Government Insider Warned of HealthCare.gov Security Risks: ‘I Am Tired of the Cover Ups’

Sharyl Attkisson /

Government insiders who flagged security issues prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov were right to be concerned. That’s according to a new audit by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that security weaknesses are putting “the sensitive personal information” contained by HealthCare.gov and its related systems at risk.

HealthCare.gov security problems put “sensitive personal information” at risk, @usgao concluded.

As the Obama administration prepared to launch the website last fall, one of those insiders voiced concern about the vulnerabilities and complained about “cover ups” masking the severity of the problems.

The findings run counter to claims by Obama administration officials who have long insisted there’s no reason for any concern regarding the website’s security.

The news comes in advance of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing at 11 a.m. today examining the security vulnerabilities. GAO Director of Information Security Issues Greg Wilhusen will testify. His report concludes, “Until these weaknesses are addressed, the systems and the information they contain remain at increased risk of unauthorized use, disclosure, modification, or loss.”

Missing Information

As the GAO performed its security investigation, it did not receive full information from the government, according to Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. He says that government officials refused to provide GAO with reports on 13 HealthCare.gov security incidents.

“What vulnerabilities to sensitive personal information is CMS still so intent on hiding from an independent government auditor?” said Issa in a statement issued Wednesday.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. (Photo: Getty Images/Newscom)

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. (Photo: Getty Images/Newscom)

The GAO found that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs HealthCare.gov, failed to “analyze privacy risks associated with HealthCare.gov systems or identify mitigating control.” The GAO also faulted officials for not performing comprehensive security testing and not ensuring that security plans contained all required information, “which makes it harder for officials to assess the risks involved in operating those systems.”

According to the GAO, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CMS, agreed or partially agreed with GAO’s six recommendations “to fully implement its information security program” and “concurred with all 22 of the recommendations to resolve technical weaknesses in security controls, describing actions it had under way or planned related to each of them.”

Warnings Ignored

Serious security problems with HealthCare.gov were exposed in stories I reported for CBS News in November and December of 2013. They revealed that Teresa Fryer, the chief information security officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, explicitly recommended the website should not be launched Oct. 1, 2013, due to security concerns, but was overruled by her superiors.

“I am tired of the cover ups,” a government security chief said of HealthCare.gov problems.

Fryer said she had warned, both verbally and in a briefing, that the website carried “high [security] risks” and possible exposure to “attacks.” Fryer also said that she refused to put her name on a letter recommending the website be given a temporary authority to operate while the issues were sorted out.

Additionally, Henry Chao, the CMS project manager in charge of building the website, was apparently kept in the dark about serious security failures. Those included “high-risk” issues, flagged by the government’s security testing firm, which indicated “the threat and risk potential [to the system] is limitless.”

‘Tired of the Cover Ups’

Meantime, internal documents newly released by Republicans on the Oversight Committee detail agency infighting and secrecy efforts surrounding the troubled launch of HealthCare.gov.

Fryer indicated that she was frustrated by fellow CMS officials who were not providing a true picture of security testing prior to the launch.

“I am tired of the cover ups,” she emailed a colleague, stating that she intended to give “a truthful update of exactly what was going on” to an official at Health and Human Services who had asked for a status report.

Marilyn Tavenner (Photo: Alyson Fligg/Sipa USA/Newscom)

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner (Photo: Alyson Fligg/Sipa USA/Newscom)

When CMS’ independent security testing prior to launch produced negative results, documents indicate one CMS official sought to have the report changed.

“We need to hit the pause button on this report,” wrote CMS’ Thomas Schankweiler, “and have an internal meeting about it. … It is very possible that this report will be reviewed at some point by [the Office of the Inspector General], and could see the light in other ways.”

In an Oct. 5, 2013, email, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner forwarded a subordinate a complaint from a White House adviser and then instructed, “Please delete this email.” Issa says that instruction violates federal record-keeping rules.

Tavenner is scheduled to testify at today’s Oversight Committee hearing.

D.C. May Require Police to Wear Body Cameras. Why That Could Be a Good Thing. - Daily Signal

D.C. May Require Police to Wear Body Cameras. Why That Could Be a Good Thing.

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson /

In an effort to increase transparency and reduce complaints, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., will issue body-mounted cameras to a test group of officers to record their interactions with the public. The six-month program will begin Oct. 1. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier introduced the idea in January and since has discussed the program at two D.C. Council hearings. The test program has garnered support from the D.C. police union, as well as civil liberties advocates.

In Rialto, Calif., the use of force by officers fell by 60 percent in the first year officers were required to wear cameras.

“The most immediate benefit that we anticipate seeing is an overall reduction in the type of behavior that results in complaints,” said Christian J. Klossner, acting executive director of the Office of Police Complaints. “When the cameras are on, both officers and citizens have a more respectful encounter.” Police departments around the country have been experimenting with similar proposals. In Los Angeles, police have been testing body cameras since January. In New York, more than 60 officers began using them this fall as part of a court order. Chicago police are discussing a similar proposal. Body cameras for police may seem unorthodox, but using technology to reduce crime has produced encouraging results. In Rialto, Calif., complaints against officers fell by 88 percent and use of force by officers by 60 percent in the first year officers were required to wear cameras. The same study showed the use of force was twice as likely when officers were not wearing cameras during their shift.

Lv Mingxiang/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom

Lv Mingxiang/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom

“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” said William R. Farrar, chief of police in Rialto. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.” The Rialto study suggests what psychologists have long known: Humans behave differently when they know they are being watched. A number of practical question remain to be answered. Should the cameras be on throughout an officer’s tour of duty or for some limited period? If the latter, what should that period be? Should officers turn on the camera only during investigatory stops, or when they are simply engaged in casual conversation? Should they be able to turn off a camera during, say, a lunch break? Should a citizen be able to ask officers not to record an interaction because the citizen fears retaliation? Then there is the cost. D.C. police not only will need to purchase cameras for every officer, but likely will run up hefty charges to store and maintain video footage. In an era where criminal trials can last for years, police departments and cities would have to store the footage for indictment, trial, and appeal. D.C. has about 4,000 uniformed officers who would need to be fitted for a camera. The Washington Times reported that $2.3 million was withdrawn from the District’s contingency fund to pay for the cameras, and another $800,000 was withdrawn to pay for the servers to store the video. It also remains to be seen whether camera programs truly will be effective at preventing police misconduct. All officers need to do is turn off the camera before confronting a suspect. Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. police union, said when an officer does not turn on the camera, “it lends itself to the accusation of selective recording — that the officer is unilaterally selecting what to record and what not to record.” These issues must be addressed as the Metropolitan Police Department implements the program. But if the results of the Rialto study are any indication, such an initiative could be an important step toward increased transparency and oversight in the criminal system. When the police are held accountable for their actions and are aware that others are watching, better outcomes will occur. “Sunlight,” as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, remains “the best disinfectant.”

6 Takeaways From the Benghazi Panel’s First Hearing on Security Failures - Daily Signal

6 Takeaways From the Benghazi Panel’s First Hearing on Security Failures

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel /

The House special committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attacks today convened its first public hearing, examining progress in implementing security improvements at U.S. embassies and other missions abroad.

Although no fireworks erupted, the State Department’s failure to follow through on an independent group’s No. 1 security priority after the attacks proved a major highlight. Here’s a look at that issue and five others that surfaced as the House Select Committee on Benghazi began its work in public.

1. ‘Most Important’ Idea Not Adopted

The State Department rejected the suggestion that it create the new position of under secretary for diplomatic security. Out of 40 recommendations made last year, it was one of only two that the agency didn’t accept.

Todd Keil, testifying as a member of the Independent Panel on Best Practices that made that recommendation, said the panel was “disappointed” the State Department didn’t accept this first and “most important” priority.

>>> Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Dept. Official Reveals Details of Document Review

The independent panel was created to review the work of the Accountability Review Board that initially examined events before, during and after the attacks on the U.S. consulate and another facility in Benghazi, Libya, which left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

“Talk about State Department arrogance,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said at one point.

Greg Starr, the State Department’s assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told the Benghazi committee that the department “looked long and hard” at whether it needed the new under secretary slot.

“We decided what was more important is if I have direct access to the secretary of state,” Starr told the lawmakers, adding:

We have modified it so I directly report to the secretary for threats to people. I am responsible [for security] no matter what it’s called.

2. Opening, but Just the Beginning

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the select committee, hinted that the investigation could run into 2016, deep into a presidential race that is likely to include Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when the Benghazi attacks occurred.

Gowdy sought to defend the 12-member committee against critics who say it will waste time and money investigating the Benghazi scandal again. The committee’s budget is $3.3 million but it has no deadline to complete its work.

>>> Benghazi Panel to Probe Diplomat’s Account of Document Sift

In opening remarks, Gowdy said:

This deserves an investigative process worthy of the memory of those killedSome question the need for the committee. The mark of character is you do a good job with a task even if you don’t think it should be assigned in the first place. I’d rather answer questions twice than once. To those who believe it is time to move on, that there’s nothing left to discover and we learned all the lessons, well, we heard all that before and it was wrong then.

3. ‘This Is Bigger Than Us’

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat of five on the panel, said committee members should put politics aside to pursue a bigger outcome.

“This is bigger than us,” Cummings said. “The things we do today and the next few months will have lasting effects after we go to heaven.”

4. Progress Made

Starr, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, said the department has implemented 22 recommendations of the Accountability Review Board, while seven others “are in progress or are nearing completion.”

Completed steps, Starr said, include starting a “counter-threat course” for foreign service employees in high-risk areas and partnering with the New York Fire Department on training to respond to fire-based attacks such as what happened in Benghazi.

“We have made what I consider to be tremendous progress,” said Starr, who assumed his position in 2013. “I have no doubt in my mind we will implement every one of these recommendations.”

5. Time for Real Change

Keil, representing the Independent Panel on Best Practices that was created to evaluate the review board’s efforts, said the State Department has been slow to implement change in the past.

A review board issued a report after the two U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998, Keil said, but “little has been implemented by the State Department.” Keil, who served as a diplomatic security agent for 23 years, added:

Now is time for the State Department to finally institutionalize real, meaningful and progressive change. They can’t lose this moment.

6. ‘Do We Need to Be in Benghazi?’

Starr said the State Department long has ranked diplomatic posts according to risk. Keil said that process hasn’t been enough to evaluate whether some missions are too dangerous to pursue.

“The first question has to be, do we need to be there?” Keil said. “Do we need to be in Benghazi? The State Department lacks risk management processes to make those decisions.”

Starr interrupted Keil to say it “should be lacked, not lack.” The diplomatic security veteran argued that the State Department has made changes to risk management processes.

“This what we focused on the most,” Starr said, adding:

It’s embracing the concept that we need to ask the question: Why are we in the most dangerous places? One of the lessons from Benghazi is that many times we don’t get specific threat information before an attack.

After Benghazi, the State Department categorizes the 30 highest-risk posts, Starr said.

“We have pulled out or closed posts because of these things,” he said. “But we can’t lock people inside embassies. The whole point of diplomacy is to get out [in the field].”

As Senators Quiz Kerry on ISIS, House OKs Obama Request to Arm, Train Syrian Rebels - Daily Signal

As Senators Quiz Kerry on ISIS, House OKs Obama Request to Arm, Train Syrian Rebels

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn /

After lengthy debate that aligned Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the argument, the House  today passed an amendment allowing the Obama administration to help Syrian rebels in the fight against the terrorist group ISIS.

Lawmakers voted 273 to 156 this afternoon to authorize the Pentagon to arm and train “moderate” rebels to combat ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL, exceeding the required 218 votes.

The provision, which will be attached to a continuing resolution to fund the federal government until Dec. 11, bears a $500 million price tag.

“By authorizing the Department of Defense to help train and equip the Syrian opposition, this measure represents an important, initial step forward in taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” House Speaker John Boehner said, adding:

ISIL represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.

>>> ‘Eyes Wide Open’ Urged in Funding Syrian Rebels to Fight ISIS

Across the Capitol today, Secretary of State John Kerry ran into skepticism and outright hostility as he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the administration’s strategy for taking on the brutal Islamist jihadists.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., appeared to anger Kerry by calling the administration’s plan “unserious.”

In an address to the nation last week, President Obama called on Congress to authorize the $500 million as part of his four-pronged plan to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.

The president’s request won Boehner’s approval early on, as the Ohio Republican reassured skeptical colleagues that the rebels known as the Free Syrian Army had been “well-vetted” by intelligence officials.

However, lawmakers and foreign policy experts cast doubt on Boehner’s optimism about the group, which is fighting both ISIS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Steven Bucci, a top official at the Pentagon during the Bush administration, was among those who spoke to the dangers of giving tens of millions of dollars to the Syrian rebels.

“This part of the president’s plan is highly risky,” Bucci, who oversees defense and foreign policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “Many questions remain, and I share the skepticism of many legislators for this aspect of the anti-ISIS effort.”

Eighty-five Democrats and 71 Republicans voted against the amendment approving Obama’s request.

Speaking on the House floor earlier today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, expressed discontent with the plan to spend $500 million to arm and train the Syrian fighters.

“This proposed strategy actually reflects a lack of commitment to really destroy ISIL and the other Islamic extremist groups that we’re at war with,” she said.

Gabbard said it would take “way too long” to train the rebels and said there were not enough of them to take on ISIS. The Hawaii Democrat warned that it was impossible to correctly identify the alliances of the “moderate” Syrian rebels, so weapons provided by the United States later could be “used against us.”

Bucci shared that concern.

“They might be completely honest, but then lose to ISIS or al Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and then the radicals have all our well-intentioned aid,” Bucci told The Daily Signal earlier.

A statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reflected the view of many fellow Democrats. The Californian said:

The American people understand that ISIS must be stopped. I wish such actions were not necessary, but we must vote to approve the president’s request to help the Syrian people take responsibility for building peace and security in their country, and to stem the threat ISIS poses to the U.S. interests abroad and to our national security.

>>> Top General Re-Opens Door on Ground Troops That Commander in Chief Closed

Over in the Senate, Corker told Kerry: “I do want us to deal with this. [But] you’ve not laid it out in a way that meets the test.”

Similarly, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told Kerry that lawmakers likely would have to pass a new authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, to address the campaign against ISIS.

“You’ve going to need a new AUMF,” Menendez said, “and it’ll have to be more tailored.”

In coming days, the Senate likely will act on the budget measure including the language on training and arming the Syrian rebels.

Bobby Jindal: How the ‘Radical Left’ Uses Energy Costs to Control Americans - Daily Signal

Bobby Jindal: How the ‘Radical Left’ Uses Energy Costs to Control Americans

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Kelsey Harkness /

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal yesterday accused the Obama administration of making energy more expensive with the goal of making Americans more dependent on government.

“The Left, they like to tell us they are the ones [who] are following science and we’re the science deniers,” Jindal said to a small group of reporters after delivering a speech at The Heritage Foundation to debut his energy jobs plan. “But I think overall, their approach to energy is telling.”

The Republican governor said the “radical” Left wants energy to be scarce and expensive because it empowers the federal government to be more involved in Americans’ lives.

Doing so, the potential 2016 presidential candidate said, essentially allows the Obama administration to decide what kind of car you drive, what kind of home you live in, what kind of education your children receive, what kind of health care insurance is adequate for you, and what size soda you can drink.

Right now, Jindal said,  America “is on the road to failure.” He said:

It’s war on coal today; it’s going to be a war on natural gas tomorrow—it’s a war on any natural energy source. [The Left] wants it to be scarce; they want it to be expensive. You can see it in their actions, you can see it in their policies.

Jindal, elected governor of Lousiana in 2008 after two terms in Congress, has presided over a state hit by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico while still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

The Left wants energy to be scarce and expensive. You can see it in their actions, you can see it in their policies. -@BobbyJindal

He cited what he called the Left’s “startling” views on natural gas.

“When [natural gas] was 13 dollars, boy they loved it. As soon as it became affordable, all of the sudden they decided they didn’t like it so much,”  Jindal said.

>>>  What Contributes to Gas Prices and Solutions to Help

Nicolas Loris, a Heritage economist who specializes in energy policy, agreed that some liberals initially supported natural gas “as a bridge fuel to take us to renewables.” But because the revolution in shale gas provided an abundance of cheap natural gas, he said, “that bridge became a lot longer than they anticipated.”

“While it may be bad news for other sources of energy,” Loris added, “the low-cost energy is great news for American families and businesses.”

>>> Commentary: Obama May Be Bypassing Congress on Climate

Jindal also cited regulations on carbon dioxide as proof of an “ideologically extreme” agenda by President Obama and other liberals. He said:

“For much of the Left, the whole debate about [carbon dioxide]  is really a Trojan horse because these are folks that never did want a free market. This was a group that was always looking for an excuse to impose more government regulation, more government oversight. … This is just their latest vehicle to do it.”

Jindal’s energy plan, co-authored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, is called “Organizing Around Abundance: Making America an Energy Superpower” and promises to usher in an “unprecedented” era of energy development and job growth.

Here are the main points:

1. Promote responsible development of domestic energy resources and construct infrastructure to transport it.

2. Encourage technological innovation of renewables and emerging energy without picking winners and losers. In other words:Stop giving taxpayer-funded handouts to politically preferred energy sources and technologies. Let the market work.

3. Unlock the economic potential of the manufacturing renaissance by putting America’s energy resources to work.

4. Eliminate burdensome regulations such as the Obama administration’s increased carbon dioxide restrictions on power plants.

5. Bolster national security by ending policies that ban the exporting of natural resources.

6. Pursue “no regrets” policies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions without punishing the U.S. economy by putting it at a disadvantage to those of other nations.

Loris gave points to the Jindal-Flores plan for building on “what we see and know to be successful” when it comes to American energy production.

“Free market policies that open access, remove handouts and peel back burdensome regulations will reward risk-taking, stimulate economic growth and provide Americans with affordable energy,” he said.

What the nation shouldn’t pursue, Loris added, is a policy of reducing carbon dioxide.

“That assumes carbon emissions are a problem,” he said.  Instead, “we can recognize that free markets that reward technological innovation can fuel the economy and reduce emissions.”

Watch this video for Jindal’s complete public remarks at The Heritage Foundation.

Do Women Really Earn 22 Percent Less Than Men? - Daily Signal

Do Women Really Earn 22 Percent Less Than Men?

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Kelsey Harkness / Rachel Greszler /

The Census Bureau released updated data this week showing that the so-called “gender pay gap” between men and women reached a record low, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.

But does this mean that a woman who performs the exact same job as a man gets paid 22 cents less on the dollar? Of course not. If companies behaved that way, they would face lawsuits. Their profits would also suffer: underpaid women would jump ship to competitors and overpaid men would drive up costs and reduce companies’ competitiveness.

Even within the government pay scale, women make only 89 cents on the dollar compared to men.

The pay gap results from the choices women make. Once factors such as career choice, education and experience, hours and work schedules, and career interruptions are taken into account, the so-called pay gap falls to about 5 cents. Other factors, such as the cost of fringe benefits, likely explain some or all of the remaining gap.

For example, even within the government’s General Schedule pay scale that effectively prohibits pay-based discrimination, women make only 89 cents on the dollar compared to men. Why? Well, women make up 75 percent of all federal social workers but only 17 percent of all federal engineers. However, federal social workers make an average of $79,569, while federal engineers make an average of $117,894.

Differences in career choices do significantly affect earnings differentials between men and women. But does that mean we should limit individual choices, forcing women into male-dominated professions and men into female-dominated professions?

Attempts to reduce the so-called remaining “pay gap” through legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act would unintentionally harm women by forcing one-size-fits all jobs upon employees, thus taking away some of the choices women make, and by potentially subjecting women to increased discrimination in the hiring process.

While it may be true that the average women earns less than the average man, most women don’t measure their worth by the size of their paycheck, but rather their ability to freely pursue their own choices and happiness.

5 Key Points Marco Rubio Made in His Big Defense Speech Today - Daily Signal

5 Key Points Marco Rubio Made in His Big Defense Speech Today

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Kelsey Harkness / Rachel Greszler / Diem Salmon /

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., outlined his views on the role of America in the world, why we need American power, and his position on what the U.S. military should look like in a speech today.

Here is a brief recap of what Rubio said:

1. “Foreign policy is domestic policy.” “Never before have our people and our economy been so connected and dependent to the world. What happens across the planet can have a greater impact on your family than what happens down the street.”

2. Rubio’s Foreign Policy doctrine

  1. “In this globalized world, conflict breeds economic disruption.” “We must boldly oppose efforts by other nations to infringe upon the freedom of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, and outer space.”
  2. “We need to have moral clarity regarding what we stand for and why. This means reinforcing our alliances. It means resisting efforts by rising and resurgent powers to subjugate their neighbors. It means being unabashed in our support for the spread of economic and political freedom.”
  3. “We need American Strength.” “The world is at its safest when America is at its Strongest.”

3. America’s enemies are getting bolder and threats are rising. The lists includes nuclear proliferation to countries like North Korea and soon Iran, growing Russian and Chinese militaries, and terrorist groups like ISIL. More problematic, “our adversaries are emboldened by what they perceive as our diminished military presence.”

4. The military has been cut too much. The Defense Department has borne the brunt of spending reductions, even though Social Security and Medicare make up a greater portion of federal spending. As Rubio stated, “adding insult to injury, the savings found in the defense budget were redirected to already bloated domestic programs.” These cuts, 21 percent in four years, has resulted in “a perilous strategic weakness.”

5. Increase the defense budget. The senator would like a return to the former Secretary of Defense Robert Gate’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget as recommended by the bipartisan National Defense Panel. The increased budget would allow the military to invest in two “vital objectives for national defense: modernization and innovation.”

In short, Rubio’s remarks laid out a solid conservative plan for foreign policy and defense, one that acknowledges both the countries’ fiscal responsibilities as well as global realities. His plan is rooted in his belief that “America cannot avoid its role as a global leader.”

How Bobby Jindal’s 7-Year-Old Son Outsmarted Common Core - Daily Signal

How Bobby Jindal’s 7-Year-Old Son Outsmarted Common Core

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Kelsey Harkness / Rachel Greszler / Diem Salmon / Kelsey Harkness /

Under the Common Core education standards, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 7-year-old son was required to explain why 18 + 4 = 22. Speaking yesterday at The Heritage Foundation on his new energy plan, Jindal shared his son’s witty response.

>>> Jindal: Obama Is ‘Incompetent,’ ‘Ideologically Extreme’

>>> Gov. Bobby Jindal Says Americans Want a ‘Hostile Takeover’ of Washington

Mike Lee to Take Over Conservative Senate Group - Daily Signal

Mike Lee to Take Over Conservative Senate Group

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Kelsey Harkness / Rachel Greszler / Diem Salmon / Kelsey Harkness / Melissa Quinn /

In what is being billed as a reason for conservatives to be encouraged, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has been tapped to head the Senate Steering Committee, a conference of Republican lawmakers working to advance a conservative agenda.

Lee will take the helm from Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, chairman for the past two years.

In a prepared statement, Lee said:

The Senate Steering Committee will continue to develop and promote conservative solutions and facilitate vigorous discussion and debate on the issues that matter most to the country. I look forward to leading this effort and very much appreciate the support of my colleagues.

The Utah Republican will take over in January with the start of the 114th Congress.

“Mike Lee is a knowledgeable and principled movement conservative, and he has done a terrific job as vice chairman of the Steering Committee this Congress,” Toomey said. “I’m pleased to hand the gavel to him.”

Lee and Toomey both were elected to the Senate in 2010, when a wave of tea party conservatives won seats in both the House and the Senate. Since then, Republicans have billed the two as champions of the conservative movement.

“Conservatives all over America will cheer the selection of Mike Lee to lead the Senate Steering Committee,” said Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, a former senator from South Carolina who also chaired the Steering Committee.

DeMint added:

Mike is one of the most dedicated, sincere and passionate public servants I’ve ever had the honor of working with. He’s leading the fight for conservative reform within Congress and heading the steering committee will give him a platform to ensure conservative ideas are part of the national conversation.

The Senate Steering Committee, founded in 1974, serves as a forum for Senate conservatives to create, promote and advance a national agenda. In addition to DeMint, other former chairmen include Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and former Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

 

The Problems With the Census Bureau’s New Estimates on How Many Americans Have Health Insurance - Daily Signal

The Problems With the Census Bureau’s New Estimates on How Many Americans Have Health Insurance

Sharyl Attkisson / Jordan Richardson / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Kelsey Harkness / Rachel Greszler / Diem Salmon / Kelsey Harkness / Melissa Quinn / Edmund Haislmaier /

If you are looking for information on how Americans are engaging with the Affordable Care Act, the Census Bureau’s recently released latest annual estimates of health insurance coverage is probably not the place to look—at least for now.

The Census Bureau, which derives its information on healthcare from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement—the same survey where it asks how many toilets, computers, microwaves, etc., people have in their homes—does provide some useful insights.

It catalogues the demographic characteristics of the population based on participation in different types of health insurance coverage—government health care programs, private employer and individual plans, and the uninsured. It tells us young adults make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured and provides useful information on the relative availability of employer-sponsored coverage by industry and firm size.

But its hard numbers on enrollment and enrollment trends are not reliable for drawing “big picture” conclusions, especially regarding the ACA. Indeed, that unreliability is why this year the Census Bureau started using a new set of health coverage questions in the ASEC.

The redesigned questionnaire itself is one reason to be careful in drawing conclusions from this latest data. Census itself notes “the redesign of the health insurance section of the CPS ASEC, its estimates of health insurance coverage are not directly comparable to estimates from prior years of the survey.”

Even with revisions in its methodology, the ASEC is still a survey and not a comprehensive accounting of actual enrollments. Although the new version of the ASEC aims to be more accurate, surveys never can be as precise as real-world data. For instance, based on this survey Census estimates Medicare covered 49 million people in 2013. Yet, actual Medicare enrollment in 2013 was 52.2 million individuals.

Also, the survey is conducted in March and is designed to gather information about health insurance coverage the previous year. Consequently, it reflects the reality of 2013. But Obamacare changed dramatically in 2014, which means this survey doesn’t reflect enrollment in the new health insurance exchanges, expansion of Medicaid in half the states or changes in employment-based coverage as a result of businesses and workers responding to new incentives and disincentives in Obamacare.

With respect to the last point, it is important to rely on actual enrollment data—as opposed to surveys—when assessing Obama’s impact on health coverage. This is particularly important for its effects on private market coverage.

For instance, my colleague, Drew Gonshorowski, and I recently published a paper that analyzed enrollment data for private health insurance for the six-month period from last Oct. 1 to Mar. 31 of this year. Despite media reports of gains in enrollment of as many as 4 million people, we found a net increase of just 520,000 people with private insurance during that time after accounting for reduced enrollment in employer-sponsored group coverage.