Posts Tagged ‘obamacare



20
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama prepares to board Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, April 20, 2011

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The President has no public events scheduled today

See here for ‘The Week Ahead’

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Zachary Roth: Obamacare Helping Millions Register To Vote

It’s the right’s worst nightmare: Obamacare working to boost not just the number of Americans who have affordable health insurance — but also the number who are registered to vote. And it could be coming true. Under the terms of an agreement between California and an alliance of good government groups, the state will mail voter registration forms to 4 million people who applied for Obamacare via California’s online exchange. The deal could end up creating 400,000 new registered Golden State voters — the actual numbers will be available later this year.

Nationwide, Obamacare could ultimately be responsible for registering anywhere from 3 to 7 million voters — potentially over 10% of the total number of eligible voters who aren’t registered today — over the next eight years. Here’s why: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which aimed to boost voter registration, people applying for public assistance—as well as DMV customers—must be offered the chance to register to vote. That means every state insurance exchange like California’s, as well as the federal exchange, will need to ask people whether they want to register. Even those people who end up getting covered via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or through other parts of the law, rather than through the private market, will still be offered the chance to register to vote.

More here

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Washington Post: White House Announces Itinerary For Obama’s Asia Trip

President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced. Administration officials hailed the president’s visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies.

“Unlike many of the president’s overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama’s itinerary Friday. “So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy.” The town-hall event at Malaya University will be with young leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations, and Obama also will meet with civil-rights leaders in Malaysia, as the United States attempts to promote democratic values.

More here

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Wendy George: After 17 Years, I’m Bringing My Little Sister Home From Prison

When we were little, we used to tell our mama she had good ears. My little sister and I would whisper under the covers in our bed after lights out, and somehow mom could always hear us. She’d tell us to quit talking and go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up my sister from prison. She’s been away for 17 years, and until last December I thought she would never come home. I can’t wait to drive back to my house, get in bed, and tell each other everything like we used to. You’d think I had a twin. As kids, my sister and I looked a lot alike. Our mom used to dress us the same. Even as we got older, we wore the same kinds of clothes. We raised our small kids together. We both wanted to style hair for a living. Since she’s been gone, a part of me has been missing. A part of me has been locked up for years.

Stephanie was 26 with four small kids when she was sentenced. Even though the judge objected, a mandatory minimum law meant that she got life without the possibility of parole for being “a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder” in a drug conspiracy. When Stephanie was sentenced, I took her kids into my home and raised them. I am grateful I had the strength to keep pushing on to make sure that her kids got to the prison to visit their mom. She told me horror stories of some of the women in there who didn’t have a family outside to help with the kids. It was a rough role, but I thank God for giving me the strength to raise them all. I talked to my sister on the phone last week and joked that once she gets home, I am going to take a month vacation. She said I deserve it. Even when they said she had a life sentence, I never accepted that. I’ve been praying and fighting for this day since day one. And the fighting has paid off. Finally, my sister’s sentence has been commuted by President Obama.

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NYT: Republicans See Political Wedge In Common Core

The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core. A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools. Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it.

The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Unlike the health care law, the Common Core retains bipartisan support and has the backing of powerful elements of the business community. The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

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Kathy Lally: Ukraine, Short On Military Budget, Starts Fundraising Drive

Ukraine’s new government inherited an army so bereft of modern equipment and training that when Russian troops entered Crimea and agitators stormed government offices in eastern Ukraine, the country proved helpless to protect its borders and citizens. The corruption that had darkened all the nation’s institutions had provoked demonstrators to stand their ground in Kiev until the old leaders fled. But the depth of the damage took the country by surprise when the Crimean Peninsula was easily lost to Russian annexation last month, revealing a military profoundly weakened by theft and neglect. “Our army has been systematically destroyed and disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Petro Mehed said at a briefing this past week, “and its best personnel dismissed.” In the east, militants have occupied buildings in more than a dozen cities and on Saturday showed no signs of giving up their positions.

The army was sent in and looked more anemic than ever when small knots of civilians managed to block armored personnel carriers simply by standing in front of them. Ukraine’s position is dire. The new government found the treasury empty when it took over Feb. 27. The Ministry of Defense was so desperate for money that it went to the public for help. People across the country have responded by pulling together for the Support the Ukrainian army fundraising drive, trying to repair the damage done by years of thieving governments. Children have held fairs and bake sales to raise money. Adults have delivered food and water to tent encampments. Community groups have collected shoes, clothes and canned goods. Ukrainian businesses and individuals had raised more than $9 million for the military as of Friday, the Defense Ministry reported. Of that, $2 million came from cellphone users who made 50-cent donations from their accounts by calling a designated number.

More here

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Michael Laris: Voting-Rights Quest In Va. Will Soon Become Easier For Ex-Prisoners Held On Serious Drugs Charges

Those convicted in Virginia of manufacturing drugs, distributing drugs, having the intent to distribute drugs or “accommodating” the sale of drugs will now be put in the same category as those who were found guilty of mail fraud, check kiting, embezzlement or simple drug possession when it comes to processing requests to have their voting rights restored. The drug-dealing and other major drug charges had been on the state’s “violent/more serious” list of offenses. Bumping them to the list of nonviolent crimes will have far-reaching implications. Since McDonnell’s reforms, those types of lesser offenses are processed in a faster, more streamlined fashion, taking weeks or months rather than years. Unlike most states, Virginia requires ex-felons to proactively pursue their voting rights — they are not automatically restored.

Virginia law, the American Civil Liberties Union says, has prevented hundreds of thousands of people — many convicted of drug crimes — from voting, and advocates point to racial disparities. About 45 percent of those arrested for drug offenses are black, said Edward Hailes, general counsel for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group active on the issue. “We should see a large number of African Americans in Virginia getting their rights restored more automatically,” he said, adding that one in five can’t vote because of felony convictions. “Virginia is making progress but is still far behind most of the states in the union.” Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center this year, called for further changes in Virginia and elsewhere. “Eleven states continue to restrict voting rights to varying degrees even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole,” Holder said. “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

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Lucia Graves: Good News For Obamacare Is Bad News For Conservative Pundits

Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological. First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a “death spiral,” wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak. The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year. As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary.

Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest. “The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations—I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.” “A little bit more optimistic” is something of an understatement. For weeks, pundits have been spouting apocalyptic notions about the costs of insurance premiums, warning Americans that “the worst is yet to come.”

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Derek Thompson: Get Rich, Live Longer: The Ultimate Consequence Of Income Inequality

Brookings economist Barry Bosworth crunches the data on income and lifespans for the Wall Street Journal, and the numbers tell three clear stories. 1. Rich people live longer. 2. Richer people’s lifespans are growing at a faster rate. 3. The problem is worse for women than for men. First, let’s look at the guys. A rich man (top decile) born in 1940 can expect to live 10 years longer after he turns 55 than a poor man (bottom decile). That longevity gap grew by four years in one generation. Women live longer than men, overall. But their inequality gap getting worse. A rich woman at 55 can expect to live a decade longer than a poor woman, too. But this gap grew even more between the Silent and early Boomer generations, by six years.

The typical guy in McDowell County, West Virginia, makes less than $30,000 a year and doesn’t live to 65. Five hours north on the highway, a typical man living in Fairfax County, Virginia, makes more than $100,000 and lives more than 80 years. The two Virginian counties are two different countries. When somebody in Washington proposes raising the retirement age for Social Security or Medicare, he typically says something like: “We can afford it, because we are living longer.” Yes, We can afford it, when the We in that sentence applies to an audience of white rich old men and women who really are seeing their lifespans grow by leaps and bounds. But We doesn’t apply to the millions of poor women whose lifespans are actually declining. Raising the Social Security retirement age disproportionately reduces lifetime benefits for the very people Social Security was invented to protect.

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USA Today: New Data Signal Smaller Jump In Health Care Costs

Several new reports also hint at a bend in the health cost curve — even as health spending picks up with the improving economy. The change after years of large increases in how much health care costs seems to be coming for several reasons, the reports find: Americans are using their prescribed medications more often, which may be keeping them out of the hospital; payment systems have begun to reward quality over quantity, which has encouraged a team-based, data-driven approach; and record numbers of medications have been developed to address chronic disease, while older medications have come off their expensive patents. The week’s findings include a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that found that even as health care spending has rebounded with the economy, the growth rate remains lower than usual. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected lower health insurance premiums than originally expected.

Aitkin says people spent more on drugs and less on follow-up visits and hospitalizations, which could be key to keeping the growth rate low. Health experts have long held that if people can afford — and take — prescribed medications, it may keep them safe from heart attacks or low blood sugar levels, and ultimately keep their overall health costs lower. Aitkin says 23% of prescription drugs had no co-pays in 2013, mostly because of provisions within the Affordable Care Act, including the one for coverage of contraceptives as preventive medications. Women saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs in 2013 for contraceptives alone. And hospitalizations from emergency room visits decreased 14.6%, possibly because consumers were encouraged to try other options first. This week, the CBO downgraded its original premium projections by about 15% lower than projected in the fall of 2009, in part due to “lower projected health care costs for the federal government and the private health sector.”

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Frank Newport: Newly Insured In 2014 Represent About 4% of U.S. Adults

Four percent of Americans are newly insured this year, reporting that they have health insurance now but did not last year. A little more than half of that group, or 2.1% of the U.S. population, got their new insurance through health exchanges. The rest got it using some other mechanism. Overall, 11.8% of U.S. adults say they got a new health insurance policy in 2014. One-third of this group, or 4% nationally, say they did not have insurance in 2013. Another 7.5% got a new policy this year that replaced a previous policy. The ACA envisioned that the new healthcare exchanges would be the main place where uninsured Americans would get their insurance this year, but it appears that a sizable segment of the newly insured Americans used another mechanism.

These sources presumably include employee policies, Medicaid, and other private policies not arranged through exchanges. The newly insured are, on average, much younger than the overall population, with most younger than age 65. Within the 18 to 64 age range, the newly insured are slightly more overrepresented in the 18 to 29 age category than in the 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 age categories. These data suggest that the ACA’s efforts to add previously uninsured young people to the ranks of the insured have been modestly successful. The newly insured who signed up outside of the exchanges are substantially younger than those who signed up through the exchanges.

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Energy.Gov: Energy Department Announces $15 Million To Help Communities Boost Solar Deployment

In support of the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department today announced $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs.

“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs – creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”

More here

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Maggie Fox: Obamacare Helped Up To 10 Million Get Insurance, Gallup Finds

Obamacare has helped as many as 9.9 million people to get new health insurance, and more than 4 percent of all Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time, according to a new Gallup poll. It’s the largest poll yet to assess the effects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and the findings add to what’s been reported in earlier surveys and the government tally of how many people signed up through the new online exchanges. The percentage of the U.S. population that has no health insurance has plummeted from an all-time high of 18 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to just 15 percent this past March, says Dan Witters, lead researcher for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

About half got insurance on the new state and federal online health exchanges, the survey found, and half got it through Medicaid, an employer or bought it directly from an insurance company. “We feel pretty comfortable attributing much of this change to the Affordable Care Act,” Witters told NBC News. The survey confirms that people started getting insurance in the last months of 2013 and really started signing up in the first three months of 2014. “There is no evidence that the exchanges only signed up extremely sick people,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief. Gallup found younger people aged 18-29 tended to gravitate to buying health insurance directly, not on the exchanges, while those signing up on the new exchanges tended to be in the 50-64 age group. Overall, 30 percent of those getting insurance for 2014 were 18 to 29; 24 percent bought insurance on the exchanges and 37 percent got it elsewhere.

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Christopher Ingraham: Your Taxes Are Really, Low, In One Chart

Taxed enough already? Hardly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, your effective federal tax rates are near historic lows.
One of the great ironies of the rise of the tea party movement was that it coincided with the lowest total tax burdens seen in at least 30 years. The chart below plots effective federal tax rates since 1979 by income group. The key word here is “effective” — these are the tax rates people actually pay after factoring in things like the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the myriad other deductions and credits written into the U.S. tax code. Values for 2011 and 2012 aren’t yet available, but the CBO does provide projections for 2013 tax filings, which I’ve plotted, as well.

Overall the trend is downward. The average filer saw her effective tax rate drop from 22 percent in 1979 to 18.1 percent in 2010. Rates on the bottom 20 percent of tax filers went from 7.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while the top 20 percent of earners saw a more modest decrease, from 27.1 to 24.0 percent over the same period. The effect of crisis-era policy is clearly visible in the sharp drop in rates from 2007 to 2008, mostly from tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tax rates hit rock bottom in 2009, right as the tea party movement was gaining steam.

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National Journal: Obamacare Is On A Winning Streak

The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they’re starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law’s critics simply haven’t panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight—the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary—with stronger real-world evidence than they’ve had before. Narratives feed on themselves, and there was a time when Obamacare just kept losing. But over the past few weeks, the news has started to roll in the other direction. Enrollment has surged beyond expectations. Costs are coming in lower than predicted. Various reports say the number of uninsured Americans is falling. Now it’s good news snowballing, and it’s critics who increasingly seem to have missed the mark with their warnings of inevitable collapse.

Critics still promise that the law cannot work as intended, but the evidence keeps piling up in the other direction. The opportunities for failure keep falling away, and worst-case predictions keep going bust. There was no death spiral, nor will there be one. And there was never going to be a “death panel.” The next big warning is about premiums for 2015. Critics say premiums will skyrocket because not enough healthy people signed up this year. some insurers are looking to expand their presence in the exchanges next year, and others have indicated they might jump in for the first time, after taking a wait-and-see approach this year. So far, no large plans have said they intend to leave the exchange marketplace. All of that indicates that insurers see the market as stable. And more plans competing for more new customers will likely keep premium increases in check. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has fallen from 18 percent in to 15 percent.

More here

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The Obamas leaving the White House today for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

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Malia Obama follows her father President Barack Obama, her mother First Lady Michelle Obama and her sister Sasha as they depart for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.

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WH.gov: The 10 most eggcellent moments from past Easter Egg Rolls

1. That time Bo wore bunny ears


2. Playing H-O-R-S-E with the P-O-T-U-S


3. 30-Love


4. YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg!


5. That time 30,000 people were on the South Lawn like “NBD”


6. When everyone did the “Wild Rumpus”


7. When we had a Kid POTUS


8. When Bo did an Easter egg hunt and was all like “Found it!”


9. Float like a butterfly, hop like a bunny.

10. And we went “Hip hop hooray!”

See the full Easter Egg Roll program here

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama with Caroline Kennedy before addressing supporters at a rally in Scranton, Pa., April 20, 2008

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President Obama with Tiger Woods in the Oval Office April 20, 2009

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On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets students after talking to them about the importance of exercise as part of the “Let’s Move!” initiative at River Terrace Elementary School in Washington on April 20, 2010

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President Obama speaks at a “town hall” at Facebook headquarters, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, California on April 20, 2011

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President Obama signs a proclamation to designate federal lands within the former Fort Ord as a national monument under the Antiquities Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2012. Fort Ord is a former military base located on California’s central coast and is a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts

President Obama greets members of the military and their families during the kick off event for the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House April 20, 2012

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18
Apr
14

Chat Away

Greatest. Toon. EVER!

18
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama plays with Leo Chaudhary, son of White House Videographer Arun Chaudhary, right, and Chaudhary’s wife, Laura Moser, prior to a Seder with friends and staff in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 18, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

2:0 EST: The President presents the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the United States Naval Academy football team

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Paul Krugman: What Eight Million Means

… I shouldn’t let the day pass without mentioning the latest big Obamacare news. Final enrollment for 2014, we now know, will be more than 8 million. The age mix has also improved, with more young people signing up at the end … Goodbye, death spiral.

… the benefits of Obamacare, for all its imperfections, are immense. Millions of people who lived extremely anxious lives now have far more security than before.

More here

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Sara Kliff: Obamacare Succeeded For One Simple Reason: It’s Horrible To Be Uninsured

There’s a very simple reason that Obamacare hit 8 million sign-ups: Being uninsured is horrible. But the political conversation over Obamacare was driven almost entirely by people who had, and knew they would be able to keep, their health insurance. It was filled with a lot of assumptions, theories, and speculations about what people who didn’t have good insurance, or any insurance, would do. Back in December, when the web site’s woes were fresh in everyone’s mind, I made a prediction that sounded strange even to me: Obamacare might still hit its 7 million enrollees. The reason I made that prediction was I’d been talking to the uninsured who’d been spending hours or days or weeks trying to get through the web site. They were frustrated and they were angry. But not one of them had given up. People did give it a serious try. And when the site failed them, they waited a few months and gave it another serious try.

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In March and April, 3.7 million people signed up for coverage, three times as many as the White House had expected. “That’s not a new idea that people want health insurance,” Perry says. “But that they would stick through so much hassle still amazes us. “We know that people gaining coverage through Obamacare tend to be disproportionately young and minority. Urban Institute, for example, estimates that the uninsured rate for people between 18 and 30 has fallen 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2014 — compared to a 2.3 percent drop among those between 50 and 64. The federal government has also released information on who is signing up for coverage on the exchange. That’s different from Urban’s data, which applies to the newly-insured gaining coverage from both Medicaid and the exchanges. The Obama administration estimates that 25 percent of the people signing up for insurance on the exchange are between 18 and 35. This demographic is watched particularly closely because younger people tend to have lower health care costs — and if more of them sign up, that could help keep premiums slightly lower.

More here

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BBC: Obama Cautious Over Deal To Ease Ukraine Crisis

US President Barack Obama has cautiously welcomed a deal to calm tensions in Ukraine, reached at multi-party talks in Geneva. He said the US and its allies were ready to impose new sanctions on Russia if the situation failed to improve. At the Geneva talks, the sides agreed that illegal military groups in Ukraine must be dissolved, and that those occupying buildings must be disarmed and leave them. The foreign ministers also agreed that there would be an amnesty for all anti-government protesters. But speaking in Washington just hours later, President Obama expressed scepticism as to whether Russia would keep its side of the bargain. “My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don’t think, given past performance, that we can count on that,” he said.

“We have to be prepared that we can actually respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine,” he added. In a telephone call with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the two leaders agreed that the United States and Europe are prepared to take further measures to impose a new round of sanctions if Russia failed to help restore order. “We have put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual improvement of the situation on the ground,” Mr Obama said. The UK is to provide an additional £1m to support the expansion of the OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine. Washington and the EU have already imposed sanctions on key Russian and Ukrainian political and business officials.

More here

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Signups Hit 8 Million And Both Young And Old Are On Board

President Obama on Thursday announced the final numbers for the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period. Eight million people have signed up for private insurance plans through the new federal and state marketplaces. And within the federal marketplaces, 28 percent of enrollees are ages 18 to 34. This is good news—very, very good news. As for the age mix, you may have heard that about 40 percent of the population eligible for coverage in the marketplaces is between the ages of 18 and 34. That’s true and, obviously, 28 percent is a lot less than 40 percent. The worry has always been that older and sicker people would sign up in unusually high numbers, forcing insurers to raise their prices next year and beyond. But insurance companies didn’t expect young people to sign up in proportion to their numbers in the population. They knew participation would be a bit lower and they set premiums accordingly.

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Only company officials know exactly what they were projecting—that’s proprietary information—but one good metric is the signup rate in Massachusetts, in 2007, when that state had open enrollment for its version of the same reforms. According to information provided by Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and reform architect, 28.3 percent of Massachusetts enrollees were ages 19 to 34, a comparable age group. Yes, that’s right: The overall age mix for the Affordable Care Act is virtually the same as the age mix was in Massachusetts. More important, it vindicates the predictions of experts like Gruber who said, all along, that young people would be among the last to sign up. “To get to 28 percent overall, there had to be a lot of young people among the late enrollees,” says Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That also bodes well for who is likely to sign up next year.” Thursday’s announcement is more proof of how many people are benefitting from the law—a reminder that affordable health care is within reach for millions that could never get it before.

More here

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Hiphopandpolitics: A Tale Of Two Mothers In America In A Post Racial Society

Catalina Clouser decided to get high and drove for 12 miles with her 2 month old baby on the roof of her car..By the time she realized her baby wasn’t in the car, it was too late.. The baby fell off and was found still in his car seat in the middle of busy freeway.. fortunately unharmed…Clouser was just sentenced and got probation. Shanesha Taylor was homeless and trying to get her life on better footing. She had a job interview and could not get anyone to watch her kids ages 2 yrs and 6 months , so she left them in the car, with window open and went inside to do her job interview.. This mom was arrested and charged w/ a felony, her kids were taken away.. Both women live in Arizona.

More here

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BBC: US Freeing Iran Funds As Tehran Cuts Uranium Stockpile

The United States is to release frozen Iranian funds, saying Tehran has kept commitments made under an interim deal over its nuclear programme. It said $450m (£270m) would be made available in light of a report by the world’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. On Thursday the agency said Iran had neutralised half of its higher-enriched uranium stockpile. The six-month deal saw Iran agree to scale back its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. World powers are concerned Iran is seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, a charge Iran strongly denies. Talks have started on turning the temporary agreement, which came into effect in January, into a permanent one. The interim deal is due to expire on 20 July.

Iran has diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium stockpile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential report. Under the agreement, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium to no more than “low-level” 5%, stop enriching uranium to 20% and eliminate its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. The IAEA report said Iran had so far either diluted or converted nearly three-quarters of its highly-enriched stockpile. The US state department said Washington was releasing the instalment of funds – previously frozen as punishment for Iran’s nuclear programme – because “all sides have kept the commitments” they signed up to.

More here

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National Journal: You May Be Surprised By The States That Support Pre-K

When President Obama called for universal access to pre-K programs in his 2014 State of the Union address, viewers could have been forgiven for thinking this was just another big government initiative that only a liberal could love. But in fact, a look at investments in pre-K education at the state level shows that funding is up around the country–and that some crimson red states like South Carolina and Mississippi are leading the way. The Education Commission of the States analyzed state data on pre-K funding for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and found that of the 40 states that provide state-supported programs for 4-year-olds, 30 of them (plus the District of Columbia) increased their funding for these programs.

And contrary to what you might expect, those increases don’t follow a particular partisan pattern. And there’s another practical reason for conservatives to embrace pre-K education. Advocates of early childhood interventions have always made the moral argument that it’s the just thing to do in order to allow children of all backgrounds to enter school on a level playing field. But now they also lay out the cost-benefit analysis: Spend money now or spend a lot more money later.

More here

(Go check out the map. It’s interesting to see how much red and blue states are genuinely increasing funding)

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Steve Benen: 8 Million

Just five weeks ago, the Associated Press ran an article on the pace of Affordable Care Act enrollments. The White House, the piece said, “needs something close to a miracle to meet its goal of enrolling 6 million people by the end of this month.” Congressional Republicans eagerly passed the AP’s item around. As of April 1, we already knew that miracle had arrived: the initial estimate pointed to 7.1 million Americans enrolling through exchange marketplaces. By last week, that total was revised to 7.5 million. Today, there’s a new number: 8 million consumers signed up for private coverage through exchanges.

As the president want on to explain at a press conference this afternoon, that’s 8 million enrolled through exchanges, another 3 million young adults who’ve gained coverage through family plans, and another 3 million who’ve taken advantage of Medicaid expansion. That’s 14 million American consumers – a number that would be more than 19 million if several Republican officials weren’t deliberately blocking Medicaid expansion out of political spite. In October, the first month of the open-enrollment period, just 106,185 consumers signed up for insurance through an exchange – causing Republicans to not only celebrate, but to openly mock the system by noting a variety of sports venues that hold more than 106,185 attendees. It was obviously proof, we were told at the time, that the Affordable Care Act itself was “hurtling toward failure.” Hmm. Who’s laughing now?

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Christopher Palmeri: Disney Offers Obama Minimum Wage To Florida Theme Park Staff

Walt Disney Co. has offered to raise starting pay at its Florida theme parks by 25 percent to $10 an hour over two years, almost matching the federal minimum wage sought by President Barack Obama. Disney presented the proposal Wednesday to the Service Trades Council, a consortium of six labor groups, the company and union representatives said. They are scheduled to resume bargaining over a contract on May 28. The unions, which represent more than 30,000 employees at Walt Disney World near Orlando, asked for at least $10.10 an hour, the amount congressional Democrats and Obama propose as a new U.S. minimum. Starting pay at the Florida parks is now $8.03 an hour, according to Burbank, Calif.-based Disney.

That would reach the rate Disney is offering by July 2016. “I’m very pleased,” Ed Chambers, president of the council, said in a telephone interview. “We’re well on our way to getting a deal done.” The contract being negotiated covers full-time hourly employees at the world’s most-popular theme-park complex. Disney reported record profit of $6.6 billion on revenue of $45 billion last year from its TV networks, parks, studios and consumer products.

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NYT: Enrollments Exceed Obama’s Target For Health Care Act

President Obama announced Thursday that eight million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, including what the White House said were a sufficient number of young, healthy adults, a critical milestone that might counter election-year attacks by Republicans on the law’s success and viability. The total number of enrollees exceeds by a million the target set by the administration for people to buy insurance through government-run health care exchanges. In particular, the number of young people signing up appears to have surged during the final weeks of enrollment. “This thing is working,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room, in what amounted to a second victory lap after he announced two weeks ago that 7.1 million people had signed up for insurance during an initial enrollment period. “The Affordable Care Act is covering more people at less cost than most people would have predicted a few months ago.”

In the early months of signups, the number of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 — who tend to be healthier — hovered around 25 percent. But as White House officials predicted, many young people appear to have waited until close to the March 31 deadline to enroll, increasing their participation. The overall percentage of young people enrolled is not a guarantee that all of the insurance marketplaces across the country will work perfectly. Individual insurance companies will make decisions about what their premiums are based on the makeup of their own client list. But the higher proportion of young enrollees is a rebuke to the critics of the Affordable Care Act, who had predicted that it would fail to attract younger, healthier customers to buy insurance.

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Beau Biden: A Message From Beau Biden

For the past eight years, you have given me the privilege of serving as your Attorney General. Thanks to a group of extraordinary professionals at the Department of Justice and their tireless work–from protecting our children and getting criminals off the streets, to holding more accountable those responsible for the housing crisis–I believe we have made Delaware a better place to live and to raise a family. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished. As your Attorney General I have done my best to remain true to the core values I believe define public service–honesty, integrity, and doing right by the people I serve. Part of doing right by you is being straight with you about my future plans.

Over the past few months, as I’ve been planning to run for reelection, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for Governor in 2016. What started as a thought–a very persistent thought–has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue. After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is not right to ask for your support in 2014, knowing that my focus would be divided between doing my job as Attorney General while at the same time running as a candidate for Governor. Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection as your Attorney General this November.

More here

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Obamacare Enrollment Crushes Goal

President Obama announced on Thursday that 8 million people have signed up for plans through Obamacare’s new insurance exchanges. Although March 31 was originally the final deadline to enroll in Obamacare, administration officials extended the open enrollment period until April 15 to accommodate the people who may have struggled to complete their applications due to technological issues. Just over two weeks ago, the administration announced that Obamacare enrollment had reached 7.1 million — surpassing expectations after HealthCare.gov’s rocky rollout in October. Polling from Gallup released this week found that Obamacare may be having an even bigger impact on the uninsurance rate than initially expected, suggesting that about 12 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage since the fall.

That places the uninsurance rate at its lowest point since 2008. According to Gallup’s estimations, about half of the Americans who have gained insurance for the first time this year say they got their coverage through Obamacare’s marketplaces. Other people gaining coverage could have gotten it through the expansion of the Medicaid program, or by signing up directly with an insurer. And despite concerns that Obamacare wouldn’t be able to recover from HealthCare.gov’s disastrous rollout, several major insurers say they’re optimistic about the law, and eager to continue offering plans on the new marketplaces during the next open enrollment period. Insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group, Kaiser Permanente, Molina Healthcare, and Wellmark are interested in maintaining their presences on the state-level exchanges, and some are considering expanding

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On This Day:

President Obama arrives at the South Lawn of the White House after a day trip to Ohio and Michigan, April 18, 2010

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President Obama arrives to presents the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team in the Rose Garden at the White House, April 18, 2011

President Obama receives a football from Air Force’s running back Jared Tew after presenting the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 18, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on April 18. 2013

President Obama talks with Tom Grilk, head of the Boston Athletic Association, as he greets first responders and marathon volunteers at Cathedral High School in Boston, Mass., April 18, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Boston to attend an interfaith prayer service dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama Speaks to Volunteers and First Responders in Boston. April 18, 2013

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend an interfaith prayer service dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Mass., April 18, 2013. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is seated at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The President And First Lady’s Day

President Obama visits with people in the crowd following the seventh annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House, April 17, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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One of the riders taking part in the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride, with a President Obama bobblehead in his jersey, waits in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, April 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

See this post for more photos of the Wounded Warriors event

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President Obama smiles as he announces that eight million have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act

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Students cheer from their dorm room windows as they watch First Lady Michelle Obama take a tour of Howard University

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First Lady Michelle Obama smiles at rapper Bow Wow at Howard University. The First Lady joined juniors and seniors from Chicago public high schools on the first day of their four-day visit to Howard University, as part of a program to immerse talented high school students in a college campus environment.

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Helena Andrews: Michelle Obama and Bow Wow Spotted At Howard University

On Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama and rapper-slash-actor Bow Wow joined 37 students from Chicago public high schools for a tour of Howard University, our colleague Krissah Thompson reports. According to the first lady’s office, Obama specifically requested Bow Wow for the event, an annual college visit called “Escape to the Mecca” — a nod to the university’s nickname “the mecca.” “This isn’t bad,” Obama said as she stepped inside a dorm room in Frazier Hall where one enterprising student had the perfect product placement on her desk: a portfolio and résumé.

During the sneak peek, Obama encouraged the visiting students to step in and look around too. “You might be living here. I’m just visiting,” she said. As Obama made her way through Howard’s famous quad, posing for photos with the Chicago group, female Howard students inside the dorms shouted greetings through open windows. “Hi Michelle!!!” several young women screamed, prompting more fans of the first lady to also shout hello. “Michelllllle! First lady! We love you.”

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First Lady Michelle Obama obliges cheering students by showing off the hand signal the students in the quadrangle dormitory use to identify themselves, during a campus tour of Howard University with high school students

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Yahoo: Michelle Obama: High School Diploma Is Not Enough

It may be a few years before the first daughters head to college, but Michelle Obama is already brainstorming a dorm room checklist while encouraging high school students to dream big about their education beyond graduation. The first lady told a group of students Thursday that a high school diploma is not enough in today’s global economy. “No longer is high school the bar. That is not enough,” Mrs. Obama told the crowd. “You have got to go to college or get some kind of professional training.”

The campus visit is a part of Mrs. Obama’s push to promote higher education, especially President Barack Obama’s “North Star” goal. By 2020, America would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. “We have to have a hunger for education like we had when our parents and grandparents were fighting for us to have a right to come to these schools and get the education,” she said. “So now it’s up to you all to take that baton and do the very best you can with it.”

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama obliges cheering students by showing off the hand signal the students in the quadrangle dormitory use to identify themselves, during a campus tour of Howard University

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High school students from Chicago laugh as First Lady Michelle Obama makes a rectangle symbol, representing the women’s quad, in response to cheering from students at Howard University




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