Nancy Pelosi infamously said of Obamacare that you would have to pass it to find out what was in it. Sadly, House Republicans seem to have trouble finding out even that. Early this month, a House panel found that Andy Slavitt, acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS), willfully misled Congress on the amount of money spent on Obamacare’s exchanges.
According to the House panel, while Slavitt claimed the federal government had recovered $200 million from failed state exchanges, in actuality, a paltry $21 million is accounted for. That’s only slightly more than ten percent of Slavitt’s own number, which was already dismal when compared with the $4.6 billion that the Feds spent on state exchanges in total.
For anyone remotely familiar with what has been happening in exchanges across the country, the fact that Slavitt lied about this should come as a dismal non-surprise. For even if Republicans can’t get the administration to explain what was in Obamacare after it passed, plenty of Democratic administrations heard Pelosi’s assurance not as “pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it,” but instead “pass the bill so I can find out what’s in it for me.” Even if you set aside the titanic failures of implementation that have plagued Obamacare since its passage, the program’s true legacy appears to be nothing less than pure graft and payola for administrations in safe blue states. “Waste, fraud, and abuse,” to use Donald Trump’s formulation, is truly rampant.
Even before Slavitt’s extravagantly embarrassing lie, the news coming out of the Obamacare was well on its way to proving this. First came a report in early March by the National Center for Policy Analysis revealing utter failure by the Obamacare exchanges to detect fraud. It seems the Government Accountability Analysis (GAO) attempted to test fraud detection in the exchange sign-up systems both online and over the phone, and of the twelve fraudulent applications for subsidized care that they submitted, eleven were accepted. That works out to a failure rate of 92 percent. In other words, you have a better chance of being accepted to most Ivy League schools than of being denied a subsidy by Obamacare, no matter how dishonest your claim.
And no, your state exchange doesn’t even necessarily have to work for this kind of fraud to happen. According to an analysis by Alexander Hendrie of the Washington Times that arrived in April, while the government has spent $5.5 billion on state exchanges, the vast majority of that money hasn’t even gone to states with state exchanges that even work. Instead, money has been poured into failed state exchanges in Oregon, Vermont, Minnesota, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Mexico, with no apparent interest in those states’ capacity to put it to use.
Anyone even remotely familiar with the hilarity-inducing boondoggles that passed for “exchanges” in Oregon and Maryland will realize how disgraceful this is, even as an accidental fact. But what is worse is that the government does not seem remotely interested in recovering its own wasted money. Slavitt himself was only able to offer a tepid assurance to Congress that the government would “recover its fair portion” of the funds when asked about this. Which, given what we know now, is probably only about ten percent of what the actual “fair portion” is!
Of course, not to diminish Congress’s willingness to call out Slavitt’s deceit, which deserves as many “attaboys” as taxpayers can muster, but more needs to be done from here. For one, Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) has a bill designed to protect taxpayers from the predation of failed exchanges, which should probably end up on the House docket. Moreover, now that the lies of Slavitt, and the government’s own indifference to fraud, have been revealed, the House should not hesitate to hold the Obama administration’s feet to the fire until it can get real answers. For $5.5 billion, it’s the least we deserve.
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