Sunday, November 24, 2013

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Florida company received no bid Obamacare contract worth $12 million

"Caught flat-footed by the challenges of building the financial-management and accounting parts of the U.S. government's new online marketplace for health insurance, officials rushed to hire a familiar contractor without seeking competing bids, according to government procurement documents reviewed by Reuters."

The documents dated in August - less than two months before the opening of online marketplaces established by President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law - showed the agency in charge had only "recently learned" that building the financial management functions was "beyond (its) currently available resources."

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) documents shed more light on the problems facing the agency as it worked on the marketplaces established by the law commonly called Obamacare and on its revelation this week that at least 30 percent of the marketplace is still being built.

"Although the consumer-facing part of the marketplace, the website, opened for enrollments on October 1, CMS had a goal of January 1, 2014 for the financial components of the system to be operational."
"The prospect of a delay...even for a few days, would result in severe consequences, financial and other," CMS said in a "justification and approval" document explaining the lack of competition for the contract.

The contract, valued at nearly $12 million, was awarded on August 9 to Novitas Solutions, according to the documents. Novitas has numerous contracts with CMS, including to administer doctor and hospital claims in the federal Medicare program for elderly Americans.

"Federal agencies are normally required to solicit bids for work, so as to get the best deal for taxpayers, but can award a contract to a favored company in emergencies as long as they document the urgency."
Just a few weeks before the financial-management contract was awarded, according to emails released last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, CMS officials were becoming increasingly concerned about the status of the federal insurance marketplace, asking for assurance that the lead contractor was not "going to crash the plane at take-off."

On Tuesday, CMS's deputy chief information officer, Henry Chao, author of the "crash" email, told a congressional panel that 30 to 40 percent of the federal marketplace was still under construction.

Invisible to consumers are what Chao called the "back office systems." Those include accounting and payment systems to send premiums to insurers and transfer funds to insurers that attract more than their share of customers with high medical costs.

The no-bid contract awarded to Novitas includes these systems.

Here's the Florida connection:
Novitas is a subsidiary of Diversified Service Options, which is wholly-owned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.
When asked
about how Novitas was awarded the contract and the work it is doing, Florida Blue spokesman Mark Wright said a company official told him, "We're not going to be able to get into this right now."
"Obamacare agency rushed in contractor without bids, documents show".

How nice to read that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is being handed no bid contracts. Background: "Blue Cross is top donor in Florida politics but its investment has produced mixed results" (the contributions since January 2013 "include $867,000 sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature"). That said, it was mighty big of the "Florida Blue CEO [to] Refuse[] to Play Along with David Gregory's Concern Trolling".

"Florida’s prison lockup rate higher than Cuba’s"

"There is a fast way to save big bucks on prisons, say a growing chorus of conservatives and liberals alike: Stop putting so many people behind bars." "Florida’s prison lockup rate higher than Cuba’s" (subscription required).

Woman in wheelchair shot

"S. Florida woman in wheelchair shot, wounded".

Will Rubio remain "slavishly loyal to his tea party masters?"

Stephen Goldstein: "The millions of victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are lucky Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio and tea party-Republicans don't represent them; if they did, they wouldn't be sending help to the victims anytime soon."

Instead, they'd be playing politics — dithering, posturing, and holding aid hostage until they got cuts in some program that helps poor kids or ailing seniors.

Impossible as it may be for civilized people with a moral compass to imagine, the sight of dazed, destitute, injured, dying and helpless people, through no fault of their own, doesn't seem to affect people of a certain disposition (aka tea party Republicans); their empathetic screws are loose, if they ever even had them.

Shedding crocodile tears, Rubio said he "watched with great sadness as Hurricane Sandy hit various eastern seaboard states and destroyed towns, property and lives." He "offered . . . prayers that the people impacted by Sandy would find strength in God's love and the company of their loved ones in its aftermath."

"So much hot air."
They'd better merit divine intervention, because Rubio lifted a finger, but it wasn't to help them. He claims he's opposed to holding natural disaster relief hostage to cuts in social programs. In his first chance to help, he voted against "the Hurricane Sandy supplemental bill . . .

It took Congress three months to approve a $50.7-billion aid package. But, even then, in his second chance to show a smidgen of human decency, Rubio voted against it — along with 35 other tea party Republicans in the Senate and 179 House members. A year after Sandy struck, many victims are still destitute, their homes still not rebuilt, their lives shattered.

"As we breathe a sign of relief after another placid hurricane season, I have two nightmares."
First, South Florida suffers unthinkable devastation from a storm like Sandy. . . .

And second, I'm afraid that we'd be treated no better than the victims of Sandy, by tea party/GOP members of Congress, who'd block aid from getting to us — and by insurance companies replacing Citizens who sold us policies that don't really cover us. Where will Marco Rubio be when Floridians need him? If there's any pork in a Florida relief bill, will he refuse to vote for it and remain, as usual, slavishly loyal to his tea party masters? Or will he hold his nose and abandon his "principles" in the interest of suffering Floridians? Or will he do none-of-the-above and "watch with great sadness," "offer prayers" and hope we find "strength in God's love"?

We have reached a moral low-point in America, when everything that has been our collective strength slowly but surely has been eroded. Government, which has historically been the protector of all people, has been vilified as our common enemy. No one knows for sure what's left that we can rely upon or how much of our social and emergency infrastructure has been compromised or dismantled.

Perhaps Rubio has the answers. If not, maybe he'll shed some of his hallmark crocodile tears.

Much more here: "When help is needed, don't look for Rubio".

Rubio laff riot

"Florida's Sen. Rubio targets foreign policy, decries divisive Obama".