Guest post by Tori Richards

The Obama administration has been claiming that insurance companies will be competing for your dollars under the Affordable Care Act, but apparently they haven’t surveyed the nation’s top hospitals.

Americans who sign up for Obamacare will be getting a big surprise if they expect to access premium health care that may have been previously covered under their personal policies. Most of the top hospitals will accept insurance from just one or two companies operating under Obamacare.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” said Gail Wilensky, Medicare director for the first Bush administration and senior fellow for Project HOPE. “There has been an incredible amount of focus on the premium cost and subsidy, and precious little focus on what you get for your money.”

Regulations driven by the Obama White House indeed have made insurance more affordable – if, like Kathleen Sebelius, you’re looking only at price. But responding to Obamacare caps on premiums, many insurers will, in turn, simply offer top-tier doctors and hospitals far less cash for services rendered. looked at the top 18 hospitals nationwide as ranked by U.S. News and World Report for 2013-2014. We contacted each hospital to determine their contracts and talked to several insurance companies, as well.

The result of our investigation: Many top hospitals are simply opting out of Obamacare.

Chances are the individual plan you purchased outside Obamacare would allow you to go to these facilities. For example, fourth-ranked Cleveland Clinic accepts dozens of insurance plans if you buy one on your own. But go through Obamacare and you have just one choice: Medical Mutual of Ohio.

And that’s not because their exchanges don’t offer options. Both Ohio and California have a dozen insurance companies on their exchanges, yet two of the states’ premier hospitals — Cleveland Clinic and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center — have only one company in their respective networks.

A few, like No. 1-rated Johns Hopkins in Maryland, are mandated under state law to accept all insurance companies. Other than that, the hospital with the largest number of insurance companies is University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland with just four. Fully 11 of the 18 hospitals had just one or two carriers.

“Many companies have selectively entered the exchanges because they are concerned that (the exchanges) will be dominated by risky, high-using populations who wanted insurance (before Obamacare) and couldn’t afford it,” said Wilsensky, who is also on the board of directors of UnitedHealth. “They are pressed to narrow their networks to stay within the premiums.”

Consumers, too, will struggle with the new system. Many exchanges don’t even list the insurance companies on their web sites. Some that do, like California, don’t provide names of doctors or hospitals.

The price differences among hospitals “can be pretty profound,” said Joe Mondy, spokesman for Cigna insurance. “When you are doing a cost comparison with doctors, you should look up the quality of the hospital as well. Hospital ‘Y’ could be great at pediatrics and not great at surgery.”

Insurers operating in the exchanges apparently are hesitant to talk about the trade-off between price and quality. Two of the nation’s largest insurers — Wellpoint and Aetna — refused to respond to a dozen calls and emails placed during the course of a week.

Wellpoint and Aetna’s decision to not educate the public on its choices doesn’t sit well with two experts.

“There is no reason to keep that quiet. It’s not going to be a good secret for very long when people want to use the plans,” Wilensky said.

“In many cases, consumers are shopping blind when it comes to what doctors and hospitals are included in their Obamacare exchange plans,” said Josh Archambault, senior fellow with the think tank Foundation for Government Accountability. “These patients will be in for a rude awakening once they need care, and get stuck with a big bill for going out-of-network without realizing it.”

All of this represents a larger problem with the Affordable Care Act, said Archambault, who has studied the law extensively.

“It reflects deeper issues in implementation,” he said. “Some hospitals and doctors don’t even know if they are in the network.”

Just look at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which ranks No. 11 on the U.S. News & World Report best pediatric hospital list. When Obamacare rolled out, the hospital found itself with just two out of seven insurance companies on Washington’s exchange. The hospital sued the state’s Office of Insurance on Oct. 4 for “failure to ensure adequate network coverage.”

“Children’s is the only pediatric hospital in King County and the preeminent provider of many pediatric specialty services in the Northwest,” a hospital news release said. “ Some of these specialized services not available elsewhere in our area or region include acute cancer care, level IV neonatal intensive care and heart, liver and intestinal transplantation.”

And for doctors in Texas, “Basically, we don’t know,” said Stephen Brotherton, president of the Texas Medical Association. “We can’t find out. At this point, it’s part of the various unknowns with the marketplace. There are ways you can be on plans and not even realize it.”

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in U.S. News & World Report.

Contact Tori Richards at or on twitter @newswriter2.

Doug Ross @ Journal

Economist Warns of Collapse Risk: “Will Not Allow Life to Continue As We Know It”


Earlier this week we noted that an invasion of the Ukraine by Vladimir Putin would likely lead to a complete destruction of U.S. stock markets. It’s not so much the invasion force itself, but rather, the economic maneuvers that would come with it should Russia take this course of action.

Well known economist and founder of the Shadow Stats web site John Williams seems to agree. If Russia were to begin unloading US Dollars it would almost instantly lead to a collapse of not only our financial markets, but our entire way of life. And while Russia alone may not have the economic power to single-handedly crush the U.S. economy, if their trading partners and allies like China got into the mix, coupled with front-running investors who may suspect the move is about to happen, it could well be a blood bath on a global scale.

This wouldn’t even be an issue if the U.S. economy were operating at healthy levels, but as Williams notes in the following interview with Greg Hunter’s USA Watchdog, it’s anything but:

What you have to keep in mind is that back in 2008 we had one of the greatest financial crises the United States ever faced. The system was on the brink of collapse at that point in time. 

What the Fed and the federal government did was spend every penny they could, anything they could create or anything they could guarantee.  They did everything they could possibly do to keep the system from crashing.  They guaranteed all bank accounts.  So, they saved the system, but now what they did has not borne fruit.  We have not seen an economic recovery.  We have not seen a return of health to the banking system.

So, the system is very vulnerable; and if the Russians carry through with their threat, you have, indeed, the risk of it collapsing the system.

(Video via Alt Market)

It does have the effect of creating a hyperinflation, which I think it would.  It’s the type of circumstance that will not allow life to continue as we know it because the U.S. is not able to handle hyperinflation.

We’re not structured for it.  Zimbabwe had one of the worst hyperinflations that anyone has ever seen.  They were still able to function for a while because they get paid in a rapidly depreciating currency.

It was so rapid it became like toilet paper overnight… they would go to a black market and exchange it for dollars.  We (the U.S.) don’t have a black market to escape from our dollars.  Gold is probably the closest thing to that.  Gold will tend to rally here as the dollar sells off, barring very heavy intervention by the central banks which you may see.

The fundamentals will eventually dominate, and you will see a very weak dollar and very strong gold coming out of this.

As it stands now, even without Russia and China, our economic system is, once again, on the cusp of a serious deleveraging. John Williams highlights that January retail sales, a leading indicator of economic health, gave the strongest signal since September 2007 that a recession is looming, if not already here.

One huge indicator of this is that Staples, a leading supplier of office supplies nationwide, is shutting the doors on 225 stores. And, they aren’t the only ones getting hammered by a pullback in consumer spending. The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, saw sales drop over 20% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2013.

And as trend forecaster Gerald Celente once noted, “as goes Walmart, so goes America.”

So, in reality, Russia can probably sit back and watch the U.S. economy slip into a coma over the next couple of years. Of course, if their intention is to return their nation to super power status, an attack on the US economy by dumping the dollar would speed up the process and amplify the fall-out, causing a multi-generational depression.

Last year Barack Obama faced off with Russia over Syria, a situation that could easily have led to a much wider conflict.

Now, the same players have taken the game to Ukraine.

In both instances we’ve heard warnings of a potential collapse of our economic system in the event of an escalation.

The point is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s Syria, Ukraine, Iran or some other periphery conflict.

It should be clear that eventually this is exactly how it’s going to play out with respect to the US dollar.

China and Russia will make their move when they are good and ready.

When that day comes the implosion will be so fast that most Americans won’t even realize what has happened or know how to cope.

SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Democrat Apparatchik Dana Milbank Doing His Level Best to Continue the Benghazi Cover-Up

Guest post by Roger Aronoff

The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) started off with a powerful message: “We are here and planning on staying until we get the answers we’re seeking.” But, some in the media just don’t get it. Dana Milbank of The Washington Post delivered one of his Dennis the Menace, snarky rants about the view of “Benghazi, as seen from the grassy knoll.” Yes, Dana Milbank is calling this group of patriotic Americans who have given so much for this country a bunch of lunatic conspiracy theorists.

To Milbank, Benghazi is, to quote the administration talking point, a phony scandal: “It’s a pity that those seeking answers on Benghazi can’t focus on what really matters: Could anything have been done to prevent the deaths of the four men lost in Benghazi that night? And what can be done to make sure such a thing never happens again?”

While those are certainly important questions, and need to be addressed, that’s not enough. That sounds like it would make for a nice conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, and the primetime line-up of MSNBC. But how about holding people accountable for their actions and inactions that could have saved four lives, and for lying to the American people in an attempt to sweep it under the rug?

Sure, who cares that Hillary Clinton’s State Department ignored the requests to beef up security, and refused to withdraw our personnel, as the Brits and the Red Cross had done? Wouldn’t that send the wrong message?

Wouldn’t it have said that Libya was a mess, run by jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates after the great liberation of 2011? After all, al-Qaeda flags were flying in Benghazi just days after the “liberation” of Libya. We wouldn’t want to mess up the President’s narrative in the middle of a presidential election by asking the tough questions, now would we?

Remember, bin Laden is dead, GM (and Detroit) are alive and booming, and al Qaeda is on the run. Obama reiterated that in a speech last month to Marines at Camp Pendleton in California:

“Because of you, the 9/11 generation, we are accomplishing what we set out to do,” the President said. “The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the way to defeat. We are going to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a source of attacks against our country.”

What is often forgotten is a point made by former CIA director James Woolsey a few years back: “Al-Qaeda is both an organization and, in a sense, an ideology. And I think we’re having better luck dealing with the top level of the organization, particularly after the Afghan war, than we are with the ideology.” That remains true to this day.
Milbank is the reporter the Post usually sends out to cover events where conservatives gather so he can offer his sarcastic little commentaries to belittle the people involved. Take a look at the bio of Milbank: Skull and Bones at Yale—part of the elite—plus a career working mostly for left-wing publications and TV shows, like Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” when it was still on MSNBC.

Now take a look at the biographies of the people on the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, people who Milbank delights in belittling: people like Clare Lopez, a long-time CIA officer. The commission also includes people like Admiral James Lyons (Ret.) and Retired Generals Tom McInerney and Paul Vallely. There are 13 of us altogether, including 12 who were either top CIA agents, or high-ranking military officers, collectively with hundreds of years of service to the security of this country.

Milbank came up to me at the conference and asked how we were approaching this topic. What areas were we looking at as scandals? Was it the security failures in advance of September 11th of last year, the day-of failure to deliver military assets, or the cover-up—though he didn’t call it that? I told him yes to all three, but there was a fourth area as well—the media coverage. He didn’t want to go there. Was there a main angle, he asked. I told him that what I thought mostly motivated these retired admirals, generals, colonels, and CIA agents was the failure on the day of the terrorist attack to attempt a rescue. That is the point that Paul Vallely made to Milbank in a one-on-one interview that at least, to his credit, Milbank found reasonable.

Of Vallely, Milbank said, “At least one participant at the Heritage gathering seemed to have the right perspective. Retired Gen. Paul Vallely wasn’t concerned about after-the-fact talking points or al-Qaeda conspiracies or whether Clinton signed diplomatic cables about security requests. He wanted to know why the U.S. military didn’t at least try to get reinforcements to the besieged Americans in Benghazi.”

Milbank quoted Vallely: “‘Obviously there was not even an attempt at a rescue,’ he told the 40 people in the audience. ‘That’s the bottom line of it all.’ Vallely, a frequent critic of President Obama, said he doesn’t believe administration claims that there wasn’t enough time to send help to Benghazi.”

Milbank’s friends at Media Matters, the even nuttier left-wingers, the George Soros wing of the Obama protection squad, couldn’t abide that and criticized Milbank for straying from their talking points, which they often coordinate with the White House.

Watch Wayne Simmons, for example, a CIA agent for 27 years, talk about the men who died during the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and why he is involved with the commission: “So you can only imagine, I suspect, how I must have been feeling and guys like me must have been feeling when we were reliving and continue to relive what we know in our heart of hearts, what the final moments were like for these guys to go through. Because if they were close enough to each other at some point, those warriors turned and looked into each others’ eyes and they knew it was over. That tears my heart out, angers me, disgusts me, knowing that there were decision makers in the United States at the very highest levels, including the White House, that had an opportunity, we believe, to change that course. To have that look that those men gave each other, be saved for another day, and maybe never. But it didn’t work out that day for those guys. They realized they were sold out. They knew help was not coming. It is absolutely the most horrifying thought you could ever imagine.”

But there was also some real journalism that related what went on at the conference. World Magazine, Breitbart and The Washington Free Beacon covered it. “A CIA employee who refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement barring him from discussing the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi Libya has been suspended as a result and forced to hire legal counsel, according to a top House lawmaker,” reported the Free Beacon. “The CIA reiterated its denial in a Tuesday call to a Free Beacon reporter, calling [Rep. Frank] Wolf’s allegations ‘categorically false.’”

But reporting what actually went on there was not how the Post, nor the Soros controlled left-wing attack machine, viewed their job. They are there to put up phony arguments to defend the indefensible positions and policies of this administration. Milbank went after Clare Lopez for asking, “Are we involved in the Middle East to help the forces of Islam, of al-Qaeda, of the Muslim Brotherhood, of jihad and sharia?”

Apparently in Milbank’s world, that is a controversial view, even in light of Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and at home, and now his efforts to get involved in Syria, which could potentially help al-Qaeda linked rebels. Presumably Milbank wasn’t aware of President Obama’s plan to sign a waiver of “a provision of federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups to clear the way for the U.S. to provide military assistance to ‘vetted’ opposition groups fighting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Related: The Complete Benghazi Timeline in Spreadsheet Format.

Doug Ross @ Journal