The Obama administration’s latest effort in its "We Can’t Wait" jobs strategy is a $1-billion grant program for organizations to hire, train, and deploy new healthcare workers. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Monday that the department will disperse the grant money over three years to generate jobs which enhance healthcare through innovation. "Both public and private community organizations around the country are finding innovative solutions to improve our health care system and the Health Care Innovation Challenge will help jump-start these efforts," Sebelius affirmed in a statement.

The initiative, called the Health Care Innovation Challenge, will award grants of from $1 million to $30 million next spring to medical providers, nonprofit organizations, community groups, local government agencies, and other organizations serving patients in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. While the funding stems from Obama’s healthcare overhaul, the program is an appendage to the President’s "We Can’t Wait" campaign, a political ploy by the White House to pressure congressional Republicans into supporting Obama’s jobs plan.

The program is designed to find "the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program," a White House announcement disclosed. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, established as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will administer and monitor the program.

According to a study published in the Journal of Religion and Health recently, regular attendance at religious services produces a more optimistic outlook on life and a reduced inclination to depression. Those respondents to the survey who attended religious services more than once a week in the prior month were 56 percent more likely to be above the median score on a measurement for optimism than those who had not attended religious services at all. Respondents who attended weekly religious services were 22 percent less likely to be depressed than those who did not attend religious services.

Not everyone agrees, however, about what exactly these numbers mean. Eliezer Schnall, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Yeshiva University in New York notes that: "There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality. One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services. The person who says, 'I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic' -— while a possibility, that may not be true."

A 2008 study conducted by Schnall found that those who sent to religious services regularly had a 20 percent reduced risk of death over the period of the study and its follow up.  Schnall again cautioned against reading too much into the study: "We're trying to connect the dots here. We know they're less likely to die, and health outcomes can be related to psychological factors."

The U.S. Supreme Court approved a petition on Monday to hear arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare.  The court granted certiorari (a petition submitted requesting that the court hear an appeal from a lower appeals court) in three of the several cases currently filed against the U.S. government. The announcement by the court indicates that the justices have set aside five and one-half hours to hear oral arguments from the parties.
 
 

JBS CEO Art Thompson's weekly video news update for November 14-21, 2011.

Scientists are questioning a $433-million government contract for an experimental smallpox drug (ST-246) awarded to Siga Technologies by the Obama administration. Siga, a New York-based pharmaceutical company specializing in disease-causing pathogens, was given a contract in May through a "sole-source" procurement: It was the only company asked to submit a proposal, while the government reportedly blocked other companies from bidding after Siga nearly lost the contract a year ago.

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that administration officials used deceitful measures to secure the contract, as Siga’s controlling shareholder is one of the world’s wealthiest men and a prominent Democratic Party donor. Interviews, email correspondence, and various documents revealed that the Obama administration replaced the project’s lead negotiator after Siga complained that contracting specialists at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) repelled its financial demands.

 

The objectivity of judges is an essential component of the American constitutional system. When Elena Kagan was Solicitor General of the United States, she and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe had e-mail exchanges, which were obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act, that suggest that she could not be impartial in ruling on Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because she has taken a position for the bill.

Tribe is a "liberal" professor who has written in the New York Times in defense of ObamaCare, has argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court, and was working for the Obama administration's Department of Justice at the time of the e-mail exchange. The Media Research Council and Judicial Watch filed the Freedom of Information Act request on May 25, 2010, which was before Kagan’s Senate confirmation hearings for a position on the Supreme Court. That e-mail correspondence makes it clear that then-Solicitor General Kagan and Tribe had contacted each other about ObamaCare as early as March 21, 2010 and that Kagan likely has been a cheerleader for ObamaCare. The e-mails' title refers to the upcoming vote on ObamaCare and says, "Fingers and toes crossed today." In the e-mails Kagan says about the probable passage of ObamaCare: "I hear they have the votes, Larry!! Simply amazing."

The e-mail correspondence trail, which was finally released on November 10, 2011, after the Department of Justice had been sued in federal district court for the District of Columbia on November 23, 2010, a year before the documents were released, shows more than just an e-mail trail between Kagan and Tribe.

“It’s about jobs,” said then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in February 2010. “In its life [healthcare reform] will create 4 million jobs, 400,000 jobs almost immediately.” Tell that to the roughly 1,000 employees of Stryker Corporation who will be losing their jobs as a direct result of a medical-device fee included in ObamaCare.

According to a Reuters report, on November 10 the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based maker of replacement hips and surgical devices announced that it would be “implement[ing] focused workforce reductions of approximately 5% of its global workforce and other restructuring activities that are anticipated to reduce annual pre-tax operating costs by over $100 million beginning in 2013.” Stryker specifically stated that these actions are being undertaken “to provide efficiencies and realign resources in advance of the new Medical Device Excise Tax scheduled to begin in 2013” and otherwise to strengthen its position in a difficult economic climate.

The Medical Device Excise Tax, which was estimated to generate $20 billion in revenue for the federal government, is a 2.3-percent tax on the total revenues of a company manufacturing medical devices. Since the tax “will be levied … regardless of whether a company generates a profit,” DailyMarkets.com’s Mark Perry observes, “many companies will owe more in taxes than they generate from their operations. The result will be devastating to innovation, patient care and job creation.”

No matter how many times you beat back a Federal power grab, it is almost impossible to kill the monster. Like the most terrifying villain in the worst horror movie you’ve ever seen, it keeps coming back to life and threatening the townspeople.

Consider the efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to make it impossible for you to buy the vitamins you want. The FDA first tried to make many supplements illegal in the early 1990s. But its overzealous persecution of vitamin makers (I was one of them) caused millions of consumers to demand that Congress block the FDA.

As a result, in 1994 Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). While the law was far from perfect (what federal legislation ever is?), it did protect the right to take the supplements of our choice. The only way the FDA could intrude was if it could prove a supplement was unsafe. I don’t know of a single case in which that happened. So for 17 years, those of us who take vitamins to protect our health were safe from government meddlers.

Unfortunately, there was a dangerous loophole in that 1994 law. While supplements that existed at the time were protected by law, the FDA was given the authority to regulate any new ingredients that were introduced after Oct. 15, 1994.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the individual mandate of ObamaCare is constitutional.  Writing for the majority, Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, affirmed that by enacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, specifically the provision mandating that everyone purchase qualifying health insurance, Congress did not exceed the authority ceded to it by the states in the Constitution.

 

Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected health insurance mandates that represent the cornerstone of “ObamaCare,” with two thirds of the electorate voting in favor of a state constitutional amendment prohibiting mandatory participation in any health-care schemes. The ballot initiative was driven forward by a broad coalition including Tea Party groups, conservative activists, and others.

 

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