Morning Action: Another Directive from President Obama

OBAMA DIRECTIVE.  President Obama will announce a directive Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture make disaster aid programs operational in 60 days in California (sub. req’d):

The programs are part of the 2014 farm bill (PL 113-79) the president signed on Feb. 7 and would normally take six to eight months to establish, Vilsack said. Applications will be taken in April.

California producers could receive an estimated $100 million in assistance for 2014. Farmers and ranchers in other states will be able to apply for recent losses and also retroactively to 2012, the year when disaster assistance programs in the 2008 farm bill (PL 110-246) expired.

Overall, Vilsack said the mix of disaster programs could provide aid to California and other states such as South Dakota that were hard hit in 2013 by a blizzard that devastated cattle herds.

The USDA also will provide $60 million to California food banks to help farm workers and others who lost jobs or have seen their hours reduced because of the drought.

OBAMACARE.  Many Californians are upset to find they can not keep the doctor they liked under Obamacare:

With more and more doctors not accepting Covered California insurance, the state’s Obamacare exchange, Californians are learning they can no longer keep their doctor like President Obama promised.

KPIX-CA reports California residents are calling the move a “bait-and-switch”, in which the doctors they were promised they would keep are now turning them away.

“I wanted to cry,” resident Brent Undrage said, “I’ve been going [to my clinic] for 26 years. I enjoyed them and trusted them and wanted to keep them as my doctors.”

MEDICARE ADVANTAGE.  Republican leaders are urging President Obama to scale back upcoming cuts to Medicare Advantage under Obamacare (sub. req’d):

House Republican leaders on Thursday asked President Barack Obama to help mitigate the effect of pending cuts to Medicare Advantage plans under the health care law, saying seniors’ access to care is threatened.

Six GOP leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), joined provider and employer groups in voicing concern about expected cuts in the 2015 Medicare Advantage rates. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to announce the preliminary rates on Feb. 21, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents the insurance industry.

AHIP and other groups have stepped up pressure on CMS, with some writing letters asking CMS to maintain current payment rates. The cuts to Medicare Advantage payments, which were 6 percent in 2014, help pay for the expanded coverage provisions of the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148PL 111-152).

The Republicans said further rate cuts would harm seniors’ access to care and bring them higher health costs.

DATA SECURITY.  Financial firms and retail groups have struck an accord on data security after months of publicly blaming each other for high-profile data breaches (sub. req’d):

After months of publicly blaming each other for high-profile data breaches, lobbying groups from the banking and retail sectors are declaring a truce of sorts.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, the American Bankers Association and several other groups say they have formed a “cybersecurity partnership.” The dueling industries, at odds particularly since recent breaches at Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus have sparked congressional inquiries, pledged in an accord announced Thursday to better cooperate to protect consumers’ data.

the industries, dependent on each other in business, have engaged in heated finger pointing on Capitol Hill. Retailers have said banks and credit and debit card companies have been slow to adopt more secure technology, such as embedded chips in every card. Financial services firms say most retailers have not upgraded their card readers to accommodate such technology.

Whether such barbs will be a thing of the past seems unlikely. As part of their cybersecurity effort, the groups said they will form working groups that will focus on sharing threat information and keeping up on the latest technologies. Even at the outset, the groups acknowledged they aren’t likely to always get along. A press release noted, “This forum will be a platform to discuss areas of disagreement and seek solutions.”

But it is a shift from the recent hostility.


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