More healthcare hiccups. In the latest round of embarrassing flubs for the Obama administration, officials have admitted the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov website can’t yet handle appeals. Neither can the call centers that serve as the website’s human backup, leaving 22,000 people in limbo because of errors on their health insurance applications. The people who have filed appeals for corrections say the federal healthcare exchange charged them too much for health insurance, steered them into the wrong insurance program, or denied them coverage entirely. Because of mistakes made on her application, one woman profiled by The Washington Post is paying $100 more per month than she should. Advisors at the call center told her to pay her premium to avoid losing coverage while the government tries to sort out the problem. “It is definitely frustrating and not fair,”said Addie Wilson, 27, who lives in Fairmont, W.Va., and earns $22,000 a year working with at-risk families. “I hope they really work on getting this fixed.”
Preponderance of evidence? The other shoe political pundits were waiting to drop in the “Bridgegate”scandal landed with a dull thud over the weekend, just in time to ruin New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Super Bowl party. Christie has emphatically denied knowing anything about the lane closures in Fort Lee, at the base of the George Washington Bridge, that caused four days of traffic snarls in September. He blamed the closure, perpetrated in retaliation for the town mayor’s refusal to support the governor’s reelection bid, on staffers and associates who acted without his knowledge. But former Port Authority official David Wildstein, a Christie appointee, said in a letter released by his lawyer that he has evidence the governor knew exactly what was happening in Fort Lee. Representatives from the governor’s office denied the allegations (again) and said Wildstein would say anything to save his own skin. Meanwhile, top moderate Republicans have continued to defend Christie, who some still regard as a top contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. I wonder how long that will last.
Castaway? A man who washed ashore on the Marshall Islands is telling officials there an amazing tale of survival. The man, who says his name is Jose Salvador Alvarenga, claims he set sail from Mexico with a teenage companion on Sept. 21, 2012, for a fishing trip. After the boat’s engine died, the pair drifted for more than a year. Alvarenga, who sported a long, ragged beard, shaggy hair, and tattered clothing, said they survived on raw fish and birds they caught with their hands. After four months, he said the teen died and he threw his body overboard. Officials aren’t asking him too many questions now, as he’s receiving medical treatment. But they’ll have plenty of questions for him once he’s feeling better. The people he claims are his relatives in Mexico said he looks like a long-lost family member, but they can’t be sure.
Trading places? I hate to waste any more words on former pro basketball star Dennis Rodman, but he’s back in the news again with comments about Kenneth Bae, the American Christian being held in a North Korean prison camp. On Friday, Rodman said people shouldn’t be held hostage for something they didn’t do and offered to trade places with Bae the next time he visits his “friend,”North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Rodman has visited the communist country four times in the last year in an effort to promote “basketball diplomacy”between North Korea and the United States. When asked about Bae’s plight during his last visit, Rodman suggested the South Korean native deserved his 15-year prison sentence. He later apologized and said he was drunk at the time he made the statement during a CNN interview. Rodman made his latest comments from a rehab center he checked into shortly after returning from his last North Korean trip. Could substance abuse problems be at the root of his strange fascination with North Korea?