Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 1,200 companies have been accorded waivers from the healthcare reform law, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) disclosed Friday, the final day that the agency is required to report the data.

"Friday marks the last time HHS will have to update the total number of waivers, putting to rest a recurring political firestorm," writes Sam Baker of The Hill. "The department had been updating its waiver totals every month, prompting monthly attacks from the GOP."

Indeed, not only has the number of waivers granted by the department stirred a hailstorm of controversy, but it has also displayed an incontrovertible pattern of crony capitalism, as the law openly leans on the side of labor unions, who just so happen to be strong Democratic supporters who wield tremendous political influence. Ever since the administration strapped a tighter leash on application rules, the unionized sector has remained a prominent beneficiary of ObamaCare waivers.

What is the biggest political lie of 2011? There are so many to choose from. I admit I was skeptical when PolitiFact said it was ready to declare the “Lie of the Year 2011.” After all, its record for bashing conservatives was pretty much unblemished.

Two years ago, the scribes who put together PolitiFact selected Sarah Palin’s comment about “death panels” as the biggest lie of 2009. In 2010, they once again sprang to the defense of Obamacare, pooh-poohing claims that it represented a “government takeover of health care” as the year’s biggest falsehood.

So imagine my surprise when the PolitiFact declared that the “Lie of the Year 2011” was the Democrats’ claim that “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”

The brouhaha began in April, when Republicans in the House of Representatives passed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to reform the hugely expensive government healthcare program. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee jumped on the issue. In a widely circulated Web commercial released just four days after the vote, it warned that senior citizens would have to pay $12,500 more each year for healthcare “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.”

Attorneys representing the U.S. government submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on Friday, setting out their arguments in favor of the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

In the pleading and at a briefing on the case, the lawyers for the Obama administration defended the healthcare law’s requirement that all legal U.S. residents purchase a qualifying health insurance plan by 2014 or face severe penalties. This key component of ObamaCare is the much maligned individual mandate.

Those challenging the legality of the statute insist that in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Congress exceeded the scope of its constitutional authority. Furthermore, if the federal government can force Americans to buy healthcare, they posit, are there any limits on what it could demand of citizens?

Recently, the Supreme 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 and the agencies charged with enforcing ObamaCare. The announcement by the court indicates that the justices have set aside five and one-half hours to hear oral arguments from the parties.

An underreported but serious problem with illegal aliens and health care costs surfaced in the New York Times again this week. The paper reprised a report on patients who will not or cannot leave the hospital after treatment. Many of them, the Times says, are illegals.

 

In his annual report on the federal judiciary published Saturday, Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court wrote the he has “complete confidence” in the ability of his fellow high court justices to determine the appropriate time to recuse themselves from cases wherein they may have personal interest. Recusal is the process by which a judge abstains from participating in a hearing due to a conflict of interest. According to applicable federal law (United States Code Title 28, Section 455), a “judge shall recuse [himself] in any case in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
 
Roberts’s comment comes at an apropos time as in its next term the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in two very high-profile cases: one challenging the legality of Arizona’s immigration statute (S.B. 1070), the other seeks to determine the constitutionality of ObamaCare.
 
Justice Kagan has already announced that she will recuse herself from considering the Arizona immigration case. While serving as the Solicitor General in the Obama administration, Kagan was personally involved in many of the actions taken by the White House and the Department of Justice in the legal proceedings they initiated against Arizona after enactment of S.B. 1070.
 

China has been hit once more by a food safety crisis, as officials in that country attempt to assure its own people, as well as consumers in the United States and elsewhere, that its products are safe. The Chinese government’s official Xinhua press agency reported on December 30 that food safety inspectors in the southern city of Shenzhen had discovered carcinogenic mildew in peanuts and cooking oil at some markets and restaurants.

High levels of the toxin aflatoxin were found in peanuts in three markets, and in cooking oil in four restaurants, Xinhua reported. “Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus that commonly grows on crops such as grains and peanuts,” the news site reported.” While the toxin is found in insignificant levels in most peanut crops, including those grown in the United States, high levels of aflatoxin have been linked to liver damage and cancer.

An earlier report from the government news site said that high levels of the same toxic substance had been found recently in milk and other products from a popular dairy company in the region. “An initial investigation showed that the contamination was caused by mildewed feed given to cows in the dairy’s plant in southwest Sichuan province,” reported Xinhua. The news agency said that the Mengniu Dairy Company had “issued a public apology in an online statement, but insisted that the problem was discovered before the tainted milk could enter the market.”

This Christmas season the family of 17-year-old Jenni Lake remembered the Pocatello, Idaho, teen for her sacrifice in refusing medical treatment for cancer so that the baby growing inside her would be born healthy and whole.

In October 2010, Jenni was diagnosed with grade-three brain cancer and given about two years to live. Doctors immediately began aggressive chemotherapy on the high school junior to slow down the advance of the cancer, and last March Jenni and her family got the hopeful news that the tumors on her brain and spine were shrinking.

But shortly afterward, when her boyfriend, Nathan, took her to the emergency room because she was throwing up, Jenni got some shocking news: she was pregnant. What made the revelation even more troubling to the teen was that her cancer treatment could prove fatal to the baby growing inside her.

“She was pretty scared, because the baby had been through two rounds of chemo from March and April and she was just about to start another round,” recalled Jenni’s mother, Diana Phillips.
 

After asking 501 practicing physicians about the future of health care in the United States, The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ conclusions were hardly surprising: under ObamaCare:

• More people will demand medical care.
• There will be fewer doctors to handle them.
• Those who do will get paid less.
• Those who do will be subject to increasingly onerous regulations.

In its heavy-handed attempt to provide medical coverage to some 34 million Americans, ObamaCare is going to provide it to them for free. But those “free” services are predictably going to increase the demand for medical care while simultaneously reducing the number of doctors available to supply it.

According to the Deloitte study, only one out of four doctors think ObamaCare will reduce healthcare costs, while half of them expect access to such care to be increasingly restricted. Those surveyed think there will be fewer hospitals and fewer physicians. And many of those remaining are likely to take administrative positions in the healthcare industry rather than continuing to provide hands-on primary care of patients.

James Williams of Matagorda County, Texas said in a pro-Ron Paul campaign advertisement released December 28 that in the early 1970s he saw "Ron Paul come to my rescue. He just stepped in and went to work with my wife." Williams' wife was pregnant and extremely ill, and until Dr. Ron Paul showed up, nobody at the hospital would care for his wife. Williams suspects the bi-racial family in the deep South may have been a factor (he's black, his wife is white) in the wait to see a doctor. But Ron Paul saw his wife immediately.

"He said, as far as the bill," Williams continued in the RevolutionPAC advertisement, "he would take care of everything. Which he did. I never got a bill from the hospital or anything. And he was a doctor of medicine and that's what he was doing, was practicing medicine. And it didn't matter who, and what, and why. He was doing it because he'd  think of one human being just as much as another. He's just an honest man, and that's something we need now in this day and time."

It's a moving advertisement, but it could be argued that any SuperPAC can create an emotional ad for the candidate they back.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has called for states to mandate a total ban on cellphone usage while driving. She has also encouraged electronics manufacturers — via recommendations to the CTIA —The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association — to develop features that "disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion." That means she wants to be able to turn off your cellphone while you're driving.

With very little evidence, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that there were some 3,092 roadway fatalities last year that involved distracted drivers. Americans ought to totally reject Hersman's agenda. It's the camel's nose into the tent. Down the road, we might expect mandates against talking to passengers or putting on lipstick while driving. They may even mandate the shutdown of drive-in restaurants as a contributory factor to driver distraction through eating while driving. You say, "Come on, Williams, you're paranoid. There are already laws against distracted driving, and it would never come to that!" Let's look at some other camels' noses into tents.

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