When assessing the pervasive deception of the Obama administration, it’s hard to match its already famous rogues’ gallery of liars, thugs, and cheats. Loretta Lynch, Sylvia Burwell, Lois Lerner and others deservedly rank among the worst examples of D.C. corruption. However, there is one person who, while he has properly been excoriated in these pages, may not rise quite to their level in most conservatives’ minds despite being no less odious. I speak of Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS), and one of the most shameless mop up artists for Obamacare’s pervasive failures at the state level.
A little background: As anyone who’s followed Obamacare since its passage knows, the supposedly autonomous state health care exchanges that the law was supposed to create have turned out to be money-sucking boondoggles, run by officials with all the integrity of Walter White, and all the efficiency of the Keystone Kops. When they were first set up, these programs received massive amounts of federal aid, to the tune of $4.6 billion, with the expectation that they would be self-sustaining by 2015. Instead, the Federal government has continued sending them “establishment grants,” IE extra dollops of taxpayer money. That is, when the exchanges haven’t simply shut down due to insolvency, as happened in the case of Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and the almost farcically corrupt Oregon exchange.
That’s the bad news. The worse news is that, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), this extra money has been spent illegally on day-to-day operations costs, sometimes even on things as trivial as postage. Yes, that’s right, Obamacare’s surviving exchanges are so terminally broke that they can’t afford stamps. Worse still, even some of the already shuttered exchanges have still received federal dollars. All told, the Federal government has spent nearly $6 billion on state exchanges, with little to nothing to show for it.
Now, you would think that the obvious response to this from the Federal government would be to demand the taxpayers’ money back. After all, if the money’s going to the wrong things, or nothing at all, it shouldn’t be available in the first place, right?
Well, you would think that, if you weren’t an Obama administration bureaucrat named Andy Slavitt. It’s revealing that Slavitt, in order to even hold the post he occupies now, needed an ethics waiver (yes, really) after making an utter mess of building healthcare.gov. Unfortunately, in Slavitt’s case, this past was farcically accurate prologue.
Despite being the person in charge of recouping the wasted costs of state exchanges, Slavitt is so utterly uninterested in the task that he actively lied to Congress about whether he’d actually done it. No, really. That’s the conclusion drawn by a report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Specifically, Slavitt claimed that his office had recovered $200 million (a paltry amount compared to nearly $6 billion in wasted cash, but at least a good first step). Actually, as the committee’s report notes, he’d only recovered around $20 million: a figure so far off from Slavitt’s own claim that only open deceit can explain it. And actually, saying Slavitt “recovered” this at all is too generous. The fact is that the grants expired before this extra $20 million could be spent. In other words, the fact that Slavitt can claim to have “recovered” anything is simply down to states not spending taxpayers’ money fast enough. If this isn’t a metaphor for how Democrats think of saving, I don’t know what is.
Needless to say, Congress demanded that Slavitt either produce the $200 million he claimed to have recovered, or explain where it actually was, in a May 19 letter sent to Slavitt’s office. The response so far? Crickets.
It’s not clear whether Slavitt’s unrepentant deceit is motivated by sheer incompetence or by political cynicism. On the “incompetence” side of the ledger, his department completely failed to conduct oversight of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the black hole of corruption that was the Oregon exchange. On the political cynicism side, a June 1 report from the House Oversight Committee shows that the money sent to places like Oregon was actually spent to bolster the political chances of the overwhelmingly Democratic governors that received them, all at the behest of political operatives. In other words, Obamacare’s state “exchanges” were simply slush funds all along, with Slavitt playing the role of sugar daddy while taxpayers were the ones who got screwed.
Whatever the cause, Slavitt deserves to go down in infamy at least as much as any other Obama administration official for his unabashed deceit before Congress, and the disturbing possibility that his lie simply covered a far more corrupt series of truths. He should be forced from his position as soon as possible, if only as an example to the political termites’ nest that is the Obama White House that someone is going to call them out for destroying the foundations of transparency.