The Right Prescription

Kathleen the Terrible

Kathleen Sebelius is the most corrupt and arrogant HHS secretary in history.

By 12.17.12

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Among the gifts Nancy Pelosi brings to the House of Representatives is her ability to draw a hearty guffaw from the most jaded observer of American politics. This talent for comedy was on display last Wednesday when she told a group of toadeaters disguised as journalists that she belongs to the anti-corruption party. The Orwellian absurdity of the claim, combined with her trademark vapid expression, was enough to make a cat laugh. I do, however, wish C-SPAN would flash some sort of warning on the screen when the former Speaker is about to deliver one of these howlers. That one caught me unawares with a mouth full of coffee and I had to spend the next ten minutes cleaning off my keyboard and monitor.

In reality, of course, Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats who infest Congress and the Obama administration constitute the most corrupt gang of grifters ever to have descended on Washington and the hapless American electorate. The only real question is: Who is the worst? Many would bestow this dubious honor on Pelosi herself. Others would favor her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid. More than a few would, of course, nominate Eric Holder. And still others would push the suit of President Obama for the “most corrupt” award. All are tough contenders, without a doubt, and each has certainly earned at least a dishonorable mention. Nonetheless, for my money, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius wins the prize.

While all of the above-named candidates have demonstrated contempt for generally accepted codes of ethical conduct and the rule of law, none has done so with the former Kansas Governor’s consistency and arrogance. Before the advent of Commissar Sebelius, the typical Secretary of Health and Human Services has maintained such a low profile and remained so far from scandal that most voters would be hard put to name any of the 20 people who preceded her in that office. Sebelius has been a noisome exception. The stench of corruption has followed Sebelius from her confirmation hearings, during which she admitted that she had made “errors” on her tax returns, to her “inadvertent” violation of the Hatch Act last February.

Nor did revelations of the latter outrage stem the steady stream of skullduggery that has flowed from her office. Even as her Hatch Act violation came to light, she launched a program that illegally postponed Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare Advantage until after the recent election. And it hardly needs to be said that her behavior since November 6 contains no hint of moderation. Since then, Sebelius has put in place a legally dubious pay-to-play program for selecting which health carriers can ply their wares in Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, and it has been discovered that a crucial contract involving the exchanges was awarded to a company that employs a former Sebelius underling who ran the very agency that awarded the contract.

The pay-to-play scheme for the Obamacare exchanges is the result of widespread reluctance among the states to set up the insurance “marketplaces” through which the uninsured will theoretically purchase “affordable” care. The New York Times reports, “The Obama administration said Friday that more than half the states had rejected its pleas to set up their own health insurance exchanges.” The Times insinuates that this is nothing but a mean-spirited GOP refusal to “join a White House campaign to provide health insurance to all Americans.” But the real problem is that the push for states to create their own exchanges is a scam designed to trick them into enabling and enforcing the worst of Obamacare’s provisions.

As I wrote last month, if the states refuse to set up exchanges, they cut off the subsidies and tax credits that are the lifeblood of Obamacare. Moreover, states that decline to set up these enabling bureaucracies will also be protecting their business communities from job-killing federal penalties -- even if the federal government comes in and sets up its own exchanges. Why? Because the hilariously titled “Affordable Care Act” forbids the federal government from funneling premium assistance or levying employer fines through a federally-created exchange. In other words, a federally-created exchange has no legitimate funding mechanism and will therefore be unable to carry out its ostensible function.

This is why Commissar Sebelius has decided, probably illegally, to charge insurance carriers “for the privilege of selling health insurance to millions of Americans” via federal exchanges. Will the insurance companies be willing to participate? Perhaps. “Fees charged for use of the federal exchange come on top of a separate annual fee to be imposed on health insurance companies to help offset the cost of expanding coverage under the new law.” But the upside for the insurance companies is that the new Sebelius edict allows them to pass on her new user fees to the uninsured: “The proposed fees could add 3.5 percent to premiums for private health plans.” This is what Sebelius and her boss call “affordable care.”

If this pay-to-play scheme gives off a pungent odor, it smells like Chanel No. 5 compared to the deal HHS cut with a company called Quality Software Services, Inc. (QSSI). QSSI was hired to build a database that will be used to monitor the activity of the exchanges. The deal starts to smell upon close examination of the HHS agency that awarded the contract, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO). CCIIO’s director at the time was one Steve Larsen. Larsen now works for a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group -- which owns QSSI. In other words, as Jeffrey Anderson puts it, “The person who ran the government entity that awarded that contract has since accepted a position with a different subsidiary of that same company.”

If the name “Steve Larsen” and that of his former agency sound familiar, they should. This is the gentleman who issued the infamous Obamacare waivers to a variety of Democrat donors in 2010 and 2011. And it was it was also during Larsen’s tenure at CCIIO that it began establishing “information collection requirements” (ICRs) for a government database containing the private health care information of all Americans, including those not enrolled in any government insurance program. Now, having been instrumental in designing the Obamacare exchanges and delineating the private health data they will feed to HHS, Larsen works for one of the best funded and largest “competitors” for customers who will buy coverage through those “marketplaces.”

How can Sebelius and her minions get away with such skullduggery? Because Obamacare grants “the Secretary” enormous “discretion” in her efforts to implement Obamacare. Sebelius has clearly interpreted this “discretion” so broadly that she doesn’t feel constrained by any code of ethical conduct or inconvenient law. So, she does whatever it takes. And if it “takes” your liberty, privacy and money, not to worry. Like Nancy Pelosi, she’s a member of the anti-corruption party.

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care revenue cycle expert who has spent more than twenty years working for and consulting with hospitals and medical practices. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.