Thune, Finance Republicans Request Information on Obamacare Enrollment Safeguards

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressThune, Finance Republicans Request Information on Obamacare Enrollment Safeguards

GAO Findings Revealed False Consumer Information Used to Obtain Obamacare Subsidies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, along with all Finance Committee Republicans, today sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt requesting information on how the agency verifies the authenticity of consumer information that is used to enroll in the Obamacare Marketplace. Today’s letter follows a hearing during which the Finance Committee reviewed the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) findings that false information was used to obtain Obamacare subsidies.

“The GAO findings show that there has been a rise in major problems with enrollment controls, with little to no improvement. The findings highlight CMS’s conscious decision to downplay program integrity in order to focus on mass enrollment,” the senators wrote.

Joining Thune on the letter were U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Full text of the letter can be found below and a signed copy can be found here.

The Honorable Andrew M. Slavitt
Acting Administrator
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
200 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Mr. Slavitt,

On July 16, 2015, the Senate Committee on Finance held its second hearing on the United States Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) ongoing investigation into the federal Health Insurance Marketplace’s enrollment controls.  Last week, GAO submitted testimony before the Finance Committee entitled “Observations on 18 Undercover Tests of Enrollment Controls for Health-Care Coverage and Consumer Subsidies Provided under the Act.”  Seto J. Bagdoyan, Director of Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, served as GAO’s witness in explaining their findings to the Committee.  Mr. Bagdoyan’s testimony, both at the hearing and in his written statement, show that problems persist, including those that GAO raised a year ago at the Finance Committee’s first hearing on the Marketplace’s enrollment controls.

To better assess the enrollment controls of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, GAO conducted 18 undercover tests using fictitious applicants.  Of GAO’s 18 fictitious applicants, 6 sought to apply in person and 12 applied online or via telephone.  Of these 12, 11 were approved by the Marketplace for coverage and subsidies in 2014.  In early 2015, six of the fake applicants were terminated.  However, GAO was able to have five of the six reinstated very easily without any additional documentation and with greater subsidy amounts.  GAO attempted to sign up the other six fictitious applicants for tax credits with in-person assisters.  In five out of six cases, both Navigators and non-Navigator assistance personnel failed to offer any assistance.

Although GAO was careful to note that the results of its tests cannot be generalized to the full population of applicants or enrollees, these findings are very troubling.  The GAO findings show that there has been a rise in major problems with enrollment controls, with little to no improvement.  The findings highlight CMS’s conscious decision to downplay program integrity in order to focus on mass enrollment.  The Administration had spent over $120 million on the Navigator program for the 2014 and 2015 open enrollment periods.  These enrollment assistance programs cannot be allowed to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars for expenses that are either wasted or untracked in terms of their use.  Moreover, given the operational challenges of the Marketplace nationwide, the use of federal funds should support programs that efficiently and consistently help American citizens, rather than leaving them dumbfounded.

When applicant information does not match information available from Marketplace verification sources, these inconsistencies should raise red flags for CMS.  Instead, GAO reports that, according to CMS officials, the Marketplace did not terminate any coverage for several types of inconsistencies.  We are concerned by these findings.  Accordingly, we request the following information by no later than Monday, August 31, 2015:

  1. When did GAO first notify CMS of issues with the federal exchange’s enrollment controls?
  2. What steps, if any, did CMS take in response to GAO’s findings?  If CMS did not take steps in response to GAO’s findings, why not?
  3. How does the federal exchange verify identity, citizenship, and salary information?  When answering, please address the following questions:
  4. Does the federal exchange use different methods of verification for online, telephone, or in-person applications?  If so, why?
  5. Does the federal exchange use different methods of verification for identity, citizenship, and salary information?  If so, why?
  6. For verification purposes, are identity, citizenship, and salary information of equal importance?
  7. What, if any, internal controls were in place when the federal exchanges were first opened, including controls for online, telephone, and in-person applications?  What, if any, additional controls have been added since that time?  Were these controls sufficient?
  8. Does CMS have the ability to track how many individuals were actually declined and prevented from receiving subsidies?
  9. Please describe how CMS assesses the effectiveness of the federal exchange’s enrollment controls, including controls for online, telephone, and in-person applications.  Has CMS identified any other weaknesses in the federal exchange’s enrollment controls that GAO did not identify?  If so, what weaknesses?
  10. It has come to our attention that the federal exchange has been employing a good faith policy, or good faith exemption, as part of its verification process, specifically with respect to applicants’ submission of documents.
  11. What is the good faith policy?  Please explain in detail.
  12. Why does CMS think that this is the appropriate verification standard for identity, citizenship, and salary information?
  13. Does the good faith policy extend beyond verification of identity, citizenship, and salary information?
  14. Over $120 million has been spent on the Navigator program.
  15. Please provide an itemized breakdown of federal funds directed to the Navigator and non-navigator programs or grants.
  16. What criteria does CMS employ to assess the effectiveness, including responsiveness to potential applicants, of both Navigators and non-navigator in-person assisters?
  17. CMS did not provide GAO with access to certain data, which was needed for GAO’s investigation, in a timely manner.
  18. When did you first become aware of GAO’s difficulties obtaining access to data related to its investigation?
  19. What steps did you take to ensure that GAO obtained access to the data it requested?
  20. How long did it take CMS to provide GAO access to the data it requested?
  21. As part of the technical surge team brought to CMS to rescue the federal exchange, and in light of GAO’s findings, what controls do you think would improve the integrity of the federal exchange’s enrollment process? Do you have plans to implement these controls? If not, why not?
  22. How will CMS address the issues that GAO has identified going forward?

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we would appreciate receiving a response by August 21, 2015.


Noem-Backed Legislation to Better Scrutinize Costly Federal Regulations Passes House

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014

Noem-Backed Legislation to Better Scrutinize Costly Federal Regulations Passes House

Washington, D.C. – Legislation cosponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem that aims to provide more oversight of costly federal regulations passed the U.S. House of Representatives today.  H.R.427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, would require federal agencies to submit major regulations – or those with an economic impact of more than $100 million – to Congress for final approval.

“In 2014 alone, federal bureaucrats imposed approximately $1.88 trillion worth of regulations on hardworking Americans with little to no enforceable scrutiny.  That has to end,” said Noem.  “The REINS Act forces federal regulators to think twice before finalizing ill-considered, needlessly costly, or simply unnecessary regulations.  It does so by ensuring these unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats can be held genuinely accountable to the people.  That’s the way it should be. With nearly 500 new major regulations during this administration alone, it’s clear President Obama’s regulators need to be reined in.”

With the REINS Act in place, federal agencies would be required to submit to Congress any regulation that has an economic impact in excess of $100 million per year for a decisive up-or-down vote.  Congress would have 70 legislative days to act.  The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.


Thune: Why Americans Need a Long-Term Transportation Solution


Thune: Why Americans Need a Long-Term Transportation Solution

“When Congress fails to provide the necessary certainty about the way transportation funding will be allocated, states and local governments are left without the certainty they need to authorize projects or make long-term plans for transportation infrastructure. And that means that essential construction projects get deferred, necessary repairs may not get made, and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today urged his colleagues to pass a long-term transportation bill to fund our nation’s highways, roads, and bridges and provide certainty to Americans whose jobs rely on a reauthorization.

Sen. Thune delivered his speech during continued debate on the DRIVE Act, a bipartisan bill designed to modernize the nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems and allow America to better compete in the 21st century. The bill includes several Commerce Committee titles that cover key transportation and regulatory reforms. A section-by-section of the Commerce titles may be found here, and a bill summary may be found here.

The full text of Sen. Thune’s floor speech follows (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, this week the Senate is continuing debate on a bipartisan measure to reauthorize transportation programs and fund our nation’s highways, roads, and bridges.

“While transportation bills are nothing new here in the Senate, the bill before us today is notable because it’s the first transportation bill in almost a decade to provide more than two years of funding for our nation’s infrastructure needs.

“Since 2009, Congress has passed more than 33 short-term funding extensions.

“That’s an average of approximately five funding extensions each year.

“That’s not a good way to manage our nation’s infrastructure, and it wastes an incredible amount of money.

“Around the country, hundreds of thousands of people – and hundreds of thousands of jobs – depend on the funding contained in transportation bills.

“When Congress fails to provide the necessary certainty about the way transportation funding will be allocated, states and local governments are left without the certainty they need to authorize projects or make long-term plans for transportation infrastructure.

“And that means that essential construction projects get deferred, necessary repairs may not get made, and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.

“My home state of South Dakota has been forced to defer important construction projects thanks to the lack of funding certainty.

“Mr. President, no individual or business would start building a house or an office building if it could only promise a contractor three months of funding.

“In the same way, Congress can’t expect a state to begin construction of a new bridge or highway without the certainty that the project will be fully funded.

“The highway bill before us today, the DRIVE Act, reauthorizes transportation programs for six years and provides three years of guaranteed funding.

“And all three years of funding have been paid for without raising the gas tax – or adding a dime to the deficit.

“This bill will give states and local governments the certainty they need to plan for and commit to key infrastructure projects.

“It will also help strengthen our nation’s transportation system by increasing transparency in the allocation of transportation dollars, streamlining the permitting and environmental review processes, and cutting red tape.

“Mr. President, over the past few years of Democrat control, the public has grown increasingly skeptical of Congress’ being able to function.

“When Republicans took the majority in January, we promised the American people we’d get the Senate working again, and we’ve been delivering on that promise.

“This transportation bill is another major legislative achievement and the result of hard work by several committees who put together key provisions to spur important infrastructure investment and safety improvements.

“Republicans and Democrats alike got to make their voices heard during this process, and the resulting bill is stronger because of it.

“As chairman of the Commerce Committee, I had the opportunity to work on the Commerce section of the bill.

“Our focus was on enhancing the safety of our nation’s cars, trucks, and railroads, and the bill we produced makes key reforms that will enhance transportation safety around the country.

“Over the past year, the Commerce Committee has spent a lot of time focused on motor vehicle safety efforts.

“Last year was a record year for auto problems, with more than 63 million vehicles recalled.

“Two of the defects that have spurred recent auto recalls – the faulty General Motors ignition switch and the defective airbag inflators from Takata – are responsible for numerous unnecessary deaths and injuries: at least 8 reported deaths in the case of Takata, and more than 100 deaths in the case of General Motors.

“Indications point to the Takata recalls as being among the largest and most complex set of auto-related recalls in our nation’s history, with more than 30 million cars affected.

“Given the seriousness of these recalls, when it came time to draft the highway bill one of our priorities at the Commerce Committee was addressing auto safety issues and promoting greater consumer awareness and corporate responsibility.

“The Commerce section of the DRIVE Act now triples the civil penalties that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can impose on automakers for a series of related safety violations – from a cap of $35 million to a cap of $105 million – which should provide a much stronger deterrent against auto safety violations like those that occurred in the case of the faulty ignition switches at General Motors.

“Our portion of the bill also improves notification methods to ensure that consumers are made aware of recalls.

“The new notification requirements include a provision incentivizing dealers to inform consumers of open recalls when they bring in their cars for routine maintenance, as well as a grant program to allow states to notify consumers of recalls when they register their vehicles.

“Our committee also adopted a provision from my Democrat colleague, the senior senator from Missouri, which will prevent rental car companies from renting unrepaired cars that have been recalled.

“Mr. President, in the wake of the recall over the GM ignition switch defect, the inspector general at the Department of Transportation published a scathing report identifying serious lapses at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – or NHTSA – the government agency responsible for overseeing safety in our nation’s cars and trucks.

“The concerns raised included questions about the agency’s ability to properly identify and investigate safety problems – a concern that is further underscored by the circumstances surrounding the Takata recalls.

“In addition to targeting violations by automakers, our portion of the highway bill also addresses the lapses at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified in the inspector general’s report.

“In its typical fashion, the Obama administration claimed that NHTSA’s problems would be solved by simply throwing more money at the agency, but based on expert testimony from the inspector general, it’s clear that money alone is not going to solve the problem.

“We need to ensure that the agency fixes what is broken before we provide a significant increase in funding authorization with taxpayer dollars.

“Our bill makes additional funding increases for NHTSA’s vehicle safety efforts contingent on the agency’s implementation of reforms called for by the inspector general, ensuring that this agency will be in a better position to address vehicle safety problems in the future.

“I appreciate that NHTSA’s current administrator has pledged to implement all of the recommendations.

“Mr. President, another big focus of the Commerce Committee this year has been rail safety.

“Nearly half of the Commerce section of the DRIVE Act is made up of a bipartisan rail safety bill put together by the Republican junior senator from Mississippi and the Democrat junior senator from New Jersey.

“Their work on important passenger rail and Amtrak reforms was almost ready for a committee mark-up at the beginning of May, but after the tragic train derailment in Philadelphia, these two senators opted to delay the mark-up and then added even more safety provisions to the bill they crafted.

“Their bill, which passed the committee with unanimous support from committee members of both parties, includes provisions to strengthen our nation’s rail infrastructure and smooth the way for the implementation of new safety technologies.

“Mr. President, our transportation infrastructure keeps our economy – and our nation – going.

“Our nation’s farmers depend on our rail system to move their crops to market.

“Manufacturers rely on our interstate highway system to distribute their goods to stores across the United States.

“And all of us depend on our nation’s roads and bridges to get around every day.

“For too long, transportation has been the subject of short-term legislation that leaves those responsible for building and maintaining our nation’s transportation system without the certainty and predictability they need to keep our roads and highways thriving.

“I’m proud of the bill we have on the floor before us today, and I hope we can pass this legislation and work with the House to develop a final bill that will allow us to fund our nation’s transportation priorities on a long-term basis.”


“You should be able to go anywhere you want, and drink coffee” – Lamont Banks

If you caught the post below on how former Obama campaign manager Steve Hildebrand is complaining that he’s getting too much business from homeless people, and that “This is YOUR coffeehouse – NOT THEIRS.” KELOland took the bait on the Hildebrand presser this morning, which revealed little to nothing other than conspiracy minded complaints from the coffee shop owner.

(Click on picture to go to KELO Article).

lamont_coffeeHowever, KELO did a great job in interviewing one of the area’s homeless people, Lamont Burks, who was there to eat and drink coffee. Lamont noted, in reference to his patronizing Josiah’s that “You should be able to go anywhere you want, and drink coffee,” and that they were not there because an organized effort, as opposed to being close to three homeless shelters in the immediate area, as the homeless people don’t have cars and have to walk.

Apparently, you have to have to be a hipster with a full beard, skinny jeans and a Mac Book to be the right kind of people for it to be “your coffeehouse.”

Hildebrand holding presser to complain that homeless people are spending money at his coffee house.

From Facebook, apparently, it’s been an interesting week at Josiah’s in Sioux Falls:


July 16: Yay, business is great…


July 20th – again, Yay, record business…..



And to supplement that, I’m hearing he called a press conference on it at 10:30.

Am I the only one scratching their head over his praising the business coming from the homeless people , and then howling “This is YOUR coffeehouse – NOT THEIRS.”

Say a bar owner opened a brand new fancy bar. And because of it’s location, theme, etc, whatever, it began to be frequented by a significant number of members of the LGBT community, and the bar owner was a bit homophobic.   What would Hildy’s position be if the bar owner started posting on facebook “This is YOUR bar – NOT THEIRS.”

It seems more than a bit elitist and snobbish to complain that these paying customers are being hauled in by his political opponents who are buying them food there.

If they were just taking up space and denying paying customers, that’s one thing.  But praising their business one week, and then holding a press conference the next to complain about it?

What do you think? And would you turn people away from your business if they weren’t of your economic class?

McGovern had two love-children, and there are still more secrets after that?

If you’ve been reading the Argus this past weekend, you caught the story about the FBI’s background investigation on McGovern for when he served in the Kennedy administration – including the discovery of a child born out of wedlock –  his battles with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and that people gained access to the file.

Journalist Tom Lawrence expands on this information, and drops the bombshell that McGovern not only had one, but two love-children, and that a book may be coming out from the late former Senator with more bombshells about his personal life:

The late South Dakota icon reportedly fathered a child in the early 1940s, prior to his marriage. FBI files reveal the child weighed on his mind for some time, as he wondered if the secret would be revealed and, in those more innocent times, damage or destroy his political career.

Don Simmons, a close friend of McGovern in his final years, said McGovern had, in fact, two children outside of marriage.

Another child was born out of a relationship McGovern had while serving as an aviator in Europe during World War II. McGovern, like many if not most men and women in the armed forces, was unsure of his safe return home, so he lived a life that included drinking and women.

He had married his wife Eleanor before departing for Europe. Simmons said he does not know if Eleanor was aware of her husband’s children outside of marriage although it has been reported he told her, in late 1972, of the child born in the USA. That child was conceived prior to their marriage.


His daughter, and first child, would be in her 70s, if still alive. Did McGovern ever meet her? What of the mother? Those sections of the story remain unclear.

A few months before he died, McGovern and I had a discussion about his books and he showed me a manuscript he was working on. He said it contained a secret about his life that would shock people but did not allow me a close look.

That book has yet to appear and I have since wondered exactly what that secret was. Simmons, who read the manuscript, said the children born out of wedlock are not the biggest surprises.

Read it all here.

And will we ever see the book? Or will these new secrets be buried, and lost to the mists of time?

Daugaard: Hilger’s Gulch Getting A New Look


Hilger’s Gulch Getting A New Look

DaugaardPIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard is embarking on an initiative to bring back the native landscape of South Dakota to Hilger’s Gulch and save taxpayer money.“This is a planned transformation and it’s going to save us time and money,” Gov. Daugaard said. “On average the state has spent around $36,000 annually for irrigation and $23,000 annually for mowing, fertilizing and weed treatment. In dry years, the water bills have approached $50,000. We’re taking this project on as an effort to be better stewards of that money.”

For the project, the Governor selected vegetation that can thrive in the natural climate of central South Dakota. The new plant life is expected to save money over time because it will require less maintenance and will not necessitate the use of chemical herbicides.

The renovation will also serve to restore habitat in the area. Working with the South Dakota Bureau of Administration, Gov. Daugaard has strategically mapped out the placement of the various plants, trees and a meadow with purple, yellow and red wildflowers.

As part of the project, the Bureau of Administration will be developing hiking trails throughout the area. The Bureau will also continue to mow and water the outer perimeter of the gulch, including “Sled Hill” and Governor’s Grove.

“By returning to native plants, we will not only be save taxpayer dollars but also beautify the entire area. With the new gravel hiking trails, walkers will be able to see the plum trees, prairie roses, blue asters and cone flowers up close,” Gov. Daugaard said.

The details of the project were shared on Thursday, July 23, with the Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission.

The Bureau of Administration began the Hilger’s Gulch renovations this month by planting willow trees. More work will be undertaken this fall. The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2017.

To see a map of the project, go to


Training Course Set for Enhanced Concealed Carry Gun Permit

jackleyheader2Training Course Set for Enhanced Concealed Carry Gun Permit

Marty JackleyPIERRE – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that rules for the enhanced concealed carry gun permit were approved last week by the Interim Rules Committee. September 23, 2015 has been set aside for the initial training class to be held at the George S. Mickelson Criminal Justice Center in Pierre. Instruction for this class will be provided by National Rifle Association certified instructors and the Division of Criminal Investigation.

The application for the Enhanced Use of Force Training Course can be found at this link:

During the 2015 legislative session the South Dakota Legislature enacted an enhanced concealed carry option in order to allow qualified South Dakotans to meet the requirements of the other States carry law for when they travel. South Dakota’s current permit law remains in place for which South Dakota has reciprocity with the following 26 states that recognize our current concealed carry permit: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.


Stolen from Facebook. Our current Republican Congresswoman… and maybe a future one

Kristi_sydneyI pilfered this from Dusty Johnson’s Facebook, like most parents are doing with photos of their kids as they arrived home from Teenage Republican Camp this weekend.

It’s a pic of our current Republican Congresswoman… and a potential future one, twenty or so years from now. Kristi was nice enough to shoot a photo with my daughter Sydney, who is the new TAR vice chair for the statewide group.

From all reports, it was a great week, and I’m tremendously proud of my daughter for winning her office, as well as my son, Pat Jr., who is in his second year of attending.

I’ve had 4 kids attend camp so far, and I think they’ve all found the experience to be fun, educational, and valuable.

If you have a teenaged son or daughter, it’s well worth getting them in touch with the TAR organization who has more fun events coming up. The TARS have a booth at the GOP Building at this years’ State Fair, or you can find out more by visiting their website at