Democrat to win a U.S. Senate election in the state was John Stennis, who served more than 50 years before choosing not to seek re-election in 1988."
Wait, There's Yet Another Terrible Thing About the Americans' Brutal World Cup Draw
Next summer, the U.S. men's national soccer team will head to Brazil to square off with, in order: Ghana, a team that has sent the Americans home in heart-breaking fashion from the past two World Cups; no. 5-ranked ranked Portugal, a squad led by Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest scorers on the planet right now; and no. 2-ranked Germany, a global powerhouse that the bookies have pegged as Europe's best chance at ending its trophy-winning drought on South American soil. Put another way, as one of my futbol-loving colleagues did in an email this morning: "If you look around your group and you don’t see a Honduras, then you're the Honduras."
This is the point where I'd love to offer some type of official-FIFA-commemorative-glass-half-full #slatepitch about how the draw actually went just how the Americans should have wanted it go. Unfortunately, that's not why I'm here. Instead I come bearing more bad news—for both the team and any of its Brazil-bound fans—from the overlooked part of this morning's draw, namely where and when the teams are playing, not just who. Here's a quick look at the U.S. match schedule:
The U.S. Men's Soccer Team Just Landed in a Dreaded "Group of Death"
This morning's World Cup draw could have gone worse for the American squad—but not by much.
When the U.S. team heads to Brazil next summer they'll square off in the opening round robin with two traditional powerhouses—Germany and Portugal—and an African team, Ghana, that has proved to be something of a bogeyman for the U.S. men's team. I imagine the early reaction in all three of those nations as they saw their team's draw went something like this: "Well, at least we have the Americans."
Rick Santorum Compares Mandela's Fight to GOP Opposition to Obamacare
The clip above is from last night's O’Reilly Factor, during which Bill O'Reilly brought up the clear-cut top story of the day—the death of Nelson Mandela—in a conversation about the divisions within the Republican Party. That led Rick Santorum to make the completely natural leap between Mandela's battle against apartheid and the GOP's efforts to repeal President Obama's healthcare reform law. "[Mandela] was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives — and Obamacare is front and center in that," Santorum said.
Slatest PM: Nelson Mandela Dies
Nelson Mandela Dies at 95: BBC: “South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died, South Africa's president says. Mr Mandela, 95, led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison. He had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital. In a statement on South African national TV, Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela had "departed" and was at peace. "Our nation has lost its greatest son," Mr Zuma said.”
Why Mandela’s Flaws Made Him Great: Slate Obituary: “Be in no doubt that Nelson Mandela, the world’s most famous political prisoner, campaigner against racist rule, and magnanimous leader, was a great man. When spending time with him, one felt awed, weak at the knees. Madiba, the tribal name by which he was fondly known by many, had charm and warmth. He was also responsible, more than any other individual, for the remarkably peaceful transition in South Africa.”
Slate Photo Gallery: Nelson Mandela: A Life in Photographs.
Russian Diplomats Charged With Scamming Medicaid System
A federal criminal indictment unsealed on Thursday accuses nearly 50 Russian diplomats and their spouses of fraudulent use of $1.5 million worth of Medicaid benefits over the last decade. Prosecutors said that the diplomats scammed the system by underreporting their incomes in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits to cover the costs of pregnancy and childbirth procedures.
Medicaid provides affordable health care benefits to low-income Americans and, according to the indictment, is only available to American citizens and select immigrants. The Russian diplomats did not qualify for coverage under Medicaid, but ABC News reports, “proof of U.S. citizenship is not required for pregnant women completing an "Access NY Healthcare" application, according to the documents, because the unborn child is presumed to acquire citizenship when they are born in the country.”
The Russian defendants, the New York Times reports, did not appear in court because they have diplomatic immunity. The 18-month investigation found that there were 63 births to Russian diplomat families between 2004 and 2013 and 58 of those were paid for using Medicaid benefits. The indictment shows one couple, Andrey Artasov and Nataliya Artasova, applied for and received Medicaid benefits while racking up purchases of luxury items. Here’s more from ABC News:
[Andrey] Artasov is currently employed as a First Secretary at the Mission and they have State Department issued diplomatic visas. In November 2008, [Nataliya] Artasova applied for pregnancy Medicaid benefits and allegedly falsely stated that her husband earned only $2,900 a month, the indictment states. "Based on the misrepresentations in the initial application, Artasova received almost $1,200 from November 2008 to March 2009, in Medicaid benefits that she would not otherwise have been entitled to," the documents state. In a 2007 credit card application, Artasov said his income was $60,000 as a Second Secretary. The next year, the year they applied for Medicaid, the couple paid for over $48,000 in purchases on the credit card, including $4,500 at Swarovski and $3,500 at Apple, according to the indictment.
Star Florida State Quarterback Will Not Be Charged With Rape
Florida state attorney William Meggs announced on Thursday that Florida State football star Jameis Winston will not face sexual assault charges stemming from a sexual encounter with a former classmate. Meggs said there was not enough evidence to file charges in the case.
The announcement came from the state’s attorney who took over the investigation from Tallahassee police last month after accusations that the case was not being aggressively pursued because of the freshman quarterback’s star status. Winston’s play on the field this season has made him a Heisman contender on the undefeated Seminoles team that has national championship aspirations.
Winston has been under investigation for sexual battery that had allegedly taken place on Dec. 7, 2012. The woman, whose identity has not been made public, reported to police that night that she had been sexually assaulted, but did not identify Winston until a month later, according to ABC News. The allegations against Winston only became public last month.
Here’s a recap of the facts of the case from Sports Illustrated:
Police were called on the night of the incident. The accuser was interviewed, and evidence was collected. The accuser identified Winston as the suspect on Jan. 10. Police say the then accuser canceled an interview (the accuser says she was available to be questioned). On Jan. 15, evidence was sent to the Florida Department of Police for processing. On Jan. 23, Winston declined an interview. On Feb. 11, police left the case open but inactive. The police version of this story is fairly easy to follow. Winston wouldn't talk, the accuser wouldn't talk, and her attorney told them she did not want to press charges. There was nothing they could do.
But in multiple statements, the accuser and her attorney, Patricia Carroll, have told a very different story. In the accuser's version, Det. Steve Angulo warned the accuser's attorney that "Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable." The accuser also says Angulo "specifically refused to collect Winston's DNA or interview Winston's roommate who witnessed the attack," because he was worried the story would blow up. The accuser also says Angulo lied about contacting Winston; he said he wouldn't, and he did. Yet the roommate was never interviewed.
American Chemistry Teacher Shot and Killed While Jogging in Benghazi Attack
An American teacher in Benghazi, Libya out for a jog was shot and killed on Thursday, according to Libyan security officials. Ronnie Smith had been teaching chemistry at an international school in the city for a year-and-a-half and was about to return to the US for the holidays, NBC News reports.
The 33-year-old was jogging in an upscale neighborhood when a witness says he was attacked by gunmen in a black jeep, the New York Times reports. Libyan security officials say the motive for the attack is still unknown, but that the attack is part of a series of assassinations that have taken place in the city. Three Libyan soldiers were also killed on Thursday, two were shot and killed and the third died in a car bomb explosion, according to Agence France Presse. The BBC reports that Smith was one of only a few foreign citizens living in Benghazi as the security situation in the city continues to deteriorate. In September 2012, US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the US consulate in the city.