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• Coverage worries grow as ObamaCare cliff nears
• Grayson hits health law from the left
• Hillary too old for Iowa?
• Enter promo code: ‘SKYNET’
• Auburn star: what a difference a year makes
COVERAGE WORRIES GROW AS OBAMACARE CLIFF NEARS - Millions of Americans who saw their insurance policies cancelled under ObamaCare have three weeks to get signed up for new plans or face coverage lapses. With that very real deadline looming, the Obama administration gave itself high marks on its self-imposed weekend deadline for improving the site on which the entitlement program depends. While the administration was boasting about a Web site that was 90 percent stable, worries were deepening about the real deadline. Insurers claim the system can’t reliably deliver customer information. Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, tells NYT, “Until the enrollment process is working from end to end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage.” While the government site remains under repair and under construction, it is unclear how many Americans who believe they have purchased insurance are actually signed up for policies. The administration extended the signup deadline from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23, to be covered starting Jan. 1 but that may still prove impossible.
[In a USA Today OpEd, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is urging customers to visit the site during “off-peak” hours while promoting the fixes.]
Hand grenades, horseshoes and ObamaCare - Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein breaks down the administration spin on the soft re-launch of ObamCare’s online home: “On the call, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokeswoman Julie Bataille was a bit vague about whether that goal had been met. Five weeks ago, Bataille said, just 30 percent of users could get through the process. ‘Today, we’re now more in the zone of about 80 percent of users being able to do that same process successfully,’ she said. What does ‘in the zone of about’ mean? Furthermore, she emphasized that not all Americans will feel comfortable signing up by the website, and could seek help by phone or in person. That suggests that the vague 80 percent number includes all forms of signing up for insurance, not just through the website. And once again, comparing it to the private sector, imagine if one out of every five people trying to buy airplane tickets on Orbitz could not do so.”
[WSJ: “The truth is that the White House is defining as a ‘success’ however well or poorly the website actually works so it can declare political victory… Americans who have now discovered the Administration's other false claims—you can keep your old plan and your doctor, and the new plans are better—can be forgiven for waiting to see the actual results.”]
Plouffe: ObamaCare will work “really well”… in 2017 - Former Obama campaign manager and senior political adviser David Plouffe took the long view when pressed on public frustrations over ObamaCare, telling ABC’s “This Week” that the public will get on board, eventually: “I think it’s just a fact, and it may take until 2017 when this president leaves office… And I think it’ll work really well then.”
[“We should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site.” –Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., on ABC’s “This Week”]
TOP TWEETS - @laurenashburn’s top tweet pick for this morning from National Review’s @jimgeraghty: “Healthcare. gov Is ‘Fixed’! Okay, Here’s the Fine Print… natl.re/1bd28GD.”Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.
Grayson: “The real problem that we have is not that some website doesn't work.” - Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., attacks ObamaCare from the left in a HuffPo OpEd Should Only Seniors Be Allowed to Drive on the Highways? “We want a public option. We need a public option. And that public option already exists -- we just need to open it up, to all Americans.”
[WSJ details how insurers in Florida, Ohio and Texas are finding bypasses to healthcare.gov]
OBAMACARE WINNERS: 10 PERCENT - Despite continued promises from the administration that most Americans will get better coverage at the same or lower cost under ObamaCare, most analysts say the claim is not true. One analyst says only 10 percent of customers will come out ahead with subsidies in their pool of 375,000 people. –Watch Fox: Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle fact checks ObamaCare’s promises.
Conservative group uses Cyber Monday to hit vulnerable Dems - American Action Network is using Cyber Monday to hit vulnerable Democrats over ObamaCare. The group is targeting Reps. Scott Peters, D-Calif., Brad Schneider, D-Ill., Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., John Barrow, R-Ga., and Democrat Erin Bilbray, who is challenging Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. The ads feature snow covered ornaments and gift wrap boxes that read in the case of the latter, “Erin Bilbray, running from ObamaCare, don't buy it.” The Hill has the story.
SUPREME COURT WATCH: OBAMACARE AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY - The Supreme Court is expected to announce today some cases it will consider in the coming year. On the watch list: a new case challenging ObamaCare’s regulations for employers. A lawsuit from Liberty University challenges the law’s employer mandate on the grounds that the Christian school would be forced to support a system that funds abortions. The high court agreed last week to hear a case involving the objections of Christian business owners to ObamaCare regulations.
[WaPo considers why the Supreme Court’s docket is smaller than usual.]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...WaPo’s Fred Hiatt provides a revealing timeline of the ongoing Syrian civil war and President Obama’s evolving policy stances, and does so against the backdrop of the growing number of refugees fleeing the country in ‘A slowly unfolding disaster.’: “Last Friday: The number of refugees has more than doubled again, to 2,272,722. Given their relative populations, this would be the equivalent of 32 million Americans having fled to Mexico and Canada.”
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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 40.1 percent//Disapprove – 55.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 24.6 percent//Wrong Track – 67.0 percent
HILLARY TOO OLD FOR IOWA? - The Sioux City Journal looks at could-be rivals to Hillary Clinton in 2016. The paper talked to five veteran political observers in the state for an assessment of the other potential Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Greg Guelcher, the former Democratic Party Chairman of Woodbury County, told the paper Democrats had better get busy finding alternatives: “I do not foresee Hillary Clinton running. By the time the next campaign season is underway, she will be too old. I would say that about a male candidate as well.”
MCCONNELL RIPS DEMINT GROUP - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell toldWashington Examiner’s David Drucker that the Senate Conservatives Fund “is giving conservatism a bad name” and “participating in ruining the [Republican] brand.” McConnell added, “What they do is mislead their donors into believing the reason that we can’t get as good an outcome as we’d like to get is not because of a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, but because Republicans are insufficiently committed to the cause — which is utter nonsense.” The group, founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is backing McConnell’s primary challenger, Matt Bevin.
SMITH RETURNS TO CHALLENGE SHAHEEN - Former Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., has changed his mind and will seek the Senate seat held by Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., because other big-name candidates have not stepped forward. Smith, a former congressman who held the seat for two terms before being defeated by John E. Sununu in a 2002 primary, had opted against a run. But with other Republicans – including former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown – yet to step forward to challenge the vulnerable freshman Democrat, Smith told WMUR that he is opting to get into the race. Shaheen, a former governor, unseated Sununu in 2008 amid a Democratic wave. Smith is a Florida resident but spends summers in the Granite State. He said he is returning to full-year residency to mount his campaign.
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL - Discussion of troubles with ObamaCare’s Web site drew heavy viewer response during Friday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel. Bing Pulse tracked a surge to 16,000 viewer votes per minute when Charles Krauthammer said, “Everything they tell you about ObamaCare everyone knows is a fudge or a hedge or a guess or a prayer or an outright deception.” Republicans, independents and Democrats agreed when the Hill’s A.B Stoddard said the part of healthcare.gov that actually pays insurers has not even been built, and the administration needs to get it right.
On how the Obama administration is handling recent tensions between the U.S., China and Japan, men and women agreed when Krauthammer stated “Everybody is watching to see whether American resolve at least is going to be strong and steady in the Pacific the way it is not strong and steady in the Persian Gulf. Krauthammer’s charge that it is wrong to say that relations between Japan and China are not a U.S. affair saw heightened viewer response. Bing Pulse tracked 123,000 viewer votes overall, take a deeper look at the data and see the full results here. Stephen Hayes, Julie Pace, and Charles Krauthammer will be a part of the panel tonight, be sure to join them and take your seat.
NETANYAHU, POPE FRANCIS TO MEET - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Pope Francis today. The visit follows last week’s announcement that the pontiff will make his first visit to Israel in May. Netanyahu was accompanied by Italian Premier Enrico Letta, for a Chanukah celebration at Rome’s Great Synagogue Sunday. AP has more.
GOOD BIDEN AMERICA, HELLO FORBIDDEN CITY! - Vice President Joe Biden is off on a weeklong trip to Asia with two family members on his government plane - son Hunter and granddaughter Finnegan. The trip includes stops in Japan, China and South Korea. Recent tension over China’s expanded air defense zone over a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea is an expected focus of discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
ENTER PROMOTIONAL CODE: ‘SKYNET’ - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told ‘60 Minutes’ the company is developing automated drones for delivering packages of up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes to addresses near Amazon shipping centers. Bezos also said that the company has built a private computing network for the CIA.
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN - NASA is developing technology that could send spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks. Physicist Harold White and his team at NASA are developing a faster-than-warp speed engine that doesn’t violate Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. White tells io9 he has developed a formula in which time can be “warped” in front and behind a spacecraft. The physicist claims the engine could take humans to Alpha Centauri – which would take 4.3 years to reach traveling at the speed of light – in just two weeks.
AUBURN STAR: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES - Auburn’s Chris Davis authored the game-winning touchdown run against archrival Alabama that has been hailed as the greatest ending to a college football contest. Ever. Where was he a year ago? Hoping to earn a spot on the field. Here’s his tweet from @chris11au on Dec. 4, 2012: “I need to get on kick return and punt return this year.” [h/t Bleacher Report]